Stamford is a historic stone town at the southwest corner of Lincolnshire, with beautiful architecture, friendly people and many independent shops.
Stamford was founded where the River Welland could be easily crossed. The name is a Saxon corruption of ‘Stony Ford’.
The town has been appreciated as an architectural gem for many years:
- "Stamfford town is as fine a built town all of stone as may be seen” — Celia Fiennes
- "The finest sight on the road between Edinburgh and London" — Sir Walter Scott
- "If there is a more beautiful town in the whole of England, I have yet to see it" — W. G. Hoskins
- “The best town we have" — Sir John Betjeman
- “The English country market town par excellence” — Nikolaus Pevsner
Stamford received a charter from Henry III in 1256.
The funeral procession of Queen Eleanor, wife of King Edward I, stopped at Stamford in 1290 on its way to London. An Eleanor Cross was erected in commemoration.
Queen Elizabeth I gave the Lordship of the town to her Lord Treasurer, William Cecil, who built Burghley House; he has a splendid tomb in St Martin’s Church.
In the Civil War, King Charles I spent his last night as a free man in Stamford.
In the 18th century, Stamford was a major coaching stop, half way between London and York: a place to spend the night, not just change horses. Railways eventually killed off coaching, but many of the 40 coaching inns survived to become pubs, restaurants, hotels and private houses.
Stamford was designated as the first urban conservation area in 1967.
- 1 Tourist Information Centre, 27 St Mary's Street, PE9 2DL (inside the Arts Centre), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 09:30-17:00, Monday-Saturday. The TIC is professionally staffed and offers information on places to visit, where to eat, what’s on and where to stay. Guides, timetables and maps, souvenirs, postcards and stamps are available. The TIC can book accommodation for you and it provides a ‘Book-A-Bed-Ahead’ service for your next destination.
The ideal way to arrive in Stamford is from the south via the A1 and the B1081. The approaches to most English towns have been spoiled by strip development, but here you arrive at a clear edge of the historic town.
Trains run hourly to and from Peterborough (one stop, about 12 minutes away), on the line between Stansted Airport and Birmingham New Street. Peterborough has fast trains to London (less than an hour) and Edinburgh via Leeds and Newcastle upon Tyne. Other Peterborough trains go to Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Lincoln, Liverpool, Manchester Piccadilly, Norwich, Nottingham, Sheffield, Sleaford and Spalding.
- 2 Stamford railway station (just south of the River Welland and about 10 minutes' walk from the town centre). The station (1848) was designed to resemble a small Tudor manor house.
National Express offers a daily coach service between London and Stamford. Local bus services run between Stamford and Peterborough, Grantham, Nottingham and Melton Mowbray.
- 3 Bus station, St. Peters Hill, PE9 2PE (near Sheepmarket), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
Stamford has good road access via the nearby A1 (motorway in parts) running north-south from London to Edinburgh. The A14 connects east-west to the A1. From Northampton, Kettering and Corby, the A43 will also get you there.
The town is on Route 63 of the National Cycle Network, a network of long distance cycling routes. Route 63 runs from Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire to Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Stamford itself is not ideal for cycling, with pedestrian areas where cycling is not allowed and some narrow roads.
Two long-distance footpaths pass through Stamford. The Macmillan Way is a 290-mile footpath linking Boston on the Lincolnshire coast with Abbotsbury in Dorset; there are branch routes to Banbury, Bath and Barnstable. The 110-mile Hereward Way links the Viking Way (at Oakham) with the Peddars Way near to Knettishall Heath in Suffolk.
Stamford's town centre is compact. The central shopping area is pedestrianised with many interesting little alleyways, making it ideal for exploration on foot.
The town is not particularly cycle-friendly. The main taxi rank is in Broad Street, except on market day (Friday), and they can also be called by phone.
Many of the roads are narrow and there are some parking restrictions. With minor exceptions, on-street parking is time-limited and off-street car parks require payment.
- 1 Bath Row car park, PE9 2WE. Half of Bath Row has paid parking (50 spaces) and the other half is free, but time-limited; check the signs.
- 2 Cattle Market car park, PE9 2WB. Long stay. A short walk from the town centre across the Meadows, via the Vence Walk footpath. 310 spaces.
- 3 North Street car park, PE9 1EG. 110 spaces.
- 4 St Leonard's Street car park, PE9 2HX. 40 spaces.
- 5 Scotgate car park, PE9 2YE. 70 spaces.
- 6 Wharf Road car park, PE9 2EB. 200 spaces.
There is also a car park at the station, but this is further away from the town centre and mainly used by commuters.
Stamford's main attraction is not a single destination, such as a castle or a cathedral. The town is a collection of over 600 preserved historic ('listed') buildings, together forming a beautiful Georgian town, centred on the river Welland. Stamford was the first urban conservation area in the UK. Its centre has been relatively untouched by Victorian rebuilding and more modern development. Almost all the streets curve gently, leading you on to see around the next corner. You will want to spend some time wandering around and admiring the lovely architecture, exploring the cobbled streets and secret alleyways, and visiting some of the numerous historic churches. Above all, remember to look up.
Areas to view and walk around
- 1 Barn Hill, PE9 2AE. Often used as a filming location, in Barn Hill you can imagine yourself transported back to the Georgian era.
- 2 The Bastion, West Street, PE9 2PR. Little remains of Stamford's 12th century walls, but St Peter’s Bastion, a Grade 1 listed ancient monument, is an example.
- 3 Eleanor Cross, Sheepmarket, PE9 2RB. A modern monument inspired by the lost Eleanor Cross stands in Sheepmarket, on the way from the bus and railway stations to the town centre. The carved detail is based on the surviving fragment of the original Cross.
- 4 Mallory Lane, PE9 2FW. An outdoor gallery of photographs, created in 2018.
- 5 The Meadows, PE9 2QU (to the west of the Town Bridge, between the River Welland and the millstream.). The Meadows are the ancient floodplain of Stamford and they still help to prevent flooding elsewhere. The scant remains of the second Stamford Castle are visible north of the Bath Row car park. To the west is the Old Mill and further west the millstream is near old almshouses. The area is popular for picnics in summer and for walking throughout the year.
Buildings to visit
- 6 Browne's Hospital, Broad Street PE9 1PF. Guided tour only (must be booked). Almshouse, built 1475.
- 7 Burghley House, PE9 3JY (visitor entrance on Barnack Road, 2 miles from the town centre), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 11:00-17:00. Near Stamford is a grand 16th-century stately home — almost a palace — built for Sir William Cecil, who was Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I from 1558 to 1587. The surrounding parkland was laid out by Capability Brown and the estate covers more than 9,000 acres. It has been a location for films such as The Da Vinci Code and the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The house is open every day except Friday from mid-March to October; the park is open all year round. There is also a sculpture garden and a newer 'Garden of Surprises', which is full of water features: you may get wet!
- 8 Stamford Library, High Street, PE9 2BB, ✉ email@example.com. 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday (16:00 Saturday). Contains a 'Discover Stamford' section with exhibits connected with the town and its history, mostly selected from the collection of the former Stamford Museum (now closed).
- 9 Stamford Town Hall, St Mary’s Hill, PE9 2DR, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Free tours are available on Fridays.
- 10 Wothorpe Towers, Wothorpe on the Hill, PE9 3JG (1.5 miles from Stamford), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. The ruins of a 17th century stately home. Open by appointment only. Visible from nearby bridleways when not open to the public.
- 11 The Priest's House, 38 West Street, Easton on the Hill, near Stamford, PE9 3LS (3 mi (4.8 km) south west of Stamford), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A small 15th-century building that is unmanned and open to the public primarily on Sundays in July and August but also by appointment at any time during the rest of the year.
- 12 St George's Church, PE9 2BN. 15th century exterior, except the tower. William Bruges (1375–1450), first Garter King of Arms is buried in the church.
- 13 St John the Baptist's Church, PE9 2AW (on the corner of High Street and St John's Street). A redundant Anglican church. Tower 14th century, remainder 15th century (including some glass) with 12th century fragments. Finely-carved internal roof with angel bosses.
- 14 St Leonard's Priory, Priory Rd, PE9 2EU. The Priory was a cell of the Durham cathedral monastery since at least 1147. The nave was rebuilt in the 19th century and the remains of the north aisle, transepts, chancel and claustral buildings are buried. Today, it is maintained by South Kesteven District Council and Stamford Civic Society.
- 15 St Martin Without, PE9 2NT. Church rebuilt in the 15th century. Contains the Cecil family tombs. Often used as a concert venue.
- 16 St Mary's Church, PE9 2DS. Built by the 12th century (tower 13th, spire 14th). Has a rare decorated medieval wagon vault.
- 17 St Michael the Greater Church (at the junction of High Street and Ironmonger Street). A redundant Anglican church, which collapsed in 1832 and was rebuilt; subjected to "an appalling conversion" (Pevsner) in the 1980s, now used for shops. The churchyard survives.
- 18 Stamford All Saints Church, All Saints' Place PE9 2AG. Mainly 13th century. Look up from Red Lion Square to see the sundial.
- 1 Burghley Park Golf Club, St. Martins Without, PE9 3JX (on B1081, 1.8 miles from the town centre), ☏ (opt 1), ✉ email@example.com. M-F & after 14:30 Sa Su. Established 1890 in the Capability Brown park. Dress code applies. £25-£45.
- 2 Nene Valley Railway, Wansford PE8 6LR (7 miles south of Stamford via the A1), ☏ . Check website for timetables. A 7-mile preserved railway, running heritage steam and diesel trains. £16.
- 3 Rutland Water, Rutland Water Nature Reserve, Egleton, Oakham, LE15 8BT (13 miles from Stamford). 09:00-17:00 (16:00 November – April). To the west of Stamford lies Rutland Water, an area of 1,000 acres around the man-made reservoir. Rutland Water Reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a European Special Protection Area. It is also a wildfowl sanctuary and home to the successful Rutland Osprey Project. There are nature trails with numerous bird watching hides and a butterfly farm. There is boating on the lake and bicycles are available for hire. £5.70.
- 4 Stamford Arts Centre, 27 St Mary's Street, PE9 2DL, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 09:30-17:00, Monday-Saturday. A 166-seat theatre with professional and amateur drama; the theatre has a second role as a cinema, showing both blockbusters and Art House movies. There is a gallery, a cellar bar, a busy cafe and a large ballroom, hosting varied concerts, including a classical music season from October to May, dances and workshops. Other multifunctional rooms are available to hire.
- 5 Stamford Corn Exchange Theatre, Broad Street, PE9 1PX, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Now a 400-seat theatre, this 1859 building was taken over by local volunteers in 2000, who converted and refurbished it for its new role.
- 6 Stamford Shakespeare Company (Rutland Open Air Theatre), Tolethorpe Hall, Little Casterton, Lincolnshire PE9 4BH (3.5 miles from Stamford). One of the great theatrical experiences. The audience is under cover, but the actors take whatever the summer English weather throws at them. You haven't lived until you've seen The Importance of Being Earnest with pouring rain in a drawing room scene!
- 7 Tallington Lakes Leisure Park, Barnholm Road, Tallington PE9 4RJ (6 miles from Stamford), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 09:00-21:00. Water skiing, wakeboarding, jet skiing, dinghy saiingl, windsurfing and canoeing; a dry ski slope, and a 15 metre climbing tower. £3.00.
The annual Mid-Lent Fair is one of the largest street fairs in the country. It runs for a week each year, towards the end of winter. The exact dates depend on Easter: the fair arrives on Mothering Sunday, opens on the following day and closes on Saturday. It dates back to the Middle Ages and is mentioned by Shakespeare. Originally it was a regional market, but it is now almost entirely a travelling funfair. Main streets including Broad Street and Bath Row are closed to traffic and occupied by rides and stalls.
Burghley Game & Country Fair has become an annual event, on Spring Bank Holiday weekend in late May, with countryside activities and entertainment in the grounds of Burghley House.
The Burghley Horse Trials, one of only six four-star eventing competitions in the world, take place in early September. The international importance of the event makes accommodation scarce and expensive for this weekend.
Stamford was for more than 600 years famous for its annual Bull Run, a blood sport in which a live bull was hunted on foot on the Meadows and around the town. The practice was abolished in 1839, but recently a Georgian Festival has been held in alternate years, in September. The Festival includes a symbolic Bull, paraded through the streets.
The annual Stamford Festival is organised in June by local voluntary service organisations. The highlight is a parade of floats through the main streets.
The iconic Stamford shopping experience is its Friday Market, a tradition since at least the 13th century. The market stalls are set up in the early hours and they offer fresh produce, meat, fish, cheese, clothing and a huge range of other commodities. Broad Street is closed for the market. There is also a Farmers' Market on alternate Fridays. Stalls are cheap to rent and more than a few of the town's independent shops started as market stalls. Many specialist chains also have shops in Stamford.
- 1 Robert Humm, 59 Scotgate, PE9 2YQ (now moved from the railway station), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Britain's largest railway bookshop, specialising in rare and out-of-print books.
- 2 St Mary's Antiquarian Books, 9 St Marys Hill, PE9 2DP, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms full of secondhand books, taxidermy and newspapers.
- 3 Walkers Bookshop, 10 High Street, PE9 2AL, ☏ . 08:30-17:30 Monday-Saturday; 10:00-16:00 Sunday. A traditional family-run bookshop. Stop by and admire the old building and maybe pick up one of the many books about Stamford's history.
- 4 Chameleon, 5 St Mary's Hill, PE9 2DP, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Designer lingerie and swimwear.
Other clothing brands represented in the centre of the town include Crew, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Fat Face, Jaeger, Joules, Mountain Warehouse, New Look, Phase 8, Rohan, Seaweed and White Stuff.
- 5 Asker Bakery, 5a Red Lion Street, PE9 1PA, ☏ . The coal-fired oven used for baking is a real rarity.
- 6 Stamford Cheese Cellar, 17 St. Mary's Street, PE9 2DG, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. The spiral staircase down is steep, but the range of cheeses (and accompaniments) is wide.
Independent and specialist shops
- 7 Dawson of Stamford, 6 Red Lion Square, PE9 2AJ, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Founded by goldsmith John Dawson in 1976. Jewellery, antique furniture and clocks.
- 8 Harrison and Dunn, 3 All Saints Street, PE9 2PA (there is also an entrance on Sheepmarket), ☏ . The hardware shop you remember from many years ago: they have everything, they will sell you one of something and they know where things are. Founded in 1930, it is still managed by Dunns.
- 9 Loomes Watchmakers, 4 St Mary’s Hill, PE9 2DP, ☏ . I wish I'd bought a first edition Stamford Watch when I had the chance!
- 10 Stamford Music Shop, 11 St. Mary's Hill, PE9 2DP, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. One of the largest sheet music specialists in Britain. Extensive range of musical instruments for sale or rental.
- 11 St Martins Antiques Centre, 23a High Street St Martins, PE9 2LF, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Lease spaces to over 70 dealers with articles displayed in floor units and cabinets.
- 12 The Vacuum Store, 18 St. Mary's Street, PE9 2DG, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Unusual specialist in vacuum sales, spares and repairs, including test drives on various surfaces.
Other shops include Adnams, Moshulu, Neal's Yard, and Steamer Trading.
As with its shops, the town boasts lots of independent eateries alongside many chains. There is significant overlap between pubs, hotels and restaurants.
- 1 The Bull and Swan, St Martins PE9 2LJ, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Good pub food. Advisable to book for evenings and Sunday lunch.
- 2 Cloisters, 9 St. Marys Street, PE9 2DE, ☏ . Tue-Sat 12:00-14:30 & 17:00-21:00. Pasta, pizza and Italian cuisine.
- 3 Gurkha Oven, 11 Broad St, PE9 1PG, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Nepalese food. Book ahead at busy times.
- 4 Mama Liz's Soul Food Shack, 9a North Street, PE9 1EL, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Cajun & Creole, Vegan options; plus music.
- 5 No1 Kitchen, 1 Castle Street, PE9 2RA, ☏ , ✉ Info@no1-kitchen.co.uk. Burgers, chicken, ribs, steak, skewers, salads and more.
- 6 Riverside Fish Bar, 3 Castle St, PE9 2RE, ☏ . Fish & chips near the river.
- 7 Il Vicolo, 3A Cheyne Lane, PE9 2AX, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Superior pasta and Italian cuisine. Often busy.
- 8 Zada Restaurant, 13 St Mary's Hill, PE9 2DP, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Turkish cuisine.
Despite the small size of the town centre, there are many places to relax and enjoy either alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks.
- 1 Café Black, 21 High St, PE9 2LF, ☏ . Central location, substantial breakfasts as well as cakes and coffee.
- 2 Gooch's Coffee Shop, 3 Castle Street, PE9 2RA.
- 3 Lambert's, 5 Cheyne Lane, PE9 2AX, ☏ . 08:30–16:30 Tu-Sa & 18:00-21:00 Th F. A bit of an identity crisis here: a coffee shop with great breakfasts; a cafe-cum-deli; and a must-book fine dining restaurant two nights a week.
- 4 Pennies From Heaven, 17 Maiden Lane, PE9 2AZ, ☏ .
Pubs & bars
- 5 The King's Head, 19 Maiden Lane, PE9 2AZ, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Cosy and conveniently close to the High Street.
- 6 Melbourn Bros (All Saints Brewery), 21-22 All Saints Street, PE9 2PA, ☏ .
- 7 Paten and Co (formerly The Periwig), 7 All Saints Place, PE9 2AG, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 8 The Tobie Norris, 12 St Pauls Street, PE9 2BE, ☏ . A traditional pub featuring several cosy rooms with original timber strutted ceilings. Excellent rustic pizza.
- 9 The Wine Bar, 10 St Paul's St, PE9 2BE, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many other pubs and bars, including those listed under Eat and Sleep.
- 1 The Crown Hotel, 6 All Saints' Place, PE9 2AG, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. £85-£190.
- 2 The George, 71 High Street St Martin's, PE9 2LB, ☏ . A historic building near the river, one of the more expensive places to stay, eat or drink in Stamford. The "gallows" across the road is impressive, but it is structural; it was never used for public executions. £215-£335.
- 3 The William Cecil (formerly the Lady Anne's), St Martins, PE9 2LJ (near the southern entrance to the town, on the edge of Burghley Park; about half a mile from the town centre), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. £110-£200.
All these hotels have restaurants and bars. The Bull & Swan (see above) also offers accommodation.
The town has B&Bs for all budgets. The nearest chain hotels are just under 10 miles away: a Premier Inn to the south near Peterborough; and a Travelodge to the north, at South Witham.
- North to Grantham, birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton
- West to Oakham, another town built largely of Jurassic limestone
- East to Bourne, Market Deeping, Deeping St James, Crowland with its semi-ruined abbey
- South to Peterborough with its medieval cathedral
- Further south to Cambridge
|Routes through Stamford|
|Birmingham New Street ← Oakham ←||W SE||→ Peterborough → Stansted Airport|
|Doncaster ← Grantham ←||N S||→ Peterborough → London|
|Northampton ← Corby ←||SW NE||→ END|