History has given this unique little town some attributes which make it stand out among places of a similar size. It is, and always has been, in Lincolnshire, and yet it is stone-built and has much in common with its Rutland neighbours; unlike other Lincolnshire market towns it does not have one huge medieval church but a collection of small churches, all of which are architectural gems.  Like Grantham and Lincoln it has a 19th and 20th century industrial heritage but unlike those towns is now a shopping destination with a rich selection of fashion and houseware shops not much seen outside places very much bigger. The architecture compares with Oxford and Cambridge and at one time it did come close to being a university town. It is a delightful place to live, and many find it a brilliant place to visit, too.

The railway station in Stamford is discreetly tucked away on the side of the town centre and many residents do not realise what an asset it is to live on such a useful route, so this page concludes with a brief section for those who live here, about how to get out ... although they'll always want to come back!

Getting Here, for visitors

Stamford is on the Cross Country line between Stansted Airport and Birmingham New Street, which has major junctions at Ely, Peterborough, Leicester and Nuneaton, so wherever you live in the UK, or wherever you're staying if you come from abroad, it is quite easy to find. Stamford is just 15 minutes' train ride from a change-of-train at Peterborough for those coming from London, Scotland or the north-east of England, and 90 minutes from Birmingham for those coming from Wales or the west or north-west of England. Services are hourly throughout the day, with a couple of extra trains here and there, although they finish rather earlier in the evening than one might like and do not start until lunchtime on a Sunday - but then you might not want to get here much before then anyway! One tip if you're coming from a distance on a First Class fare and changing at Peterborough is to book a separate standard class ticket for the last leg from Peterborough to Stamford - it is a very short trip and the extra charge for First Class is a lot to pay for 15 minutes in a bigger seat in a Cross Country Turbostar train.

Stamford station is itself an interesting place for the visitor, so do not be in too much of a hurry to leave it when you step off your train! Facilities are now minimal but the buildings are still attractive: the Midland Railway company designed them to belong in this historic stone town and they were very successful.

Now you've arrived ...

When you leave the station the waymarked route into the town centre, leftish and ahead, takes you through a small housing area built on the site of the former goods yard, but if you are not carrying too much luggage to climb a few steps you can turn right and into the streets of St Martin's, the part of the town south of the river. The nearest hotels here are Candlesticks, the famous George of Stamford,  and the William Cecil. These are within a couple of minutes of the station, another couple of minutes from the shops and a short walk from Burghley House, which you are bound to want to visit. All are full of character in themselves.

The town centre itself is across the river, three or four minutes' walk from the station, and the view of the town as you cross the water meadows at the River Welland is stunning. The spires and towers of All Saints', St John's and St Mary's churches dominate the skyline and the town positively invites you to come and join in its life, which begins here on the meadows, a tranquil picnic and play space within the centre of this busy town, unless a fair or other major event is taking place, of course ... If you want to stay right in the middle of the bustle, then The Crown Hotel, in All Saints Place, is the place to be.

You will not want for food and drink here: Stamford is well-provided with restaurants, coffee houses, pubs and bars and the only difficulty is deciding between the huge choice of excellent places to visit. Some of them are an attraction in themselves, such as the Tobie Norris in St Paul's Street and Melbourne Bros in All Saints' Street.

Friday is Market Day and many of the local churches provide very decent coffee shops in addition to the commercial ones in the town centre.

Not a typical Market Day in Stamford. It's Good Friday and it's raining. But this is typical of the enthusiasm 
and engagement of the people of this amazing town. And you do get to see the stone buildings!  

As well as the local-authority supported Arts Centre, with its theatre and cinemas well as gallery and ballroom, Stamford also has a theatre at the Corn Exchange: not many other towns this size provide two theatres!

Interesting historic buildings include several medieval and later churches, a scattering of almshouses (apparently uniquely called "callis" in Stamford, possibly a reference to the town's once close bond with Calais through the wool trade) - and particular Browne's Hospital, All Saints Brewery, some of the pubs in the town centre, and the group of medieval buildings along St Paul's Street. The town motto on its sign boards at the entrances on the former Great North Road (A1) is "Stay awhile amid its ancient charm," and you will need to stay a while if you are to see everything, especially if you include a whole day at Burghley House, as many will wish to do.

Going Away, for residents

As regular readers of this blog (or of All Saints' Parish News!) will know, I travel a lot by train from Stamford. While Peterborough would be an even better starting place, Stamford is such a great place to live that I'll put up with the slightly less convenient travel opportunities! Without a change of train, we can travel smoothly and comfortably by train from Stamford to:

  • Stansted Airport
  • Cambridge
  • Ely
  • Peterborough
  • Leicester
  • Nuneaton
  • Birmingham New Street
  • and several smaller places en route
By changing trains at Peterborough or Birmingham New Street (or occasionally, Ely, Cambridge, Leicester or Nuneaton), we can reach most of the country with no further change. My blog posts give examples of both long and short journeys which can be made from Stamford.

East Anglia

For Norwich (thence Yarmouth, Cromer, Sheringham, or Lowestoft) or Ipswich we change at Ely; you can change at Peterborough but Ely is a nicer place to while away the moments waiting for connections! For Kings Lynn (and the Coasthopper bus for Norfolk resorts) we also change at Ely.

For Cambridge there are direct trains!

Yorkshire, Scotland and the North East

We change at Peterborough for main line trains to York, Durham, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Leeds. For places north of Edinburgh we usually have to change again there, but that is three hours away, so it's time for a change anyway. At Doncaster and York there are connections to other parts of Yorkshire, although Whitby is so remote that a further change at Middlesbrough is needed, but then it feels like a real adventure when you've done all that! Sometimes we make a virtue out of a necessity and spend some time in the places where we have to change - then it becomes a bit of a tour.

London and the South East

Breakfast is available between
Peterborough and London within the price
of a First Class ticket
Again we change at Peterborough for London. Trains to London are operated by Great Northern and by Virgin Train East Coast: the Great Northern are cheaper in every sense and a little slower (although some few are not much slower than the East Coast expresses), but if you want a cheap ticket without booking a specific train in advance, then they provide a perfectly adequate service. If you can tie yourself to specific times there and back, though, a First Class ticket with East Coast can cost even less if you book early!

For the south beyond London, several destinations are now reachable very easily from St Pancras International across the road from the terminus at Kings Cross, including Canterbury, the north Kent coast, Margate and Ramsgate by South Eastern High Speed, and Gatwick Airport and Brighton by Thameslink. Kings Cross has simple Undergound connections to other London termini if necessary, Paddington and Victoria being particularly easy - but don't rush off to Paddington just yet ...

South Coast, the South West and South Wales

For Brighton and Portsmouth we go via London as above, taking the Victoria Line tube to Victoria for Southern's trains to the coast. For anything west of there and all the way round the coast to Glasgow (!) we travel via Birmingham.

We have hourly trains from Stamford to Birmingham New Street from where, at the "hub of England" (England and Wales, really) there are trains to almost anywhere. CrossCountry Trains has more mileage than any other company and reaches all our major cities except London (and it gets close to that), and it is centred on Birmingham. For the south, we take a train to Bristol, usually staying on it to our destination which can be in Somerset, Devon or Cornwall, or we can change again  at Bristol Parkway for South Wales or Bristol Temple Meads for Portsmouth, Weymouth, Poole and lots of other places. Or just Bath. There are trains to Cardiff from New Street as well.

North Wales and the North West

We have not really done this part of the country yet, but when we do we know that for Wales we'll be changing at Birmingham New Street again, and for the English Lakes and beyond we'll change at either Nuneaton or New Street depending on the timing of connections.

It is all really very simple, or, at least, it is if you plan the trip in advance (and that allows buying of cheap Advance tickets as well) and keep careful control of your luggage (see article under "Luggage" tab above): when there are changes of train you do not want your stuff scattered all over the coach and four or five bags and other things to gather up and carry to another train. I always travel with one hand free to open doors, show tickets etc, and I do that by taking one wheeled case and a small backpack, and if that is insufficient another small case that fits over the retractable handle of the first. Only the backpack is ever opened on the journey and I make sure any books, computers, cameras etc that I might want to use while travelling are packed in that. Easy

And so, off to the station. Eastbound trains for Peterborough and East Anglia normally leave on the hour, westbound for Oakham, Leicester, Nuneaton and Birmingham at five past. (So the station is quiet for 40 minutes of each hour, a good time to be collecting tickets purchased in advance online!) There is a car park with a modest charge, several local taxi services, and the bus station is about five minutes walk away across the meadows, so if you do not live within easy walking distance as I do, those are options.

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