SLIDESHOW: Thousands flock to opening of castle

As Lancaster Castle threw it doors open to the public for the first time in nearly 900 years, the Queen was said to be “delighted”.

A spokesman for the Duchy of Lancaster, which owns the mighty edifice, said the Queen was glad that the castle can now play an even greater role in the life of the city.

Thousands of people flocked to get their first look inside the castle over the bank holiday weekend.

At 11am the Constable of the Castle and Keeper of the Keys, Gordon Johnson, hauled open the mighty gates with a great deal of ceremony. As the gates swung open musket shots were fired by a battle re-enactment group dressed as Redcoats, giving the crowd an extra thrill.

Inside the castle people soon made themselves at home, enjoying picnics in the courtyard, stalls, tours, displays and refreshments from the new Nice cafe. The superb weather meant that people took their time to look around and soak up the atmosphere.

Chris Adcock, spokesman for the Duchy, said: “The Queen is very much informed about what is going on. I understand that she is extremely pleased that the castle is being opened to the public at last.

“We have put on a lot of things for free this weekend because we felt we owed it to the people of Lancaster. This is part of the Queen’s estate. It’s a very large estate and the castle is our jewel in the crown.

“The Queen came to this area for her 80th birthday. It’s her favourite part of Britain. I think it’s the beauty of it - the greenery and the countryside.

“We took the castle back from the Ministry of Justice in 2011 and since then we have been building up ideas on what to do with it. We have eight castles and Lancaster is the biggest and the best. It has a phenomenal history.

“We had a consultation process and we decided we needed to get the gates open.

“We heard that this was the ‘Lancaster Unlocked’ weekend and decided this would be a good time to do it.”

Opening the gates has certainly paid off: “We had 1,000 people outside the castle when the gates were first opened,” said Mr Adcock. “It has been unbelievably successful.

“Whatever we do has to be sympathetic to the people of Lancaster but it also has to be commercially viable.

“We have a lot of work to do. We want to make this a successful visitor attraction. The possibilities are endless.”

He said ideas include festivals, outdoor gigs, markets, using parts of the castle for a restaurant, film shows, an ice rink and much more.