Just ashamed of the Scottish border, Carlisle is one of the northernmost cities in England to visit. With centuries of history, markets, and even castles, such a city is worth a little treading while you’re in it North of England.
Now, while you may not be visiting Carlisle on a dedicated trip, it’s a city that’s really easy to mark with a wider trip in the region.
For example, we visited several times after we researched Lake District. Oh, and when we drive on the M6 highway along the “backbone of Great Britain”, too.
So to help you make the most of your time in the city, I wanted to share a few gems that we love. This way you can focus on that most important research!
Check out the best things you can do in Carlisle below. Incredibly visit the north of England.
1.) Carlisle Castle
For more than 900 years, Carlisle Castle has dominated the cityscape and history. It is one of the most famous places to visit and the best to do in Carlisle, especially if you want to learn more about the region’s turbulent history.
Trust me, the distinctive gray and red sandstone of Carlisle Castle is hard to miss – you’ll spot it for a mile!
Here you can go through the terrain via one of the tours that take place most days. When you go inside, you will see the medieval rooms of the castle, the dome in which Mary, Queen of Scots, was once imprisoned!
Even to this day you can still spot the carvings and markings that the prisoners created when they kept them there.
After that, within the terrain itself, head to the Cumbria Museum of Military Life. Exhibiting a huge collection of military uniforms, military weapons, medals and paintings that last for more than 300 years.
It is immersed in history and is worth the joy when you are already here.
Do you want to stay in the castle? Then head in front of Carlise and check out the Dalston Hall Hotel which is a former castle dating back to the 16th century.
It’s totally nice, although you’ll need a car (or take a taxi) to get into Carlise from here.
2.) Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery
Located between the castle and the cathedral, the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery are a favorite to visit on a city walk.
By accommodating piles of collections and works of art, it provides a rich background to the region and the influences that have shaped the wider area over the years. From prehistoric artifacts to modern art, the exhibits at the Tullie House Museum cover most of the significant points in Carlisle’s history and culture.
And not only that, you will see some epic Roman objects intertwined with the history of Carlisle Castle. Oh, and of course, a little of Hadrian’s Wall.
Then stop by Lane Bar for a small tip. It’s a pretty cool little place.
3.) Carlisle Cathedral
Mostly Gothic, Carlisle Cathedral is considered the second smallest cathedral in England. Although, when it comes to Cathedrals, size is not always everything!
During the historic battles that plagued the area, his ship was cut down and demolished, and the materials used to strengthen Carlisle Castle. Although don’t worry, it’s absolutely nice to visit it today!
Upon arrival, be sure to notice the medieval stained glass that is still in its original form. For me, the East Window is the main thing I have to watch out for. It is one of the largest stained glass windows in the country.
Walking through Carlisle Cathedral, you’ll see all the intricate carved misericords and choirs of black oak choirs. You just know it took thousands of hours to master this!
4.) Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall is perhaps the most important part of the history of Carlisle and the entire Cumbria region.
Built in the 2nd century during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, this 73-kilometer-long military frontier served as the main life of defense across the gates of northern England. In fact, it was the northern point of the Roman Empire and the one that aimed to protect the Romans from Scotland (north of the wall).
You can now choose to walk the entire section of the wall trails (although this will take about two days). Obviously, you’ll need to leave Carlisle because of this, but it’s worth seeing at least parts of the wall.
For me well-preserved sites like; Birdoswald Fortress is a must. It is about a 30 minute drive from Carlisle and is really easy to visit for a morning day trip by car.
Built on the side of the gorge of the Irthing River, the Roman fortress of Birdoswald offered a strong strategic defense to the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago and you can still see a lot of ruins to this day.
The excavated ruins of the fortress will give you an insight into how meticulous Roman engineering was. In addition, it is the place where the longest continuous move of Hadrian’s Wall can be found!
5.) Guildhall Museum
The Guildhall Museum, listed as an ancient monument of the 1st degree, is a historic building dating back to the 14th century. Located in the heart of the city, it is a museum that is great to visit to learn about the history and culture of Carlisle.
Upon arrival, you will also have to wander around the rooms and exhibitions. You’ll see everything from the Shoemaker’s Room (which looks like a ship’s cabin) to the Butcher’s Room (which has a surprising Victorian interior).
It’s one of the best things in Carlise that is done indoors. This is especially good if you get a little rain!
After that, take a walk in Bitts Park, which is a great way to gain your appetite before dinner.
6.) Dive into parks
Just nine miles from Carlisle, the Watchtree Nature Reserve is absolutely beautiful. In fact, it is the largest man-made reserve in all of Europe, with lush meadows on more than 200 hectares of land!
While you don’t let yourself be put off by the fact that it was made by man, it’s amazing. It attracts a crowd of animals and now serves as a refuge for a number of species. While here, you can spot brown rabbits, birds, moths and dragonflies in the area, as well as about 23 endangered species, including the Great Crested Trit.
If that doesn’t sound like a cup of tea to you, stay near Carlise and head to Rickerby Park.
Here you will be able to walk the trails that follow the River Eden. You might also notice the 1800 craziness that is just above Rickerby Retreat!
7.) Solway Aviation Museum
So, aviation enthusiasts will be treated at the Solway Aviation Museum! If this is you, you will love this place. If not, you might want to miss it.
Located at Carlisle Lake District Airport, this museum contains a fascinating collection of aircraft. Up close you can see the Avro Vulcan B.2, the Sikorsky Whirlwind helicopter, the Hawker Hunter and the English electric Canberra.
There is a wealth of military information in the Solway Aviation Museum. During the tour, you will learn how Martin-Baker ejector seats work and how the Blue Streak medium-range ballistic missile was developed.
8.) Settle-Carlisle Railway
Imagine a completely unique experience, book yourself at Settle-Carlisle Railway which swings through the Yorkshire Dales and some of the most famous landscapes in all of northern England. This is the type of train you ride for your journey.
For us, we would recommend purchasing a Dayra train ticket at the train station. This allows you to jump in and off as many times as you want for the day – which is great for exploring.