Man the forts! 10 castles to visit
Ready for a right royal day out this summer? We've rounded up 10 of the coolest castles in Leicestershire and Rutland and beyond. Tiara at the ready, let's go!
Rockingham Castle, Market Harborough
As a big fan of Disney’s Robin Hood, my son loves visiting this castle because apparently King John’s crown jewels are buried here! Charles Dickens also visited regularly and and would have undoubtedly performed his plays here too. Don’t miss the castle’s 18 acres of impressive gardens and the 400 year old impressive Elephant Hedge which looks like a circus procession of elephants. How adorable! They’ve got heaps on this summer from jousting, outdoor cinema, a teddy bears picnic, an artisan fair and more. Open Tuesdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays, 1 – 5pm in August and Sundays only in September. Adult £12.50, Children £7.50 and under 3’s free. Family (2 adults & 2 children) £32.50.
Ashby Castle, Ashby de la Zouch
What began as as a manor house in the 12th century turned into a beautiful castle. Owned once by Lord Hastings, visitors can learn more about the castle’s colourful history and even climb up the half-ruined Hastings Tower to enjoy gorgeous views from the top. The kids will love the underground passage between the tower and the kitchen. Open Weds- Sun. Adult £6.90, children 5-17 yrs £4.10, family £17.90.
Kirby Muxloe Castle
While not a lot remains today, it’s still worth visiting the remnants of this picturesque fortified mansion. The atmospheric moated ruins of the fine gatehouse and corner tower of this brick-built mansion, have been extensively conserved by English Heritage and there’s something beautifully romantic about it. Take a walk around the moat and then settle down for a picnic in the grounds. Open weekends 1-5pm.
Belvoir Castle, Grantham
The ancestral home of the Duke of Rutland, the castle’s turrets and towers rise over the Vale of Belvoir (pronounced beaver) with marvellous views. Four castles have stood on this spot since 1067, and it’s a pretty perfect location for a fortified castle. From the North Terrace, you can see Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire and on a clear day, you can even see Lincoln Cathedral plus, it was used as a shooting location for The Crown! Once you’ve had enough of exploring, head over to The Fuel Tank opposite for lunch and have a mooch around The Engine Yard’s gorgeous shops. Open Tues- Sun from 11am. Adult £14 and children £7.
Oakham Castle, Rutland
Oakham Castle is a brilliant example of Norman architecture built between 1180 and 1190. Today, the castle can be visited and there’s usually a tonne of events that go on throughout the year and it’s also makes a stunning wedding venue. Inside, marvel at the unique collection of over 230 ornate ceremonial horseshoes, 12th century sculptures and the six stone musicians made using local stone from Clipsham. Open Wed, Fri and Sat 10am – 1pm.
Lincoln Castle, Lincoln
Walk the full circumference of the castle’s stone curtain wall – an impressive third of a mile long. Take in views across the city and surrounding countryside. There’s also towers and dungeons to explore and lose yourself in and don’t miss the rooftop where public hangings took place and the eerie Victorian Prison. Adults £14 and kids £7.50 and under 5’s free or you can just book tickets for the Medieval Walk which are slightly cheaper.
Broughton Castle, Banbury
This beautiful moated and fortified manor house has belonged to the Fiennes family since 1447. It’s a favourite for many for a number of reasons; small enough to get around without boring young children, and there’s a lovely garden for them to bomb about in. You’ll need permission to park a picnic, plus you’ll need to wear a face mask to explore inside. Open Wed, Sun & Bank Holidays 2pm – 5pm. Adult tickets £10, children £6, under-5s go FREE).
Oxford Castle & Prison, central Oxford
It’s not often you find a castle slap bang in the middle of a city and Oxford’s one is a goodie with guided character tours of the site taking in the historic Saxon St. George’s Tower with 360° panoramic views of the spires, the 18th-century debtors’ tower and 900-year-old crypt. Oh yeah, and Malmaison is right on the doorstep for Afternoon Tea and cocktails.
Warwick Castle, Warks
This spectacular castle just over the border is always a winner with Muddy and it’s very good at luring us back. The castle and grounds are both open (although you’ll have to wear a face mask inside) and to keep the little people entertained there’s The Falconer’s Quest, the UK’s biggest birds of prey show, and the spooky castle dungeon. The Luna drive-in cinema is also popping up throughout August for twilight screenings against the stunning backdrop of the illuminated castle. Tickets from £20.
Kenilworth Castle, Warks
This impressive medieval fortress turned Elizabethan palace has loads to see within the castle grounds including the mighty Norman keep at the heart (above) and the fantastic views from the tower, 18 metres high, that was previously Queen Elizabeth’s bedchambers. Also worth mentioning are the beautifully restored Elizabethan gardens with their marble fountain, ornate aviary and pretty floral displays. The café is taking part in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme if you fancy a bite after exploring. You have to pay to visit, unless you’re a member of English Heritage (£13.90 for adults, £8.40 for kids), but there are some lovely walks around the castle on public footpaths.