Man the forts! The best castles within 90 minutes
Ready for a right royal day out? Let's admire some moats! We've rounded up 6 of the coolest castles in Essex and beyond that are open for business. Tiara at the ready, let's go!
Hedingham Castle, Essex
This imposing, square fortress is an iconic medieval castle in Halstead, Essex, part of the Historic Houses scheme, which is similar to the National Trust. Visit for a stroll in the beautiful grounds, admiring the landscaped gardens and over-1000-years-old ramparts. The castle is hosting special Easter walks at the moment until 25 April. Make a day of it and bring a picnic, or get something to takeaway from their Keep café. Walks are free for Season Ticket holders, £9.50 for an adult, or £7 for a child.
Okay, so it’s not an authentically old castle, but it is a pretty amazing reconstruction. Mountfitchet Castle & Museum, the only medieval castle and Norman village reconstructed on its original site in the world, reopens to the public on 12 April. Take the kids and step back in time to Domesday England, wandering amongst the amazingly detailed replica buildings. Kids will love the interactive archery display, and the gruesome torture rack.
Hever Castle, Kent
This 13th-century stunner and childhood home of Anne Boleyn has everything you’d want from a castle – towers, a moat, and a royal haunting thanks to rumours that Anne’s ghost still resides in the chambers. Inside the spectacular castle remains closed for now, but the gardens (including playgrounds and water maze) are open, with the café doing takeaway. The 38-acre man-made lake offers lovely vistas, nature walks, and even boat hire. Booking essential. Adult tickets from £15.55, child from £9.75, under-5s go FREE.
Leeds Castle, Kent
Perched on an island in the middle of the River Len, five miles southeast of Maidstone, this castle has a lot on offer for a jam-packed day including – deep breath – playgrounds, mini golf, pretty gardens, and takeaway kiosks. From 12 April, the Birds of Prey Centre, maze, and shops will reopen. The Castle and Castle View Restaurant will reopen on 17 May. Tickets are on the pricier side (adult £28, child £19.50), but you’ll be able to visit again as many times as you want in the next 15 months. Booking essential.
Berkhamsted Castle, Herts
Considering it was built during the Norman Conquest, way back in 1066, what remains of this timber motte-and-bailey castle is still pretty substantial (come on, use your imagination!) and a great option for a family walk peppered with history. Come for a walk around the ruins, and discover Berkhamsted’s history with their mobile-friendly interactive Castle guide. The heritage site is open to visitors from 10am – 6pm. Free entry.
Framlingham Castle, Suffolk
You’ll need a head for heights for this castle because the main attraction is a wall walk along the towering walls with stunning views across the Suffolk countryside. Framlingham is one of the best castles in the country and there’s a lot of history to discover – including the fact that Mary Tudor was crowned Queen of England here. It’s great for kids with an ‘Under Attack’ family trail to complete, plus the café is open for takeaway. Booking essential, at £11.30 for adults and £6.80 for children.