Carlisle, half-cathedral of the North West

Choosing to drive home down the Western side of the British Isles may have been a mistake since it turned out to be far more congested today than the alternative route down the M1 but at least it gave me the opportunity for an early morning visit to the charming and often overlooked cathedral of Carlisle. This city has been a border outpost since the days of the Romans and, as the Western end of Hadrian’s Wall, contains a wealth of ancient remains and one of the most comprehensive Roman collections in the north.

Fortunately, I’ve visited the Tullie museum before as there wasn’t time for much sightseeing but I couldn’t resist another look at that unforgettable ultramarine and gold firmament. This may be a Victorian embellishment but Carlisle is one of the earliest of the English cathedrals, begun in 1122 and continued with some fine medieval architecture. Examples include the magnificent East window, a soaring masterpiece of delicate tracery, built in 1350 to miraculously survive the mixed fortunes of the intervening centuries. For this cathedral completely lacks a nave. Four hundred years ago it was dismantled by soldiers of the Scottish Presbyterian Army during the Civil war. Apparently some of the stones can be found reinforcing the nearby castle but the cathedral retains its lopped off silhouette to this day.

Perhaps this rather cruel truncation is the reason Carlisle does not attract the praise heaped upon its Eastern neighbours such as Durham or York but it contains some incomparable treasures to delight the visitor. In the space of my short tour I found Roman glassware so pristine you could take it home and put it on the dinner table, genuine Viking runes, early medieval stone figures depicting astonishingly natural country scenes and equally beautiful examples of the woodcarvers art. I would have loved to have had more time but the road South awaited.

No-one wants to read about the horrors of negotiating the M6 – M5 corridor down past Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham but we arrived in Worcester with half an hour to spare before Zotan’s coach left to take him back to London. I was not best pleased to discover that the coach stop had been moved two year ago from The Three Pears Pub to Sixways Rugby Club but with some frantic phonecalls to Grahame back at base we made it to the corrrect spot just in time. Come on, National Coaches, get your website up to date! I am now too tired to review this arduous trip so a hot bath and a glass of wine must take priority.


1 Comment

  • Sandy says:

    Glad to hear you are home again after visiting Scotland with Zoltan. It is the day after our 45th wedding anniversary and we pretended we were in Australia with a nice steak dinner at the Outback. We mail tomorrow a large box and rug to Pinvin.

Leave a Reply