The border city of Carlisle was first built as a key outpost along Hadrian’s Wall, the structure that separated Roman England from unconquered Scotland. Known for its military past, Carlisle attracts visitors who want to walk Hadrian’s Wall Path or just explore the north. Find out all about travelling to Carlisle with the new UK ETA programme in this guide.
The Border City
Hadrian’s Wall, built in the year 122, is a massive defensive structure that stretches from east to west across the island of Great Britain. Conquered by the Romans, this divided England from untamed Caledonia (now Scotland) to the north. Carlisle, in the northwest of England, was first established as a town to help protect and defend the wall. To this day, its location — just eight miles from Scotland — means that Carlisle is synonymous with the border between England and Scotland. It still carries the nickname of the Great Border City.
As a border town, Carlisle has often played a key role in conflicts. In fact, it is said to be Britain’s most-besieged town. At the time of the Norman conquest, Carlisle was part of Scotland, but in 1092, English King William II invaded and seized the city. This led to a lengthy series of wars in which the region changed hands many times. Local bandits took advantage of the instability. Known as the Border Reivers, they were outlaws who raided and stole from English and Scottish alike. Their activities continued until the 17th century and led to Carlisle developing a reputation for danger.
Carlisle is known as the setting of an Arthurian legend, the story of Sir Gawain and the Carle of Carlisle. In this medieval tale, Gawain — one of King Arthur’s most gallant knights — and his companions sought shelter in Carlisle Castle, known for its brutish and rude owner, the Carle. Gawain behaves with impeccable chivalry throughout, showing his knightly manners and calmly obeying his cruel host, even when told to take the Carle’s wife to bed and throw a spear at the Carle’s head. This famous legend has led Carlisle to be strongly associated with Arthurian tales.
The Curse of Carlisle
Another legend tells that Carlisle is a cursed city. In 1525, the Archbishop of Glasgow proclaimed a curse on the Border Reivers. Local priests were obliged to read this 1,069-word curse in their churches. At the turn of the 21st century, a local artist created the Cursing Stone, a massive stone artwork containing the text of the curse. This was followed by flooding, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease and a particularly bad season for the local football team, which some attributed to the curse.
Places of Interest in Carlisle
While most of the original Hadrian’s Wall was destroyed many centuries ago, some ruins remain scattered along its length. Each year, many visitors follow Hadrian’s Wall Path, an 84-mile walk that follows the original structure. Weather conditions in the area mean that the walk is particularly popular in summer, as it can be wet and muddy from autumn to spring.
Over 900 years old, Carlisle Castle played a key role in the wars between England and Scotland. It was the last English castle to be besieged in the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The castle has changed hands many times over its long history and has served as headquarters for active military units as recently as 2019. Today, the castle is open to visitors and contains a museum about Carlisle’s military history.
Originally founded as a priory, Carlisle Cathedral dates back to 1133. It contains examples of the English Gothic style of architecture. By the 13th century, it gained cathedral status and priories with different denominations of monks sprung up around it. Following Henry VIII’s Protestant Reformation, these priories were dissolved. The cathedral was partly demolished during the English Civil War, with the stones used to reinforce defences at the nearby castle. However, it was restored in the 19th century and is still in use as a place of worship today.
The UK ETA for Carlisle
From 2024 onwards, visitors will need to be aware of the new requirements for an ETA for Carlisle. The ETA, which stands for Electronic Travel Authorisation, is inspired by programmes that are already in place in Canada and the United States. It replaces the UK’s current system of visa waivers and is part of an effort to digitalise the country’s borders.
UK ETA eligibility
At present, the UK’s visa waiver programme allows citizens of 92 countries to enter without applying for a visa. This programme is to be discontinued, and travellers from these countries will now have to apply for a UK ETA for Carlisle. Without an ETA, they may be denied entry to the UK.
Some visitors from these countries currently require a visa to enter the UK. This is the case if they want to spend more than six months in the country or if they intend to work while in the UK. They will still need to apply for a visa separately. However, visitors who are coming to the country for less than six months will only need a UK ETA for Carlisle. This is true regardless of the reason for their trip, whether coming for pleasure, travelling on business, studying for short periods or visiting friends and family.
Applying for the UK ETA
Visitors to the UK should apply for their ETA well in advance of travelling. An approved ETA may be considered a condition of carriage, so carriers might deny boarding to passengers who do not have one. The ETA application is only available online, as this is part of a digital system.
Before beginning the application process, travellers should take a look at the list of requirements. They will need to ensure that they have a valid biometric passport, and they should be prepared to provide personal information. This includes contact details, information about employment, date of birth and so on.
Part of the process will also involve applicants disclosing information about their personal history. This includes criminal records, immigration offences and membership of proscribed organisations or groups. They should also be prepared to share information about their planned trip to the UK. For example, they may need to give the address at which they’ll be staying in the country or provide an itinerary outlining their plans.
Travellers will need to pay a non-refundable fee as part of the application process. Until this fee has been paid, the application will not be considered complete and cannot be processed. An ETA application can take up to 72 hours to process, so travellers should make sure to leave enough time.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Carlisle
Carlisle’s location, just eight miles from the Scottish border, means that many visitors like to combine a trip there with a visit north into Scotland. The UK ETA for Carlisle allows this. Within the United Kingdom, there is no border control between the four constituent countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This means that a traveller with an approved UK ETA for Carlisle can move freely between these four different regions. However, international border crossings — which include trips to the independent Republic of Ireland — may need further preparation, as each country sets its own individual entry requirements. Additional details are available on the ETA FAQ page.
Your Trip to Carlisle With the UK ETA
This historic city on the border of England and Scotland has long attracted visitors. Follow the remarkable trail along Hadrian’s Wall while admiring the Roman ruins or rolling green countryside along the way. Explore Carlisle Castle, rich in history and myth. Discover this intriguing city packed with history and culture. The Great Border City is waiting to be explored, so make sure that your ETA application is completed well in advance to ensure a worry-free stay in and around Carlisle.