Special Report: Matthew Inglis
When planning ahead for your 2020 schedules make sure to incorporate a trip to the beautiful county of Cumbria, sitting high in the northwest corner of England.
Cumbria has some stunning places to see and visit, including the natural beauty of the Lake District, renowned for its forests, lakes and mountains making this National Park a popular destination for coaching holidays and hiking trips. There’s also a number of charming towns like of Keswick and Ambleside, and its only city, Carlisle, which is packed with welcoming hotels and guest houses, and some wide-ranging visitor attractions catering for groups of all ages and interests. Carlisle has an estimated population of over 100,000 people, and is the UK’s largest city by area, sharing a border with Scotland to the north, meaning the city is a popular destination for coach groups whether touring the north of England or during stays in Scotland, with Glasgow only a short 95-mile drive away. There is so much available throughout the city and surrounding area as you will see on the following pages. Head just outside the city centre and you can experience the thrill of the races at Carlisle racecourse (a Jockey Club course) and home to both jump and flat racing throughout the year, with a number of race day fixtures and special events taking place. If the thrill of the turf isn’t for you, how about taking in a brilliant production at one of the city’s theatres? There’s a range of shows at both the West Walls Theatre and Stanwix Art Theatre. I have to be honest and admit that my own personal knowledge of Carlisle itself was limited, having only visited once before so on this visit I met up with Paul Walker, the destination manager at Carlisle City Council, to spend the day discovering more about what this historic City has to offer…
Enjoy the Edwardian splendour of the Crown and Mitre Hotel
After a long journey up to Carlisle I was delighted to be staying the night at the Crown and Mitre Hotel, situated in the city centre and a brilliant base for groups to be at the heart of city life and close to a wide range of eateries and shopping opportunities. The Crown and Mitre is part of the Peel Hotel group, and boasts a total of 91 stunning rooms, fully equipped with everything the modern traveller would expect from a hotel of this standard. The hotel maintains its Edwardian history and features, and with a warm and welcoming log fire close to reception, combined with a friendly welcome from the hotel staff upon check-in, it’s easy to see why your groups are well looked after and feel instantly at ease. The hotel’s restaurant serves a number of delicious dishes, using locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible, whilst the main bar also serves a good range of meals for those wanting a more casual dining experience. The hotel has good facilities including a swimming pool and jacuzzi, and secure on-site parking.
Experience over 1,800 years of history at Birdsowald Roman Fort
After a comfortable night at the hotel I met up with Paul Walker from Carlisle City Council, who had a busy day planned for me exploring what’s on offer for our readers. Our first visit of the day was a trip to see Birdoswald Roman Fort, which was situated towards the western end of Hadrian’s Wall.
Today the fort is maintained and managed by English Heritage and proves to be a popular attraction for historians and tourists alike. Coach groups visiting the fort have the opportunity to see firsthand the ruins of the fort, turret and milecastle, as well as looking in awe at the remaining stretch of Hadrian’s Wall, which when completed by the Romans spanned 73 miles across northern England. Coach groups can be dropped off outside the visitor centre, which has a number of interactive elements and a great gift shop, with coach parking available just down the road from the entrance Group Rates:-15% discount for groups of 11 or more visitors paying together. Guided Tours:-Available- prebooking required.
Explore aviation history at the Solway Museum
After heading back towards the city centre, groups can call at the Solway Aviation Museum, located close to Carlisle’s new airport, which opened this year. The Solway Aviation Museum is home to some brilliant exhibits, all looked after by a team of dedicated volunteers, including the impressive Vulcan bomber. The museum is open throughout the main summer season, seven days a week, but groups can be pre booked out of season.
Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery
Visiting coach groups to Carlisle will be pleasantly surprised by the close proximity of some of the city’s main attractions and shopping opportunities. Carlisle City Centre has a vibrant high street, including The Lanes Shopping Centre, and you don’t have to go far to be at Carlisle Castle, Carlisle Cathedral, or Tullie House, all within close walking distance of each other. If you’re visiting Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery with your groups, set aside two or three hours. The attraction was originally a mansion house, with the museum being extended in 1990. It is home to some amazing exhibitions which change throughout the year, as well as regular sections to the museum such as the Roman room. On my visit it was evident that Tullie House is a real treasure trove of things to see, and some fascinating stories to learn, with wonderful art also on display. Free entry for drivers and group leaders Admission for group bookings in advance is £5 per head.
Tel: 01228 618718
Postcode: CA3 8TP
Uncover 927 years of history at Carlisle Castle
After a brilliant visit to Tullie House, I made my way for a look around the historic Carlisle Castle, part of English Heritage. My visit started by meeting John Bonner, the site manager, who was happy to show me around this brilliant attraction which is steeped in stories and historic moments. Carlisle Castle is officially the most besieged castle in Britain, suffering at least ten sieges. My visit was very much a whistle-stop tour, however groups can pre-book tours to the castle, which is really the best way to discover everything on offer. A 15% discount for groups of 11 or more visitors paying together Coach Parking available nearby
Tel: 01228 591922
Postcode: CA3 8UR
England’s third-smallest cathedral packs a punch
Groups can have a look around England’s third-smallest cathedral, which is situated in the city centre.
It is home to over 900 years of history, including the stunning Starlight Ceiling, designed by Owen James and completed in 1859. The cathedral organ has an incredible 4,000 pipes, and groups can also have the chance to see the historic East Window, which is one of the most stunning of its kind, with original 14th century medieval glass. The cathedral is home to a busy programme of special events throughout the year (full details on the website). Group tours can be offered if booked in advance of your visit, the current cost of an organised guided tour is £6 per head. Entry is free of change, but donations are encouraged.
Tel: 01228 548151
Postcode: CAS3 8TZ