Carlisle: The Complete Guide

Carlisle Castle

Carlisle is a border city and the county town of Cumbria in North West England 10 miles south of the Scottish border. It is located at the confluence of the rivers Eden, Caldew and Petteril rivers.

Carlisle is rooted in the 2nd century as a Roman settlement tied to Hadrian’s Wall, the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire.

That enormous defence is the largest Roman artefact in the world, and there are forts and long portions of the wall in touching distance of Carlisle.

This city was on the English-Scottish borders and in Medieval times changed hands repeatedly.

History of Carlisle

The local celtic tribe were the Carvetii who occupied ancient Cumbria and North Lancashire. A Roman settlement was built here named Luguvalium, which was based on the native name of Luguwaljon, “[city] of Luguwalos”, meaning “strength of Lugus”.The Roman settlement was established to serve the forts on Hadrian’s Wall.

There was a Roman timber fort constructed at the site of present Carlisle Castle in AD 73 and it was originally garrisoned by the Ala Gallorum Sebosiana a 500-strong cavalry regiment. Luguvalium formed part of the ‘Stanegate’ frontier, which were a nmber of forts that stretched in a line east to Corbridge. In 122 Hadrian visited, and approved a plan to build a wall the length of the frontier. Carlisle had a new fort built in the Stanwix area of the city north of the river called Petriana and housed a 1,000-strong cavalry regiment, the Ala Gallorum Petriana.

After the Romans left Cumbria organised into the native British kingdom of Rheged and its King, Urien and his son Owain appeared in the Arthurian legends.

By the Middle Ages and the time of the Norman conquest in 1066, Carlisle was part of Scotland. In 1092 William the Conqueror’s son, William Rufus invaded the Carlisle and it was incorporated into England. In 1093 Carlisle Castle was built on the site of the Roman fort, south of the River Eden, it was rebuilt in stone in 1112, with the addition of a keep and the city walls. The city walls enclosed the city south of the castle. Carlisle Cathedral was founded as an Augustinian priory and became a cathedral in 1133.

The castle played a part in the the English Civil War (1642–1651) and the Jacobite Rising of 1745.

During the Industrial Revolution in the early 19th century the city expanded with textile mills, engineering works and food manufacturers building factories in the city.

Visiting Carlisle for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Carlisle on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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13 Best places to See in Carlisle

This complete guide to Carlisle not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Carlisle and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Carlisle Guildhall Museum

The Guildhall, Carlisle
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Phil Williams
Carlisle Guildhall is an historic late 14th century building, located in Carlisle, England. The Guildhall Museum is housed in the upstairs of the building. The building was built in 1407 of timber, tile bricks and clay, by Richard of Redeness. A guildhall is where tradesmen from the middle ages would form forming special associations or […]
| Price: Adult £5.90, Children: free | Website | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting Carlisle Guildhall Museum

Click here to read our blog about Hadrians Wall - Day 2 - Carlisle to Hare Hill

Carlisle Cathedral

Carlisle Cathedral
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Paul Buckingham
Carlisle Cathedral is the second smallest of England’s ancient cathedrals and in located in Carlisle, in the north west of England. It was originally founded as an Augustinian priory and became a cathedral in 1133. The building is constructed of red sandstone and its notable features include the great East Window, figurative stone carving, a […]
Location: Carlisle Cathedral 7 Abbey St Carlisle CA3 8TZ United Kingdom | Distance: 0.40km
Visiting Carlisle Cathedral

Click here to read our blog about Hadrians Wall - Day 1 - Bowness-on-Solway to Carlisle

Tullie House

Tullie House, Carlisle, Gates And Railings
CC BY-SA 1.0 / Northernhenge
Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery is a museum covers 2000 years of history of the city of Carlisle, England. The museum is housed in a converted Jacobean mansion, with extensions added when it was converted. At first the building contained the museum and also a library, an art school and a technical school. ‘The […]
Location: Tullie House Museum And Art Gallery Castle St Carlisle CA3 8TP | Hours: 10am-5pm Mon-Sat, 11am-5pm Sun | Price: Adults £10 | Website | Distance: 0.60km
Visiting Tullie House

Carlisle Castle

Field Carlisle Castle
Carlisle Castle is situated in Carlisle, Cumbria, England near the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall. It was built on the site of a Roman fort. It was rebuilt by William II of England in the late eleventh century and finished by David I of Scotland.  It served as an important fortress and saw action during the Anglo-Scottish […]
Location: Carlisle Castle Castle Way Carlisle CA3 8UR United Kingdom | Hours: 10am-6pm Apr-Sep, to 5pm Oct-Mar | Price: adult/child £8/4.80, combined ticket with Cumbria's Museum of Military Life £9.20/5.15 | Website | Distance: 0.70km
Visiting Carlisle Castle

Cumbria Museum of Military Life

Side Drums Of The 34e Regiment Infanterie
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Cumbria's Museum of Military Life
The Cumbria Museum of Military Life is a museum located in Carlisle, in the United Kingdom. The museum tells the 300-year story of Cumbria’s County Infantry Regiment: the 34th Regiment of Foot, the 55th Regiment of Foot, Border Regiment, King’s Own Royal Border Regiment and the current serving Regiment – The Duke of Lancaster’s. On […]
Location: Cumbria's Museum of Military Life The Castle Alma Block Carlisle CA3 8UR United Kingdom | Website | Distance: 0.70km
Visiting Cumbria Museum of Military Life

Rickerby Park Tower

Rickerby Folly
Rickerby Park Tower is an octagonal Victorian folly, and possibly a dovecote situated just outside Carlisle’s Rickerby Park. It was commissioned in the late 19th century by George Head Head, who owned Rickerby Hall at that time when towers and turrets were in vogue.
Location: Rickerby Gardens, Carlisle CA3 9AA, UK | Hours: 24 Hours (View from Road) | Price: Free | Distance: 1.90km
Visiting Rickerby Park Tower

Burgh by Sands

The King Edward I Monument, Burgh Marsh
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Andrew Smith / The King Edward I Monument, Burgh Marsh
Burgh by Sands is a village situated near the Solway Firth and Carlisle in the north of England. It is the site of a Roman Fort of Hadrian’s Wall called Aballava. The village has been occupied continuously since Roman times. Following the end of the Roman Empire in 410AD stones from the wall provided a […]
Location: Burgh by Sands, Carlisle, UK | Hours: 24 Hours | Price: Free | Distance: 8.20km
Visiting Burgh by Sands

Solway Aviation Museum

Solway Aviation Museum, Phantom
CC BY-SA 2.0 / allen watkin
The Solway Aviation Museum is an independently run aircraft museum located at Carlisle Lake District Airport in Cumbria.
Location: Solway Aviation Museum Aviation House Carlisle Airport Crosby on Eden CA6 4NW United Kingdom | Hours: 10:30 am until 5:00 pm every weekend from 2 April 2021 until the 31 October 2021 | Price: Adult: £6.00, Children: £4.00 | Website | Distance: 10.00km
Visiting Solway Aviation Museum

Drumburgh Castle

Drumburgh Castle
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Rose and Trev Clough / Drumburgh Castle
Drumburgh Castle is a a fortified residence or “pele tower” in Drumburgh, in the parish of Bowness, in the county of Cumbria, England. Peel towers or pele are small fortified keeps or tower houses, built along the English and Scottish borders in the Scottish Marches and North of England, mainly between the mid-14th century and […]
Location: Drumburgh Castle, Drumburgh, Wigton, UK | Distance: 14.20km
Visiting Drumburgh Castle

Port Carlisle

Old Harbour Wall, Port Carlisle, Cumbria
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Simon Ledingham / Old Harbour Wall, Port Carlisle, Cumbria
Port Carlisle is one of the most interesting areas of the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beautys’ built heritage and was once known as Fisher’s Cross. It was developed as a port in 1819 to handle goods for Carlisle using the canal link built in 1823. The canal was 11¼ mile long, and had […]
Visiting Port Carlisle

Lanercost Priory

Lanercost Priory From The South
CC BY-SA 2.0 / David Dixon
Lanercost Priory was founded in 12th-century at the village of Lanercost, Cumbria, England, close to Naworth Castle, and Hadrian’s Wall. It was founded by Robert de Vaux to house Augustinian canons who remained for some 370 years until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, by Henry VIII. The building went to Thomas Dacre of […]
Location: Lanercost Priory Lanercost Brampton CA8 2HQ United Kingdom | Hours: 10am-6pm Apr-Sep, 10am-5pm Oct, 10am-4pm Sat & Sun Nov-Mar | Price: Adult £5.90, Child £3.50 | Website | Distance: 17.30km
Visiting Lanercost Priory

Birdoswald Roman Fort

Hadrians Wall At Birdoswald
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Mike Peel
Birdoswald Roman Fort is one of the best preserved of the 16 forts along Hadrian’s Wall. It is on the western end of Hadrian’s Wall on the site of a former farm called Birdoswald.The fort is located on a triangular spur of land with cliffs to the south and east and overlooking the beautiful Irthing […]
Location: Birdoswald Roman Fort - Hadrian's Wall, Hadrian's Wall Path, Brampton, UK | Hours: Saturday - Sunday 10am - 4pm. Between 26 December and 3 January, open daily 10am - 4pm. | Price: Adult: £9.00 Child (5-17 years): £5.40 | Website | Distance: 23.70km
Visiting Birdoswald Roman Fort

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian’s Wall was built by the Roman Empire to protect their colony in England from the Pictish tribes in Scotland. It stretches for 73 mi (117 km) across the north of England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea in the counties of Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear. Sections of Hadrian’s Wall remain […]
Visiting Hadrian's Wall

Best Time to Visit Carlisle

The best time to visit Carlisle, England, depends on your preferences for weather, activities, and crowd levels. Here’s a breakdown of the seasons:

  1. Spring (March to May): Spring is a lovely time to visit Carlisle, with milder temperatures and blooming flowers adding charm to the city. The weather is generally pleasant, making it suitable for outdoor activities such as exploring Carlisle Castle, walking along Hadrian’s Wall, and enjoying the city’s parks and gardens. Additionally, spring sees fewer tourists compared to the summer months, allowing you to experience the city’s attractions without the crowds.
  2. Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Carlisle, with warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours. This is the best time to visit if you want to experience outdoor events, festivals, and activities such as hiking, cycling, and boating on the nearby lakes and rivers. However, be prepared for higher accommodation prices and larger crowds, especially during popular events like the Carlisle Pageant and the Carlisle Summer Music Festival.
  3. Autumn (September to November): Autumn is another great time to visit Carlisle, with mild temperatures and beautiful fall foliage adding color to the city’s landscapes. The weather remains pleasant, allowing you to continue enjoying outdoor activities such as walking tours, wildlife spotting in the nearby Lake District National Park, and attending cultural events and harvest festivals. Plus, autumn sees fewer tourists compared to the summer months, making it an ideal time to explore the city and its surroundings at a leisurely pace.
  4. Winter (December to February): Winter is the quietest time to visit Carlisle, with colder temperatures and occasional snowfall. While the weather may not be ideal for outdoor activities, it’s a great time to explore indoor attractions such as museums, galleries, and historic sites without the crowds. Plus, winter offers opportunities to experience seasonal events such as Christmas markets, festive celebrations, and traditional British holiday traditions.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Carlisle depends on your preferences and what you hope to experience during your trip. Whether you prefer the vibrant atmosphere of summer, the mild temperatures of spring and autumn, or the quieter ambiance of winter, Carlisle offers something for every traveler throughout the year.

Average Temperatures in Carlisle

  • January 7°C 10
  • February 10°C 12
  • March 11°C 9
  • April 14°C 6
  • May 16°C 8
  • June 21°C 10
  • July 21°C 12
  • August 20°C 12
  • September 18°C 10
  • October 14°C 12
  • November 11°C 12
  • December 9°C 14