Steep Hill in Lincoln is one of England’s most intriguing independent shopping lanes. Crammed with an assortment of boutique shops and eateries, each one different from the last, it is the main artery connecting the city’s uphill and lower High Street. So, if you have a few hours to spare and want to capture a snapshot of the city’s creative spirit, head right here! This guide to Steep Hill Lincoln explains all about its colourful history, and the shops, restaurants and cafés you will encounter today.
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Steep Hill Lincoln: a quick background
Steep Hill has roots stretching back to Lincoln’s Roman foundations. Today it is a vibrant shopping lane that climbs from the High Street on the city’s level plain up to the Cathedral Quarter in the quaint and popular uphill area. But to begin with, it was built by the Romans to interconnect the growing city.
True to its name, Steep Hill is quite a climb! With an average gradient of 16.12º – which makes it the fourth-steepest street in England, according to Ordnance Survey – it takes a bit of effort to ascend.
The good news is that there are many different ways to break up the climb. Whether it be a stop-off in a peculiar book shop, a delve into a vintage fashion store or a cuppa in a charming tea room, there are plenty of distractions and curiosities along the way.
The charm of Lincoln’s Steep Hill has not gone unnoticed. It has been bestowed with various titles and awards over the years. Most notably, back in 2011, it was named the best place in Britain by the Academy of Urbanism.
Roman remains still in view
Early excavations showed that the Romans erected a huge flight of steps up the hill, which is no longer visible. But there is at least one relic of the Roman times that can still be seen on Steep Hill today.
Inside number 44 Steep Hill, occupied until recently by Lottie’s Atik & Shoe Room (which has now moved next door), you will find the remnants of the eastern carriageway of the upper south gate marking the old Roman city limits. A set of stones in the brickwork of the building opposite, to the left of Pimento vegetarian café, is a relic of the western carriageway.
See our guide to Roman ruins in Lincoln for more about this fascinating aspect of the city’s heritage.
Steep Hill Lincoln shops
No two shops on Steep Hill Lincoln are remotely the same. Every one is an independent business that brings its own special character to the street.
Outlets occasionally come and go, and so Steep Hill evolves as the years go by – but there are also many stalwart local businesses that have been going strong for years. In this section, we compile all the shops you will find along the street today, roughly from top to bottom.
Cahoots for Ladies
Perched at the very top of Steep Hill in the corner of Castle Square, Cahoots for Ladies is a boutique women’s clothing store that sells designer label garments you will struggle to find anywhere else.
Cahoots for Ladies specialises mainly in swimwear and lingerie, but also sells a range of clothing, footwear and accessories including belts, tights, scarves and socks.
Roly’s Fudge Pantry
For those with a sweet tooth or on a day out with the kids, Roly’s Fudge Pantry might just be the highlight of Steep Hill. This cute little confectionery shop sells freshly handmade fudge in all manner of flavours.
This is one of the few outlets on Steep Hill that doesn’t actually originate in Lincoln. It is a family business that began in Devon over 30 years ago, and has grown to establish 48 stores across the country, each using the same traditional copper-pot heating and marble cooling techniques that you can see being applied in full view inside the shop.
Check out their Instagram feed to see some of the treats awaiting you inside.
The Mouse House
Did somebody say cheeeese? That’s usually all it takes to get our attention! As cheese-lovers – a fact that is no secret on this blog – The Mouse House is one of our favourite shops on Steep Hill.
The Mouse House is run by a mother-and-daughter team who lead the production of a range of cheddars, blues and artisan cheeses on their Lincolnshire family farm. In the shop you will find a colourful mishmash of truckles and gift hampers to take away.
Cahoots for Men
You’ve guessed it, this is the corresponding outlet to Cahoots for Women. The two stores are just a short distance apart from one another at the top end of Steep Hill. The concept is the same for both: designer-label clothing that isn’t widely stocked on the high street.
Cahoots for Men stocks a range of top designer brands and offers a friendly tailoring service. It also sells footwear and accessories to complete your outfit.
A Little Bit of Lincolnshire
As the name suggests, this curious little shop is a place where you can buy all sorts of food, drink and homewares from across our beautiful county of Lincolnshire. It’s run by Paul and Emma, a farming couple who work closely with a range of local producers.
A Little Bit of Lincolnshire is a great place to find gems from new and up-and-coming producers in the area, as well as long-established local favourites. You will find breads, cheeses, beers, craft liqueurs, gift ideas and much more.
Annushka Russian Dolls and Gifts
Annushka is a shining example of the quirkiness you will find on Steep Hill Lincoln. This enchanting little shop is dedicated entirely to Russian dolls, which come in a remarkable array of different styles, shapes and colours. It’s one of those places that can take you back in time; for me, stepping inside reminds me of childhood days with my cousins in my grandmother’s loft.
Dolls from Annushka in Lincoln have been featured on the BBC’s How Small is the Universe? as well as in the Disney film Muppets Most Wanted. Enter this charming little universe and you are sure to find a unique, lasting gift for someone special.
Old clocks shops are a dying breed that can rarely be found on the streets of Britain today. But Timepiece Repairs is keeping the tradition alive on Lincoln’s Steep Hill.
The shop does more than it suggests on the sign. Not only can you bring your old clocks, watches and barometers here to be fixed, but you will also find a pretty and peculiar range of antique timepieces to buy, from grandfather clocks to carriage clocks and everything in between.
Top to Bottom Accessories
Ever wondered where you can buy bespoke rocking horses? How about festoon lights, chalk paint, bird feeders or insect inns? Look no further, as Top to Bottom Accessories on Steep Hill is a treasure trove of unusual homeware and gardenware.
This is a great shop to hit up in those moments when you need to buy the last few Christmas gifts and you’ve completely run out of ideas. Or if you just want to treat yourself!
Steep Hill Wines
Now for our personal favourite and most-frequented shop in the area: Steep Hill Wines! This is Lincoln’s only independent wine merchant store, and is crammed full of bottles hand-selected from all over the world.
The building’s wine cellar dates back to Roman times, and the shop section is around two centuries old. The team like to stock wines from small, independent producers, often which are not available anywhere else. You will also find various artisan spirits (try the Copper in the Clouds flavoured gins!), beers, and wine accessories.
If you want to try some wine made right here in Lincolnshire, you will find bottles from Ovens Farm Vineyard stocked here too.
No traditional British shopping street would be complete without a proper chocolate shop. Carousel is Steep Hill’s, and it has all the childlike charm you expect of a traditional English sweet shop.
The shelves in Carousel are laden with every type of confectionary you can imagine. Whether it’s local Lincolnshire fudge or classic Belgian chocolates you’re looking for, you won’t leave disappointed.
Ashby Aromatherapy & Gifts
Standing at the lower end of the top section of Steep Hill, Ashby Aromatherapy is the place to go in Lincoln if you’re looking for massage therapy products. This local business has been around for eight years now, supplying retailers all over the UK and running stalls at markets across the Midlands.
At Ashby Aromatherapy & Gifts you will find soaps, essential oils, diffusers, lotions, oil burners, and anything else you might need for some mindful and restorative self-care.
Lottie’s Atik is a stylish fashion boutique and shoe room that is bursting with brightness and character. Previously located in number 44 Steep Hill (which is home to the remains of the upper south gate of the Roman city walls), it has now moved next door into number 45.
Think bold colours, creativity and pizzazz. If you like to dress in something unique that will make you stand out among a crowd then you can’t go wrong here. The ranges at Lottie’s are sourced exclusively from the likes of Danish clothing brands Minimum, Nümph, and Ichi, and Spanish shoe brand Miista.
Heritage Country is set inside Norman House, one of the most notable buildings on Steep Hill, and in fact one of the oldest domestic buildings still standing in the UK. It was built in the 12th century supposedly for a legendary moneylender known as Aaron of Lincoln.
This eccentric little shop has an essence of old English country club about it. It is clear that Paula, the owner, pours a tremendous amount of care into sourcing the collections at Heritage Country.
Everything is methodically laid out on shelves and mannequins; tweed jacket and bag sets, wax coats, feathered pillows, bar globes, old military statues and paintings, glass decanters and tumblers, household gadgets from another time. You’re bound to find something here to animate your study or home office.
Imperial Tea & Coffee
The second shop occupying Norman House is Imperial Teas & Coffees, which stocks over 400 types of tea from around the world, each carefully chosen. The shop also roasts coffee on site and produces its own Earl Grey and flavoured teas.
Imperial Tea & Coffee is also a good place to pick up a gift, with an array of teapots, cups and other accessories available.
Debutante Boutique sells a range of hand-picked ladies’ clothing for all ages and size ranges, and accessories and contemporary jewellery with French and Italian design influences.
The stock is personally selected by Debbie, the owner, who has a focus on keeping items affordable. Everything in store is priced under £50.
This family-run shop has been around on Steep Hill for over 25 years, selling specialist handcrafted crystals, fossils, minerals and amber jewellery.
The fossils are particularly mesmerising to peruse. Among the ancient specimens you will find dinosaur bones, trilobites, ammonites and petrified wood dating back millions of years.
Lapid Art is open from Thursday through to Sunday and occupies two rooms, making it one of the larger shops on Steep Hill. No two pieces are the same, and so it’s a lovely place to find a thoughtful gift for someone.
The Pot Shop
This is the place to go on Steep Hill Lincoln if you like handmade ceramics. Naomi and Andrew have decades of experience between them in crafting and painting pottery. They make a range of ceramic domestic ware and tiles painted with animals, flowers and all manner of pretty patterns. Check out some of their creations on the shop’s Instagram account.
If you fancy trying your own hand at ceramics, the Pot Shop also runs pottery classes on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and the first Sunday of every month.
Ophelia Blake Interiors
This is another of Steep Hill Lincoln’s independent outlets run by a mother-and-daughter team. Helen and Scarlett Blakey co-founded Ophelia Blake Interiors, which is an end-to-end interior design studio.
The duo are full of passion for what they do, provided highly personalised services and have tons of experience between them in residential, commercial and creative space design.
The Arbour Florist
Located midway up the flight of Steep Hill, The Arbour is a friendly florist that specialises in wedding and event flowers. You can pick up gifts and home accessories here too, for example a lovely selection of jam jar flowers beginning at £10. The home selection also includes candles, handwashes, balms, baskets and many other fun little trinkets.
Anne and Elizabeth, the mother-and-daughter team who run The Arbour, also run a sister company called The Arbour Floral Barn. You can learn floral design skills at various workshops and courses here in a quiet lane in the Lincolnshire countryside.
Le Sanctuaire Spa & Retreat
This treatment spa and wellness centre gives you the chance to relax among the ambiance of old Lincoln. It is set in a 14th-century building with one of the most beautiful interiors on Steep Hill, and also features a spa garden and terrace with views of Lincoln Cathedral.
Le Sanctuaire is a certified partner of the popular skincare brand Clarins, and offers a range of treatments. It also hosts the Timeout Wellness Centre, a hub for mental health treatments and services.
Tasty Vintage Clothing & Accessories
The very steepest section of Steep Hill is a narrow rise that links the lower and upper parts. A deep breath is required before tackling this particular ascent, but thankfully there is a rail to cling on to!
Midway up this section, my eye is always caught by a curious old clothing shop at number 9 Steep Hill. This is Tasty Vintage, which sells retro clothing and fabrics, and has the appearance of a shop from another time altogether.
Tasty Vintage only opens on weekends for limited hours (10–5 Saturday, 12–4 Sunday).
Vine’s is Lincoln’s resident artisan bakery on Steep Hill. We previously featured this place in our guide to having a Lincolnshire night in after sampling some of their tasty specialist sourdough bread. It’s well worth a try!
The cakes here are delicious too. We tried a New York style crumbcake (a personal favourite) and a classic chocolate brownie. If you prefer something a little less sweet, there is also a range of artisan pastries on offer.
Lincoln Antiques & Collectibles
It’s impossible to miss this antiques shop at the very bottom of Steep Hill, with its bright blue sign welcoming you loudly to the city’s best-loved shopping lane.
As you might expect from the name, inside you will find an abundance of antiques and collectables, from arts, crafts and glassware to jewellery and clothing. As a music enthusiast I was also delighted to find a selection of old vinyls to leaf through.
This is also one of the biggest shops on Steep Hill, with its extensive collection set across two floors, with even more spilling out into a rear outside area. If there is something specific you’re looking for, then experts are on hand to help you find it among the many treasures.
Bargain hunters in Lincoln can also check out the antiques market that takes place on the first Sunday of every month at Castle Square.
Jew’s Court Bookshop
Jew’s Court is one of Lincoln’s most historic buildings. It is believed to have been a synagogue in medieval times, and the hub of a thriving Jewish community that was expelled from Lincoln towards the end of the 13th century. Today, the building is one of only five Jewish medieval houses in the UK that remain.
In the 1980s, the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology rescued the building from demolition, and a few years later it became a meeting place for the reformed Lincolnshire Jewish Community. Its primary use for the last three decades has been as a bookshop, selling second-hand and history books, postcards, maps and journals.
This place is a must-visit if you are either a bookworm or curious about Lincolnshire’s heritage. It is also adjoined to Jew’s House Restaurant, one of Lincoln’s few fine-dining eateries.
Steep Hill Lincoln restaurants and cafés
Perusing the shops on Steep Hill Lincoln can be a tiring business on an empty stomach. Luckily, there are many different places you can stop on the way up for a bite to eat or a welcome drink.
The restaurants, cafés, pubs and coffee shops on Steep Hill represent some of Lincoln’s very finest. In the following section we walk you through them, starting at the top.
One Castle Hill Patisserie
One Castle Hill is a café and patisserie standing on the corner of Castle Square at the crest of Steep Hill. It also doubles up as a homeware and gifts store.
This place is nice to visit on sunny days when you can make the most of the outdoor seating. Come early to get one of the tables in sight of Lincoln Castle’s main gate, and enjoy a homemade pastry and a coffee while watching the daily hubbub of uphill Lincoln.
Browns Pie Shop
Number 33 Steep Hill has had a very eventful history. Over the centuries it has served as a pub, a stable, a bakery, a boarding house, a watchmaker, a grocery, a book shop, an antique store and an orange merchant’s, to name just a few. In 1925, Lawrence of Arabia dwelt in the building while he was serving at RAF Cranwell.
Today the building is occupied by the local institution that is Browns Pie Shop, which has been run by the Gill family for the last 20 years. The pies available range from classics like steak and kidney to some quirkier options such as beef and blue cheese, or lamb, rosemary and redcurrant.
While the pies have gained fame in Lincoln, they’re not the only thing you can try in the restaurant. The menu also features steak, fish, game, and a range of vegetarian and gluten-free options. And if you’re short of time, you can buy pies and pickles to take away.
Bells Tea Shop
Tea shops are somewhat of a specialty in Lincoln, as you will read in our guide to the best tea rooms in the city. Bells Tea Shop, featured in our guide, is set near the top of Steep Hill in a conspicuous black-and-white Grade II listed cottage.
Inside it has a cosy, quaint and welcoming vibe with period features and a big open fireplace. The menu is prepared with locally sourced food; for example, the scones are served with Jenny’s Jams, a popular Lincolnshire business. You can also try local classics like plum bread and poacher cheese, washed down with a loose leaf tea.
Bells is our go-to place for meeting with friends who are visiting the city, or just unwinding after a morning’s sightseeing.
Wig & Mitre
The Wig & Mitre is one of Lincoln’s longest-serving restaurants, run by the same family since 1976. It has the style and character of a traditional old English pub, with an airy and colourful dining area full of period features. The name is intwined in Lincoln’s history, derived from the judges’ wigs in the castle courts and mitre worn by cathedral bishops.
The doors are open all hours of the day through every meal, whether you want breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. The menu is not overcomplicated or pretentious, featuring several pub classics. The drinks list is impressive too, with many real ales and fine wines to choose between.
There is no shortage of options for vegetarians and vegans to eat in Lincoln these days, but that hasn’t always been the case. Pimento was the city’s very first vegetarian café to open back in the early 1990s.
It is deceptively large inside. There are five rooms set across four floors inside the building, as well as a garden area surrounded by plants and herbs. The menu consists mainly of light lunches, breakfasts, snacks, cakes, and speciality teas and coffees.
Pimento is another Steep Hill establishment where the city’s Roman roots are visible. On the left of the building front you can see a column of stones that formed part of the western carriageway of the original upper south gate, and the sitting room stands on top of a Roman wall.
The BookStop Café
The BookStop Café is set beneath Imperial Teas & Coffees in the subterranean undercroft of Norman House. It doubles up as a book shop, with the tables and chairs inside scattered in between shelves upon shelves of books, all tightly packed together under the low arched stone ceiling.
The menu is a simple one of snacks, homemade cakes and hot drinks. All tea and coffee served at the café is blended or roasted upstairs at Imperial.
Bunty’s Tea Room
Bunty’s is a a vintage-style tea room set in another Grade II listed building on Steep Hill. Every little detail inside helps create an atmosphere of times gone by, right down to the wartime music spilling out of a grammaphone and the old bicycles and memorabilia hanging from the walls.
Tea is served in old china of the kind you’d expect to find in a bric-a-brac garage sale. Try the Bunty’s blend keemun and ceylon loose leaf tea, and if you can, grab one of the window tables on the first floor for a great view out onto Steep Hill as shoppers drift by.
The Rest Coffeehouse & Tea Bar
The Rest is primarily a boutique hotel converted from an old hall, but its ground floor also doubles up as a coffeehouse that is open to the public.
The coffeeshop is open from breakfast until early evening serving food platters, coffee, tea, wine and beer. It is conveniently located just at the top of the steepest section of the hill for a stop-off.
An honourable mention for the old Harlequin
One of the most striking buildings on Steep Hill Lincoln is sadly unoccupied at the moment. Hopefully somebody will return it to life again soon! The building, at numbers 20, 21 and 22, is a beautiful two-storey sight of timber and whitewash.
Built in the 15th century, it was originally a hall house. From the mid-18th century to the mid-20th century it became an inn called the Harlequin, and was a major focal point of communal life in Lincoln. For many more decades it was repurposed as a book shop, but this closed in 2017.
You can read more about the history of the building here. What do you think would be an imaginative way to repurpose the building today? Post an idea in the comments below.
Where to stay near Steep Hill Lincoln
These are some of our favourites close to Steep Hill:
- The Old Palace Lodge – a stunning hotel in a restored 19th-century church tucked away just off Steep Hill behind the shops
- White Hart Hotel – a traditional modern hotel with spacious rooms right next to Castle Square at the top of Steep Hill
- Cathedral View Guesthouse – a friendly guest house in a restored 12th-century building just around the corner from Castle Square
How to get to Steep Hill Lincoln
Once you’re in Lincoln, Steep Hill is easy to find by foot. You just need to walk up to the top of the High Street until you see the archway leading onto the Strait. A short way up here you will reach the bottom end of Steep Hill.
If you’re in uphill Lincoln, Steep Hill begins in the corner of Castle Square. Just look for the cobbled road heading downhill from the Magna Carta pub.
Many of the shops on Steep Hill are open late in December and host special events for our city’s biggest event of the year. See our ultimate guide to the 2021 Christmas Market to find out more.
For more activity ideas in the city, check out our rundown of the best things to to do in Lincoln.
What’s your favourite shop on Steep Hill in Lincoln? Or did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.
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