The 3 sites in Cumbria you HAVE to visit.
For us, our last day in England meant exploring us much as possible before we left for the next leg of the trip. This meant that we were a little rushed, but we still managed to fit in everything. Let me say now, the weather was absolutely GHASTLY on our sightseeing day, so please note that my photos are horrendous but the sites are all worth going to.
Birdsowald Roman Fort and Hadrian’s Wall
I grew up reading about Hadrian’s Wall, so to see it in real life was something I ticked off my never-ending bucket list. The Birdoswald Roman Fort is one of the best preserved of the 16 forts built along Hadrian’s Wall, which dates back to AD112…. which is REALLY old.
Today the fort’s site is operated by English Heritage, and features a visitor centre, walkthrough tour and magnificent views of Hadrian’s Wall. We walked through the ruins and the handy signs helped us to imagine what the site looked like all those years ago.
At this stage of the day, the weather was so abysmal that when I was posing for a photo (how typical!) a massive gust of wind came through and took my umbrella out of my hands, ensuing in a ridiculous wild umbrella chase!
Next stop was the Lanercost Priory, where the magnificent Church of St Mary Magdalene, Lanercost lies. We were immediately drawn to the church, and it was full of local volunteers who were more than happy to explain the history and how it came to be.
While I’m not religious, I appreciate the notions of religion and have the utmost respect for places of worship. This was the most special church I’d ever been in, and you could tell it was well taken care of by the locals. The stained glass windows were in perfect condition, and I felt so inspired knowing that over 800 years ago there had been people in this church.
At this point the weather was so terrible that we had to give the actual Lanercost Priory ruins a miss, but I’d love to visit them another time when the wind didn’t break my umbrella!
Carlisle Castle and Cumbria's Museum of Military Life
Our first stop (and my personal favourite), Carlisle Castle is full of history and dates back to more than 900 years ago. As a big Outlander fan (if you haven’t watched it, do yourself a favour!), I knew a bit about the Jacobites and had heard Carlisle Castle mentioned a few times in the show.
The castle is situated extremely close to the Scottish border, and due to it’s proximity, it was the most besieged castle in English history. Carlisle Castle was first built during the reign of Willian II of England, and construction began in 1093. The castle was needed to keep the northern border of England secured against the looming threat of invasion by the Scots, and you can see when you visit that it was clearly built for defence.
I really, really enjoyed walking through the castle and lapped up all the history I could. The horrific Jacobite deaths that occurred at the castle gave it an eerie feel, and I couldn’t help but imagine that those very things may have happened where I was standing.
There are loads of signs throughout the castle to help you navigate your way through, and many helpful posters that educate you on its history. We also went to Cumbria's Museum of Military Life which was located at the end of the castle grounds, and it’s something I’d really recommend.
It was full of history, with war throughout the ages documented and old artefacts from the first and second world war kept in pristine condition. We spoken to an older war veteran volunteer there who was an absolute delight. He told us about his experience in the war, and showed us a few worldly possessions that he’d carried during the war.
If you’re after an authentic experience and you’re even slightly inclined to know more about English history, I can’t recommend Carlisle Castle and Cumbria's Museum of Military Life enough.