Monday 8 August 2011

Family Fun in Carlisle

On Saturday armed with the new Carlisle Treasure Trail I set off on the train with my mum and children all set for a day exploring the city. As the trail starts at the tourist information office we followed the nice clear signs taking us there. Having got my kids hooked on my post box habit we were all pleased to find one style I hadn't already photographed (even if it was a replica!) right out the front of the office:

Having solved the first clue we started off on the next part of the trail. The great thing about this trail is it has you looking all around searching for plaques, statues and other interesting things as you go. The kids enjoy the challenge of finding them before the adults! Unfortunately by the time we reached clue 2 the rain really started and we headed to M&S for a coffee and to dry off.

As it was still tipping down when we came out we decided on a plan B a headed over to the Tullie House Art Gallery and Museum until the weather improved. I hadn't been to the museum for at least 10 years and the rest of the family had never been. We had heard about the new Roman gallery and the children were very keen to check it out. It cost just under £10  for the 3 of us that had to pay to get in and it turned out to be really good value for money. We were all given swipe cards that worked on various terminals so that we could discover which part of Roman society we fitted into. The gallery had lots of hands on activities for the children alongside the plentiful artefacts and information panels. One of the favourite ones was the dressing up (as featured in yesterday's Silent Sunday). When we had finished it turned out that we had 2 centurions and a senator in the family!

Then it was up to the top floor and the main museum which takes you on a trip through the history of Carlisle with lots more child friendly activities. They enjoyed dressing up, colouring, having stories read to them and checking out a mini section of Hadrian's Wall:

They also had lots of fun going round and round through a lead mine which had a tunnel carved through the fake rock. All of this took so much time we had to stop for a lunch break. As it was still raining we sat on a bench in the bike shelter to eat our picnic. After we had eaten the kids voted to go back into the museum for more. This time we started in the art gallery which is free to enter. They currently have an exhibition by Mervyn Peake but they still made it attractive to children by having their own little activity area and a trail to take older ones round the artwork:

Then it was back up to the main museum to finish off the sections we had missed. There is a natural history section with more dressing up for the children and animal related story sacks. The occasional sound of a low flying fighter overhead made it seem like we really were out on the estuary! The next section of the museum was a special Gadgets and Gizmos gallery which took you through the history of toys and appliances from home and office. Then finally it was into the Border Reivers section of the museum which was very informative about the centuries of border raiding between the English and the Scots. Once again there was a chance for the children to get hands on and dress up:

It was hard work to get the children out of the museum and only a promise of a return visit and a bribe of a trip to the museum cafe got us out! I worked out where on the Treasure Trail we were so we decided to get a few more clues in whilst the rain wasn't quite so heavy.  Some of the ones around the museum required plenty of team work and observation to spot but we knew we had to find them before taking the underpass to the castle.

The castle is English Heritage owned so we all made use of our memberships to get in. There was a trail for the children to hunt for knights and my daughter had a worksheet of questions to make her look more closely at the things in the castle. They have done quite a bit of restoration in the Warden's Tower so the children could see what life was like in medieval times. The keep was more like a museum with artefacts and information panels.

There is also the regimental museum for the local regiment inside the castle buildings. This was more of interest to the adults than the children though my daughter liked the medal display and the WW1 trench reconstruction. I really must go back without the children in tow! The weather still hadn't improved when we finished so instead of finishing the trail we headed back through the underpass and to the station. We were all intrigued by the stone with the Bishop's Curse inscribed on it:

There is a new 21st century Bishop's blessing on a plaque opposite this to counteract it!

So we haven't solved the Treasure Trail mystery but we have an excellent excuse to head back to Carlisle soon to complete it! We just need to ensure that this time we go on a drier day... The city is a brilliant place to spend a day with or without the children and I'm sure we will make many more trips there.

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