My plan was to try and visit all of the cathedrals in England and Wales in 2019 and if needs be, spread out into 2020, Year Of Cathedrals.
Living in Gloucestershire, one of the outliers was always going to be Carlisle, and on top of that it is the furthest distance from any other Anglican cathedral in England.
A Visit to Carlisle Cathedral
It’s been social distancing for centuries and in a funny way this shows, as it has its own warm personality and quirks which are unlike any other cathedral.
After Oxford it is the second smallest of the ancient cathedrals of England but it remains fascinating. Firstly, upon arrival you are met by some of the most professional guides and greeters I’ve met. They are impeccably uniformed and absolute enthusiasts, there isn’t a detail they don’t want to share with you and there is much to see.
Externally, it’s a well-worn church, made of sandstone some of which came from Hadrian’s Wall, and the nave was destroyed by Cromwell in the 17th century to shore up Carlisle Castle during the English Civil War.
A cathedral without a nave is an unusual sight but it means that the focus is on the choir, and what a powerful focus that is. The stalls which were created around 1400 are just beautiful and the ceiling of the choir is amongst the most decorative and stunning anywhere. This, with the East window (rightly considered one of the finest in Europe) makes this one of the most intense cathedrals I’ve visited.
It does not disappoint.
The lack of nave and the relatively modest size of the cathedral shouldn’t put visitors off, there is plenty of interest. The Regimental Chapel is fascinating and the Treasury has some gorgeous items in it.
One thing that Carlisle is excellent for is a family visit, I am told that if you ask in the Welcome Centre then Brother Herbert has a rather good activity sheet for youngsters and there is a mystery trail around the precincts. The size of the cathedral means the kids will neither get lost, nor bored.
So, was it worth the longest trip of the tour? Absolutely, if Carlisle says one thing to me it’s “look for the details”. They are here in abundance, and you will leave feeling welcomed, feeling part of what is going on and sharing the guides infectious enthusiasm.
He is a part-time management consultant focused on voluntary sector leadership. He is also the CEO of Action Pre-eclampsia. His photography has been widely published everywhere from the Washington Post to Vogue. In 2019, in advance of the Year Of Cathedrals, Year of Pilgrimage he decided to attempt to visit and photograph every Anglican and Catholic Cathedral in England and Wales.