Carlisle – the tourist’s hidden gem

Known as ‘The Great Border City’, Carlisle is most commonly recognised for its ideal location between Scotland and England, if not necessarily for its tourist hot spots. However, Carlisle is bursting with great activities and beautiful scenery, so we’ve hand-picked the top five things to do and see in Carlisle.

Carlisle Castle

Rich with stories and legends, Carlisle Castle is an ideal visitor attraction for the modern historian, or even just those who’d enjoy a stroll round the beautiful castle grounds. Situated proudly at the northern end of the city, the castle is over 900 years old. Built predominately for military use, due to its location between England and Scotland, it has seen its fair share of wars and invasions. Since the 12th century it has been constantly rebuilt and adapted to withstand each invasion. Nowadays it is open to the public seven days a week.

You can take a look around Queen Mary’s Tower – the turret where Mary, Queen of Scots was held captive from 1567 after being ordered there by her own cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. Or, uncover the stone carvings found in the castle keep. Originally thought to be the work of prisoners, they include beautiful images of animals, a knight and a mermaid. The castle grounds also house Cumbria’s Military Museum, which showcases the story of Cumbria’s County Infantry Regiment. The dungeons provide an eerie look into the lives of Jacobite prisoners, who took moisture from the ‘licking stones’ to keep themselves alive when deprived of water. Steeped in history, the Castle is definitely one of the top places to visit in Carlisle.

Carlisle Cathedral

Not the best known cathedral, but Carlisle Cathedral has been around for almost 900 years and has plenty of stories to tell. Still holding a service every day of the year, visitors from all faiths are welcome to join the congregation. The Cathedral also has a team of voluntary guides on hand to take you round the grounds and make the most of your visit. There are many must-see areas of the Cathedral, including beautiful examples of art from the bright blue Ceiling of the Choir, where The Virgin Mary’s face looks down on you from above. The Cathedral also houses one of the largest Gothic windows in England, the East Window, and the Tait Memorial Window.

During an excavation of the Cathedral grounds in 1988, an archaeological dig uncovered several Viking graves. The items recovered during the dig are now on display in the Treasury Exhibition, alongside a series of illustrated panels telling the story of the history of Christianity in Cumbria.

You will certainly work up an appetite exploring the Cathedral so pop in to the Prior’s Kitchen, which is located across from the main entrance, offering a selection of treats from cakes to soup and sandwiches for lunch. You can also pick up a souvenir of your visit from the gift shop. The Cathedral is open to everyone and is free of charge, but donations are appreciated as these go towards the preservations of the Cathedral.

Tullie House

One of Carlisle’s finest attractions, Tullie House is the home to many collections of art, human history and natural sciences alongside various exhibitions and events. The building itself is a piece of art, a Grade One listed Jacobean building complete with Jacobean staircase and fireplace, nestled amongst beautifully maintained gardens.

Collections themselves vary from permanent exhibitions to visiting exhibitions that are currently touring. There are various places to visit that make up Tullie House, the Art Gallery was introduced in 1989 as part of a redevelopment product of the whole museum, the Exhibitions Gallery has constantly changing display spaces and hosts both homemade and external exhibitions, the Border Galleries cover history from Carlisle and surrounding areas and also leads to the Lookout point offering amazing views of Carlisle Castle and the city skyline.

Once you have absorbed all the art and history, take a stroll through the gardens laid out with plants from the Jacobean era. You will also be able to spot some wildlife from robins and flycatchers to butterflies. The garden is set in to quadrants with a sundial at the centre, given it a welcoming open environment. You will soon realise why the garden is a perfect location for wedding photography! There is also an on-site restaurant to re-fuel and a delightful gift shop.

Hadrian’s Wall

Built by the Roman’s along the border between Scotland and England, it was originally constructed to protect Roman England from rival tribes that lived in Scotland. Stretching 80 miles from the Solway Coast in Cumbria to Wallsend near Newcastle upon Tyne, it took the work of 15,000 men, 6 years to build and has survived for over 2000 years. So what is there to do at the wall? More than you would think! There are many attractions and museums situated along the wall, filled with tales of Roman history, including reconstructed Roman buildings and forts.

Looking to explore the in and around the wall? For the sightseers, there are various walking and cycling trails along the wall, taking in all the breath-taking scenery. There a circular walks and shorter trails or you can even try tackling the full length of the wall! There are cycling options for all fitness-levels, covering short cycle routes, quiet roads and off-road tracks.

Something a little different..

A World in Miniature Museum

Pretty much what it says on the tin, the World in Miniature Museum holds one of the world’s top three collections of miniatures, from miniature art to miniature embroidery. The exhibits and room sets are all exact miniature copies of real sized objects; items that are normally one foot in height are made to 1 inch in height. Although the size may be small, the detail is not compromised, with all details present and correct even down to the drawer hinges! But don’t worry; you’ll be given a magnifying glass when you arrive so you don’t miss anything. The exhibits aren’t the only part that’s small, even the admission fee is pretty miniscule at £2.50 for an adult, so definitely worth a visit. You’ll even be able to see the worlds second smallest teddy bear, ‘Mini the Pooh’ which is only 5.0mm in height, smaller than a fingernail! Over 230 craftspeople have contributed to the collections from the UK and beyond. From the French room, which is an exact copy of one of the rooms at the Palace of Versailles to a replica of a theatre showing a performance of Macbeth, the museum really does offer impressive sights. Each display shows extreme levels of detail and precision by the craftsperson, down to the real wax candles used in the Grand Dining Room. For something a bit different and definitely a conversation piece, the museum is definitely worth a visit.

Planning a visit to Carlisle and need a car? We have cars available in all sizes and specifications, check availability and book today.

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