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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Great Days Out with Northern | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train


I love exploring cities across the UK and find that they're usually a good option for a fairly inexpensive day out with kids. City centre parks, museums and attractions seem to always have various offers running and I love that no two cities are ever the same. 

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - by North East Family Fun

Despite being only 64 miles away, Carlisle is a place I have only visited once (and that was just the airfield where a Radio One gig was playing) so when Northern invited us to visit Carlisle and write about our adventure, I of course agreed and we formulated a plan to visit over half term. 

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - on board a Northern Train

I am rather lucky that I can walk to our local train station in Cramlington and the Cramlington-Newcastle route is one I am very familiar with. We hopped aboard our first Northern train at 9am and then waited 10 minutes before joining our next train direct to Carlisle from Newcastle. Trains from Newcastle to Carlisle run approximately every hour and take around 90 minutes. It's a lovely journey through the Northumberland countryside - very picturesque and really quite relaxing. There are no plugs on board (well at least there weren't on our trains) so I left my laptop at home and actually read a book. It was a smooth journey and we arrived in Carlisle in no time.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Northern Train at Carlisle Station

We weren't blessed with the weather on the day of our visit and it was grey and damp. Boooo! We didn't let this put us off though and our first stop was Tullie House which is a museum and gallery around a 5 minute walk from the train station.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Tullie Museum clock

Kids can enter Tullie House for free when accompanied by a paying adult (from £7.70) so it worked out at just over £15 for the 5 of us which considering we could spend the whole day here, offered very good value for money.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - kids play in Roman exhibition at Tullie Museum

Tullie House has to be one of the best museums we have ever visited with the kids. There was SO much hands on fun. First up, was a trip to the Roman exhibition where the kids could dress up as a soldier and play in a Roman-style tent.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Roman tent and dress up at Tullie Museum

There were games to get their minds thinking and lots of electronic 'horrible history' type games which they loved. I wish we could have spent longer at the museum and really taken our time to explore every exhibition - you could definitely spend a full day here.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Roman artefacts at Tullie museum

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Electronic Roman dress up game at Tullie museum

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Tullie museum wall art

The interactive displays continued upstairs with a replica train carriage to play in, 'sword in the stone' puzzles, dark tunnels to walk through, Hadrian's wall to climb, real artefacts to handle, pictures to colour, experiments to conduct (we loved the microscope in the Viking section), lots of opportunities to dress up and so much more. Everywhere we turned there was something to do and it was far from a regular walk through museum where all there is to do is read displays.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - sword in the stone museum at Tullie museum

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Viking exhibition at Tullie museum

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Stoneage artefacts at Tullie museum

Downstairs in Tullie House we met the loveliest member of staff who told us the story of the mouse that lives under the stairs. Sure enough, we could see a little door with it's very own doorbell. We were encouraged to knock on the door and peek inside. To the children's delight, there was indeed a mouse in there, asleep on a bed with a nice little wedge of cheese by it's side. I think the kind lady took a shine to our children as she presented them with their very own finger puppets to remember the tale of the mouse and their visit to Tullie house.  It's experiences like this that our children thoroughly enjoy and I can't explain enough how child-friendly Tullie House is. If you visit Carlisle, you must pop in and meet the mouse under the stairs for yourself.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - finger puppet from the mouse house at Tullie museum

Pumpkin Carving was just about to begin at Tullie House as an additional activity for Half Term but we were starting to hear rumbling tummies so decided to venture out for lunch. A quick walk around the corner into Carlisle's main square and we found Franco's Ristorante. We did spot a couple of chain restaurants during our visit but one of the things I loved about Carlisle was that there were so many independent eateries to choose from as well.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Franco's Italian Restaurant

We were given a traditional Italian welcome at Franco's and considering it was a Monday lunch time, were lucky to get a table as they were super busy. Unusually, being busy didn't impact on service at all and we were very well looked after with food being served quickly and with a big smile. The kids enjoyed the extra touches such as the cheesy jokes from the waiting staff, the super-sized black pepper grinder and being presented with lollipops as they left - Franco's kind of reminded me of one of those cheap and cheerful Italian restaurants you get in Spain and the kids loved it.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Franco's Italian Restaurant calamari starter

The food was up to scratch too with homemade garlic bread, calamari and giant homemade meatballs being the highlights of our meal. Lunch options are priced between £6-£8 and the kids menu is £3.95.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Franco's Italian Restaurant homemade garlic bread

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Franco's Italian Restaurant kids pasta

We were fit to burst after lunch - how huge are those portions! We were planning on taking a free family walking tour around the city however the rain had started pretty heavily (and my phone battery wasn't doing too well) plus after spotting how close Carlisle Castle was to the city centre (it's just across the road from Tullie House), I really wanted to put our English Heritage membership to good use and visit so we changed our plans and crossed over to visit the castle instead.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - bridge crossing from Tullie museum to Carlisle castle

Carlisle Castle is the most besieged castle in Britain and a lot of it is indoors so it's perfect for a rainy day. Entry is £16.60 for a family of 5 or free for English Heritage members like us. The children were handed a special trail to explore when we entered and we couldn't wait to explore.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train -  Carlisle Castle in autumn

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Carlisle Castle kids trail

Carlisle Castle is mostly unfurnished but there is still a lot to see. We had lots of fun pretending to fire canons from the rooftop, venturing down to the cellars, learning about the legend of the 'axe hammer' and making up stories of battles based on the facts we learned around our tour. If you're fans of castles as we are - a trip to Carlisle Castle has to be on your 'to-do' list.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Throne inside Carlisle Castle

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Carlisle Castle Wall Walk Sign

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - canons at Carlisle Castle

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Carlisle Castle Canons

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Carlisle Castle Dungeons

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Carlisle Castle Besieged Exhibition

The sun finally decided to poke it's head from the clouds and we promised the kids a ride on the carousel and a trip to the huge toy shop in Carlisle's centre. We then had an hour to kill before our 4:30pm train home and stumbled upon an artisan coffee house up a side street. The comfy sofas looked far too inviting and we headed inside to order some treats.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Carousel

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Coffee Genius location

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - coffee genius artisan coffee menu

Coffee Genius is my kind of coffee shop - local artisan coffee, a hot chocolate menu that I seriously need to work my way through and a counter filled with tempting homemade treats. We spent £15 on cakes and hot drinks and relaxed for an hour, chatting about our day and how we'd like to return.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - coffee genius hot chocolate menu

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - coffee genius kids hot chocolate and cake

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - coffee genius homemade chocolate brownie

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - coffee genius kids hot chocolate

Carlisle is a very compact city and our children didn't once moan about sore feet which they often do during days out. It kind of reminded me of a smaller and less quaint version of York with it's city walls, Cathedral, narrow streets and independent retailers. We climbed aboard our 4:30pm train home knowing that it's a city we will definitely return to and would highly recommend to other families.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - Northern train seat with table

Leaving the car at home meant that Steve and I could both properly relax and enjoy the journey too. A rare treat and of course, we had to buy some extra Cumbrian coffee to enjoy on the trip home.

Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - coffee genius take out coffee

If you're interested, I have created a short video from our day trip to Carlisle. Check it out below:


Need to know


  • A train ticket from Cramlington/Newcastle to Carlisle costs from just £28.50 (in total) for 2 adults and 3 children when booked in advance, traveling off peak and using a friends and family railcard.
  • There are lots of ticket savings to be made if you plan ahead including  1/3 off adult fares and 60% off kids with a friends and family railcard, kids can travel half price and up to two under 5's can travel for free with each paying adult plus you can save by travelling off peak and booking in advance. 
I'm linking this post up to Mummy Travels and Wander Mum's fabulous city tripping linky. 

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post with Northern. 

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Great Days Out with Northern  | Our Day Trip to Carlisle by Train - by North East Family Fun


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32 comments

  1. Sounds like an ace day out. I've been a few times over the years and been to the castle but don't think we've been with the kids. They have an awesome firework display in park too as I went with my friend when I was at uni.

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  2. Carlisle is one of the few UK cities I've not visited. It was on my list for a while but when I asked around a lot of people seemed to think it wasn't worth visiting! So I'm very glad you wrote this cos I think I'm going to visit now, it looks really nice!

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  3. This looks like the most fun day out, I love your pictures throughout. Your food photos *yummy* and the photo of that carousel is gorgeous :) x

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  4. There was a fair bit to do up there, more to Carlisle than I had imagined. I do love how you keep active as a family x

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  5. You must have been exhausted after all of that. What a great day out. I've never been to Carlisle but looks like a great place to visit x

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  6. What a great day out! I was actually in Carlisle this past Sunday. We didn't stop in the city centre, but we did make our way to Hadiran's Wall. I can't wait to go explore the city though. x

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  7. Oh that little mouse story is just the cutest. It looks like you had a really wonderful adventure. I took my own children on the train for the very first time yesterday - it was very exciting for them!

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  8. I've never visited Carlisle it looks like a lovely place and worth a visit.
    It sounds like you all had a wonderful time.

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  9. i've never been to carlisle before. i have learnt some history back in primary school

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  10. What a fantastic day out. I would have loved Carlisle castle it looks incredible I have to say.

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  11. I like those interactive educational displays Tullie House! That makes things so fun for the kids! Your trip sounded great!

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  12. Sounds like a great time you had! This is so far from me :( x

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  13. Wow! This sounds so much fun :) I've never been to Carlisle before, but love exploring new places in the UK x

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  14. What an absolutely amazing sounding day out - I have never been to Carlisle myself but it looks like it has so much to offer.x

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  15. I didn't realise how easy it was to get from Newcastle to Carlisle, although from London it's a lot longer haha. Tullie House looks great esp as there was lots to do for the kids x

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  16. There are so many places in the uk easily accessible by train for great days out. Looks like you had fun.

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  17. What gorgeous kids, I love their hair colour. It looks like a fab day out :)

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  18. Oh wow what an adventure so jealous and though the weather wasn't the greatest it sounds like you guys had a lovely time. I would love to visit the castle

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  19. Such a fun day! I never been there, but definitely a reason to visit now! :)

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  20. It looks like the children had a fun time and it's great it was educational too.

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  21. Ooo we recently went to carlisle! Its beautiful right? I love it there, didn't quite realise everything there is to do there!

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  22. I havent been to Carlisle in years, I had housemates from there when at Uni and we went back for a long weekend every year until graduation x

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  23. What an absolutely fabulous day out. I love the look of Tullie House. The displays look educational yet fun. The Italian food looks scrumpy x

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  24. I love exploring places in the UK, it sounds like you had a great day out!

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  25. I've not been to Carlisle before but it looks like you and your family had a great day out! x

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  26. What a wonderful day out, you packed in such a lot in your day.

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  27. A great journey is a great way to start a trip! So civilised yet exciting.
    And a particularly potent graffiti message right now about the world being too small for walls!
    #citytripping

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  28. I love interactive museums - Tullie House is a winner! That admission fee is a real steal. And I love that special trail for the kids at the castle. What a kids-friendly city! #CityTripping

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  29. Ah, I've heard lots about Carlisle, as it's half-way between my Grandma and my brother-in-law. The castle looks amazing - definitely worth a visit. #Citytripping

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  30. What a fab day out. The castle looks amazing and particularly good that it has something for children! Thanks for linking to #citytripping

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  31. What a fab day out. I love visiting places by train. Like you say, everyone can relax. That museum sounds brilliant and your lunch is making my mouth water! #citytripping

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  32. I've never been to Carlisle and I have to admit, in slight embarrassment, that I didn't even know what there was to do there - Tullie House especially looks fantastic with kids, very thought provoking too. I loved your video as well. #citytripping

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I always love reading your thoughts and comments - Sam x

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