Carlisle lies on the very edge of the Lake District and is England’s most northerly city today. This has not always been the case as there was a time when Carlisle was in Scotland; this is why it is not featured in the Domesday Book. It also contains both the highest and lowest points in any city, rising from sea level to more than 2,000 feet at the top of Coal Fell.
There has been a settlement in this region since the Celtic warlords dominated this area, but it was the Romans who built a garrison at Luguvalium as one of the last outposts of their empire. The garrison town remained after the Romans left, as did the fort of Caerligaluid, which eventually evolved into Carlisle.
Arthurian legends claim that both King Arthur and Merlin visited Carlisle in the Dark Ages, but nothing of that era remains. The castle was founded in the 11th Century and still holds a commanding view over the modern city. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned here at one time and the castle was captured by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. Today the building is home to the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment, although there is no fear of another Scottish invasion! The nearby citadel was built during the reign of Henry VIII.
Carlisle Cathedral was founded in 1122 and is well worth a visit today. The stained glass in the tracery of the East Window dates back to the 14th Century, as does the barrel vaulted painted ceiling in the choir of the building. There is a treasury containing not only a display of church silverware but also an exhibition of the development of Christianity in Cumbria.
Tullie House Museum and Art gallery is a venue for numerous exhibitions and other functions. There are various permanent displays featuring archaeology, geology, wildlife and the general history of the region. The biological records centre was established here in 1902 and is one of the oldest in existence. Not far away from the city is Hadrian’s Wall, built almost 2000 years ago to keep out the barbarians.
From Carlisle, it is possible to take trips into Scotland and on the scenic railway which runs between Carlisle and Settle, crossing the Yorkshire dales. Naturally, this is also a great centre for visits to the northern lakes.
Carlisle is a great place for shopping. It still has a covered Victorian market hall and farmers’ markets are held regularly. There is also an annual Food Fair and Continental Market. The main shopping street is pedestrianised and offers the usual chain stores and many smaller local shops. In addition there is a wide range of restaurants and cafés in the city and many entertainment outlets.
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