Day Nine: Mend, make do and meander
Our nice friends from Sheffield, Dom and Janet Staines, described the activity of going to a destination and then walking as ‘bumbling’, and expression that we like so much that it is worthy of adoption. Today included a lot of bumbling, not all of it for pleasure, as we searched out a laundromat to get some clean clothes, and revised our packing and organisation; but it was not all laundry and housework, as we had time for a walk around Carlisle, a little retail therapy, and one of the nicest meals we’ve had in the UK.
Having purchased urgent things yesterday, like a new pair of boots to repair the broken SCARPAs, and a bag to make our luggage less of a squeeze, we sought out the laundromat, Carlisle’s finest, we were assured by TripAdvisor. Well, it probably was, but finding it too a couple of goes as the site’s address hadn’t been updated to it’s current one and it took a couple of tries to find it, far closer than we might have expected. Re-laundered, we too everything back to Warwick Lodge and headed out for a more recreational approach.
I wouldn’t say that Carlisle is a bustling capital, but it has some pretty bits and the girls in Debenhams were very happy to help Paula find boots; but this was very much secondary for me to the castle and the cathedral. Carlisle actually has an excellent aviation museum, but it’s a little way out of town and I think Paula has had enough of aviation museums.
The Castle itself is a bit of a disappointment, I suppose because it is still a working military base, even though the Border Regiment is no more and the barracks – with evocative names from Arroyo to Ypres to Arnhem – are given over to territorial and cadet units. The walls and keep date back to medieval times, of course, and Henry modernised the fortifications against the Scots, but it doesn’t really evoke its history in the way some other places do. Much of the focus is, of course, on the Jacobite Army’s conquest of the town and castle in the ’45, and the subsequent defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army. The display dwelt with bloodthirsty glee on the fate of the Jacobite prisoners – hung, drawn and quartered to the point that the spectators decided it was all too much and went home!
The gem of the place was the small but perfect Border Regiment Museum. Just to give history its due, the Border Regiment descended from the 34th and 55th Regiments of Foot, both with amazing records from the Wars of Spanish Succession, Peninsular, Indian Mutiny and Crimea (34th); and Crimea and the Opium Wars. It then had a distinguished history in South Africa and both World Wars, but the various battalions seem to have spent decades on garrison duty and the result was acres of silver trophies and table ware, and a long listed of deceased officers and men who succumbed to the climate in various Imperial posts. Anyway, now it’s part of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, a fact bemoaned by the nice ex-serviceman who was at the museum reception. There was so much stuff, much of it unique and irreplaceable, from Napoleonic uniforms, to relics of many wars, all part of that deep regimental pride that made the regular army such a small but professional outfit.
I didn’t like to take photos because there is always this voice that says, why didn’t you buy the guidebook, you cheapskate? But I certainly bought a photography permit at the Cathedral, because it was quite different to any of the gothic monuments in the south. Red sandstone and built for strength, it also seems to have preserved a few precious pieces of medieval art that were destroyed in various iconoclasms in the areas closer to London. I can’t explain the plastic sheeting on the organ, nor can I shed any light on the off-set arch on the transept, but it is a marvellous local statement, seeming to encapsulate something of the Northern character, steadfast in the face of changeable weather, regimes and times.
Dinner was a little place called David’s, where they served an upmarket version of British cuisine with local produce, and it was a pleasant evening together before our Highland adventure.