Tuesday 25 February 2020

Bodiam Castle - Amazing History and Great for all the Family

Bodium castle from the front

Amazing History

The other week after Storm Clara, my family were desperate to get out for a bit and enjoy the blue sky that had shown itself. As it was already after lunch we didn’t want to travel too far and thus decided to head just twenty minutes up the road from us to Bodiam. I hadn't been to the castle for 3 or 4 years and whilst nothing much changes at this 14th century moated castle, the views are always beautiful and there are plenty of walks local to the castle to enjoy.

Bodiam Castle is what many people refer to as a ‘proper’ castle as it’s outer walls are beautifully intact, and it sits fully surrounded by a moat. It makes for the most magnificent pictures and is fun inside too, despite being ruins. You can still climb some of the spiral staircases to go up and see how it looks from the top of the castle on a rampart and also the Posters tower, but be aware these are narrow, well-worn and spindly stone steps. If you don’t like enclosed spaces or have physical difficulties they might not be for you. I’m fully able, but was a bit nervous and took it slowly up and down the rampart staircases. However, I declined to go up the tower as that has two-way traffic on one small staircase and that was too much for me. My husband and daughter went up there and said it had amazing views though.

Inside Bodiam castle

View from Ramparts at Bodium Castle

Inside Bodiam castle

There is so much history in Bodiam Castle; when you think about the fact that knights really did walk there in days gone by. We’ve been to a number of living history events there before and I’d really recommend them. They’re normally in the school holidays and at weekends in the warmer months. A few years ago the girls were invited from the crowd, along with other children to be part of the dramatic re-enactment of what life looked like in the castle in its heyday. They were turning the pig on the spit and pretending to be royalty, it was a lot of fun and brought it all to life.

The castle has the oldest dated portcullis in England, as well as medieval masons' marks and historic graffiti. We've enjoyed spotting this on many occasions, especially when we find a surname of someone we now know. 

Before heading into the castle, why not visit the 'history of Bodiam display and conservation suite' by the Castle-view cafe, and once into the castle head into the North-East tower to watch the 'Story of Bodiam' film. Both of these, along with the leaflet you're handed on arrival will give a good insight into how the castle was set out and would have looked when it was inhabited. There are often free guided tours of the castle, which take between 20 - 40 minutes. Ask at reception about when the next one is.

Bodiam Castle from rear

Great for all the Family

We’ve always found watching the ducks and carp in the moat to be a highlight of our visits to Bodiam Castle too. You can feed the ducks with grains, seeds and lettuce if you like, but no bread and they’ll be very grateful. You might even get a quacking chorus! We spotted a robin on this visit and if you like bird watching or photography then Bodiam Castle can be a great place to catch them, especially in the further out and quieter areas.

Birds at Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle is definitely somewhere to bring your kids. I noticed there is a free winter trail on the website you can download and use, or for February half-term there was a Princess Acorn and Knight Sir Oakley mini-adventure to get involved with, with face painting one day. There always seems to be something planned for the kid's school holiday and events like World book day, so check online.

Of course, the National Trust has the great 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 initiative running too, and you can pick up a leaflet at reception and then tick off a number of things like den building in the wooded area, or taking a welly walk. This initiative is amazing fun for kids and ours all loved trying to achieve the full 50 things. 

Teens having fun at Bodiam Castle

One of my favourite things about visiting a National Trust site is enjoying a home-cooked cheese scone in the tea room. There is the dog-friendly Caste-view cafe and larger Wharf tea room at Bodiam Castle. Both serve drinks and snacks and the Wharf tea room has a larger selection, with hot meals over lunchtime. They both also have pleasant outdoor space and are a delight to visit. You can pack your own picnic if you prefer and are free to have this on the grounds, but not within the castle walls. 

Cheese scone and tea

Useful Information

Address: Bodiam, near Robertsbridge, East Sussex, TN32 5UA
Contact Number:  01580830196 
Email:  bodiamcastle@nationaltrust.org.uk 
Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodiam-castle
Opening Hours: Generally the car park opens at 9.45am, the shop and tea room from 10am and the castle at 10.30am. Closing times vary with the season from 4-5pm. Check the website before travelling.
Prices:  £10.30 for an adult, £5.15 for a child and £25.75 for a family.
Parking: Free parking for NT members, or £3 otherwise. Parking can get full in busy times and was flooded recently too, after heavy rains. 
Toilets: and baby changing facilities are available all year round by the Wharf tea room and portaloos are available by the castle in the summer high season
Dogs: On a short lead are allowed in the grounds, but not within the castle walls, except assistance dogs. Well behaved dogs are welcome in the Castle-view cafe
Accessibility: This is a very old site and as such, there is a lot of gravelled uneven ground, and within the castle walls, there are steps, ramps and trip hazards, so please be aware. Check the NT website for full details. There is a volunteer-driven mobility buggy service in the peak months, to get you from the reception/ car park up to the castle itself.

We had a fabulous time at Bodiam Castle and would happily visit again. Why don't you give it a try?

Check out my post about Bodiam Castle from 2014, showing my kids involved with a living history event. 

View from inside Bodiam Castle

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Bodiam castle pin

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