The UK features a whole host of castles perfect for a fun family day out. At these historic strongholds, some of which date back centuries, visitors of all ages can immerse themselves in the history of Medieval and Early Modern Britain.
At Conwy Castle in Wales and Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, for example, young visitors are able to participate in interactive exhibits, dressing up in Tudor garb or reenacting medieval battles. And at Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire, visitors will find both a historic fortress and an adventure park.
From jousting displays to medieval craft workshops, these 10 castles feature a whole host of fun activities to keep the whole family entertained.
1. Alnwick Castle
Known to some as the ‘Windsor of the North’, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland is one of the largest castle complexes in England. It dates back to 1096 and has featured in Downton Abbey, Blackadder and even as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.
Given its magical affiliation, Alnwick Castle has plenty of witchcraft and wizardry experiences for families. Visitors have the opportunity to participate in broomstick training and medieval craft workshops and can also witness interactive alchemy displays. The site also boasts The Lost Cellars, a creepy exhibit deep beneath the castle which immerses its visitors in the stronghold’s darker history.
2. Conwy Castle
Conwy Castle is a magnificent 13th-century stronghold constructed by Edward I, one of an ‘iron ring’ of fortresses commissioned to establish the king’s dominance over Wales. Today, Conwy Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site and makes for a fantastic day out with the kids.
With its imposing towers and turrets and a striking position high over the Conwy estuary, the castle is a spectacular medieval experience. The site hosts interactive events and displays throughout the year. Past activities have included: archery classes, medieval craft workshops, soft play sword battles and storytelling displays of traditional Welsh folklore.
3. Crathes Castle
Complete with soaring turrets, ornate grounds and glorious painted ceilings, Crathes Castle makes for a dramatic spectacle. Built in the 16th century by the Burnetts of Leys, the stronghold is now owned and run by the National Trust.
Visitors to Crathes Castle can tour both the fortress and the grounds – and may even spot some woodpecker or deer in the gardens. Crathes also contains a branch of Go Ape, an adventure complex for thrill-seeking families, which features highwires, treetop swings and zipwires.
4. Warwick Castle
Dating back to 1068, Warwick Castle was once a vital British stronghold used in the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War. Nowadays, the castle is a museum and family-friendly activity centre.
The castle itself is, of course, spectacular. But the site also features a Horrible Histories maze, birds of prey displays and tours through the castle’s dungeons. On certain dates of the year, typically during school holidays, the castle hosts events such as battle reenactments, archery performances and interactive workshops.
5. Leeds Castle
Leeds Castle in Kent was built as a 12th-century stronghold and has since served as a royal palace, a prison and a stately home. Today, Leeds Castle is a major leisure destination and houses a maze, a golf course and what may be the world’s only dog collar museum. The site also boasts an adventure park and falconry displays.
Though most of what survives today hails from the 19th-century rebuild, the beautiful location of Leeds Castle and its eminent history make it a brilliant attraction to visit. Guided and audio tours are available for groups.
6. Framlingham Castle
Framlingham Castle in Suffolk was built in the 12th century and served as the spot where Mary I was first proclaimed Queen of England. Today, the stronghold is under the remit of English Heritage and is open to the public.
Visitors can walk around its imposing curtain wall which provides epic views across the site, and children can explore the site’s fun, themed trails. The castle also boasts a Hats Through the Ages dress-up section, which allows guests to don a range of historical headwear – from a Norman helmet to a Tudor gentleman’s cap.
7. Bodiam Castle
Perhaps one of Britain’s most picturesque castles, Bodiam Castle in East Sussex was built in the 14th century as a grand medieval stronghold. Though ruined during the English Civil War, it was partly restored in the 19th and 20th centuries and is now a popular tourist attraction operated by the National Trust.
Families can immerse themselves in Medieval history there, touring its battlements, spiral staircases and many towers and turrets. In the Summer months, the castle hosts adventure walks and dress-up workshops – complete with replica suits of armour and historic costumes for children to try on.
8. Herstmonceux Castle
A glorious moated stronghold in East Sussex, Herstmonceux was constructed in the 15th century. It sits on a 300-acre estate, which today is one of the site’s main attractions.
The sprawling castle grounds feature various themed sections, including a ‘magic’ garden and an Elizabethan area. The site also boasts a butterfly garden. Families can even take a horse and carriage ride around the picturesque grounds.
9. Hedingham Castle
Essex’s Hedingham Castle is a 12th-century fortress. Its keep, which is more than 100 feet high, was built by one of William the Conqueror’s favourite knights, Aubrey de Vere.
Today, the 4-story stronghold features a grand dining hall and an ornate medieval stage and gallery for visitors to explore. The castle grounds are also open to the public, and throughout the year the site plays host to interactive events like jousting competitions, nature walks and teddy bear picnics.
10. Penrhyn Castle
Nestled between North Wales’ Menai Straight and the peaks of Snowdonia, Penrhyn Castle is a 19th-century stronghold now owned by the National Trust. Its main attractions include a dolls’ museum, a model railway museum and a grand slate bed built for Queen Victoria.
Penrhyn Castle sits on a 60-acre estate, which is perfect for families to explore. Visitors will find a walled garden, a children’s playground and a host of exotic flora and fauna.