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Top 10 Ruined Castles to explore

6 December 2022

These castles are ruined! But that doesn’t mean they don’t offer a fantastic day out full of history and exploration. So, get ready to climb, clamber, mount, crawl and conquer! Though, someone might have already beaten you to it.


Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire

Built by Lord John Lovell in the 1390s, the castle has a rich history and passed through several owners. You can find out more about the Lovell and Arundell families through activities and challenges interspersed throughout the ruin. Tally up your points to see if you can keep the castle!

Explore further and discover a kitchen with baking ovens and a (sadly empty) wine cellar, then climb up the steps of the East Tower for stunning views across the Wiltshire countryside.

Take an audio tour and learn about the Civil War in 1643 and the siege which led to the castle being forfeited. Rest your weary legs at the Old Wardour Lake, which is the perfect setting for a scenic lunch.

Berkhamsted Castle, Hertfordshire

Designed as a fortress in the late 11th century, Berkhamsted Castle is where the English officially surrendered to the Duke of Normandy in 1066.

There is of course not much left of the castle, which was plundered by locals hundreds of years ago. However, it is a stunning location, with plenty of wide-open space to play and picnic in, and best of all it’s free!

Extend your day out with a trip to the nearby Roman Wall in St. Albans.

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex

Arrive at Bodiam Castle by taking the steam train from Tenterden and then take a short walk to the grounds. The exterior structure is still quite impressive. If you drew a castle, it would probably look like this!

Surrounded by a moat, you can feed the numerous Koi Carp who wait, open mouthed, for your donation. A video presentation will impart some background information about the local area, the castle and the many changes it has endured over the centuries.

The interior of the castle is a little more…ruined, but still worth a look. Download a free I-spy nature trail from the National Trust website or sign up for archery during school holidays and weekends.


Rochester Castle, Kent

While away the hours at Rochester’s Norman keep, saunter around the gardens and if you manage to scale the steep, 100 plus steps to the top of the tower, you shall be rewarded. Just make sure it hasn’t been raining before you begin.

Take an educational audio commentary to fully immerse yourself in the medieval backstory of the castle which was twice besieged by rebel armies.

The castle holds events throughout the year, including the popular family-friendly Christmas Market, complete with Bavarian food village, gift stalls and traditional fun fair rides. And yes, mulled wine and candy floss aplenty.


Mountfitchet Castle, Essex

The ruins of Mountfitchet castle are surrounded by an authentic recreation of a wooden Norman village. Explore the castle grounds which feature lots of hands-on activities for the kids including interactive displays, costumes, jousting and archery. You can even handle swords!

The castle grounds are also home to numerous rescue animals such as deer, chicken, geese, peacocks and hungry goats. They are quite tame, and you may even get to hold some newly hatched chicks.

It’s definitely worth making a day of it, as other attractions include the Toy Museum and Dinosaur Park.


Corfe Castle, Dorset

Park at nearby Norden Park and walk a 1-mile trail which provides elevated views of the railway line and eventually arrive at Corfe Castle.

Buy a pie from the village baker’s shop to fuel your climb to the top, for wonderful views of the steam train arriving or departing and Poole Harbour.

The easily accessible audio recordings bring the history of the castle to life as you explore the ruins. There are plenty of activities for children including tug of war, archery and shield design.


Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire

A medieval castle in surprisingly good condition given its age, Kenilworth does not disappoint. Once playing host to Elizabeth I, the fortress is one of Britain’s biggest historical sites.

Scan the QR code for a free guided tour, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. Castle staff have an excellent reputation for being friendly and will ensure kids are well catered for.

An interactive exhibition brings the castle’s 900 years history to life in an interesting way. Dress up, touch trebuchet balls and stroll through the gloriously recreated Tudor Garden.


Lewes Castle, East Sussex

A hidden gem, located in the centre of Lewes, this castle offers great views and a quaint medieval atmosphere, all a short walk from the station.

The climb to the top of this stronghold’s turret is not as tiring as some of the other castles mentioned, with each level brightly coloured, offering a unique ascent. You can even dress up in period clothing at a halfway point to catch your breath.

The castle is empty inside, but there are bonus activities such as quizzes, trails and activity boxes placed around the site to keep the kids entertained. There’s also a museum adjacent to the castle for things to pique their interest. Check online for additional events throughout the school holidays with the chance for the kids to aim a crossbow. Cool parent points heading your way.


Portchester Castle, Fareham

Now this is a stunning location. Portchester Castle, built in the 3rd century, sits right on the coast and was a major form of defence for the Solent area.

The castle commands quite a large area, so there’s oodles of room for exploring, playing and walking around the castle.

Enjoy a picnic in the beautiful grounds and finish with an hour or so on the well-equipped children’s playground.

Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire 

At Goodrich Castle you are free to roam the battlements and imagine what it was really like being part of a siege.

Be the kings of the castle by booking for an early morning visit and you may have the whole place to yourself!

Go up the tower or down into the dungeons, just be aware of the narrow staircases. The planners of these castles really didn’t consider National Trust visitors!


So castle ruins can be an inexpensive fun-filled day. You just need a blanket, a frisbee, water guns, a trendy picnic basket (you know you want one), prosecco, sandwiches, strawberries, cream and a dog. Maybe some crisps. Definitely, wet wipes!

Photo by Tom Podmore on Unsplash

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