Some of English Heritage’s most fascinating and unusual historic properties can be found in Cumbria. From centuries-old guardians of the once turbulent Anglo-Scottish frontier to a working 19th century bobbin mill, groups visiting the region can step back in time and immerse themselves in the lives of Roman Centurions, Scots Border bandits and Victorian mill workers
At the North Western end of Hadrian’s Wall in Cumbria stands the mighty Carlisle Castle, which has commanded the border between England and Scotland for centuries.
Having protected the picturesque city of Carlisle for over 900 years and often the scene of conflict between the two nations, the castle was an active military base until 1959.
Today, groups can explore the four floors of the Great Keep and spot its intricate and mysterious 15th century ‘graffiti’ and take in the Captain’s Tower, probably the best preserved medieval gatehouse in Britain. An exhibition sheds light on the castle’s links with famous historical figures, including Richard III, Henry VIII, Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie. It includes a 3D virtual tour of the whole castle for those unable to climb the stairs.
Deep inside the eerie dungeons, groups can still see the famous “licking stones” used by parched Jacobite prisoners, who desperately sought moisture to stay alive.
A wide selection of pre-booked themed tours are on offer at the castle, including a special low level guided tour suitable for visitors with walking difficulties and a free introductory talk.
[i] Carlisle Castle, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA3 8UA
Telephone: 01228 591922
Close to Carlisle Castle, standing high above the River Irthing and near the longest continuous stretch of Hadrian’s Wall, Birdoswald Roman Fort is one of the most visited and important archaeological sites along the wall.
Originally home to 1,000 soldiers during the Roman occupation, the site was later occupied by a succession of people including a Dark Age warlord, an Elizabethan refuge from the Border Reivers bandits and finally, by Victorian gentlemen and archaeologists.
Its archaeological remains include the best-preserved defences of any major wall fort, with original walls, gates, towers and granaries to explore.
There is a Visitor Centre and an exhibition that sheds light on the intriguing story of Birdoswald and its people over 2,000 years, with fascinating interactive displays, reconstructions, strikingly lifelike figures and a full-height replica section of the wall.
Pre-booked tailor-made guided tours are available. For groups looking for a residential stay, Birdoswald has farmhouse accommodation for up to 39 people. For more information visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/birdoswaldfarmhouse
[i] Birdoswald Roman Fort, Gilsland, Brampton, Cumbria, CA8 7DD
Telephone: 01697 747602
In a picturesque woodland setting near to Lake Windermere in Cumbria, groups can relive the Industrial Revolution at Stott Park Bobbin Mill, a fascinating ‘living’ Victorian mill.
Begun in 1835 to produce the wooden bobbins that were vital to the Lancashire spinning and weaving industries, a steam engine still works its clattering, belt-driven machinery today. Displays inside explore the working of the mill and the people who toiled there. Working steam demonstrations are held on the first weekend of every month from April until October and on Bank Holidays. Pre-booked guided tours are available.
[i] Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Low Stott Park, Ulverston, Cumbria, LA12 8AX
Telephone: 01539 531087
One of England’s most evocative medieval monasteries, Lanercost Priory is nestled in a beautiful and now tranquil setting close to Hadrian’s Wall.
Not so peaceful in the past, it suffered frequent attacks during the long Anglo-Scottish wars, once by Robert Bruce in person. The mortally sick King Edward I rested at Lanercost Priory for five months in 1306-7, shortly before his death on his final campaign.
Groups can see the vaulted undercroft of the Refectory and the east end of the noble 13th century church, which survives to its full height. Also open is a church (not managed by English Heritage) and an on-site gift shop.
[i] Lanercost Priory, Lanercost, Cumbria, CA8 2HQ
Telephone: 01697 73030
Great Group Discounts
Groups of 11 or more people receive a 15% discount at English Heritage properties and events (10% at Stonehenge). A tour leader and coach driver are admitted free with each group. Free familiarisation visits can be arranged for the travel trade. To discuss opportunities for group visits, email the individual sites or email@example.com.