Carlisle Castle was originally built in the 12th century during the reign of William II of England, the son of William the Conqueror, who famously invaded England in 1066 and claimed the throne for the Normans. At the time, Cumbria was still considered part of Scotland, and when the Normans took over the land they built the castle as a defense against invasion from the North. In these more peaceful times, you can visit the 900-year-old keep, military museum, gatehouses, dungeons, and other well-preserved parts of this fascinating medieval fortress, which once held Mary, Queen of Scots, as a prisoner.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Entry to the castle is via paid ticket–combined tickets are available for access to both the castle and military museum.
- The castle was home to the Border Regiment of the British Army until 1959.
- Some parts of the castle, not including the castle keep and ramparts, are wheelchair accessible.
- There’s a vending machine selling hot drinks plus a shop selling snacks, cold drinks, and ice cream.
- There are picnic tables on site for visitors planning on bringing a boxed lunch.
How to Get There
Carlisle is in the far northwest of England, close to the Scottish border. It’s accessible by car, train, and taxi, with on-site parking available. Direct trains from London to Carlisle take a little over three hours and the castle is about 10–15 minutes away on foot from the main train station. It’s around an hour by car from Kendal, in the heart of the Lake District.
When to Get There
The castle is open daily in the spring and summer. From November to mid-February it’s closed during the week. The castle is busiest at weekends and during the summer vacation months of July/August, so plan your visit outside of these times for a quieter experience.
Walk Along Hadrian's Wall For those visiting Carlisle Castle, another nearby must-see is Hadrian’s Wall, which lies a few miles to the north of Carlisle city. Built by the Roman emperor Hadrian, the wall once marked the northern edge of the Roman Empire. Along the wall you’ll find plenty to explore, including the remains of Roman guard towers. Keen hikers can even plan to walk the whole 84 miles (135 kilometers) of the wall’s length, from coast to coast across the country.
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