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The modern county of Cumbria was formed in 1974, bringing together the historic counties of Cumberland, Westmorland, and the north of Lancashire. Formed from age old rock exposed to the effects of glaciers and Britain’s wet and windy climate, this is mountainous country, where England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, which stands at 978 metres tall, can be found, as well as its largest lake, Windemere. Cumbria is most famous for the lush, almost Scandinavian, drama of the Lake District, which has inspired writers, poets, and artists for two centuries. One of the Lake District’s most famous inhabitants was the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, but the area also attracted the likes of John Ruskin, Beatrix Potter, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Edward Burne-Jones, and William Morris. 

Cumbria is a rural county for the most part, dotted with quiet villages and towns set amongst green fields. The region’s farming communities were seriously affected by the 2001 outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease and, for a time, many areas were closed to tourists. Cumbria’s agricultural system is now in a period of recovery.

Situated as the county is at the border with Scotland, it was so long the subject of contest that it was termed ‘the Debatable Land’ and, in 1551, was divided between the two countries. Even today, the English county retains its Scottish flavor and the effects of the long border wars and the routine plundering by the Border Reivers can be seen in the fortified houses and castles. 

The Cumbrian coast is often somewhat overlooked but there are some picturesque landscapes to be found here such as the headland and beach at St Bees, the widesweeping plains and views across to Ireland at Skinburness, and the sights at Bowness on Solway, the traditional end of Hadrian’s Wall in the west.

Places of Interest:

1.  Carlisle Castle  2.  Bowness-on-Solway  3.  Carlisle-Settle scenic railway (blue line)  4.  Roman milefortlet at Crosscanonby  5.  St Bees resort town  6.  Sizergh Castle  7.  Levens Hall  8.  The Lake District (aqua shaded area-see separate section)


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Carlisle CathedralCarlisle is a magnificent city that has had the weight of border conflict upon its shoulders for centuries. A fortified city, it is in possession of an impressive castle dating back to the early Norman period, when it was built by William the Conqueror’s son. Although Carlisle’s past was shaped by the wrangles of Scotland and England for the control of this strategically important spot and the infamous Border Reivers, those fierce English and Scottish families who depended upon plundering neighbouring towns for their livelihood, these days Carlisle is known for its great shopping and for being the final station on the popular Settle-Carlisle Railway, a scenic journey through the some of the best landscapes that the North has to offer.


Carlisle Rail BridgeTwo important Roman garrisons, Luguvalium and Petrianum, were built in Carlisle and served Hadrian’s Wall. After the Romans left in the 5th century AD, Carlisle entered a period of uncertainty when its control passed between Celtic kingdoms as well as Anglo-Saxon, Danish, and Viking invaders.

In 1092, William the Conqueror’s son, William Rufus built the castle at Carlisle and began to establish a settlement here in earnest. Rufus’ brother King Henry I continued the work but, upon his death in 1135, a dark period began, in which Carlisle was bitterly fought over by Scottish and English kings, leaving the town in ruins. Additionally, from the 14th to the 17th centuries, Carlisle suffered outbreaks of the plague.

The English Civil War impacted upon Carlisle, when, from 1644-45, the Royalist town was held under siege by Parliamentarian troops. The town was again held under siege by Bonnie Prince Charlie just one hundred years later in 1745. At this point, Carlisle was still a mid-sized market town but by the end of the 18th century, things were starting to change. Transport to and from the town was improved, which brought in record amounts of business, and furthermore, with the Industrial Revolution, Carlisle became a centre of textile manufacture. The population sky rocketed as people moved here to work in the mills and the modern city gradually began to take shape. By the mid 20th century, the textile industry was declining but others, such as railway engineering and the manufacture of biscuits, remained.

In January 2005, Carlisle experienced severe flooding which resulted in power cuts, 3 deaths, and millions of pounds worth of damage. 

Carlisle is situated at the confluence of the rivers Eden, Caldew, and Petteril. The historical city of Carlisle, the old centre, is fairly compact and easy to get around, but from there the modern city sprawls out (mostly to the south). Carlisle is an excellent transportation hub for the north as a whole so connections to other cities are very good. The train station is situated at Court Square, to the south east of the main sights, and the bus station is just a few minutes stroll north from that to Lonsdale Street, but there are plenty of bus stops on the way there.

Carlisle CastleF
irst built by William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror
, Carlisle Castle [+44 1228 591922, Adults £4.80] was originally a motte and bailey castle. It was constructed on the site of the old Roman fort and acted as a visible reminder that Cumberland (as the region was then called) was now under the control of England. The stone castle we see today was largely a result of efforts by Rufus’ brother Henry I.

Over the years, the castle has changed hands many times as Scotland and England engaged in fierce conflict over the control of this region. It has also touched upon some important events in British history: in 1568, the castle held Mary, Queen of Scots; in 1644, it was besieged by Parliamentarian troops during the English Civil War as Carlisle was staunchly Royalist; in 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie besieged and then took over the castle as part of his bid to wrench the throne from George II.    

Originally an Augustinian monastery and made a cathedral in 1133, Carlisle Cathedral [Castle Street, +44 1228 548151] does not impress with its size - in fact, it is one of the smallest in the country – but it beguiles the visitor in other ways: its ceiling is a beautiful painted tapestry of golden stars against a deep blue background and it is the result of a restoration by Owen Jones in 1856; while the East Window is a marvelous example of Flowing Decorated Tracery work. 

Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery [Castle Street, +44 1228 618718, £4] is a truly wonderful local resource with varied collections and a dedication to understanding life on the border throughout history. The collections encompass: natural history, with a plethora of interesting specimens from the zoological, botanical, and geological worlds; human history, with a particular focus upon the local region and a healthy Roman collection; and the art world, with a wonderful collection of Pre-Raphaelite works amongst a strong contingent of works by artists from North Cumbria


To compare Carlisle hotel prices that are available right now simply enter your dates into the search box at the left.  You will see the best prices from the world's major hotel booking services.


Or you can check out our reviewed hotels below and contact them directly

Abberley House [33 Victoria Place, +44 1228 521645, £25 per person] Well located and with a ‘homey’ feel, Abberley House is good value for money for those just looking for a place to rest their head.

Cherry Grove Guest House [87 Petteril Street, +44 1228 541942, £32.50] Cherry Grove is in a convenient location and provides a lovely big Cumbrian breakfast. The rooms are bright and cheerful.

Howard Lodge Guest House [90 Warwick Road, +44 1228 529842, £60] This simple B&B is well located and good value for money. Friendly owners, who always provide a warm welcome.

Cornerways Guesthouse [107 Warwick Road, +44 1228 521733, £60-70] A well-located guesthouse that provides comfy rooms and a good breakfast to start the day right.

Warwick Hall [Warwick-on-Eden, +44 1228 561546, £80-118] A veritable retreat with a yoga studio, tennis court, and the River Eden conveniently close by for fishing. Rooms are fresh and up to date.

Crown & Mitre Hotel [English Street, +44 1228 525491, £75-112] This hotel is not to everyone’s tastes but it is very conveniently located and the building itself is a lovely example of Edwardian architecture with a real sense of history.

Dalston Hall Hotel [Dalston, +44 1228 710271, £95-130] A beautiful family hotel with individually furnished rooms and a luxurious air. The restaurant is excellent.



Kendal riversideThe market town of Kendal (pop. 27,500) was built from wool – not literally, of course, but the town’s motto is pannus mihi panis, ‘wool is my bread’, and the material was the town’s traditional trade. It is a town with a long history – the Romans set up camp here at Watercrook – and one that was used to conflict if its level of fortification is anything to go by. In addition to two Norman castles are the fortified alleyways or ‘yards’ that allowed inhabitants to shelter from the infamous Border Reivers, the Anglo-Scottish families of the border region whose livelihood depended upon what they could pillage.        

Kendal is often called the ‘gateway to the Lakes’ as it is just outside the borders of the Lake District National Park.

Kendal is situated on the River Kent and the settlement covers both banks. The train station is located at Station Road in the north-west of town. The main bus station is at Blackhall Road outside Westmorland Shopping Centre. 


Kendal Castle ruinsThe beautiful, lonely hilltop ruins of Kendal Castle [Off Park Side Road, site is freely open to the public] command good views of the town. Built in the late 12th century for the Barons of Kendal, the structure was originally made from earth and wood, a motte-and-bailey castle. It was then rebuilt in stone. Today, part of the keep and one tower remain.       

It might be hard to picture but beneath the obelisk are the remains of Castle Howe [Between Gilling Gate and Beast Banks, the site is freely open to the public], a motte-and-bailey castle thought to have been built in 1092 for the Barons of Kendal. It is still being debated why the barons built two castles around the same period.    

Kendal Museum [Station Road, +44 1539 815597, Adults £2.80] dates back to 1796 but some items in its collection date back millions of years! Kendal Museum combines archaeology and local history with the natural history of the area. The famous fellwalker and guide-writer Alfred Wainwright was honorary curator here and there is a small section dedicated to his life. 

Abbot Hall was built in 1759. An elegant ‘stately home, it passed through ownership by a number of different families (and even a bank) until the 1950s when it was seriously derelict. A committee was formed to save the grand building and the Abbot Hall Art Gallery [+44 1539 722464, Adults £5.75] was born. The permanent exhibitions feature, among other gems, a large collection of paintings, drawings, and sculptures by local artists and of the local landscape: George Romney’s paintings, John Ruskin’s drawings and watercolours,  Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures.     

Not exactly a ‘sight’ per se but a ‘taste’: don’t leave without trying Kendal Mint Cake, the delicious sweet treat that will give you the energy to conquer Everest or the Antarctic! There are plenty of brands to choose from and it is easily available from gift shops and grocery stores all over Kendal and the Lake District.

Lyndhurst Guest House
[8 South Road, +44 1539 723 819, £28-32 per person] Situated in a quiet location by the river but still close to the centre of town, Lyndhurst is good value. Rooms are simple and comfy.

Balcony House [82 Shap Road, +44 1539 731402, £60] is a charming Victorian guest house that provides friendly service and good value for money.

Hillside B&B [4 Beast Banks, +44 1539 722 836, £33-41 per person] Attractive rooms and delicious breakfasts but as the name implies, this B&B is on a hillside so parking can be a problem.

Beech House [40 Greenside, +44 1539 720385, £40-50 per person] Beech House has stylish, modern rooms with lovely views of the town below. Breakfasts are very filling and tasty.

Riverside Hotel [Beezon Road, +44 1539 734 861, £84-110] The Riverside offers nicely furnished, modern rooms and reliable service. Situated, as you would expect, by the river, there are some lovely views. 

Tranquility at Labbay
[Underbarrow, +44 15395 68995, £143-165] Treat yourself to something a little special: beautiful rooms and equally lovely views of the countryside outside Kendal.


Sizergh Castle, CumbriaSizergh Castle [+44 15395 60951,  Adult £7.90] has been the home of the Strickland family for over 750 years and remains so today. This fortified Tudor mansion, built around a 14th century Pele tower, contains excellent examples of Elizabethan carving and ornament. The Inlaid Chamber, in particular, is a fine example with its wonderful oak and poplar paneling. Surrounding the castle are gardens, including the National Trust’s limestone rock garden.

Sizergh Castle is just south of Kendal off the A591. Bus number 555 between Keswick and Kendal/Lancaster runs by the castle grounds, as does the 552 between Kendal and Arnside.    

Levens Hall, CumbriaLevens Hall [+44 15395 60321, Adults £11] began life as a medieval pele tower but, under the Bellingham family in the 1590s, it came to be extended and developed into a lavish home. The interior is rich: a Spanish leather wall covering, fine Jacobian furniture, and Wellingtonia. Outside are superb gardens, which reflect the original designs of Guillaume Beaumont in 1694.  

The 555/6 bus between Keswick and Kendal/Lancaster stops directly outside Levens Hall. The 552, 530, and X35 from Kendal Bus Station also stop nearby the hall.




St Bees coastlineThe Cumbrian Coast is an unusual mix of quaint old Victorian seaside resorts and industrial heritage. It’s home to the world’s first commercial nuclear processing facility at Sellafield, the planned 18th century ship building towns of Workington and Maryport and, on the other hand, to the sandy beaches of St Bees, a resort town and the starting point of the ‘Coast to Coast’ walk. There is an abundance of Roman heritage here: the western end of the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail at Bowness-On-Solway; the milefortlet at Crosscanonby; and the fort at Maryport.







To compare Cumbria hotel prices that are available right now simply enter your dates into the search box at the left.  You will see the best prices from the world's major hotel booking services.