Now a family-friendly attraction, Carlisle Castle has been both a fortress and prison during its bloody 900-year history. Mary Queen of Scots was confined here, and the dungeons, labyrinths and passageways still hold reminders of its dark past. These include the source of moisture that saved lives - 'the licking stones' - carvings by prisoners and a model of Carlisle in 1745 with an exhibition on Bonnie Prince Charlie who captured the castle. The castle also houses Cumbria's Military Museum. Other superb buildings in the city include the Citadel, built as a prison by Henry VIII, the cathedral with its ornate carvings and 14th-century stained glass window, and 17th-century Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery with its beautiful garden, Jacobean staircase, Pre-Raphaelite paintings and a thousand years of Carlisle and Border history. Carlisle also offers excellent retail therapy in the form of The Lanes Shopping Centre.
Offering arts and heritage under one roof, The Wave Centre has exhibitions, events, cinema and information on the town, its history and attractions. At the Lake District Coast Aquarium you can see the varied marine life of the Irish Sea, from starfish to lobsters, with over 45 themed displays. Senhouse Roman Museum, dramatically sited on the cliffs overlooking the Solway Firth, stands beside a 1st-century Roman fort and houses a collection of exceptionally well preserved Roman artefacts. For retail therapy, Senhouse Street and cobbled Fleming Square have a good selection of shops.
This was once one of England's busiest ports, and The Beacon Visitor Centre located on the ancient harbour gives you the full story and more. You can meet the pirate John Paul Jones who attacked the town in 1778, enjoy spectacular views through powerful telescopes and even present the forecast in the Weather Zone. Whitehaven's award-winning Rum Story - The Dark Spirit of Whitehaven is housed in the 1785 premises of the Jefferson rum-making family and covers its production and history, from sugar plantation to barrel, including slavery, smuggling and prohibition. A different dark story - that of Whitehaven's coal mining, which dated from the 13th century to 1986 - is told at the Haig Colliery Mining Museum. There you can see the working winding engines and headstocks of Cumbria's last deep mine.
Impressive St Bees Priory was founded in 1120, and its many interesting features include the magnificent West Door and an 1899 Willis organ with over 2,000 pipes. St Bees has a long sandy beach, and the striking red sandstone cliffs of St Bees Head are the summer home to northwest England's largest colony of nesting seabirds. Observation points provide the perfect view, and on a clear day you can also see the Isle of Man. If you fancy a stroll, Robin Hood's Bay is just 190 miles away taking Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk.
With its shingle beach, Ravenglass is the Lake District National Park's only coastal village and was an important Roman naval base. Its other claim to fame is as the home of The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway or 'La'al Ratty' as it is affectionately known. Opened in 1875 to bring ore to Ravenglass, it now carries visitors on a steam-hauled journey from Ravenglass to Dalegarth calling at Muncaster Mill, Irton Road, The Green and Beckfoot. Muncaster Castle, gardens and owl centre is another leading attraction and is less than 1.5 miles from Ravenglass station. Ravenglass Roman Bath House was established in AD130 and is all that survives of Ravenglass Roman Fort. The Bath House remains are among the tallest Roman structures surviving in northern Britain: the walls stand almost four metres (13 feet) high.
The ore found at Hodbarrow in 1855 made this a prosperous town and one of the world's largest industrial sites of its type. Millom Heritage and Visitor Centre shows you the lives and work of the miners, with an actual pit cage and a reconstructed cottage, as well as a smithy and corner shop. The site of the old mine is now an RSPB nature reserve bordering an artificial lagoon, and beside the ruins of 14th-century Millom Castle you'll find the Holy Trinity Church with its curious 'fish' window.
This is the small hamlet that became the world leader in steel and shipbuilding. The first steam yacht Aries was built in Barrow-in-Furness, after which came vessels, from battleships to submarines, and from oil tankers to passenger liners. You can learn all about it in the striking Dock Museum, a building every bit as spectacular as the town's success story. Close by are the still majestic red sandstone ruins of 700-year-old Furness Abbey, once one of England's wealthiest Cistercian monasteries, where you can discover the story of the monks' power and influence.