Carlisle - the border city

England, Carlisle Guide (A): Carlisle - the border city

Carlisle is the haunt of Romans, reivers and rebels. Find out about Carlisle's links with St Cuthbert, Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Sir Walter Scott, the novelist. Explore a castle, a cathedral and a crypt. Take a walk in the Chinese Gardens and find out what the words of the song Loch Lomond really mean.
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Walk Route

Guide Name: Carlisle - the border city
Guide Location: England » Carlisle
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 km
Sight(s) featured in this guide: The Citadel   Plaque commemorating Bonnie Prince Charlie   The Market Cross   The Guildhall   St Cuthbert's Church and Tithe Barn   City Walls and Sally Port   Carlisle Cathedral Precincts   Carlisle Cathedral   Tullie House   The Millenium Gallery and Cursing Stone   Carlisle Castle   Bitts Park   The Chinese Gardens  
Author: Julia Hickey
Author Bio: Graduating with a degree in History and English I became a teacher and then a university lecturer specialising in Adult Literacy. I have lived in the north of England for nearly twenty years but travel widely in the UK. Publications include text books for educators and students, travel articles and fiction. I love exploring new places, soaking up history and architecture, photography and reading.
The Citadel

1) The Citadel

The North of England has always been turbulent. Warfare with the Scots, rebellion against the monarch, deadly feud with another local family. No wonder Carlisle’s city walls have survived. In 1536 northerners rebelled against King Henry VIII’s suppression of the monasteries. The rebellion is known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. Some of the rebels were hanged in chains in Carlisle. More practically Henry ordered that Carlisle’s defences be strengthened. He recognised the importance of Carlisle...
Plaque commemorating Bonnie Prince Charlie

2) Plaque commemorating Bonnie Prince Charlie

You are currently looking at the frontage of a modern shop- Marks and Spencer's as it happens. It stands on the site of the building that once played host to Bonnie Prince Charlie. The Young Pretender as he was also known was Charles Edward Stuart, the son of James Stuart- the Old Pretender. James was the son of King James II and Mary of Modena. They were Catholic. It was believed that James II intended to restore Catholicism as the State religion. Following the birth of his son in 1688 he...
The Market Cross

3) The Market Cross

You are standing on the site of the Roman Forum. It has remained a meeting place through the centuries. Indeed, the main road network inside Carlisle's city walls has scarcely changed since medieval times. Take a moment to look around the market square. As you stand looking towards the old town hall where the tourist information office is now housed you can see a post box dating from the reign of Queen Victoria. Its shape and the letters VR make it an unusual survivor from this period. To...
The Guildhall

4) The Guildhall

The guildhall building dating from 1405 has been owned by the City of Carlisle since the fifthteenth century. You can’t miss its blackened timber framework or its jettied upper floors. The timbers instead of being squared off at the ends are decorated by crouching men in medieval costume. Each of the rooms in the building was a meeting place for one of Carlisle’s guilds. Today you can find out about the civic history of Carlisle, law and order and see Carlisle’s Tudor racing bells. These...
St Cuthbert's Church and Tithe Barn

5) St Cuthbert's Church and Tithe Barn

Bede describes Carlisle in his history of Britain. The time after the Romans left, were not good for the inhabitants of Carlisle. They faced Pictish raids from the north as well as economic decline but the ballads and legends of the region place the real King Arthur here. St Cuthbert came to Carlisle in AD 686 when the city was part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde. He was even given a tour of the Roman walls which were still standing at that time. He may have even preached at this site.

In 1644...
City Walls and Sally Port

6) City Walls and Sally Port

These walls date from the twelfth century but no doubt some of their stone incorporates the Roman walls that were still standing when Cuthbert came to Carlisle. You are at the top of the Sally Port Stairs. These date from the beginning of the nineteenth century. If you go down them you can see the walls and sally port. They were built on the orders of King William Rufus. The sally port itself is now blocked up. It was designed as a heavily defended gateway from which people inside the city could...
Carlisle Cathedral Precincts

7) Carlisle Cathedral Precincts

This peaceful spot is full of buildings and ruins that reflect the changing role of religious life on this site. The large rectangular building to the left of the cathedral is the refectory. It was later turned into the Chapter House. There is also a two story building that looks as though a tower has been incorporated into it. This is the fifteenth century prior’s tower. It is a pele tower. Isolated examples can still be found in the countryside although they should have all been torn down...
Carlisle Cathedral

8) Carlisle Cathedral

Carlisle Cathedral was founded as a priory in 1122 by King Henry I but the site has been a Christian one since at least the eighth century. It’s been burned by a fire started by a disinherited son, grafettied by Vikings, choir boys and prisoners. Cromwell’s Roundheads stabled their horses here and demolished half of the nave to strengthen the city walls that had been damaged during the siege. Jacobites were imprisoned here in 1745. Despite these tumultuous events Carlisle Cathedral has some...
Tullie House

9) Tullie House

The garden of Tullie House contains some wonderful treasures. There’s a Roman road, a Roman mounting block and a cannonball that according to legend was thrown by the Duke of Cumberland. On a summer day sit in the garden and enjoy the scent of old fashioned roses. If you’re lucky the Japanese strawberry tree may be in flower.

Tullie House, once home to the Tullies then a public library, houses Carlisle’s award winning museum. Find out about prehistoric Cumbria, Celtic Gods, the Romans,...
The Millenium Gallery and Cursing Stone

10) The Millenium Gallery and Cursing Stone

An underpass is an unusual stopping point but it is quite some underpass. The walls are decorated with mementoes from Carlisle’s Industrial heritage. As well has having strong links to the railway Carlisle was also home to Cowan and Sheldon a world famous builder of cranes.

The floor is paved by stones engraved with the names of border families or kin. In Medieval and Tudor Carlisle your surname was more important than your nationality.

By Tudor times the countryside around Carlisle...
Carlisle Castle

11) Carlisle Castle

Carlisle Castle has been a fort, a home, a garrison and a prison. It sits on the border between two kingdoms. A Roman cavalry fort lies at its foundations and it has seen both English and Scottish monarchs claim it for their own. It was first built in stone by William II but was upgraded in 1122 by King Henry I. His work was completed by King David I of Scotland. Its history reflects its strategic importance in the Anglo-Scottish power struggle. The squat sandstone keep dates to those times and...
Bitts Park

12) Bitts Park

The River Eden runs through this Green Flag Award park. During the Medieval and Tudor periods there was no need for a city wall here because of marshes. It remained prone to flooding until flood defences were built two hundred years ago by unemployed weavers. Today the path on top of the embankment forms part of the Hadrian’s Wall Trail. As well as playing fields and a flower garden the 18 hectares gardens include a children's play area and a maze. There are also regular events and...
The Chinese Gardens

13) The Chinese Gardens

The Chinese Gardens are part of Rickerby Park. Rickerby Park is ‘natural’ parkland with mature trees and grazing livestock. The park was dedicated to the fallen of World War One when it was opened in 1922. There is a war memorial at its heart with the names of the fallen of Carlisle.

As for the Chinese Gardens, well, they're actually Italian rather than Chinese. They were designed by Thomas Mawson and built at the cost of £3,000 during the 1930s when the road and bridge over the...