London has always been at the centre of British life, stretching back centuries. It was the seat of power for the Norman conquest of 1066 and was the largest settlement in the country for centuries before that. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the area surrounding London is home to more than its fair share of castles. Kings and queens throughout the ages built castles in and around London to protect the capital from warring tribes and foreign invaders.
So if you’re looking for castles to take the kids to in and around London, you’re spoiled for choice. Here are 10 of our favourite castles to visit near London if you have young children.
1. Arundel Castle
Arundel Castle is one of the longest-inhabited homes in Britain, with the family having lived there for nearly 1,000 years. The castle dates back to 1138, providing a wealth of history.
Arundel Castle offers kids one of the finest examples of a traditional, medieval castle in the country. It has some of the most impressive architecture of any in the local area.
Travel time from London: 🚗 1 hour 50 minutes / 🚂 1 hour 25 minutes by train
Address: Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9AB
Phone: +44 1903 882173
2. Bodiam Castle
Bodiam Castle is one of the most quintessential castles in the country, surrounded by a moat and with traditional turrets and battlements. The castle, located in East Sussex, is relatively easy to get to from London either by car or train.
It is an excellent place for kids because of all of the activities that it offers. The National Trust runs activities for kids at the castle throughout the summer to give them an insight into what life might have been like for a knight in the middle ages. Kids can learn archery and learn about falconry in the organised falconry walking tours.
Travel time from London: 🚗 1 hour 45 minutes by car / 🚂 1 hour 10 minutes by train
Address: Bodiam, Robertsbridge TN32 5UA
Phone: +44 1580 830 196
3. Colchester Castle
Colchester Castle, located in the middle of Essex, is both a castle and a museum where kids can find out all about the history of the building and its medieval origins.
What’s unusual about Colchester Castle is its age. There’s been a fortification on the site for more than 2,000 years, ever since the Romans conquered the indigenous people of Britain.
Children will have fun at the castle trying on all the costumes and armour. There’s also a large park that occupies the rear of the castle with plenty of space to play.
Travel time from London: 🚗 1 hour 50 minutes by car / 🚂 1 hour by train
Phone: +44 1206 282939
4. Hever Castle
Hever Castle in Kent is magnificent for kids. The castle has both a maze made of hedges and a water maze. It also offers archery lessons, shield-painting, and activities trials.
The main draw of the castle, however, is the fact that it is still set up to represent how life would have been hundreds of years ago. The volunteers play their roles in the kitchens as cooks and as maids in waiting. If you want a sense what it would have been like to watch Henry VIII walk down to the jousting field with Anne Boleyn, this is the place to do it.
Finally, in the summer months, there are tents where kids can listen to storytellers, watch craftsmen, and listen to music.
Travel time from London: 🚗 1 hour 25 minutes by car / 🚂 40 minutes by train
Address: Hever Rd, Hever, Edenbridge TN8 7NG
Phone: +44 1732 865 224
5. Herstmonceux Castle
Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex is an hour south of London by train. There is plenty for kids and family to do, including the walking trails through the nearby forest and full English tea experience. No wonder why it is featured in our recommended castles to visit nearby London.
Travel time from London: 🚗 2 hours by car / 🚂 1 hour 20 minutes by train
Address: Hailsham BN27 1RN
Phone: +44 1323 833 816
6. Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace sits on the banks of the River Thames in West London. It was one of the many homes of England’s most famous king, Henry VII. It’s famous Great Hall is a stunning sight to behold – a cavernous room draped with historic tapestries. The kitchens are also open to visitors, where the kids will love to learn all about the grand feasts the king held. And do you dare visit the Haunted Galleries? Hampton Court’s gardens are as impressive as its interiors, spanning 60 acres of formal gardens and 750 acres of parkland. They are world renowned for their ancient maze, record-breaking grape vines and huge variety of wildlife, including deer. Undoubtedly one of the best castles to visit near London.
Travel time from London: 🚗 50 minutes by car / 🚂 30 minutes by train
Phone: 020 3166 6000
7. Dover Castle
Roam through centuries of history at this iconic fortress on the Kent coast. Explore the Great Tower’s medieval interiors, see where injured WWII soldiers were treated at the underground hospital and discover the oldest surviving lighthouse in the country. You can also delve deep into Dover’s White Cliffs to discover the Secret Wartime Tunnels, which the kids are bound to love.
Afterwards, drive over to the Zetland Arms in Deal for lunch, which is right on the beach. It’s one of our favourite pubs in Kent for families.
Travel time from London: 🚗 2 hours by car / 🚂 1 hour by train
Address: Castle Hill Road, Dover CT16 1HU
Phone: 0370 333 1181
8. Highclere Castle
This beautiful castle has enjoyed a surge in visitors in recent years, since being used as the filming location of BBC drama Downton Abbey. The 5,000 acre estate in Hampshire is now home to the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, but open to visitors for most of the year. You can explore the lavish State Rooms, luxurious bedrooms and the old servants quarters, much of which you may recognise from TV and films. Its extensive gardens deigned by Capability Brown, woodland walks and flower meadows are also a highlight for families.
Highclere offers a great range of family friendly events throughout the year too, from Easter Egg Hunts and Santa’s Grotto to Classical Music Concerts.
Travel time from London: 🚗 1 hour 35 minutes by car / 🚂 45 minutes by train
Phone: 01635 253204
9. Leeds Castle
Confusingly, not in Leeds but in the Garden of England – Kent. Pitching itself as “the loveliest castle in the world” , this place certainly lives up to expectations, and it’s only an hour’s drive from London. You couldn’t feel further from the city as you explore its 500 acres of grounds which include a huge moat, a maze, a falconry and an underground grotto. There are lots of family focused events throughout the year, such as children’s theatre shows, medieval jousting and welly walks. And to get the full experience, you can even stay in the castle grounds, in a quaint holiday cottage or a luxury glamping tent.
Travel time from London: 🚗 1 hour by car / 🚂 1 hour by train
Address: Broomfield, Maidstone. ME17 1PL
Phone: 01622 765400
10. Rochester Castle
This historic Norman castle stands on the banks of the River Medway, and is popular with local families. Aside from exploring its ancient lookout posts, towering architecture and spacious grounds, the castle also hosts lots of events throughout the year, from outdoor cinema to Easter fun days and jousting competitions.
Travel time from London: 🚗 1 hour 15 minutes by car / 🚂 40 minutes by train
Address: Castle Hill, Rochester ME1 1SW
Phone: 0370 333 1181
Please note: Travel times may vary depending on route taken and time of travel.
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