Things to do in Carlisle holiday cottages

Things to do in Carlisle

Kim Brough 14 June 2022

A vibrant city with over 2,000 years of history, Carlisle once formed part of the northern frontier of the mighty Roman Empire. Carlisle's excellent position on the border of England and Scotland, nestled between two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), means there is much to explore. 

However, you needn't leave town to have a great adventure. At its heart, Carlisle offers a fascinating centre crammed full of attractions, culture, history and art, plus excellent establishments for shopping, dining and drinking. Day or night, there is plenty to keep you entertained.  

Be in the middle of the action at one of our self-catering cottages in Carlisle.

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Carlisle Castle

Carlisle Castle

Explore the fascinating medieval Carlisle Castle, managed by English Heritage and open to the public daily. Over its nine centuries of history, the castle has been a fortress, a prison and a home to the King's Own Royal Border Regiment.

Visit the tower that once housed the captured Mary Queen of Scots, walk the walls, enjoy exploring its many rooms, and discover more about its illustrious past in the informative exhibition. The castle hosts a calendar of events throughout the year and fun activities for children during the holidays.

Cumbria's Museum of Military Life

Military revolvers on a map

Housed within the castle grounds, Cumbria's Museum of Military Life relives 300 years of local military history with immersive displays, engaging exhibitions and interactive trails. Entry is independent of the castle, but joint tickets can be purchased. 

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

A visit to Carlisle is not complete without exploring the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hadrian's Wall, a feat of human engineering and the best conserved and most notable Roman monument in Britain today. 

The city and wider region of north Cumbria have a strong Roman influence, and the area's turbulent past as a fortress from the Scots has given it a fascinating story to share. Remnants of Hadrian’s Wall can still be seen in the city today, or you can drive out to Birdoswald Roman Fort to see the longest remaining stretch of the wall and the vast remains of the Roman fort in a self-guided tour.

If you love to walk or cycle, then you’ll be delighted to know that both the long-distance Hadrian’s Wall Path and Hadrian’s Cycleway pass through the city, taking in some of its most iconic and beautiful sites.

Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery

Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery

The Roman Frontier Gallery at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery houses an exquisite collection of Roman exhibits owned by the city, as well as some on loan from the British Museum. There’s also the opportunity for children to explore an exciting replica of a Roman Fort and dress up as a soldier.

But ancient treasures aren’t all you’ll find in this excellent and interactive museum. Three galleries show a changing collection of exhibitions throughout the year, and there are extensive collections focused on natural sciences, human history, and local life.

Explore the city centre 

Carlisle city centre

Tourist attractions in Carlisle aren’t hard to find, but sometimes all you need is a wander through the pretty streets and a bit of retail therapy.

Though it’s Cumbria's only city, Carlisle's centre has the feel of a large town, which is part of its charm. Its shopping area is centred around a large pedestrian market square which houses two notable buildings. The Old Town Hall is a medieval Grade II-listed building that today is home to the Tourist Information Centre and Assembly Rooms. The Guildhall is a Grade I-listed Ancient Monument that is home to a small museum managed by Tullie House.

In a relatively compact retail area, shoppers can enjoy a good assortment of national high street chains and independent stores, as well as the traditional market hall. Some hidden gems include a three-storey second-hand book store and the wacky Warwick Bazaar, full of vintage and retro items.

Bitts Park and Hammond's Pond

A couple enjoying Bitts Park and Hammond's Pond

Not far from the city centre, Bitts Park and Hammonds Pond are two lovely areas of parkland with sports activities, playgrounds and picnic spots. In the summer, Hammond's Pond is worth a visit for the miniature railway and boating lake, and Bitts Park has a splash park for children to let off some steam. 

Carlisle Cathedral

Carlisle Cathedral

Nestled in the heart of Carlisle's vibrant city centre, Carlisle Cathedral provides a sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle.

The red sandstone building you see today was founded as Carlisle Priory in 1122 before becoming a cathedral ten years later. The dramatic east window dominates the alter and the cheery starry ceiling offers a stark contrast to the intricate masonry carvings below it.

The Settle to Carlisle Railway

The Settle to Carlisle Railway

Journey back in time with a trip on the iconic Settle to Carlisle Railway and discover why the Edwardians and Victorians felt it was the most scenic train journey in EnglandOpened in 1876, the 72 miles of track travels through the stunning countryside of the North Pennines, Eden Valley and Yorkshire Dales, stopping at old stations along the route. Private steam charters and events throughout the year celebrate the heritage of the line.

Walby Farm Park

Walby Farm Park

Walby Farm Park lies 6 miles out of the city and is a 30-acre site offering animal encounters, indoor and outdoor play, picnic areas and a café. There is plenty for children of all ages, but even the grown-ups will think twice about tackling the 24-foot Demon Drop Slide!

Lanercost Priory

Lanercost Priory

Beyond the city, you'll find Cumbria's best-preserved monastery, Lanercost Priory. Its location, so close to Hadrian's Wall, meant the priory endured many attacks from the Scots. However, this now peaceful site still offers much to see and is a perfect addition to a trip to the nearby World Heritage Site. 

Kirklinton Hall and Gardens

Pretty flowers

To the north of Carlisle stands the remains of the 17th-century Kirklinton Hall. While the building itself is currently undergoing a massive restoration project, the 14-acre grounds offer plenty to explore. Wander the partially walled garden, children's garden and woodland, or visit on a Thursday, when the estate hosts a weekly food and crafts market. 

Talkin Tark Country Park

Talkin Tark Country Park

Carlisle’s fortunate location surrounded by stunning countryside means escaping the city centre in search of fresh air and tranquillity couldn't be easier. Talkin Tarn Country Park is a 20-minute drive away and is a lovely place for a family amble. With woodland walks, picturesque picnic spots, a café and a children’s play area, it’s easy to while away an afternoon under the backdrop of the scenic Pennines beyond. 

The North Pennines

Stainmore near Kirkby Stephen in the North Pennines

Directly east of Carlisle is the North Pennines AONB, a wild and rugged region, home to a fascinating lead and zinc mining heritage; nature reserves home to abundant wildlife; and pretty villages with welcoming communities. Perfect for a day trip from Carlisle, you’ll find walking and attractions galore.

The Solway Coast

The Solway Coast

Less than 15 miles from Carlisle is the picturesque Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a vast expanse of flat, open coastal terrain overlooking the estuary and Scotland. 

With extensive salt marsh and bogs and little woodland cover, this wild region offers a stark contrast to the mountainous wooded landscape of the Lake District. Enjoy walks on the England Coast Path, explore the windswept sand dunes or discover the diverse array of fascinating wildlife at one of the area's many nature reserves.

Visit the coast on a clear sunny evening, and you'll likely be rewarded with the most impressive sunset. This coast is truly one of Cumbria's hidden gems.

Rainy day activities

A child splashing in a puddle in wellies

Come rain or shine, you’ll be able to find wonderful things to do in Carlisle.

Eden Rock climbing centre is well worth a visit and caters for children, beginners and experienced climbers with its multiple state-of-the-art bouldering routes. The city centre also boasts a bowling alley, laser quest, escape rooms, a swimming pool and a Vue cinema, so wet-weather entertainment is never in short supply.

At the end of the day

Carlisle city at night

Carlisle city centre has a lively evening scene with a good selection of modern cocktail bars, traditional pubs and an array of globally inspired restaurants. The Old Fire Station is one of the city’s best venues, offering a varied programme of music, comedy and theatre. The Sands Centre is a large capacity venue known throughout Cumbria for its line-up of international classical and modern entertainment. The city also has nightclubs, theatres and relaxed eating establishments, offering something for everyone. 

Self-catering cottages in the Lake District

Even after visiting these amazing places in Carlisle, you're sure to be in need of a place to cook up a meal and rest your head. Browse our Carlisle collection to find your next holiday home in the Lake District.

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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