Castles and Kids


I was pottering about on Twitter the other day when I overheard someone say they had never taken their children to a castle! I was, quite frankly, astonished. I think, as a family, we have probably spent more time at castles and historic houses on days out than we have anywhere else!

We have been pirates, knights and princesses with attitude,

We have been Henry VIII, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley. We have fought bravely and died like heroes, we have spared dragons and slain Voldermort but most of all we have had fun, it has been easy and everybody has found something to do.

We have sat on lots of cannons

and have pretended to fire a few

We’ve been in the stocks once or twice

And we’ve made lots of daisy chains

At Corfe Castle in Dorset, which is owned by The National Trust and which appears in the opening scenes of the film Bedknobs and Broomsticks, we held up the walls and fought off the marauding armies of the English Civil War

We have climbed thousands of steep stone steps and rescued maidens and forgotten princes from their isolated towers

At Carrisbrooke Castle on the Isle-of-Wight, which is owned by English Heritage, we imagined what life would’ve been like looking through these windows

and we stepped through this door into a world of adventure

We have held mighty battles

and eaten magnificent feasts. There is usually space to have a good run and sometimes enough space to make dens or even to design weaponry of your own!

Castles are fabulous places for imaginary play. English Heritage are particularly good at encouraging visitors to take part in the whole experience and usually have costumes which children and adults can try on to really get in the mood!

Both English Heritage and The National Trust hold historical re-enactment days and family friendly activities which are tremendous fun and you can find the dates for this year at a property near you on their websites.

We are lucky in the UK to have so many fabulous castles and houses from history to explore and enjoy. Not all of them charge an entrance fee, the Thinly Spreads have Nunney Castle in Somerset on the doorstep which is free to enter and has ducks to feed in the moat outside. There are ruins and buildings scattered countrywide just begging to have families enjoying them.

Castles have inspired a love of history and adventure in all my children and have given them a fantastic outlet for their very vivid imaginations. If you haven’t taken your kids to a castle I would thoroughly recommend that you do so at once!

Do you have a favourite castle you could share with us? We’re always on the look out for new ones!

37 Comments

Filed under Days Out, family life, Holidays with Kids, Parenting

37 responses to “Castles and Kids

  1. Have you been to Castell Coch? It’s near Cardiff (some of Dr Who was filmed there!) and it’s a real fairy tale castle, I love it!!

    Arundel Castle in Sussex is also great, and people still live in it!

    For ruins I’d recommend Norham Castle in Northumberland

    • I haven’t been to Castell Coch since I was at college in South Wales in the 80s (old lady alert!), good idea! The others sound great, thanks! I will pop off now and look them up, what’s the one up North where they made Harry Potter? Isn’t that in Northumberland too?

  2. Carmarthen castle is good fun as is Warwick. some of the castles in France are really interesting but wuite a long qway to for a day out! Love the picture of the chain mail & the one in the stocks reminds meof the day I was in them having wet sponges thrown at me! It raised a lot of money but I couldn’t move for a week!

    • Ow! Bless you, you are a brick (sounding a bit Famous Five there Chris, get a grip!). I think we may need to do a castle tour of the country, I’ve been to Warwick and Camarthen but not with the children!

  3. Oh silly me – I missed out The Tower of London! which is fabulous!

    And Caerphilly Castle (great moat!) , near enough to Castell Coch you could do them both together😉

  4. Great photos, sounds like such great fun too:) Jen

  5. We are great castle lovers and have EH membership, there are loads round us, pickering, scarborough to name just two. The boys adored Alnick Castle. They are great places to run around use your imagination and have a picnic

  6. Lauren Robson

    Hi, couldn’t resist commenting on this post (love your Blog by the way!) we live in Nothumberland and also have some fab castles. Bamburgh is one of our favourites and of course Alnwick castle which they used for Harry Potter. Our four love a good castle day out over anything!!!!!

    • Thank you! I must get them up to Alnwick, DD is still potty about Potter (so am I truth be told!), we’ve been to Lacock Abbey where they filmed bits of it (including the Dark Arts classroom which really has that huge cauldron in it!) we could barely contain ourselves! I’m off to look up Bamburgh right now! x

  7. I really liked Nunney Castle, the smalls and I went the year before last as there is a geocache that starts there, I took the OH back about 6 months later too because I liked it so much. Goodrich is one of my favourites and you just cant beat Manobier for beauty of location. I must get to Farleigh soon, I can’t believe after all this time I haven’t got there yet!

  8. mrssarahsiddons

    We have Piel Castle set on a small offshore island reachable only by boat. Lambert Simnel spent time there before travelling on his abortive mission to claim the English throne

  9. Big fan of the northern ones… we’re just discovering them ourselves…

    But what this really made me think about was the people I knew in a former life who moved *out* of a castle because it wasn’t fair to bring their children up there. Still don’t understand. What better place to be a small child? Or maybe not…

  10. Oh I love castles….something so mystical about them and a great place to take children. We live near some great ones- Leeds Castle, Bodium castle and Hever castle. :0)

  11. Beaumaris Castle on Anglesey and then a hop over to Caernarfon castle on the mainland. They are such different castles. Neither was ever finished. Both took about 5 times longer to build than the pyramids. Both very cool castles. As a person from North Wales we were spoilt by some great castles

    • I spent a lot of time in North Wales as a child and my in laws live in mid wales so we still get up there sometimes. I’d forgotten Beaumaris, I used to sail from Holyhead with my Uncle. I must take the kids up there!

  12. I am a castle addict and have got kids hooked here is a brief list of fab castles not yet mentioned:

    Bodiam (E Sussex)
    Dover (Kent)
    Tintagel (Cornwall)
    Dunottar (Stonehaven, Scotland)
    Crathes (Deeside, Scotland)
    Castle Campbell (near Stirling)
    Stirling
    Edinburgh

    I could go on for hours ….

    • Tintagel is one of my favourites along with Castle Rushen and Peel Castle on my beloved Isle of Man (that’s where all this started!). I am beginning to think a Castel-ing tour of the UK might be a good plan!

  13. Jan

    My son always said he had been to every castle when he was younger ‘cos they all looked the same to him! He is 20 now and we always joke that he has been to ‘every’ castle in the world!

  14. Lovely post. If and when we ever move back, I shall probably earn the reputation as the castle stalker. They’ll not be able to prise me away from them all! LOL

  15. itsasmallworldafterallfamily

    We love castles too. And palaces. We usually go dressed up (the children) because it helps the little ones to relate the pile of stones to their stories. And we have fantastic games, like you. For the last year, we’ve had membership to the Historic Royal Palaces. It’s a very good value season ticket, cheaper than the cost of visiting two of them. And they do brilliant activites. We’ve been to knight school, turned a spit, helped Katherine Parr get dressed for her wedding, fired a giant catapault, met the ‘real’ Queen Victoria. I can’t recommend it highly enough if you live near London. Lovely post.

  16. There aren’t very many castles around the Leicester area. A couple of derelict ones with the odd ancient wall here and there but I must say you’re kids are not only lucky to have so many castles to visit. They’re lucky to have such an exciting Mum to visit them with.

  17. If you do plan a visit to Northumberland (to take in the Harry Potter Alnwick Castle) then the others around there are fantastic. My family still live in Newcastle so when we have gone up North to visit we have popped in to Bamburgh Castle and, my favourite, Dunstanburgh.

    We live in Lincolnshire now so there’s Belvoir Castle for jousting!

  18. Soosyab

    The best one near us is Caerlaverock near Dumfries.
    http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/propertyoverview?PropID=pl_047&PropName=Caerlaverock%20Castle
    Living near the Borders there are loads around. A few are free too, but the names escape me!

  19. I love this blog entry. It is so great to see families enjoying local heritage. Here is a link to a recent YouTube video I created for our annual festival in Toronto Canada at Casa Loma. There are some really great shots of families participating in the festival. Hope you can make it to our castle some day! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oj52n1mgiQ

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