Since visiting Scotland and some of its magnificent castles back in February, we have got a real thirst for history.
Visiting castles with children is lots of fun, not only do you get to pretend you are knights of the realm, or a real life princess, you can climb the ramparts, investigate the history of the castle, or simply take in the atmosphere. Most of the castles we have visited also have some of THE best hills for rolling down too!!
Over the weekend we were on a Stay, Play, Explore break in Leicestershire and were invited by English Heritage and Mumsnet.com to visit Kenilworth Castle which is located in the town of the Kenilworth, a short drive away in Warwickshire.
Kenilworth Castle was constructed from Norman through to Tudor times and offers a real “WOW” factor as it comes into view.
You enter the castle from a long track which is where they used to have jousting tournaments – cue some galloping children upon their imaginary horses racing up and down the track. Once inside the grounds there are many different parts of the castle to explore and the kids radiated towards the old Tudor stable block where they pretended to be put in jail.
Kenilworth Castle has been linked with some of the most important names in English history and was a favoured residence of the Lancastrian kings. Today, with its Elizabethan gardens, its impressive Norman ‘keep’ and John of Gaunt’s Great Hall, it is the largest castle ruin in England, perfect for exploring.
The castle is sat on top of a large hill, perfect for rolling down and the kids made the most of the dry and sunny weather by rolling from the top to the bottom. The castle grounds are accessible for buggy’s and wheelchairs but if you want to explore the ruins, there are a lot of stairs to navigate – some modern wooden stairs with viewing platforms and some fun original stone spiral staircases so be prepared for some climbing.
There were lots of information plaques dotted around, explaining which part of the castle you were in, or looking at and giving you information about events that happened in the castle. Isaac especially enjoyed finding out all about what happened in the castle whereas Eliza and Sebby were content finding all the nooks and cranny’s and seeing where they could make their voices echo.
One of the castle’s most famous periods was the 16th century and Elizabeth I visited several times. In 1575 her and her entourage were lavishly entertained for three weeks with pageants, music, dancing, fireworks, hunting and feasting and there is a fabulous display of paintings and information about the event in Leicester’s Gatehouse.
Kenilworth Castle is also home to the Elizabethan Gardens, a recreation of the garden built by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, for Elizabeth I’s visit in 1575. It is a stunning garden and I can only imagine what it would look like in the summer when all the flowers are in bloom.
On our visit to Scotland we were intrigued by tales of the Civil War and here we discovered that Kenilworth was taken by the Parliamentarian army in the opening month of it. Although the castle didn’t see much action, the army wanted to make the castle untenable and so the north wall of the keep was destroyed and the outer curtain wall beyond breached. In the years after the Civil war the mere, that once surrounded the castle, was drained, trees were felled, and interiors stripped out and sold, leading to further destruction of the castle.
Visiting castles with kids opens up their imaginations and during Easter, English Heritage will be running a series of Easter Adventure Quests across the country, where families can meet a costumed character, solve clues and win chocolate rewards.
I really would recommend visiting an English Heritage property as a fun family day out and you can read about our visit to Bolsover Castle here.
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