Things to do in Carlisle | Attractions

With a history almost as spectacular as the landscape that surrounds it, visitors can enjoy exploring plenty of natural and historic Carlisle tourist attractions.

Historic buildings

From one of Britain’s smallest (and most perfectly formed) cathedrals to a mighty reminder of Carlisle’s industrial past, this ancient city’s buildings are a fascinating insight into its many-layered history.

Start with the city’s twin gems, Carlisle Cathedral and Carlisle Castle. We’ve got all the info for both on our dedicated Carlisle historical buildings page. You can then stroll over to the Old Town Hall and start planning what to see next. Built in 1717, it now houses an excellent tourist information centre and stands behind the Market Cross monument where Bonnie Prince Charlie proclaimed his father king in 1745.

Retrace your steps to the castle and follow the medieval West Walls all the way to Carlisle Citadel. These enormous oval towers once formed the impressive southern gateway to the city and more recently housed the civil and criminal courts. Now fully restored thanks to a generous grant from English Heritage, visitors can take in the atmospheric wood-panelled courtroom of the West Tower and, if you’re brave enough, an exhibition on the Netherby Hall burglary – one of Cumbria’s most notorious crimes.

From the Citadel, cross the River Caldew at Nelson Bridge and head down Charlotte Street. There’s no need for directions from here as you’re following one of Carlisle’s most spectacular landmarks: Dixon’s Chimney at Shaddon Mill. Built in 1836, this was England’s largest cotton mill, while the chimney (designed to transport smoke as far away from the city as possible) was the eighth largest in the world. Today this monument to the industrial revolution has been converted into luxury apartments and also houses part of the University of Cumbria.

Outside the city itself, there are some beautiful churches worth visiting, including the Pugin-designed Our Lady and St. Wilfrid’s in Warwick Bridge and St. Paul’s, Rusland nestled between Coniston Water and Windermere with spectacular views of the Rusland Valley.

Carlisle Castle

Carlisle Cathedral


With a spacious park on the city’s doorstep, there’s no need to stray too far to enjoy the great outdoors but take a short trip out of town and Cumbria’s dramatic landscape offers up some real gems.

Opened in 1893, Bitts Park was originally called the People’s Park, and it’s easy to see why. This is a classic urban escape just a stone’s throw from the city centre and features riverside walks, tennis courts, a well-equipped play area and even an all-weather ice rink. If you’re bringing the kids in summer, don’t forget to pack your trunks as the splash park is sure to be a big hit. And if you’ve got a head for heights, check out the high ropes course at Urban Adventure, including a spectacular 75-metre zip wire, which is definitely not for the faint-hearted!

High ropes

If you fancy venturing a little deeper into the beautiful Cumbrian countryside, then Watchtree Nature Reserve is just a 20-minute drive from both our Carlisle Central North hotel and Carlisle M6 Jct44 hotel. This former WWII airfield has been transformed by local volunteers into a thriving haven for wildlife and people alike. Visitors can spot brown hares, great crested newts, stoats, foxes and over 60 species of birds. With more than 200 acres to explore, why not hire bikes from the visitor centre and head out on a two-wheel safari? Then enjoy a well-earned cuppa and slice of homemade cake at the reserve’s very own café.

Nine miles east of Carlisle, you’ll find Talkin Tarn Park in Brampton. Set around a beautiful glacial lake its rolling meadows and woodland trails are a great spot for a walk. Or, for something a little less wild, try Kirklinton Hall & Gardens, a restored 17th century formal garden with its very own faerie glen.


Get your fix of live sport in Carlisle with a trip to the match or a day at the races.

Carlisle United might find themselves in League Two these days but Brunton Park is still a regular pilgrimage for locals and away fans who often see the journey to the Football League’s remotest club as a badge of honour.

Horse racing in Carlisle has a proud history and picturesque Carlisle Racecourse offers racing all year round with a full programme of flat and National Hunt meetings. Sheepmount Athletics Stadium hosts a wide range of sports clubs and events as well.

Carlisle Racecourse