What to See and Do in Carlisle, the UK’s Great Border City

Carlisle has an amazing history and you can feel its heritage as you walk around. The castle, cathedral and remnants of the Border City’s walls are the obvious attractions but there are also plenty of hidden gems like Tullie House to explore.

  • The Castle is an English Heritage property and also home to Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life. There’s been a fortification on the site for nine centuries and Carlisle Castle was still a working fortress in living memory so there’s plenty of history to explore.
  • Carlisle Cathedral and its surrounding grounds are a peaceful haven in the centre of Carlisle. The Cathedral was founded as an Augustinian priory, became a cathedral in 1133 and is one of the smallest of England's ancient cathedrals.
  • Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery is home to the city’s heritage whether that is its art collection, Cumbria’s natural history archives or 2000 years of history, from the Romans to the railways. Tullie House holds regular events and special exhibitions and has a great café and shop too.

Carlisle has Bitts Park at its centre and the Cathedral’s grounds. There are also several hidden public gardens where you can have a break and take in the history and atmosphere of England’s Great Border City.

Finally, Carlisle Race Course hosts regular National Hunt and flat racing meetings and, on race days (and evenings), is alive with a great atmosphere. Access is easy from Dandelion and Hoglet Cottages as the Race Course is just a couple of miles up the road on the same side of Carlisle.

Where to eat in Carlisle

Places to go in Carlisle, Cumbria

If you want a meal or a night out in nearby Dalston or Carlisle then Kathreen and Mike have a few favourite restaurants and bars to recommend. The Bridge End in Dalston is a local favourite, as is The Royal Oak Inn, a short drive away at Curthwaite. And if you’re looking for some Italian romance to add to your break, Casa Romana on Warwick Road in Carlisle has wonderful food and a great atmosphere.  

The Country Kitchen Cafe in Dalston is an ideal place to warm up and have a cup of tea and a home-made scone after your adventures.

“We went for a lovely meal at The Last Zebra in Carlisle, which we would highly recommend and also used Steve at Metro Taxis for the journey.”

“(The cottage is) close to Carlisle (15 minutes). We enjoyed a lovely Greek meal at Alexandros (would recommend to anyone wanting a tasty meal and a break from cooking!) and 40 minutes to Keswick. Had a great 3 nights here, would definitely try to come back in future!”

Cumbria is known for great food and drink and there are excellent options for stocking up if you’re self-catering at Dandelion or Hoglet Cottages.

Cranston’s is a Cumbrian institution with a foundation in wonderful local meat but with two local shops that make the most of all the other delights such as cheeses, pies, puddings, cakes, preserves and fresh greengrocery. There’s a Cranston’s in the centre of Carlisle on Fisher Street and then an amazing Food Hall out of town on the A595 at Great Orton – highly recommended.

Out and about on the outskirts

Tourist spots in and around Carlisle, Cumbria

There are several attractions on the outskirts of Carlisle that are well worth a visit.

Out near Carlisle Lake District Airport there’s the Solway Aviation Museum, an independent treasure trove of fascinating stories and amazing artefacts for anyone interested in the history of planes and aeronautical engineering.

The nearby market town of Brampton has plenty of independent shops, a great antiques and collectables centre and one of those hidden gems that make a short break worthwhile. St Martin’s Church contains some of the most exquisite stained-glass windows in the UK. Designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and made in the William Morris studio, Pevsner described it as a ‘remarkable building, the windows glowing with gem-stone colours’.

If the wildlife around the cottages has inspired you, Talkin Tarn and Watchtree Nature Reserve are a short drive out of the city with gentle walks and plenty of bird and other wildlife to enjoy. We’ve always been inspired by local gardens which is why we wanted to make a feature of the gardens at Dandelion and Hoglet. Hutton-in-the-Forest is to the south of us, towards Penrith, and the walled garden there is something very special. If visiting gardens is your thing, please ask for recommendations as there are lots of local gems as well as National Garden Scheme openings in the area.

Last but not least, the Railway City doesn’t just have the West Coast mainline or the local commuter lines coming into Carlisle’s impressive station. The Settle to Carlisle railway is recognised as one of the most picturesque lines in England, passing through the glorious countryside of the Yorkshire Dales and Eden Valley. If you want a day out from Carlisle with no stress and no driving, this could be just the ticket!

Literally on our doorstep

Dark Sky Holidays in Carlisle, Cumbria

Our visitors often comment on the stars when they arrive at Dandelion or Hoglet Cottage. When the sky is clear, it’s not unusual to see ten times as many stars from our rural location as is possible from a brightly lit city.

Arriving in Cumbria, suddenly Orion is made up of seven main stars, all visible with the naked eye. And, on a particularly clear dark night, you might even see the Milky Way arching overhead. There are several excellent locations for sky watching and star gazing not far from us too.

We’re part of Cumbria Tourism’s Dark Sky Friendly Cumbria scheme and really want our guests to enjoy this added attraction. We have a simple telescope in each cottage as well as advice on apps and websites that will help and a guide book to the night skies.

Find out more on our Dark Sky Discovery page.