Carlisle Castle

Castle Way, Carlisle, CA3 8UR
Carlisle Castle

Carlisle Castle

The setting for sieges and skirmishes with a long history of providing a military base that continued well into the 20th century, the imposing Carlisle Castle has stood proudly for over 900 years.

During that time, it has witnessed battles over border lines, rebellions, and has even been used as a prison, becoming the enforced residence of Mary Queen of Scots. Today it is maintained by English Heritage and open for exploration.

Planning Your Visit

Contact Details:
01228 591 922 / Website
Please see official website
Seasonal Opening:
All Year (Nov-Feb: Weekends Only)


It’s thought that construction of Carlisle Castle began sometime at the end of the 11th century with the keep being built in the early 12th century, under the reign of Henry I of England who wanted to secure the English border against the invading Scots.

In the centuries that followed, up until the unification of Scotland and England under James I of England & VI of Scotland, control of the castle regularly flipped between the Scottish and the English. During the reign of Elizabeth, Mary, Queen of Scots was held prisoner at the castle, suspected of plotting to execute the English Queen.

Following the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, the castle once again became an important battleground and fort as Royalists sought to maintain power. Once peace was established in Britain, the castle became obsolete, until it became an army garrison in the early 19th century. The Border Regiment were based at the castle until 1959, and today the Territorial Army still maintains a presence here.

Things To See

You can explore the castle grounds and visit the keep where there are various exhibitions on display. Volunteers are frequently dressed as notable characters from the past and stay in character, allowing you to quiz them about life in the castle, though beware, the King may take offence at your familiarity!

You can also visit the turret where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner, and see carvings thought to have been made by prisoners or prison guards who were once based here. Discover the "licking stones", which were believed to have provided prisoners with much needed moisture, or take in the panoramic views of the city from the ramparts.

The Cumbria Museum of Military Life is located within the castle, although separate admission charges to apply. Here you can see displays of uniforms, medals, and weapons from the Cumbria County Infantry Regiment from the past 300 years.

Useful Information

There is a shop selling a selection of gifts, snacks, and drinks. Visitors are welcome to enjoy a picnic in the castle grounds. Much of the castle is not accessible by wheelchair due to the historic nature of the building.


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