It’s over 20 years (nearly 25) since I graduated from Lancaster Uni, and I’ve never really been back since. As we were having a short holiday break in Lytham St Annes, I decided we’d have a day up in Lancaster so I could reminisce for a bit and see how things have changed. I decided we’d stop at Williamson Park and the Ashton Memorial, then head for a Lancaster Castle tour in the city centre.

ashton memorial and williamson park visit

Williamson Park and Ashton Memorial

We parked at the Quernmore car park which is quite small. It’s pay and display, but you can Ringo which I always like to do. Parking here means there’s not a huge hill to walk up to reach the memorial, although the other lower car park means you can walk up via woods and the adventure playgrounds.

Williamson Park looks out over the city, and across Morecambe Bay. N was surprised he could see the sea!

ashton memorial above flower displays
view over lancaster to morecambe bay from williamson park

The Ashton Memorial is visible from all around the city. It’s a pretty spectacular building, and is meant to be open daily to go inside. But it didn’t look like it was open the day we went – there was obviously an event happening soon because there were workmen putting electrics or things up around one side of the steps. The folly dates back to its construction between 1907-1909.

ashton memorial against blue sky

When we were at uni, it was more like basic parkland. We spent much of our revision period revising in the park in the sun. It was interesting to see all the new additions. Back then there was the aviary only – which is currently closed.

The park is set out over 54 acres, with under 8s and over 8s play areas, wooded walks, a cafe, mini zoo and pavilion butterfly house.

Williamson Park butterfly house and mini zoo

It’s not too expensive to go into the mini zoo and butterfly house – only £7 for the 2 of us. To get so close to the meerkats was worth the money for us – they were much friendlier and active than those we’ve seen in most zoos or wildlife parks.

mini zoo and butterfly house side next the garden
macro yellow flower
buddleia type flowers up close

It’s a small zoo, but not busy so the few animals there are you can spend time with quietly.

As well as the meerkats, there were also a couple of marmosets who weren’t moving from their hammock, and the Provost’s Squirrel was lazing watching us.

2 meerkats looking around
meerkat standing upright looking at camera
prevost's squirrel

There’s also a mini beast house where you can see a myriad of smaller creatures like geckos, frogs, python and other bugs and lizards.

piggyback green tropical frogs
lizard in mini beast zoo

The butterfly house is a beautiful former palm house, now a tropical home for butterflies, turtles, koi carp and other creatures. If you hit the timing right, at weekends and school holidays, they do keeper talks.

arched windows in butterfly house
iron staircase inside butterfly house
portrait picture taken in the butterfly house

We saw all the chrysalis hanging waiting for the butterflies to emerge. But there weren’t that many butterflies themselves around while we were walking round. I was expecting more, but those we saw were quite small and stayed high up out of sight. N didn’t spot any caterpillars around either.

koi carp
butterfly hovering in butterfly house
boy holding camera up to take a photo

The cafe is quite small with limited choice, but there’s plenty of seating inside and out. We decided to just get some lunch in town instead.

ashton memorial view against bright sky

They do hold events, concerts and weddings at the memorial and park, so you might happen upon something other than you needing to make your own entertainment.

It was lovely to look out across the city and remember happy weekends spent in Williamson Park all those years ago.

Have you ever been or know of other similar follies around the country in public parks?

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