Carlisle is a city which blends the new and the old very successfully. It is also a blend of cultures, sitting on the border between the former enemies England and Scotland. Carlisle city is bursting with activity and spirit, there are the museums and the castle to visit and then Radio One’s Big Weekend which is the largest free music festival in England. This city offers a wide range of things to do and see and is for anyone, young or old, big or small.

The ancient city of Carlisle first came into being during the Roman era. It was used as a settlement to serve the forts which were placed at Hadrian’s Wall. Being only ten miles south of the border with Scotland the city has been seen as a very important stronghold militarily. The castle at Carlisle was built under the reign of the legendary William the Conqueror by William Rufus. The castle was built on the site of a former Roman fort and was fashioned typical to the times, in the Norman moat and bailey style. The purpose of this amazing castle was to protect the Kingdom of England from the Scottish threat of invasion. This castle was renovated in 1122 by King Henry I of England. His majesty ordered a stone castle to be built on the site which saw a keep and city walls added to the castle.

The castle and indeed the city changed hands many times throughout the centuries; after the initial success of driving the Scots out of Cumbria, there were many attempts to recapture the land. Indeed it was King David of Scotland who, when in possession of the area, completed the walls and stone keep which were initiated by Henry I. The castle also plays a dramatic part in the history of the Tudor family, after first being converted to an artillery base by Henry VIII, his daughter Queen Elizabeth I ordained that it must be the prison for her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary stayed within the southeast corner of the castle, now demolished, for a few months in 1568 during the period of her ‘house arrest’. A century later the castle was besieged during the English Civil War in 1644 by parliamentary forces for several months. However the most important battles for this castle were during the second ‘Jacobite’ uprising against the then King George III of Great Britain. In 1745 the castle was seized by the Jacobites and then recaptured which saw the Jacobites jailed and executed. This was the last dramatic battle of Carlisle between the Scottish and the English.

However other parts of the past have come back to haunt the present day residents of Carlisle. In the sixteenth century a curse was invoked by the Archbishop Dunbar of Glasgow called the Curse of Carlisle. This was cast against cross-border families which were known as Border Reivers. These families lived by pillaging local villages and stealing their cattle. For celebrations of the millennium a granite stone was commissioned by the local council to which would carry all 1,069 words of the curse. Despite calls for the curse stone to be removed or destroyed it remains in Carlisle and is very interesting to see. Those who live in the city think otherwise. They have blamed the stone for everything from the relegation of their football team to foot and mouth outbreaks!

As a University city – the University of Cumbria has four campuses around the city – Carlisle is vibrant with life and culture. The most prominent museum within the city is the Tuille House Museum and Art Gallery. This museum opened its doors in 1893 and is a beautiful converted Jacobean mansion. The majority of the museum is given over to human history, it has many artefacts relating to the great Hadrian’s Wall and the two Roman forts which were built in Carlisle. However it also houses exhibitions which are focussed on zoology, botany and geology alongside its fine art. Within the fine art collections visitors will stumble across works by Burne-Jones, Stanley Spencer, Winifred Nicholson, Sheila Fell and Phil Morsman. Also within the interior of the castle there is the Border Regiment Military Museum which is of course an interest to those who love to learn about British military history. Also quaintly, here is a Guildhall museum which is based on a fourteenth century house and is well worth the visit! There are a variety of entertainment venues across Carlisle, the most famous probably being the Sands Centre which hosts a variety of comedians, plays and musicians. The other major city within Carlisle is the Stanwix Arts Theatre. Bruton Park, home to the local football team, also holds concerts but of the larger variety; for example Elton John played there in 2007. Not forgetting of course Radio One’s Big Weekend which is held at the airport each year featuring large and contemporary acts such as The Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga and Dizzee Rascal.

After being a culture vulture the city of Carlisle also offers you the opportunity to become a shopaholic! The Lanes of Carlisle offers residents in and visitors to the city a wide variety of shopping. It is cited by many as the shopping centre of Cumbria. The centre includes shops such as Debenhams, GAP, BHS, Littlewoods, Virgin and Dixons. For a more authentic feel you could visit the Victorian Covered Market which is open Monday to Saturday. This indoor marketplace offers a wide variety of local produce in all weathers. It is one of the few remaining Victorian markets within England and it sells everything from fresh meat, fish and vegetables to haberdashery and stationery. Finally if you happen to be around the city on the first Friday of the month Carlisle offers one of the finest markets around. The Harrison and Hetherington Farmers Market is on Borderway Mart and is renowned for selling some of the finest local produce around. Farmers from around Cumbria come into the city to sell their finest goods on this special day every month.

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