Family Fun at Lancaster Castle
As with most days over the summer holidays my time is spent looking for different things to do to keep the whole family entertained and having a six year old that loves all things but cant still still for more than a minute with out fidgeting or saying he's board, hungry, wants to go home, want to go to the shop. I'm sure all you other parents out their now what I mean when you plan a day out and you have been their ten minuets and all you can hear is ‘i'm board’ ‘i want go see my friends’ ‘I want some food’ ‘can we go home’ so while looking for day trip ideas I came across a picture of Lancaster castle, yes a real castle and it's only a train ride away!!!
As the castle came into view everyone was excited and my son couldn’t say anything other than ‘it’s a real Castle!!!!’, ‘a real castle with people in it!’ and as we walked up the steep cobbled path to main gates we discovered that the castle is actually a running crown court and was until 2011 a working prison. The medieval castle itself is stunning with its different brickwork from different centuries of building and once inside the court yard you get a sense of just how safe the castle was with its towers and gates and flag flying high and i found it quite amazing that something that old is still standing and being used everyday not just as an visitor attraction but as a crown court and still having some say in the law of the land.
Unfortunately a major disappointment I found was you can't go around the castle with out paying for a tour, i had a very disappointed six year old who wanted to explore and be king of the castle. There is the court yard area where you can snap a couple of pictures and get a sense of the size and grandeur of the Castle and when we went they had a couple of people who were doing crafts with the kids and showing visitors how to load and fire muskets which was a lot of fun for both the adults and kids alike. It was too early for us to get on the next tour when we arrived so we headed into the cafe / ticket office for a cup of coffee and I was pleasantly surprised at the range of speciality drinks like the mint mocchiato that made the early morning start a little better and the range of food you can have is limited to what i would call light bites, we just had some toast as it was early in the morning but the cake case was full of some very delicious looking treats. they also had a selection of kids meals which looked good value although i think the cakes were more appealing to the kids i saw.
The tour of the castle while it was informative it seemed only aimed at adults and dare I say academics as their was a lot of comments like “of course you all know about the 18th century......” and you are not allowed to walk around and look at things even though parts of the castle had displays about the history of the rooms you were in you wear not given time to actually read them. It felt more like a scripted talk and on a very tight time schedule to go round the castle, which having a child with hearing problems meant I could not explain to him what was going on and what things were being pointed out about the castle as he could not hear what was being said by the guide and the group was too big for him to lip read what the guide was saying as someone was always in the way because of how large the group was. The castle has a very rich history from the Romans to king Henry IV and it was also where the Pend witch trials were held although they didn’t show any of the dungeons were the “witches” were kept which would have been great but it unfortunately was not to be.
The tour ends with you being able to walk round one of the prison wings from when it closed in 2011 and each cell had a different set up to show how the prisoners lived over the years and this time you could walk around and look at everything which was much better and everyone in the group seemed to enjoy this part of the tour. At £8 per adult and £6.50 per child the tours runs expensive in my opinion although we did buy the family ticket for £20 which saved us a lot and everyone enjoyed the tour and the weather was amazing blue sky and sunshine all day which actually lead us to explore and find the roman baths which is signposted and really easy to find, just round the back of the castle just past the Lancaster priory. Although the baths are a little underwhelming and are overgrown by plants it was humbling to think a few centuries ago this pile of rock was the sophistication and my son was really disappointed and described it as “just rocks and mud” it was interesting to get an insight into the roman world.
After our exploring of the Castle and the baths we made our way to the main town centre were we came across the Lancaster City Museum we spent a good hour wondering around it has a wealth of information with displays ranging from the towns start in roman times with real artefacts and great displays of how people lived in Lancaster over the years. There was one display at the museum of a man the stocks which really upset my son as we had joked at the castle that naughty boys and girls were put in the stocks and then he came face to face with the display and thought he was going to be put in it in it.
I look forward to going to Lancaster again and exploring more maybe next time we will try out a couple of the restaurants as there was some really nice ones that I noticed while walking around.