Carlisle isn’t famed for its cosmopolitan leanings. Not many chic restaurants or designer clothes shops for us. But what it lacks in modern-day stylishness, it more than makes up for in culture and history, which can be seen in our museum, Tullie House. For those of you who have never had the good fortune to visit our great Border City, let me tell you a few little snippets:
- It’s the only city in England not to feature in the Domesday Book
- Mary, Queen of Scots, was held prisoner at Carlisle Castle in 1568
- It has been populated by Celts, Romans, Scots, Vikings and Picts
- Carlisle is Britain’s most beseiged city, with the castle being laid seige to 10 times!
- There were fierce battles over the city, with it changing hands between Scotland and England many times, and due to this, a curse was placed on the city by the Archbishop of Glasgow in 1525
- According to city council area, Carlisle is the largest city in England
- Coco Chanel chose Linton Tweeds mill in Carlisle to produce her fabric – and it’s still made here
Basically it has a lively and interesting past, although when the children are off and need occupying it’s easy to look further afield for a day out, heading to the Lakes, Glasgow or Newcastle for fun and entertainment. Today the children and I decided to call in at the local museum, Tullie House, which has a great exhibition about the Romans as well as a wider history of Carlisle and the surrounding area, and events on for children during school holidays.
First up we headed to the interactive Roman Gallery, where the children got to dress up as centurions and villagers, complete questions to discover their Roman identity and have a go at building a Roman wall. They love this part, and have great fun every time we go, seeing which character they will be this time. It’s a fab way to teach them about local history, without it being stuffy and boring. Interactive and fun is definitely the way to go. There are staff members who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable stationed around all the galleries, ready to answer questions and happy to show off their exhibits to curious eyes (and hands!) without getting frustrated at being asked the same think ten gazillion times. Turns out Son#1 is a Centurion, while Son#2 is a Dacian, if you are interested.
After we exhausted the Roman Gallery, we headed upstairs to the Border Gallery, where there are displays of Carlisle history through the ages, including the Tudors and Victorians, which was handy as they are the topics currently being studied by my boys at school. A favourite part up here is the “sword in the stone” for which you have to find out which year Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed in Carlisle (in what is now M&S, no less), and you can then pull the aforementioned sword from the stone. The wildlife gallery is well received, with taxidermy displays of different species of Carlisle and the Solway Firth, and yet more interactive quizzes, slides to be scrutinised though microscopes, and a reconstruction of a badger’s sett for those of a more petite nature to explore close up.
We all had a fabulous time and I urge you to visit Tullie House if you are ever in Carlisle. It really is a great way to spend an afternoon.