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Carlisle Castle is on the site of a sequence of Roman forts dating from the first to the fourth centuries AD. It was refortified in stone from its earth, stone and wood beginnings and it was frequently updated to hold prisoners during the 12th century. Stones from the earlier ruins were often used over and over. In fact most of the medieval buildings have been lost under nineteenth century barracks which cover the inner and outer walls.
Carlisle provided a prison for the fugitive Mary, Queen of Scots from 18 May to 13 July 1568. She was allowed certain privileges under guard, such as riding, watching her retinue play football on the green, and promenade with her women outside the castle walls. The stretch between the south-east postern to the great gatehouse on the south came to be called "The Lady's Walk". Queen Mary's Tower, in which Mary was imprisoned, was one of the oldest parts of the castle. Records show that it was the original Norman entrance into the castle. It was blocked when the outer gatehouse and Captain's Tower were built.
In 1746, Jacobites were imprisoned there in a small unlit cell or "keep" with a short doorway to make it easier to guard since a prisoner would have to stoop over in order to exit; the cell could barely hold twenty captives, all standing upright. Over the years, Carlisle and its fort changed hands several times between the Scots and the English. One tale credits the origins of the song Loch Lomond to two brothers, one of whom was released to return to Scotland by the "high road" while the other would arrive earlier via the "low road" (i.e. death by execution).
Photos below include an impression of today's restored Carlisle Castle, a scene overlooking Carlisle, a stone of Roman origins used in an officer's bedroom (bed not of standard length with a canopy over head to prevent rats from dropping on the sleeper), yet another reused stone in a doorway, and some carvings by captives in 1480.



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