20 Best Attractions and Things to do in Carlisle

Wondering what to do in Carlisle? Well, suffice it to say that you’ve got plenty of options to consider.

This picturesque city is home to an abundant array of landmarks, historical sites, parks and musuems.

To help you navigate the many popualr tourist spots, we’ve put together a guide showcasing the 20 best things to do in Carlisle.

So without further ado, let’s begin!

Things to Do in Carlisle – Summary

1. Visit Carlisle Castle

Carlisle Castle

Overlooking Carlisle is the majestic fortress of Carlisle Castle.

The castle, which has guarded the city’s 900 years, embodies the region’s rich and complex past.

Constructed by the Normans in the 11th century, the castle’s resilient stone walls have withstood the tests of time and conflict.

Within them, Mary Queen of Scots was confined. 

Today, Carlisle Castle is a treasured historical landmark, open for the public to explore its timeless hallways and chambers.

One of the striking features of Carlisle Castle is the set of captivating medieval carvings known as the licking stones.

These carvings, skilfully etched by the prisoners once held within the castle, serve as a testament to the human spirit, offering glimpses into the lives and emotions of the individuals who once walked these halls.

The castle precincts also house Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life, a tribute to the courageous soldiers of Cumbria’s County Infantry Regiment.

The museum offers a moving journey through the trials and triumphs of these soldiers from the early 18th century until today.


2. Explore Carlisle Cathedral

Carlisle’s rich history is also vividly exhibited by the majestic Carlisle Cathedral – a striking testament to the city’s spiritual and architectural legacy.

This architectural marvel, established in 1122 and revamped in the 14th century, is a splendid amalgamation of Norman and Gothic styles.

It radiates an irreplaceable charm, adorned with reddish sandstone, intricate stone carvings, breathtaking stained glass windows, and an awe-inspiring painted ceiling.

The Cathedral’s choir is a unique draw, housing the famed Brougham Triptych, a 16th-century Flemish altarpiece, displaying incredible craftsmanship.

The East Window, filled with medieval stained glass, showcases biblical tales in a riot of colours, captivating the viewer’s eye and imagination..

Within the peaceful confines of the Cathedral’s Fratry, you can engage in thoughtful contemplation or treat yourself to a bite to eat at Fratry Cafe,

Carlisle Cathedral is an enormously popular tourist attraction in Carlisle that exhibits an almost unrivalled architectural beauty.


3. Discover Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery

Discover Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery

Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Carlisle.

This celebrated museum showcases a diverse range of art, historical and natural exhibits, serving as a compelling portal into the region’s past.

The museum spins an engaging narrative of Carlisle, tracing its evolution from ancient times to the modern era.

Visitors will find relics from the Roman period, intricate decorative art as well as numerous other fascination pieces.

Art enthusiasts are treated to an impressive visual banquet within the gallery space.

Showcasing an eclectic mix of artworks from artists near and far, the gallery offers a diverse display encompassing several art movements and eras.

Thanks to a dynamic rotation of exhibitions, there’s always something novel to spark the interest of repeat visitors.

Of all the museums to visit in Carlisle, this one is perhaps the best.


4. Explore the Roman Fort and Hadrian’s Wall

The Roman Fort and Hadrian’s Wall provide a compelling narrative of Britain’s antiquity, offering insightful peeks into the country’s Roman era.

Spanning approximately 73 miles from the shores of the River Tyne to the Solway Firth, the wall showcases the strategic ingenuity of the Roman military.

Scattered along its length are the remnants of Roman Forts which were centres for military operations and daily living during the Roman reign.

A visit to these historical sites today is akin to stepping back in time. The well-conserved remains are supplemented by informative displays and plaques.

These enable visitors to comprehend the design and function of these remarkable structures.

From the sweeping vistas from the wall’s heights to the intimate look into life within the forts, these landmarks present an immersive and fascinating journey into history.

This is a must-visit for anybody visiting Carlisle.


5. Take a Ride on the Settle to Carlisle Railway

The Settle to Carlisle Railway represents a vital and picturesque slice of England’s railway heritage.

This historic track stretches over 73-miles, connecting the towns of Settle and Carlisle and is considered one of the most scenic rail routes in the country,

The railway winds through a captivating, diverse landscape of rolling hills, deep valleys and rugged cliffs.

The line’s iconic structures, including the impressive Ribblehead Viaduct with its 24 arches, add to the visual drama of the journey.

Initiated in the 1870s, this railway line was a marvel of Victorian engineering.

Despite the challenging terrain, engineers constructed a line that weaved through the landscape with minimal impact, making it an exemplar of sustainable design.

One of the most popular and highly-recommended tourist attractions in Carlisle.

6. Tour the Solway Aviation Museum

The Solway Aviation Museum stands as a captivating showcase of the region’s rich aviation heritage and is one of the best places to visit in Carlisle.

This museum, run by volunteers, houses an array of aircraft and aviation relics, paying homage to Britain’s illustrious aviation past.

The museum invites displays military planes that have etched their marks in historical conflicts, as well as iconic commercial aircraft.

One of the museum’s major highlights is the legendary Vulcan Bomber, a testament to the groundbreaking engineering feats of the Cold War period.

Visitors can also sit in the cockpit of a real aircraft, providing a close-up glimpse into the excitement and intricacy of flight navigation.

Regardless of whether you are a fervent enthusiast of aviation or just sightseer, the Solway Aviation Museum is a must visit if you’re exploring Carlisle.


7. See the World in Miniature Museum

World in Miniature Museum

This museum showcases thousands of miniatures items, including detailed dolls’ houses, miniature furniture and tiny replicas of everyday objects.

These pieces are painstakingly crafted with extraordinary detail, transporting visitors into a miniature world that mirrors our own.

Each exhibit in the museum has its own charm and allure, some reflecting historical periods and styles, others capturing contemporary life.

The delicate craftsmanship on display is a marvel to behold, showcasing the immense talent and patience required in the creation of these miniatures.

Visitors can also learn about the history of miniature making and gain insight into the techniques used by artists in the creation of these tiny masterpieces.

One of the most captivating family activities in Carlisle offering a unique and mesmerising journey into the world of miniatures.


8. Visit Carlisle Guildhall Museum

The Carlisle Guildhall Museum is set in the city-centre and showcases a diverse array  of fascinating historical treasures.

Housed in an over 600-year old building, it’s a testament to the city’s vibrant past.

Each room within the Guildhall Museum is a unique time capsule, presenting artefacts that tell the story of Carlisle from diverse eras.

With exhibits ranging from civic regalia to trade-related items, the museum gives visitors a detailed account of the city’s evolution through the centuries.

The museum not only preserves history but is also steeped in it. The Guildhall itself was once the nerve centre of Carlisle’s commercial activity.

Easy to access and open to all, the Guildhall Museum offers an enriching visit to anyone looking to explore Carlisle’s rich history.


9. Explore Carlisle’s Historic City Center

Carlisle’s city centre is a captivating embodiment of heritage, architectural beauty and cultural richness.

The city blueprint vividly chronicles Carlisle’s evolution from its Roman genesis to the bustling hub it is in the present day through a variety of

Of the historic sites in Carlisle, the imposing castle is one of the most impressive.

This medieval fortress has withstood the trials of over nine centuries and symbolises the city’s strategic relevance.

Equally remarkable is the Carlisle Cathedral, an architectural marvel boasting elaborate stone craftsmanship and breathtaking stained-glass windows.

The quaint cobblestone paths are fringed by a delightful array of local shops, cafes and ancient pubs.

There’s also a vibrant local market, known for its fresh produce and artisanal offerings, adds a lively charm to the city’s atmosphere.

The city centre is designed for leisurely exploration with a layout conducive for walking.

With excellent public transport links and ample parking spaces, it offers easy accessibility and navigation.


10. Sample the Local Cuisine in Carlisle

Sausage

Rooted in age-old traditions yet infused with modern influences, Carlisle’s gastronomic offerings make it a tantalising destination for food lovers.

The surrounding farmland, pastures and waters provide a bounty of fresh vegetables, dairy products, meats and seafood.

These serve as the basis for Carlisle’s culinary offerings, many of which have been inherited from past generations.

For those experiencing Carlisle’s food scene for the first time, you can expect stews, savoury pies and succulent roasts

You’ve also got a few regional specialities such as Cumberland sausage – a must-try for any food adventurer.

The same goes for Grasmere Gingerbread too. Basically a cross between a biscuit and cake, it’s an absolute delight to the senses with its spicy-sweet flavour.

Carlisle’s dining scene ranges from traditional pub comfort food, to more modern establishments presenting more imaginative dishes.

For the sweet-toothed, Carlisle does not disappoint. The city is known for its Kendal Mint Cake, a sugary confection flavoured with peppermint.


11. Visit Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life

Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life is set within the the historic Carlisle Castle.

The museum traces the lives of those who dedicated their lives to military service in this part of England.

The exhibits cover a time-span of over three centuries, featuring a diverse collection of items.

These include military gear, medals, uniforms, personal correspondence and photographs.

These pieces narrate the poignant tales of bravery, sacrifice, and commitment, giving visitors a nuanced understanding of the human stories intertwined with historic events.

The museum also incorporates technology such as touch-screen displays, audio-visual narratives and hands-on exhibits.


12. Stroll through Bitts Park

Bitts Park is an idyllic retreat that’s ideal for visitors looking for outdoor activities in Carlisle.

Sprawling over 179 acres, Bitts Park is a tapestry of verdant lawns, colourful blossoms, and mature trees that cast a welcoming shade.

It’s also a hub of recreational activity with amenities such as tennis courts, bowling greens and an engaging playground for the younger visitors.

For garden lovers, the park’s impressive display of flowers and plants, particularly vibrant during the spring and summer months, is a visual treat.

The Roman Gardens, showcasing a fascinating mix of historical elements and diverse flora, is another distinctive feature of the park.

As the seasons roll by, Bitts Park morphs into a dynamic venue for a multitude of events and festivals.

From music-filled summer concerts to food fairs and funfairs, the park embraces the joy and vitality of these community gatherings.

If you’re looking for outdoor activities in Carlisle, this should be part of your itinerary!


13. Meet the Inhabitants of Walby Farm Park

Walby Farm Park is home to a variety of farm animals and includes a range of fun-filled activities – ideal for familes looking for things to do in Carlisle.

Visitors can meet and learn about various farm animals, from cows and sheep to chickens and pigs.

Beyond its animal attractions, Walby Farm Park boasts a wealth of outdoor and indoor activities too.

Children can enjoy playgrounds, nature trails and a maze, while indoor play areas provide entertainment during less favourable weather.

Regular events, including seasonal celebrations and educational workshops,  ensure there’s always something new to experience.

Walby Farm Park encapsulates the charm of rural life while offering a broad range of fun and educational activities.

It’s a must-visit destination for those seeking family activities in Carlisle, providing enjoyment and learning in equal measure.


14. Experience the Cumberland Bird of Prey Centre

Cumberland Bird of Prey Centre

The Carlisle Bird of Prey Centre is home to a wide range of bird species which includes owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles so is well-suited to nature-lovers looking for things to see and do in Carlisle.

Visitors get the chance to see these birds in a close setting, study their behaviours and gain knowledge about their habitats and ways of life.

Regular flight demonstrations showcase the agility and elegance of these birds in flight.

Various workshops and interactive sessions can also be arranged to educate visitors about the importance of these birds and the challenges they encounter in the wild.

Through its preservation activities and captivating displays, the Centre plays an essential role in promoting and understanding of birds of prey.


15. Attend a Race at Carlisle Racecourse

Carlisle Racecourse is a fantastic destination for both racing aficionados and occasional visitors exploring Carlisle. 

Races have been a staple at this course since the 18th century, giving the establishment an irresistible vintage charm.

Set against the picturesque rural landscape of Cumbria, the racecourse specialises in both flat and National Hunt races, with its most celebrated event being the renowned Carlisle Bell.

This event has the distinction of being the most ancient recorded race in equestrian history, with roots going back to the 16th century.

The Racecourse boasts modern, top-tier facilities, from gourmet dining at the Swifts Restaurant to exclusive boxes with unobstructed course views.

The course is easily reachable via major travel routes, including the local railway station at Carlisle, and has extensive parking facilities.


16. Check out Carlisle Market

Carlisle’s local markets are also well worth a visit when exploring the city.

It’s main market marries the charm of traditional market shopping with the demands of modern retail, making it a favourite haunt for both residents and visitors.

This energetic market features a plethora of stalls that sell an extensive range of items.

These include fresh local farm produce, specialised cheeses, freshly baked goods, antiquities, clothing and artisanal crafts among others.

The culinary delights from food stalls are a notable feature, serving a diversity of local and global foods.

The market also serves as a social hotspot, a place where locals meet, exchange stories  and soak in the lively ambience.

The affable vendors often engage in friendly chatter and offering insights about their merchandise.


17. See the Carlisle Citadel

Carlisle Citadel

The Carlisle Citadel comprises a pair of commanding towers that stand as enduring reminders of the city’s eventful history.

Built in the 16th century to fortify the city during numerous border skirmishes, the existing edifices owe their design to the Victorian era.

The dual functions of the Citadel towers are as intriguing as their history.

One tower, which housed a courthouse, is still in operation today. The other tower, once a jail, now hosts local government offices.

Visitors can engage with the Citadel’s past via guided tours, which offer an in-depth exploration of its historical interiors.

Wandering through its halls is akin to journeying through time, revealing the city’s growth and historical prominence.


18. Visit the Sands Centre

The Sands Centre in Carlisle is important cultural and entertainment hub.  T

This versatile venue stages a variety of events and festivals in Carlisle, ranging from theatrical performances to live music concerts.

Renowned artists, performers, and theatrical companies regularly grace its stage, providing a rich and varied programme that caters to diverse tastes.

The centre also includes a gym, swimming pool and sports area.

Whether you’re a local resident or a tourist, a visit to The Sands Centre provides an opportunity to experience the city’s vibrant culture.


19. Walk the Carlisle Millennium Mile

This mile-long trail takes explorers through the city, highlighting Carlisle’s lively history and contemporary spirit.

The trail is bordered by various historical sites, each bearing unique tales from different times.

From the remnants of ancient castle fortifications to the bustling modern retail zones, the Millennium Mile showcases Carlisle’s transformation through the ages.

Signposts scattered along the route illuminate points of interest and offer insightful details about the city’s past.

The Carlisle Millennium Mile serves not just as a walkway but a living chronicle of the city’s evolution.


20. Take a Stroll in Rickerby Park

Rickerby Park serves as a tranquil oasis within the city of Carlisle.

Situated on the banks of the River Eden, it is a delightful blend of landscaped gardens, open green spaces. and mature woodlands

The sprawling lawns, dotted with a variety of trees and vibrant flower beds, create a captivating natural tapestry that changes with the seasons.

A collection of walking paths meander through the park, offering scenic routes for leisurely strolls or invigorating jogs.

The River Eden’s proximity adds an attractive element to the landscape, with riverside trails providing peaceful spots for reflection or bird-watching.

Rickerby Park also bears historical significance. It houses the ‘Rickerby Memorial’, a poignant tribute to the locals who sacrificed their lives during World War I.

Facilities within the park include children’s play areas, sports fields and picnic spots.

Dale Shelabarger

Dale is the owner and founder of Cottages to Rent which he launched back in 2005. As well as promoting holiday cottages, Dale blogs regularly about top UK holiday destinations, visitor attractions and places of historical interest.