Who doesn’t love visiting a castle? Children can really fire up their imaginations by dressing up as a knight or princess and walking over the drawbridge, climbing the tallest tower and finding out about the people who used to live there.
Over the summer holidays, the best castles offer a huge range of activities for families from dressing up boxes and jousting tournaments to dragon quests and live shows. Here are a few of our favourites:-
Harry Potter fans can learn how to fly a broomstick at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland which was used as Hogwarts in the first two films and now offers broomstick training sessions for aspiring witches and wizards.
There has been a castle here for 1,000 years and it is still lived in by the Duke of Northumberland. Families can dress up in medieval clothes and watch longbow demonstrations and jester shows, take part in the Dragon Quest and make magic wands and herbal soaps in the craft area.
Alnwick Castle is open daily until 30th October. Adults, from £13.95; children, from £6.97; under 5s, free.
You can sit on King Henry II’s throne at Dover Castle and then explore secret wartime tunnels. Dover is a fantastic example of a medieval palace, with burning log fires and costumed characters walking around, but it’s also a great place to find out about World War II as its network of tunnels housed an underground hospital and a secret naval command centre during the war.
Activities this summer include siege warfare and battles through the ages, with fighting knights, Romans and the redcoats from the war of 1812.
Dover Castle is open daily. Adults, from £12.70; children, from £8.
If you go Medieval glamping at Warwick Castle you can stay in a luxurious Medieval-themed tent and enrol your children in the Knight’s School.
There are lots of activities for families here from the new Horrible Histories Maze, the gruesome castle dungeon tour, the Princess Tower, where you have to break the evil sorcerer’s curse, and the largest working trebuchet in the world. Children can also let off steam in the adventure playground and spot the peacocks wandering around the gardens.
Warwick Castle is open daily. Tickets, from £18.50; under 3s, free.
Corfe Castle in Dorset was the inspiration for Kirrin Castle in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books. It was a royal palace and dungeon in medieval times and was besieged twice during the English Civil War in the 17th century when the Cavaliers defended the castle against attacks from Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads.
Nowadays, children can learn about its history by dressing up as a knight or princess, doing brass rubbings and going on a castle quest with an activity booklet. You can even ride there on a steam train!
This summer, there will be Tudor Adventures where you can follow a trail to uncover a spy network, a Victorian Villainous Thriller Walk and an open-air theatre.
Corfe Castle is open daily. Adults, from £8; children, from £4; under 5s, free.
You can watch amazing horse shows at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire where riders dressed in the Cavalier style of frills, feathers and high boots show off their dressage skills. Aspiring actors will also love the Theatre Room where they can try on theatrical costumes, learn their lines and perform a play.
Visitors to the castle this summer can join the army of King Charles I as he prepares for civil war and learn all about medieval torture.
Bolsover Castle is open daily. Adults, from £10.20; children, from £6.10; under 5s, free.
There are jousting tournaments most weekends over the summer at Hever Castle in Kent. Families can meet King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn at this, her childhood home, and process with them towards the tournament ground to watch knights on horseback show off their skills.
The water maze is great for cooling off when the weather gets too hot and children can also go rowing on the lake, try their hand at archery and run around in the adventure playground.
Hever Castle is open daily. Adults, from £13.10; children, from £8.30; under 5s, free.
This 18th-century Scottish castle has a dramatic clifftop setting and is surrounded by a large country park which is ideal for families. Children can explore Culzean Castle by trying to spot the Lego figure hidden in each room. The castle also boasts one of the world’s largest collections of swords and pistols and there are special family tours at weekends.
You can visit the beach, see the deer and llamas in the Deer Park then head to Adventure Cove, the fantastic play area complete with dungeons, boats and smugglers’ caves.
Culzean Castle is open daily. Adults, from £15.50; children, from £11.50.
Ruined castles are so much fun to wander around and Tintagel in Cornwall is extra special because of its dramatic headland setting and connections with the Legend of King Arthur. When you’ve explored the Great Hall and the ruined chapel, go down to the beach where you can look for Merlin’s Cave and search for crabs in the rock pools.
Over the summer, families can have fun being archaeology detectives, laugh at the castle jester and listen to Merlin and King Arthur tell tales of monsters, heroes and princesses.
Tintagel Castle is open daily until 31st October and then at weekends and school holidays. Adults, from £7.90; children, from £4.70; under 5s, free.