Bailrigg is a 200-acre (0.312 sq mi; 0.809 km2) site donated by Lancaster City Council in 1963. The purpose-built campus buildings are located on a hilltop, the lower slopes of which are landscaped parkland which includes the "Carter Lake" duckpond and the university playing fields. The site is three miles (5 km) south of the city centre. The campus buildings are arranged around a central walkway known as "The Spine". The walkway runs from north to south and is covered for most of its length.
The main architect was Gabriel Epstein of Shepheard and Epstein. On a barren hilltop on a windswept day in 1963 the two architectural partners surveyed the future site of the university, Peter Shepheard recalled that day:
- "We went up there on a windy day, and it was freezing cold. Every time we opened a plan it blew away. And we said Christ! What are we going to do with these students, where are they going to sit in the sun and all that? Well, we decided, it's got to be cloisters. All of the buildings have got to touch at the ground. We then devised this system and it had an absolutely firm principle: it had a great spine down the middle where everybody walked. That led everywhere. The cars were on the outside, on both sides. When you came into the spaces things were square, they were rectangular courtyards and they were all slightly different. There were two or three essentials: one was that the covered way had to be continuous, the buildings had to be three or four storeys high and connecting to the next one. I thought it worked very well."