The Cumbrian City of Carlisle


The City of Carlisle lies at the end of the famous Settle-Carlisle railway. It’s a border city, with a rich and intense history full of battles and executions, and it has been witness to lots of strife between the English and the Scots.  It’s just a short distance from the Scottish border, along the path of Hadrian’s Wall.


The day we visited, we had exactly 2 hours to spend before catching our return train to Settle. Luckily, the weather was cooperative and we enjoyed a dry, partly sunny sojourn in this unique and very interesting city.

First, we walked through the center of town to the castle.
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The castle dates to medieval times, but before that there was a Roman fortress on the same site. It is the most besieged place in the British Isles, due to its proximity to the Scottish border and the West coast.  It remained an active military base until the 1960s.

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Inside the castle keep were exhibits about the castle’s history, with a large one covering the castle’s role in the 1745 Jacobite uprising in Scotland. Carlisle castle was one of the first places captured by the Scots and later served as a jail for many Jacobite prisoners. It was also the site of many executions…

Scratched carvings on the stone walls of the gaol:

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Views from the castle walls:
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On our way back to the train station, we stopped to peek inside Carlisle Cathedral. It is by far the most interesting and inviting Cathedral I have yet seen in England. The gorgeous exterior is red sandstone (as was the castle), and has some of the best gargoyles.
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It’s not quite as grand and imposing as Canterbury or York or Westminster, but I think that’s one of the reasons I like it so much.
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The interior was not as light-filled as some of the gothic cathedrals we’ve seen, but it had a colorful and cozy atmosphere.
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Along one side of the choir were wooden panels with medieval paintings, and the colors were so vivid that I assume they must have been restored.
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The beautifully painted barrel ceiling in the nave:


Near the main entrance to the cathedral was an archway exhibiting some interesting (and somewhat alarming) wear and tear. (uneven settling in the foundations?) I wonder what the implications are for the rest of the building!
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We had a great (if somewhat short) visit in Carlisle. I hope we can make it back someday to explore the Roman sites nearby along the section of Hadrian’s Wall that goes through the city.

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