With a population of just over 70,000 Carlisle is the largest settlement in Cumbria and also serves as its administrative centre. It’s situated just south of the Scottish border at the junction of the rivers Eden, Caldew and Petteril.
The city is less well known than other British cities, but the absence of mass hordes of tourists is one of its attractions. It is also compact, pedestrian friendly and serves as a good base to explore the Lake District, Hadrian’s Wall, and the Scottish Borders.
Attractions & Things To Do
Carlisle has been the frontier of England’s defences for almost a thousand years and has seen its fair share of conflicts.
When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 Carlisle was part of Scotland. This changed in 1092 when his son, William Rufus, took the control and built Carlisle Castle on the site of an old Roman fortress.
In the beginning the castle was a simple timber and earth construction. In 1122 Henry I, fearing a Scottish invasion, ordered that it be fortified with stone walls and a keep. Today it is maintained by English Heritage and is open to the public.
Carlisle Cathedral was also founded during the reign of Henry I. It is the second smallest cathedral in England as during the English Civil War much of it was destroyed so the stone could be used to repair Carlisle’s defences. The interior contains a number of notable features such as the 14th century East Window and the Brougham Triptych. Best of all, entry is free.
Tullie House is an excellent museum that brings Carlisle’s history to life. A new Roman Frontier Gallery opened in June 2011 and tells the story of the Roman occupation of England and nearby Hadrian’s Wall.
The best way to arrive in the city is on the Settle to Carlisle Railway. This impressive piece of Victorian engineering is the most spectacular railway in England. The journey from Settle passes the over magnificent viaducts and breathtaking countryside, stopping at beautifully restored stations on the way.
The Sands Centre is the main entertainment centre in Carlisle and Cumbria. It offers a wide range of shows ranging from music and dance, to comedy and theatre. It also boasts extensive health and fitness facilities.
The Vue Cinema is a 7-screen multiplex cinema on the city’s main street, Botchergate. Tullie House also shows movies on Monday evenings.
Carlisle United FC is the city’s professional football team. They play their home fixtures at the Brunton Park stadium. Carlisle Racecourse is another sporting venue here. It is situated near Blackwell village, just south of the city, and hosts National Hunt meetings in the winter and flat racing in the summer.
Further information about all these attractions can be obtained from the Carlisle Tourist Information Centre in the Old Town Hall.
Hotels and places to stay in and around Carlisle include:
- The County Hotel
- Dalston Hall Hotel
- Wheyrigg Hall Hotel
- The Howard Arms
Carlisle is conveniently located just off the M6 motorway (Junction 42, 43 or 44), offering easy access to and from the Lake District, Penrith, Lancaster, Preston, Manchester, and Liverpool. Further north it joins the M74 and continues to Glasgow.
Several important trunk roads also pass through the city; the A595 to Whitehaven, Workington and Millom, the A69 to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and the A7 to Edinburgh.
Carlisle does have its own airport although this does not currently offer commercial flights. The nearest airports are Newcastle (59 miles by road), Blackpool (100 miles), Glasgow Airport (105 miles), Leeds Bradford (111 miles), Edinburgh (120 miles), Glasgow Prestwick (127 miles) and Manchester (128 miles).
Carlisle train station, known as the Citadel Station, is situated in the city centre. It is on the West Coast Main Line and offers trains to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, and London.
Northern Rail operates a service to Leeds via the scenic Settle to Carlisle Railway, to Newcastle via the Tyne Valley Line, and to Barrow-in-Furness on the Cumbrian Coast Line.
First TransPennine Express runs a service from Glasgow to Manchester Airport. Along the way it stops at Carlisle, Penrith, Preston, Bolton, and Manchester Piccadilly.
For train times and prices to and from Carlisle go to National Rail Enquiries.