It’s the half-term holiday for us this week and we’re visiting the North East.  School holidays are traditionally a time when families plan days out to tourist attractions in an attempt to stop the kids killing each other provide the children with some culture mixed with a fun day out.  This morning we drove all of a few minutes down the road from our holiday home to the beautiful Bamburgh Castle. We’re quite fond of a castle visit; I love the history and imagining who might have lived there in days gone by, Big likes the weapons and armour (and the gift shop) and Small likes the open space and views from the battlements. For a 4 year old with the attention span of a gnat, she was really rather patient with all the walking through state rooms full of historic artefacts.

It got me thinking; we’re determined to drag our offspring around these places, but they’re not really all that suitable, are they? Let’s look at the evidence…

  1. The battlements are really high, but the walls are low and full of holes, just perfect for little ones to try and climb over/through.. Those teeny little signs warning you to take care? Yeah, they’re not much use when your toddler is determined to see what’s on the other side.

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2.  They’re full of really old, really valuable stuff.  Big, hundreds-of-years-old vases, suits of armour, chairs with ‘do not sit’ signs… It’s a chair! You’re 4! Of course you’re going to want to sit on it, especially if you’re not allowed.

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3.  Weapons.  Castles tend to be full of weapons, reflecting their part in our country’s history of war and great battles.  It’s like a treasure trove to a child, eyes lighting up as they imagine the damage that could be inflicted with that sword/spear/gun/cannon.

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Credit: Bamburgh Castle

4.  Dungeons – especially those with mock-up scenes of prisoners with gangrenous limbs, missing body parts, chained to various torture devices and even skeletal remains.  Imagine how that must look to a small person?!

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5.  Steps. There’s bloody millions of steps. So not pushchair friendly, which means either trying to coax a reluctant toddler either up or down each of the various sets of stairs, or having to carry them, either in your arms or in a sling, which aint easy either after the fifty-billionth set.  And don’t even start on the spiral staircases, which really aren’t made for the cuddlier mumma, or anyone who gets dizzy easily.

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6.  Archery.  At the castle today, anyone over the age of 7 could have a go with a bow and arrow (under supervision), but there was really nothing stopping them misfiring towards onlookers rather than at the target. We moved, sharpish.

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So, all in all, castles aren’t the safest of places for little ones, nor are they relaxing for us parents, constantly vigilant for little hands reaching for valuables, or little legs trying to clamber over walls.  And yet, thousands of us visit them every year because we’re so terribly British and we just love to live in the past! But, as long as we take some care, a visit to a castle makes for a fantastic, fun real-life history lesson for our children.

Castles – they’re great for kids… aren’t they?
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