A rainbow over Carlisle Castle
A rainbow over Carlisle Castle

Carlisle is the county town of Cumbria and the only city. Not surprisingly, it is well-supplied with shopping amenities, and the entire centre of the town has been made into an attractive pedestrian district.

Also not surprisingly, due to its location near the Scottish border, Carlisle has a long history of conflict. The castle here has been besieged, taken and retaken over the years by both Scottish and English forces. Carlisle Castle was built in 1092 and later acted as a prison for Mary, Queen of Scots.

Long before Mary's time, the Roman city of Luguvalium stood here. The city was the major supply centre for the western end of Hadrian's Wall, and the principal administrative centre for the region. Little of the Roman city remains, though some foundations can be seen in the grounds of the Tullie Museum, and artefacts from excavations can be found in the museum itself.

The Cathedral was erected in 1092, but the majority of the present building dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. The cathedral was badly damaged during the Civil War, but even that cannot detract from the superb east window, one of the best examples of Decorated tracery in England.

Carlisle Cathedral
Carlisle Cathedral

In the medieval period, the city walls of Carlisle were linked to the castle defences to create a continuous barrier. In the Civil War, the walls were in strong enough state to withstand an extended siege. The Royalist defenders were finally induced to surrender by starvation, but Parliamentary troops were never able to pierce the city defences.

During the '45 Rebellion, Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) held the city briefly, though this time the city walls succumbed to a cannon barrage by the Duke of Cumberland's men. The best remaining parts of the walls can be seen from the car park and gardens below West Walls.

Guarding the southern entrance to the old city walls are the twin towers of The Citadel, designed in 1810 by Thomas Telford to replace a 16th-century fortress guarding the gateway. The towers housed assize courts and a gaol. In front of the eastern tower is a statue of the Earl of Lonsdale, who helped finance the towers.

The market place of Carlisle may stand on the site of the former Roman forum. On the north side of the square is the Town Hall, an unpretentious structure built in 1717. In the square is the Market Cross, built in 1682, with a gilded sundial atop a slender column. Nearby is the Guildhall, now a museum.

For an overview of Carlisle information resources, click through to our Carlisle Tourism page.

More Photos

About Carlisle
Address: Carlisle, Cumbria, England
Attraction Type: Town
Location map
OS: NY4054
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

The Citadel - 1 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Carlisle, St Cuthbert's Church - 1.1 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Carlisle Cathedral - 1.2 miles (Cathedral) Heritage Rating

Carlisle Guildhall Museum - 1.2 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Tullie House Museum - 1.3 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Carlisle Castle - 1.4 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Wreay, St Mary's Church - 4.1 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Wetheral Priory Gatehouse - 4.2 miles (Abbey) Heritage Rating

Nearest Holiday Cottages to Carlisle:

  More self catering near Carlisle

Show self catering cottages near Carlisle