I’ve always been a huge fan of historical ruins, and now my kids are starting to get old enough that they won’t instantly run straight off any sheer drops, or pull large rocks onto their heads I thought it would be nice to take them to one of my favourite castles.
It was a beautifully sunny day as we set off home from our week spent on the beach in Dorset. We decided that we’d take a picnic and eat it on the grass at Old Wardour Castle in Wiltshire. It took us a little longer than we expected to get there thanks to the winding country lanes and quite amazing number of tractors, but we pulled into the carpark at exactly half twelve.
I should probably say at this point that if you haven’t been to Wardour before then you will think you are on the wrong road. You aren’t. It is at the end of a long single track road through the woods that leads nowhere else. Trust the signs and your sat nav and you’ll be fine.
We walked up the hill encumbered with numerous bags of food, drinks, wipes, spare clothes, sun cream, hats, and furniture and walked en masse into the tiny shop/office. We got a family ticket for the surprisingly low price of £11.50 and after prying the tiny hordes off the freezer of ice creams we entered the castle proper.
It is simply stunning. If you’ve seen Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves you will be familiar with it, it was the location for Brian Blessed’s scenes. The front of the castle is intact and stands many stories high. There is a large, flat expanse of grass in front with the ocassional large evergreen tree to provide shade. It is the perfect place for a picnic. And so we sat down to our feast.
Several seconds later the food was all gone and I set off to take the now redundant bags (still oddly heavy) back to the car.
This is where I tell you about pretty much the only negative aspect of the day. There is a reasonably large gate through the curtain walls of the castle, but English Heritage have effectively closed it off so the only way in and out of the site is through the shop. I can fully understand why they have done it, but it does mean that if there is anyone else in there it is very difficult to get through, especially if you have kids with you. I hate it when shops put sweets and ice creams in positions where they know your kids will see them, especially if they make it impossible to avoid them in any way. However that aside it was a great day.
They have made a big effort over the last few years to improve the railings and barriers so that even the most determined of children can’t wriggle their way through. What this effectively means is that if your kids are stair-competent then they are pretty much completely safe.
Wardour has everything you want from a castle. Nice areas outside, spiral staircases, beautiful ruins, intact rooms, and safe hiding places. If history is your thing it also has some grafitti from the civil war as well as some fossils in the stones of the walls. It even has a man-made stone grotto for the kids to play in.
All in all it is a fantastic place. It’s cheap, it’s safe,and it is a lot of fun. The only real downside is that it is very out of the way and hard to get to. Though even this means that it is never that busy.