This weekend we were invited to stay on the Isle of Wight with Island View Holidays at Rookley Country Park and I put together an itinerary of where we would like to visit.
Typically, the kids picked Blackgang Chine and Robin Hill, where we had visited and enjoyed last year, but Hubby and I were more keen to take in some of the history of the island.
On our journey from Yarmouth to Rookley where we were staying, we drove past Carisbrooke Castle and all agreed it was somewhere we would like to visit.
Carisbrooke Castle is an English Heritage site whose history can be traced back to as early as 1,000AD, with the first castle form being built by William FitzOsbern who is thought to have built the first castle to secure the Isle of Wight for the Normans.
It has been a central place of power and defence on the Isle of Wight for over 1,000 years and is probably most famous for being the place where Charles I was held prisoner here during the Civil War, shortly before his execution.
Whilst Hubby and I took in all the fascinating information about the castle and its history, the kids did what they do best – reenacted it!!
We found a dressing up room which was packed full of clothing from the Middle Ages and all enjoyed a spot of dressing up.
One of the highlights of visiting Carisbrooke Castle is meeting their resident donkey’s; Jack, Jill, Jigsaw and Juno. Their names are cleverly inspired by Charles I, who signed his secret letters with a ‘J’.
Donkeys have played a role at the castle since the 17th century when they would walk on a tread-wheel to raise water from the well and we got to see a demonstration from Jack.
The Donkey’s have a very strict contract and only work for a maximum of 6 minutes a day, for around 90 seconds at a time, only raising an empty bucket up a few feet, but it is still fascinating to watch and the talk is well worth joining for all the facts. Did you know that the well itself is a staggering 161ft deep and was hand dug by just two prisoners!
Once the talk had finished, we headed across to Beatrice’s Garden. This garden was her private garden which has been used for both pleasure and kitchen purposes since the 17th century. It is full of hedges, fruit trees, decorative shrubs and flowers and carvings and statues.
On the edge of the gardens is the stunning St Nicholas’ chapel which has now become a war memorial for war dead of the whole island after the First World War.
By far the best bit of visiting any castle is climbing the battlements.
Unlike some castles we have visited, there are some safety railings around the walls, although that didn’t stop the kids giving me a fright and finding some walls to lean over with a sheer drop the other side.
The kids loved clambering up the 71-stair climb to explore the 14th century remains of the spectacular motte and keep.
Isaac was in charge as they planned their battle with enemy troops and pretended to shoot arrows over the walls to ward off an enemy attack on the horizon.
The views were stunning, despite the gloomy weather, so I can only imagine how it would look on a sunny day.
It was then time to head back down the stairs as there was one more place to visit.
Inside the walls of the castle is Carisbrooke Castle Museum, a local history museum run by an independent Charitable Trust.
The Museum is free to enter and has over 27,000 items connected with the Isle of Wight. It includes social history, medieval history, King Charles I and his bedroom and examples of letters he wrote, costumes to try on, photographs etc – make sure you take some small change with you, as the kids loved flinging the coins with the mini trebuchet.
We are English Heritage members which gives us unlimited access to over 400 historic places for a whole year and find it a great way of saving money on days out. Find out more about membership here.
Do you enjoy visiting castles with the kids?