6 December 2022
The UK has a long and bloody history, with conquerors, wars of independence and of usurpation, civil wars and the like having shaped and scarred the landscapes down through the ages. This has led to a fascinating history and many great visitor centres to help to tell the stories of battles long gone. Ten of the best battlefields to take children to are listed below.
The Abbey at Battle marks the site of the Battle of Hastings, the famous one from 1066, where William the Conqueror brought his Normans to England. After the Battle, the Pope decreed William must make penance for those who died, so he ordered that the Abbey be built on the site.
The visitor centre is fantastic and has an extremely vivid audio tour of how this decisive and important battle unfolded. The result of the battle shaped the history of England for centuries and the visitor centre manages to explain this very well in a way that children will easily grasp.
If the Battle of Culloden is considered one of Scotland’s darkest days, Bannockburn is considered one of her triumphs. The armies of the Scottish King, Robert the Bruce, managed to defeat a much larger force under the command of King Edward II of England in 1314. This paved the way for the “Declaration of Arbroath” six years later which asserted Scotland’s nationhood.
There is a comprehensive visitor centre at the site which shows a highly immersive 3D film recreating the battle and allows visitors to use an interactive map to assume the command of either side of the battle. There is also the opportunity to wield period-authentic weaponry and appreciate the sheer weight of that history. As visitor centres go, this is one of the best, with a lot for children to do.
Towton, situated between York and Leeds was the site of one of the most devastating battles ever to occur on English soil and saw 28,000 bodies litter the battlefield by the end - this was 1% of the entire population at the time. The battlefield came to be known as the Bloody Meadow as a result.
There is a standing cross to mark the site of the battle and it is worth visiting in order to get an idea of the scale of the carnage. The visit can also be paired with a trip to the Richard III museum in York which contains more information about the battle.
The defeat of the Jacobite army under the command of “Bonnie Prince Charlie” at the Battle of Culloden by British forces led by Prince William Augustus, is considered a dark day in Scotland’s history. The battle was a slaughter and lasted just over an hour, with the Jacobite forces utterly routed. The repression that followed the battle earned Prince William the nickname “The Butcher of Cumberland”.
To visit Culloden moor today is a sombre affair. It is atmospheric and haunting and also thoroughly worth a visit. The excellent visitor centre features audio tours and a reconstruction of the battle that can be quite brutal in its depiction, but historically accurate and interesting.
The Battle of Bosworth was the culmination of the War of the Roses in 1485 and King Richard III was slain on the field of battle, the last reigning monarch to die in battle.
There is a very well developed visitor centre with award-winning displays on mediaeval warfare and artifacts from the period including weapons and armour. Events and re-enactments occur throughout the year and are an excellent day out for all of the family.
Historians describing the siege of Newark Castle in the English Civil War have described it as the “Stalingrad” of the conflict. This perfectly characterises the determination of the defenders to hold the castle at any cost, to the last man. Despite being besieged on three separate occasions by Parliament forces, they only surrendered on the direct orders of King Charles I.
The National Civil War Centre is based at Newark and as you would expect, this is brimful of information, artifacts, presentations and maps which explain how it all played out on the battlefield, and the repercussions to come from it. A fascinating trip and one that all the family will enjoy due to the quality of the visitor experience.
This was one of the first battles of the Jacobite uprising that ultimately ended at Culloden. The scenery is beautiful and there are personal tales including remarkable feats of daring and bravery like at “Soldier’s Leap”, where a British soldier managed to jump fully six metres across the River Garry to evade his Jacobite pursuers. The scenery alone would be worth visiting for, and the history makes it doubly so.
The site of the longest and largest siege in the history of these islands, Kenilworth Castle was beset by Henry III’s forces in 1266. The defenders of the castle flooded the fields outside the castle walls to stop siege towers and machinery being used against them. It is amazing to stand on the ramparts and imagine the scene, definitely one to capture the very vivid imaginations of children.
The Battle of Worcester was a historically significant one as it saw the 14,000 strong armies of King Charles II meet the “New Model Army” of Oliver Cromwell which numbered around 28,000. Despite the difference in numbers, the battle raged through the city and there are monuments and plaques all over which detail incidents and points of interest from the battle.
This was the battle that paved the way for the decisive victory at Agincourt by demonstrating decisively the way the use of longbows could sway a battle. This was a Welsh nationalist rebellion led by Owain Glwndor and Sir Henry Hotspur Percy against the English King and it was a close-run thing, with Henry IV barely managing to prevail. The visitor centre is a farm shop, deli, cafe and exhibition and is definitely worth a visit.