In ExploreTravel

City life is perhaps not something you’d usually associate with the edge of the Lake District, but every great county has a great city – and Cumbria is no exception. Despite being a modern city boasting everything you’d expect in the 21st century, Carlisle has sat very close to England’s border for the last 2,000 years – and if walls could talk, Hadrian’s Wall would have a few tales to tell…

While modern Carlisle’s pedestrianised centre sets the scene for great shopping, mouth-watering restaurants including Barton's Yard & the Penny Blue Restaurant & Bar at The Halston Aparthotel and The Sally, indoor and outdoor entertainment, special markets and seasonal events, it’s a city no stranger to historical conflict.


Famous for its dry stone walls, they don’t get much bigger and better than this! The 75-mile long Hadrian’s Wall is a former line of defence stretching all the way from The Solway Firth in the west, to Wallsend-on-Tyne in the east. Marking the northern frontier of the Roman Empire, this stretch of the wall was thought to have been the home of 1,000 Roman soldiers during Hadrian’s reign.

Long stretches of the wall are easy to explore thanks to good bus links, the Hadrian’s Wall national walking trail, and Hadrian’s Cycleway for those who fancy stretching their legs over even greater distances.

Along the wall you can see fascinating remains of forts and turrets – with two Cumbrian highlights being the imposing and well-preserved Banks East Turret. Meanwhile, the Birdoswald Roman Fort sits above the River Irthing where its own Visitor Centre dives deeper into more than 2,000 years of history.


A Roman fort marks the most westerly point of Hadrian's Wall at Bowness on Solway, with beautiful views across the Solway Firth at all times of day – but especially at sunset making this a worthy destination to add to your Carlisle area itinerary. The area is now fully renovated to mark the start of the Hadrian's Wall Path National Trail.


Cheekily built using stones from Hadrian’s Wall, Carlisle Castle has watched over the city and its people since 1092 and played a pivotal defence role during conflicts between the English, Scots, Vikings and the Border Reivers.

There’s also a new exhibition here, telling the stories of the castle's famous and infamous residents, visitors and even prisoners, including Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie. You can also visit the Carlisle Roman Dig exhibition, where recently unearthed treasures are proudly displayed.

With guided tours available, well-behaved dogs are welcome and admission also includes entry to Cumbria's Museum of Military Life.

Like Hadrian’s Wall and Carlisle Castle, Carlisle Cathedral also bears more than its fair share of battle scars – having been rebuilt on more than a few occasions! Built in 1122, it became a victim of Oliver Cromwell’s well-documented efforts 600 years later. With 14th century stained glass windows sparkling in the sunlight, there are also exceptional wood carvings and medieval painted wall panels to be found here.

Carlisle’s Guildhall is an ancient centre of trade-turned museum of civic history. Centuries before digital storage, see the iron chest which stored the city's important documents and marvel at medieval stocks while thankful that such public humiliation methods are long-gone!


Tullie House Museum is among Carlisle's finest visitor attractions. Also an Art Gallery, Tullie is the home of many collections of fine art, human history and natural sciences. There’s also the brand new Costume Collection exhibition which covers hundreds of years of fashion and working clothing. An old building with a complimentary modern extension, the triple award-winning Tullie House also boasts lovely gardens.


If you’re visiting with children, then a visit to the award-winning Walby Farm Park is an essential part of your Carlisle visit. Enjoy farm animal shows, ‘Walby's Wacky Golf’, a giant sandpit, trampolines, pedal go-karts and tractors, a  seasonal maize maze, tractor & trailer rides and both indoor and outdoor play areas - which include the thrilling ‘Demon Drop’ slide! Homemade refreshments are available from the Curly Tails café, with toys and souvenirs available to take away as a great memory from the gift shop.


Rightfully recognised as one of the most scenic railways in the UK, Carlisle is the starting point for the 70+ mile stunning railway route which carries passengers across more than 20 viaducts and bridges, and boasts no fewer than 14 different tunnels!

Why not enjoy a journey through rolling countryside and across the famous Ribblehead Viaduct onboard one of the 2021 ‘Staycation Express’ luxury trips? Set to run daily (except on Fridays) from mid-July to mid-September, climb aboard a newly refurbished classic InterCity 125 and settle (no pun intended) into your reclining leather chair in first class, while gazing through large windows.


For a taste of north Cumbria village life, Wetheral is a lesser-known destination but a hidden gem on the banks of the River Eden. With stunning countryside views, a market cross is the village’s centrepiece with quaint 18th century houses complimented by a 16th century church and Priory gatehouse.


Another small town worthy of exploration for history buffs is Dalston. Rich in Celtic history, Dalston and the Caldew Valley were originally part of the territory of the Carvetti, a Brigantian tribe of Celts. Look out for tell-tale signs by nearby place names such as Cumdivock (‘valley of the little black stream') and Cummersdale (‘valley of the Cymri').




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