It was pointed out (in jest I have to add) that I appear to have done Carlisle a disservice in an off hand comment made in my Hadrian’s Wall blog post. I’m currently living in Hexham, which has a short train route to Carlisle, so with some time to kill and my shin splints feeling better I took up the challenge and jumped on a train to explore Carlisle.
Before I went I did some research and found there is actually quite a bit to do. A castle, an art gallery and an urban adventure park (with aerial trekking, a zip line and climbing wall) as well as the Solway Aviation Museum and Watchtree Nature Reserve just outside town. Also, in nearby Brampton, there is the Birdoswald Roman Fort (part of Hadrian’s Wall obviously) Lanercost Priory and the Talkin Tarn Country Park (offering orienteering courses, environmental education and watersports like kayaking, sailing and open water swimming)
I opted to to visit Carlisle Castle (I love castles) and pop into the massive Bookcase second hand book shop (I’m a sucker for these)
The castle was built by William Rufus (William the Conqueror’s son) around 1093 on the site of an old Roman fort. Located on the border between England and Scotland, it was built to keep England secure against the Scottish. The many skirmishes meant it was one of the most under siege castles in the UK and changed hands a number of times for 700 years.
It was the temporary prison for Mary Queen of Scots in 1567 and soldiers loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie were imprisoned there during the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745. That Rebellion, and subsequent failure, marked the end of the castle as a need to protect the border because the countries were united as Great Britain shortly after.
Inside the castle grounds there is also Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life so I went in. It tells the story of Cumbria’s County Infantry Regiment through various audio/visual and diorama displays. It was fascinating to see how warfare has changed from when the regiment was formed in the late 19th century, following the wars they served in up to present day.
After a morning at the castle I went into the nearby Bookcase bookshop. It is one of the UK’s largest independent bookshops. Located in the heart of the historic quarter, it occupies two old georgian houses with thirty rooms over four floors full of books. All kinds and genres. I walked in and was blown away by the range, the staff were very helpful and it had a great ambience. The climbing/walking/mountaineering section was pretty extensive and I think I did pretty well to walk out with nothing other than a few OS maps.
So I stand corrected. Carlisle does have a lot to offer, I enjoyed my time there and now think I owe someone dinner.