Discover Doncaster

At the heart of Doncaster is an historic market town where Norman castles, Regency buildings and a rich railway and horse racing heritage thrive.

But Doncaster has also evolved. Now a modern metropolis, it offers an exciting mix of green open spaces and nature reserves with spectacular shopping and nightlife too.

Doncaster launched a reopening campaign in 2020, to show how the town bounced back from the coronovirus pandemic.

There is much to see and do in the town and surrounding area.

2 Days in Doncaster Visitor Guide

Welcome to our guide on 48 hours in Doncaster. Whether you’re visiting for the first time, are a local or a regular visitor, we guarantee a true Yorkshire welcome.

Whether you want to experience our rich history and culture, a quality family day out, Doncaster’s extensive international cuisine or maybe you want to get in touch with nature and explore our green spaces, whatever it might be, this guide has it all.


In truth, there's more than enough to fill two days, and you'll likely leave wanting even more from Donnie in future!

AccessAble Doncaster

Discover accessible places to go in Doncaster with our link to results page for Doncaster and surrounding area.

About Doncaster

Doncaster is a large town in South Yorkshire.

Situated near the River Don, Doncaster Minster has a tall tower, stained-glass windows and a Schulze organ, plus a Roman wall on its grounds.

Doncaster Market has hundreds of indoor and outdoor stands and stalls, including the Corn Exchange, a grand Victorian shopping center.

Exhibits at the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery include a 1914 Cheswold car.

It is the main settlement of the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster and the second largest in South Yorkshire after Sheffield.

The town has a population of just short of 110,000 and the metropolitan borough has over 311,000 residents.

History of Doncaster

Roman Times

Possibly inhabited earlier, Doncaster grew up on the site of a Roman fort of the 1st century CE, at a crossing of the River Don.

The 2nd-century Antonine Itinerary and early-5th-century Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries) called the fort Danum.

The first section of road to the Doncaster fort had probably been built since the early 50s, while a route through the north Derbyshire hills was opened in the later 1st century, possibly by Governor Gn. Julius Agricola in the late 70s.

Doncaster provided an alternative land route between Lincoln and York, while the main route Ermine Street involved parties breaking up to cross the Humber in boats. As this was not always practical, the Romans saw Doncaster as an important staging post.

The Roman road appears on two routes recorded in the Antonine Itinerary. The itinerary includes the same section of road between Lincoln and York and lists three stations between these two coloniae. Routes 7 and 8 (Iter VII & VIII) are entitled "the route from York to London".

Several areas of intense archaeological interest have been identified in the town, although many such as St Sepulchre Gate remain hidden under buildings.

The Roman fort is thought to have lain on the site now taken by St George's Minster, beside the River Don.

The Doncaster garrison units are named in a Register produced near the end of Roman rule in Britain: it was the home of the Crispinian Horse, presumably named after the tribes living near Crispiana in Pannonia Superior (near present-day Zirc in western Hungary), but possibly after Crispus, son of Constantine the Great, who was headquartered there while his father was based in nearby York. The Register names the unit as under the command of the "Duke of the Britons".

In 1971 the Danum shield, a rectangular Roman shield dating to the 1st or 2nd century CE, was recovered from the site of the Danum fort.

An inscribed altar, dedicated to the Matres by Marcus Nantonius Orbiotalus, was found at St Sepulchre Gate in 1781. This was donated to the Yorkshire Museum in 1856.

Medieval Times

Doncaster is generally identified with Cair Daun listed as one of 28 British cities in the 9th-century History of the Britons traditionally ascribed to Nennius.

It was certainly an Anglo-Saxon burh, and in that period received its present name: "Don-" (Old English: Donne) from the settlement and river and "-caster" (-ceaster) from an Old English version of the Latin castra (military camp; fort).

It was mentioned in the 1003 will of Wulfric Spott.

Shortly after the Norman Conquest, Nigel Fossard refortified the town and built Conisbrough Castle.

By the time of Domesday Book, Hexthorpe in the wapentake of Strafforth was said to have a church and two mills.

The historian David Hey says these facilities represent the settlement at Doncaster. He also suggests that the street name Frenchgate indicates that Fossard invited fellow Normans to trade in the town.

Doncaster was ceded to Scotland in the Treaty of Durham and never formally returned to England.

Market Charter

With the 13th century, Doncaster matured into a busy town. In 1194 King Richard I granted it national recognition with a town charter. It suffered a disastrous fire in 1204, from which it slowly recovered. At the time, buildings were built of wood, and open fireplaces used for cooking and heating.

In 1248, a charter was granted for Doncaster Market to be held in the area surrounding the Church of St Mary Magdalene, which was built in Norman times. In the 16th century, the church was adapted for use as the town hall. It was finally demolished in 1846.

The Corn Exchange

Some 750 years on, the market continues to operate, with busy traders located under cover, at the 19th-century Corn Exchange building (1873) and in outside stalls. The Corn Exchange was much rebuilt in 1994 after a major fire.

Arrival of Friars

During the 14th century, numerous friars arrived in Doncaster who were known for their religious enthusiasm and preaching. In 1307 the Franciscan friars (Greyfriars) arrived, as did Carmelites (Whitefriars) in the mid-14th century.

Other major medieval features included the Hospital of St Nicholas and the leper colony of the Hospital of St James, a moot hall, a grammar school and a five-arched stone town bridge with a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Bridge.

By 1334, Doncaster was the wealthiest town in southern Yorkshire and the sixth in Yorkshire as a whole, even boasting its own banker.

By 1379, it was recovering from the Black Death, which had reduced its population to 1,500.

In October 1536, the Pilgrimage of Grace ended in Doncaster. This rebellion led by the lawyer Robert Aske commanded 40,000 Yorkshire people against Henry VIII, in protest at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Many of Doncaster's streets are named with the suffix "-gate", after the old Danish word gata, meaning street.

In medieval times, craftsmen or tradesmen with similar skills tended to live in the same street.

Baxter is an ancient word for baker: Baxtergate was the bakers' street. Historians believe that Frenchgate may be named after French-speaking Normans who settled there.

The medieval township is known to have been protected by earthen ramparts and ditches, with four substantial gates as entrances to the town. These were located at Hall Gate, St Mary's Bridge (old), St Sepulchre Gate and Sunny Bar.

Today the gates at Sunny Bar are commemorated by huge "Boar Gates"; similarly, the entrance to St Sepulchre Gate is commemorated by white marble "Roman Gates". The boundary of the town mainly extended from the Don along a route known now Market Road, Silver Street, Cleveland Street and Printing Office Street.

Modern Times

Access to the town was restricted and some officeholders secured charters to collect tolls.

In 1605, King James I granted to William Levett of Doncaster, brother of York merchant Percival Levett, the right to levy tolls at Friar's and St Mary's bridges.

Having served as mayors and aldermen of Doncaster, the Levetts probably believed they could control a monopoly. In 1618 the family began enforcing it, but by 1628 the populace revolted. Capt. Christopher Levett, Percival's son, petitioned Parliament to enforce the tolls, but Parliament disagreed, calling them "a grievance to the subjects, both in creation and execution," and axing the Levett monopoly.

Doncaster's Levet Road is named after the family, as are nearby hamlets of Hooton Levitt and the largely extinct Levitt Hagg, where much of the town's early limestone was quarried.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, Doncaster continued to expand, but it suffered several outbreaks of plague between 1562 and 1606. Each struck down significant numbers of victims.

During the First English Civil War, King Charles I marched by Bridgnorth, Lichfield and Ashbourne to Doncaster, where on 18 August 1645 he was met by numbers of Yorkshire gentlemen who had rallied to his cause. On 2 May 1664, Doncaster was rewarded with the title of Free Borough as a way for the King (Charles I's son, King Charles II) to express gratitude for the allegiance.

Doncaster was connected to the rail network in 1848 and a plant and carriage works for Great Northern Railway was constructed in the town in 1853.

The Doncaster Carr rail depot was opened in 1876.

The area to the east of Doncaster started developing settlements where coal miners lived from the 1850s onwards, exploiting coal near Barnsley. One such settment is Deneby.

Doncaster and surrounding settlements became part of the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1899. Under the Local Government Act 1972 it was drawn into a new metropolitan borough in 1974 and became part of the new county of South Yorkshire.

Doncaster has traditionally been prosperous within the wapentake of Stafford and Tickhill.

The borough was known for rich landowners and huge stately homes such as Brodsworth Hall, Cantley Hall, Cusworth Hall, Hickleton Hall, Nether Hall and Wheatley Hall (demolished 1934).

This wealth appears in the luxurious, historic gilded 18th-century Mansion House in High Street.

This land ownership developed over what is an ancient market place and large buildings were erected in the 19th century, including the Market Hall and Corn Exchange.

The old Doncaster Guildhall in Frenchgate was designed by John Butterfield with a tetrastyle portico and completed in 1847: it was demolished in the redevelopment of the 1960s.

St George's Minster is a grade I listed building and was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the 1850s.

Perhaps the most striking building to survive is St George's Minster, built in the 19th century and promoted from a parish church in 2004.

Doncaster was already a communication centre by this time.

It straddled the Great North Road or A1, gaining strategic importance, as this was the main route for traffic between London and Edinburgh.

Notable People from Doncaster

Notable people

  • Yungblud - singer, songwriter and musician.
  • Jeremy Clarkson - famous for being the former presenter of Top Gear and face of the show The Grand Tour.
  • Louis Tomlinson - former member of the band One Direction, currently a solo artist.
  • Kevin Keegan - football manager and former player.
  • Emma Chambers - actress, famous for her role of Alice Horton in The Vicar of Dibley and Honey Thacker in Notting Hill.
  • Sarah Stevenson - 2011 world champion of Taekwondo.
  • James Toseland - a former motocyclist, currently vocalist in a band with his own name.
  • Thomas Howes - famous for playing the role of William Mason in the British TV series Downton Abbey.
  • Roy Clarke - a writer, famous for his Last of the Summer Wine and Keeping Up Appearances.
  • Diana Rigg - actress
  • John McLaughlin - guitarist and frontman of Mahavishnu Orchestra
  • Tan France - one of the hosts of Queer Eye.
  • Andrew White - presenter and producer of Walks Around Britain and writer of The Walker Mysteries novels.
  • Danny Schofield - a professional football coach and a former player.

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