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 can't stay still for more than a minute without fidgeting or saying he's bored, hungry, wants to go home, want to go to the shop.
I'm sure all you parents out their now what I mean when you plan a day out and you have been their ten minutes and all you can hear is ‘i'm board’ ‘i want to go see my friends’ ‘I want some food’ ‘can we go home’ so while looking for places to visit locally, I came across a picture of Lancaster castle, yes a real castle and it's only a short 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 the 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 courtyard 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 every day not just as a 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 without paying for a tour, I had a very disappointing six-year old who wanted to explore and be king of the castle. There is the courtyard area where you can snap a couple of pictures and get a sense of the size and grandeur of Lancaster 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.
The lovely guide who was showing the children the muskets and old weapons was fantastic when he found out my son could not hear him as you can see in the picture he stood opposite him so he could lip-read easily and took extra time to explain everything clearly.
It was too early for us to get on the next tour inside the castle 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 macchiato 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 Lancaster castle while it was very informative it seemed only aimed at adults and dare I say academics as there 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 being with a child who has hearing problems meant I could not explain to him what was going on and keep up with what things were being pointed out by the guide about the castle.
The castle has a very rich history from the Romans to King Henry IV and it was also where the Pendle 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, it was not to be.
The tour ends with you being able to walk around one of the prison wings from when it closed in 2011 and each cell has 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 run expensive in my opinion for the time you spend looking around the castle although we did buy the family ticket for £20 which saved us a lot and everyone enjoyed the tour.
The weather was amazing blue sky and sunshine all day which actually lead us to explore and find the roman baths which are signposted and are really easy to find, just round the back of the castle just past the Lancaster Priory. Although the Roman baths are a little underwhelming and are overgrown by plants it was humbling to think a few centuries ago this pile of rocks was the height of sophistication. The baths are not something the kids will love, 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 few hours wandering 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.
I look forward to having another fun day out at Lancaster castle and exploring the town centre and exploring more of the museums maybe next time we will try out a couple of the restaurants as there were some really nice ones that I noticed while walking around.