Holiday 2019 – castles and abbeys

Last post in my little series about our holiday – finished just in time in case anyone is looking for inspiration during the school summer holidays. My earlier posts are Beaches and trains, and yarn purchases.

On the one and only wet day of the holiday we visited Bodiam Castle, a National Trust property a few miles from Rye. We wanted somewhere vaguely under cover, and also for LO to see something that looked like the castles in some of her books. Quite a lot of Bodiam is open to the elements, so you probably don’t want to visit during a big downpour, but it was fine on a wet, drippy kind of day.

As you can see below, it definitely fulfils the criteria of looking like a “real proper castle”. LO enjoyed spotting ducks (and enormous fish!) in the moat.

Nice weather for ducks

Inside the castle is mostly ruins, with a few rooms left that you can go inside, plus towers to climb. We didn’t quite have the nerve to try the spiral staircases with LO in tow(!) but we did enjoy watching a video about the castle’s history, and exploring the ground floor. LO enjoyed looking out of the windows. In the pic below we’d actually just spotted a steam train going past in the distance.

Moat view!

Bodiam has nice toilets with baby change, and children’s lunchboxes available in the café, which LO enjoyed. We had lunch looking out over towards the castle. At the side of the café is a small museum area with drawers to open and peer inside. On a less wet day there are also grounds to explore, although we didn’t go far that day. During the school holidays there are loads of events on, which looked a lot of fun!

On a another (not wet!) day we visited Battle Abbey. We had been a bit worried that there wouldn’t be much for a 3yo to do… we were proven VERY wrong indeed. The Abbey has possible the best children’s play area I’ve ever been in. It’s all wooden and themed around the history of the site. It’s also the only play area I’ve been in where it’s all in the shade, which was quite a relief! Here you can see LO very busy doing something very reminiscent of grinding some grain (or something). She was very enthusiastic about it, anyway. It was a big play area, with a slide that looked like an upturned cart, log piles to climb on and lots more imaginative things. TBH, we could have spent the entire visit in the play area…

See what I mean?!

The rest of the site is very fun too. We decided to try the spiral staircases this time, so went right the way to the top of the tower. This was a little stressful, mainly because I don’t like heights. LO was fine, and very good at hanging onto the rope up the centre of the stairs. Higher up we found a garderobe (toilet) where you could look down the hole and see how far the poo would have fallen (this was absolutely fascinating for a 3yo).

And little display where you could try on pieces of armour etc. This helmet covered her entire head!

Outside there is also loads to explore. We didn’t actually go onto the battlefield at all, although it’s a big open space to explore. We were getting rather hungry and needing our lunch by that point! But we did explore the immediate grounds, including the Abbey ruins and the walled garden. There are quite a lot of steps and changes of level, so it would have been rather stressful with a toddler, but a 3yo was fine.

This bit was once a crypt

Next to the play area is the visitor centre, which has a café, another set of nice toilets (not a garderobe!) and a big museum display downstairs. We enjoyed the display, although it was teeming with school groups at the time so we didn’t stay long. The café is pleasant and has a good children’s menu.

Finally, we also made a visit to Hasting Castle, which involved going up a funicular railway (West Hill) up the cliff. This wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it might be, as it’s mostly in a tunnel. Bigger pushchairs will need to be folded to fit in the carriage, although ours, which has quite a narrow wheelbase, was OK.

Actually not that terrifying at all

At the top, the castle is close by, and you can access it without going near the actual edge of the cliff (to my relief). It’s very ruinous, but we got some good views looking out over the coast and Hastings. There are display boards throughout the site which give a good idea of what it used to be like (quite a bit of it has fallen into the sea because of coastal erosion). It’s OK, there are fences, you won’t fall into the sea.

That’s LO’s pushchair in the foreground, we left it near the entrance whilst we explored on foot!

There are numerous cafés near the castle and many other things to explore too. I don’t think we realised quite how much there is to do in Hastings, so it’s somewhere we’d like to visit again. I’d highly recommend visiting all these places – we had lots of fun exploring, and they were all child-friendly.

Have any of you visited this part of East Sussex?

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