The city of Carlisle began life as a wooden fort built by the Roman commander Agricola in 78AD. Situated in Cumbria, on the border of northern England, the settlement was tactically important because of its proximity to Scotland.

When the Romans left in 470AD, the Celtic tribes took over and called it Caer Luel, from which the modern city draws its name. Because of its important location, Carlisle has witnessed centuries of warfare at the hands of the Saxons, Vikings, Scots and English.

The modern city is a flourishing centre of trade and commerce, and the perfect place from which to explore the beautiful Lake District.


Thanks to its turbulent history, Carlisle has plenty to offer visitors who wish to delve into the past. The remains of Hadrian’s Wall, the final frontier of the Roman Empire, lie near to the city. The best place to see these is Birdoswald Roman Fort, which has excavations dating back to 125AD.

The city itself is full of historic attractions. The Tullie House Museum tells the story Carlisle from prehistoric times to the present. Situated in Castle Street, and packed with hands on activities, it is worth seeing for its beautiful Regency frontage alone. It also houses a contemporary art gallery.

The most impressive landmark is Carlisle Castle, which greets every visitor who enters the city. Dating from the 12th Century, this medieval fortress is an essential attraction. It once housed Mary Queen of Scots, and its dark walls have plenty of dungeons and stairways to explore. While there, take time to see the Border Regiment Museum.

Carlisle Cathedral is one of the smallest in the country, but it is bursting with fascinating historical gems. Despite the years of warfare it has witnessed, the 14th century glass in the East Window has survived intact. Take a look at the Brougham Triptych, a beautiful Flemish alter-piece carved in the 16th Century. Even the aisles contain rare medieval paintings of the saints and apostles.

If you fancy something a little more sporty, Carlisle boasts six leisure centres – including a Victorian Turkish Bath! There are several designated City Walks for visitors, but should you prefer the legendary open countryside of the Lake District then hire a bike and cycle the Eden Valley Route.

Walkers and ramblers will enjoy the route of the Roman Legionaries on the Hadrian’s Wall Trail. Those visitors who want to canoe, windsurf, row or sail should take a trip to the Talkin Tarn Country Park, home to a large lake surrounded by forest.

Feeling lucky? Spend a day at the Carlisle Racecourse. Located within easy distance of the city centre, it hosts some of the best racing in England.

No trip is complete without a ride on the Settle-Carlisle railway. This is part of the main network with fast links to London, and the large viaducts offer views of the phenomenal countryside.


Carlisle has enjoyed a renaissance in its shopping facilities, and offers everything from high street brands to individual boutiques. The Lanes is the main shopping area, but take time to visit Market Hall, one of the last covered Victorian markets in England. The city has recently extended its trading hours, and more than 50 shops are open until 7pm, with free parking after 5pm.

The centre sees a regular farmers’ market, as well as an annual continental food fair. November is a great time to visit, when the Christmas fair takes over the city.

Nightlife and Eating Out

As Carlisle is one of the main cities in the north, it provides a large range of dining facilities. Everything from pubs, pavement cafés and foreign restaurants is on offer. The Sportsman Inn is definitely worth a look, not least because holds claim to be the oldest pub in the city.

Culture-vultures will enjoy The Sands Centre, a live arts venue for classical music, rock, pop, ballet and theatre. It is well attended, and visitors are advised to check listings and bookings in advance. Musical recitals are frequently held in the Cathedral.

Theatre lovers must visit The Green Room, a charming club-theatre venue. A quirky and unusual array of productions may also be enjoyed at the Stanwix Arts Theatre.

For those preferring a film, Carlisle has two multi-screen cinemas, as well as Laser Quest and Tenpin Bowling.

Tourist Information

Carlisle Tourist Information Centre, The Old Town Hall,Carlisle,CumbriaCA3 8JETel. 01228


Carlisle has an airport which is served by commercial flights and may be reached on 01228 573641.

The city is on a main rail routes from London and Edinburgh, and is connected to the M6, M61 and M62 roads.

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