Over the last month we’ve taken our jaunty Euro-American car to the countryside a few times to visit some English castles. We’ve been castle-obsessed ever since our visit to Warwick Castle, which we thought we’d just swing by for a few hours and ended up staying until it was closed, mainly because at the beginning of the day they’d promised a gigantic trebuchet that hurled a real ball of fire 300 yards through the air and across a giant field. We weren’t sure what to expect, but when the castle performers really did light up a fireball about 4′ in diameter, you can bet our seats were all firmly riveted to the mossy English soil, waiting to see what kind of arc a ball of flame will travel. This incident, along with many other things that we’ve experienced since moving to London, has been permanently filed away in my memory as “Things That Would Never Happen in America for Personal Liability Reasons.”
Near Warwick Castle in a tiny hamlet of Kenilworth is Kenilworth Castle, a mass of red brick ruins that last saw its heyday during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. The castle was deliberately demolished by Parliament during the English civil war to keep the castle from becoming an enemy stronghold.
Castle visits are messy business, as we’ve learned. The wet, cold weather in England and dark, fertile soil means that the kids get covered in mud the second we step out of our car to explore. They call our little jaunts “muddy fun,” and it’s a very accurate description of what’s going on.
For more information about Kenilworth Castle, click here.
We also visited Dover Castle on the eastern coast of England, just across the English Channel from France. Besides being located on the famed White Cliffs of Dover and being the largest castle in England, it’s also been a strategic defense point for the British up until the Second World War. The castle still has a series of underground tunnels that were used as a hospital and secret war rooms. The kids especially loved the “castle players,” or actors who pretended to be from the time of Henry II.
For more information on Dover Castle, click here.
On a foggy day in December, we made it out to Leeds Castle, a short 1.5 hour drive east from London. The castle was hosting a Christmas fair (or “fayre,” as it’s sometimes spelled here) and, because I can’t resist anything Christmas, I insisted we make the trip out.
The interior of the castle is pretty lavishly decorated, having served as a private residence up until the 1970s. The Christmas fair was small and quaint, and, after having visited some of the other Christmas events going on in and around London, we voted it our favorite. Bigger is not always better.
The castle grounds also have a gigantic playground built to resemble a castle, a garden maze, and a falconry show that was Ge Ge’s jam. He loves birds of prey. This is why he continues to be our family’s resident old soul.
For more on Leeds Castle, click here.
You’d think that we’d be all “castle-d” out by now, but there’s something about pulling our wellies (rain boots) on and heading to the countryside that we just can’t resist. We’ve already told friends and families coming to visit us to expect at least one country jaunt. As an added incentive, we’ve been ending our little weekend trips at Michelin guide recommended pubs.
I mean, if the muddy castle adventures aren’t enough to sway you to come to England, surely a good, hearty English roast with prime rib and Yorkshire puddings would…