The ancient city of Carlisle close to the Scottish border has a rich and turbulent history. Carlisle was walled and gated by the Romans, invaded by the Vikings and was much fought over by the Scots and English particularly through the Border Reivers period in the medieval era. Carlisle Castle was the most frequently besieged place in Britain at one time, and both the Castle and Cathedral are integral to the city’s history of invasion, defence and turbulence.
Take Border Reivers tours of Carlisle Castle and see spectacular medieval stained glass within Carlisle Cathedral. Free concerts and recitals regularly take place in the Cathedral and great year round family events and activities in Carlisle Castle make this heritage attraction a top family day out. Carlisle Cathedral also features an atmospheric restaurant in the medieval undercroft.
The history of Carlisle stretches back centuries from its strategic position as a Border Reivers fort to its Roman links and medieval commercial successes run by the powerful Carlisle Medieval Guilds.
Heritage attractions Carlisle Castle, Carlisle Cathedral and the Guildhall cluster close together in the beautiful city centre. The Castle has Norman roots, founded by William the Conqueror’s son in 1092, and was built on the site of a former Roman fort.
Constantly developed through the centuries particularly through the turbulent Border Reivers period of the 15th and early 16th century and even serving as a prison to Mary Queen of Scots in 1567, Carlisle Castle today features Border Reivers tours, history exhibitions in the Castle Keep and tours of The Warden’s Apartments as they would have been in 1480.
Originally the site of an Augustinian priory and church, Carlisle Cathedral was founded slightly later than Carlisle Castle in 1122 and like the castle has seen much embattlement over the centuries. Beautiful medieval stained glass survives within the Cathedral’s East Window as well as a 16th century Flemish altarpiece within St Wilfrid’s Chapel.
Admire the spectacular medieval painted ceilings running along the north and south aisles. An exhibition within the Treasury contains silver and treasure artefacts and information on the history of Christianity in Cumbria. Visit Carlisle Cathedral shop for a range of guides, gifts, cards and specialist Cumbria crafts and foods. The Prior’s Kitchen restaurant is housed within the atmospheric undercroft.