Carlisle and Keswick, Cumbria

Creative Tourist

Carlisle is a city framed by its famous castle and still showing the battle scars of centuries of English-Scottish border skirmishes. Tullie House should be the first port of call here for any art, culture or history lover, bringing together an impressive contemporary art space, the Roman Frontier Gallery, and Old Tullie House. This latter gallery pays homage to the Pre-Raphaelites championed by John Ruskin, an intellectual who also inspired the William Morris-led Arts and Crafts Movement. Ruskin’s belief that artists should be ‘true to nature’ still resonates in Cumbria today and is picked up by contemporary art agitators in the area, Grizedale Arts.

Turn back now to the North Lakes, and to Keswick. A ‘honeypot’ town, it can be busy during high season, yet despite the crowds manages to squeeze in a Jazz Festival (May), Mountain Festival (May) and Beer Festival (Jun). There are other off-beat cultural delights too, including the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, a self-styled “Victorian cabinet of curiosities” whose exhibits include the musical stones of Skiddaw. Large enough to house a few commercial galleries, such as Northern Lights and Viridian, Keswick also hosts the Theatre by the Lake, a beautiful, lakeside theatre that produces and performs its own works and whose roots lie in a radical, touring theatre company that parked up here one day in 1961 and just never left.

Our top picks

Tullie House

Tullie House, Castle Street, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA3 8TP - Visit now

This beautifully converted Jacobean mansion is home to an impressive collection of fine art, local history and Roman artefacts. Outdoors, the courtyard is a real suntrap and the café’s terrace overlooking the gardens is ideal for alfresco dining.

Tullie House

Keswick Museum & Art Gallery

Keswick Museum & Art Gallery, Station Road, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 4NF - Visit now

Situated in the beautiful Fitz park, no trip to Keswick is complete without a trip to the wonderful Keswick museum and Art gallery. It is A wonderful exhibit showcasing aspects of the landscape, history and culture of the surrounding area.

Keswick Museum & Art Gallery, image courtesy of venue

Theatre by the Lake

Theatre by the Lake, Lakeside, Cumbria, Keswick, CA12 5DJ - Visit now

On the shores of Derwentwater lies the Theatre by the lake. This stunning purpose build theatre and studio offers a varied and excellent programme of theatre including both mainstream and new writings, also many interesting talks and events.

Old Fire Station

Old Fire Station, Peter Street, Carlisle, CA3 8QP - Visit now

Situated in Carlisle this venue offers a variety of spaces for live performances, workshops, exhibitions and more, encourage local art and artists and attract international acts. Despite its new role as an arts centre, the venue retains much of its original character and charm, making it a beloved landmark in the heart of Carlisle.

Old Fire Station

Honister Slate Mine

Honister Slate Mine, Honister Pass, Borrowdale, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5XN - Visit now

The last working slate mine in England is also home to a host of breath-taking adventure activities. Try your hand at canyoning along the course of a waterfall, attempt the Via Ferrata Xtreme along exposed mountain ledges and up vertical ladder climbs, or cross the longest high wire bridge in Europe, over 1,000 feet above the valley floor.

Courtesy of Honister Slate Mine

Rosehill Theatre

Rosehill Theatre, Moresby, Whitehaven, Cumbria, CA28 6SE - Visit now

Rosehill Theatre, which has been described as a ‘rose-red silk lined jewel box’, smallest and most intimate theatres but it has played host to some of the great names from the world of theatre and music. Offering a varied arts and entertainment programme, the theatre occupies a truly exceptional setting on the hills above Whitehaven with stunning views over Solway Firth and inland to the Lake District.

Rosehill Theatre, Whitehaven
Rosehill Theatre

The Brickyard

The Brickyard, Richmond Hall, 14 Fisher Street, Carlisle, CA3 8RN - Visit now

The Brickyard is Carlisle’s longest-running independent music venue, offering live performances in an intimate century-old church hall. The Brickyard draws a vibrant and eclectic line-up of local and international acts spanning every genre, from indie to hip hop to electronica.

The Brickyard

Where to go in Cumbria

The Coro

Nestled in the heart of Ulverston, a rural market town on the fringes of the Lake District, stands The Coro —an esteemed historic hub for arts, culture, and entertainment

Sam Read Bookseller

Award-winning small bookshop in the Lake District. Est. by Sam Read in 1887. Run by Will Smith and Polly Atkin.

1863 Restaurant

For over 150 years, 1863 has been integral to the village of Ullswater. Now, reimagined for the 21st century as a glamorous Michelin location.

Red Barn Gallery

Red Barn Gallery is paramount in the Art World of the North West. Internationally renown works are put aside new artists, and the displays never ‘stand still’.

La Casita

La Casita serves the most authentic tapas in Penrith – the only thing not-so-Spanish about La Casita is their high quality fresh Cumbrian ingredients.

Grants of CastleGate

This modern bistro and bar, open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday, serves up classic British pub fare reimagined to its most indulgent.

Dent Village Heritage Centre & Museum

Dent Village Heritage Centre & Museum displays important, yet lesser known, histories. The centre itself has been built entirely through local labour, with the displays covering histories from vampires to slavery.

The Puzzling Place

Interactive optical illusion, for each visitor to immerse themselves in. This specialty museum in Keswick will baffle, surprise and amuse.

Cumbria Visitor Guides

Stately Homes in the North

The North of England is blessed with countless stunning stately homes, many dating back decades and even centuries. Here are some of the very best.

Literary places in Cumbria
Literary places in Cumbria

It was good enough for Wordsworth and Wainwright... From Kendal in the south to Carlisle in the north, we sniff out the best bookish shenanigans in Cumbria.

Walks in Penrith
Walks in Penrith

A selection of some of most rewarding and beautiful walks in Penrith, full of chances to catch open air and natural attraction.

Walks in Kendal

A round-up of the best walks in Kendal, including the town centre, official tours and the surrounding area by Creative Tourist.

Museums in Cumbria

Cumbria is studded with fantastic museums - read our picks of the best here.

Art Galleries in Cumbria

Ranging from impressive, nationally-significant collections in Grade listed buildings, to historic houses that now have a particular focus on local, contemporary artists, here's our guide to Cumbria's collection of art galleries.

Restaurants in Cumbria

Cumbria is far from short of good places to eat – here’s our guide to restaurants to put on your map of the area.

Music Venues in Cumbria

When the sun goes down and you've had your fair share of Cumbria's great outdoors, head to the area's music venues to catch folk and jazz sessions, as well as regular performances by touring musicians.

Theatres in Cumbria
Theatres in Cumbria

For striking performances in the truly beautiful setting of the Lake District - check out our pick of theatres in Cumbria.

Society Manchester
Spotlight on

Beer Gardens in Manchester & Salford

Make the most of the sun in one of Manchester's many top-notch beer gardens.

Take me there

Culture Guides

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Cinema in Manchester and the North

From the latest installment in the Mad Max franchise, to silent movie masterpieces we highlight the best new releases and big screen classics showing near you this month.