Bodiam Castle in East Sussex with kids

Bodiam Castle East Sussex National Trust

Of all the castles I’ve visited in the UK, I’d say Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, set amid the idyllic countryside, is one of the most evocative. Encircled by a wide moat, Bodiam Castle has towers to climb, tunnels to explore and an imposing gatehouse. Everything my 6 year old son has learnt at school about knights and fortresses, can be brought to life at Bodiam Castle. Even the journey to the castle is thrilling: the Kent and East Sussex Railway operates steam trains from Tenterden to Bodiam; as approaches go, it takes some beating.

Kent and East Sussex Railway: Bodiam

Kent and East Sussex Railway: our transport to Bodiam Castle in East Sussex

Exploring the grounds of Bodiam Castle in East Sussex

Exploring the grounds of Bodiam Castle

Built in 1385 by wealthy mercenary Sir Edward Dallingridge, Bodiam Castle was part status symbol, part defensive fortress. There were peasant revolts and French invasions to contend with in south east England so any self-respecting knight had quite a responsibility to keep his family and guests safe.

Bodiam Castle in east sussex: a well fortified luxury home

Bodiam Castle: a well fortified luxury home

There are two towers to climb at Bodiam, each reached via a spiral staircase and each offering serene views over the surrounding High Weald landscape: gently rolling hills, rivers, farms and oasthouses.

Tower views from Bodiam Castle in east sussex

Tower views from Bodiam Castle in East Sussex

We noticed the beginnings of a new French invasion: crisscrossing a nearby hillside is a series of vines planted by the Moet and Chandon Champagne house. If you’ve ever fantasised about opening up a luxury hotel, now might be the time to work on your business plan. No doubt in ten years time when more land is filled with vines, there will be luxury wine retreats popping up all over the place catering to visiting oenophiles.

Vineyards crisscross the hills surrounding Bodiam Castle

Vineyards crisscross the hills surrounding Bodiam Castle

One of the highlights of Bodiam Castle is the original portcullis which guards the entrance, a rare and remarkably intact example from the medieval period. Combined with the “murder holes” (where something unpleasant like hot ash would be deposited on the enemy through the ceiling) it makes Bodiam’s gatehouse a thing of wonder to a small child.

Look out! The 600 year old portcullis at Bodiam Castle in east sussex

Look out! The 600 year old portcullis at Bodiam Castle

The gatehouse at Bodiam Castle

The gatehouse at Bodiam Castle

Although much of the interior of the castle is ruined, it’s easy to imagine life at medieval Bodiam. We wandered along the galleries where minstrels would once have entertained guests in the Great Hall below. In the kitchen we discovered huge fireplaces where bread would have been baked and feasts prepared. Storage rooms, now perfect hiding places for excited children, were once filled with wine and beer.

Exploring the Great Hall at Bodiam Castle

Exploring the Great Hall at Bodiam Castle

There was a trail of posters to discover in the castle and the grounds explaining which jobs children might have done during medieval times. My boys were suitably horrified to read about “gong scourers”, small children who were responsible for scrubbing blockages from the narrow chutes which carried waste from the toilets into the moat.  I might remind my children of this next time they complain about the “job” of tidying up their bedrooms.

The Gong Scourer, Bodiam Castle

My children are currently the perfect size for this job…

The Kent and East Sussex Railway near Bodiam

The Kent and East Sussex Railway near Bodiam

Visiting Bodiam Castle in East Sussex
If you’re not National Trust members, it’s £10.80 per adult and £5.40 per child to enter the castle or you could just wander around the grounds for the £3 car park charge. There is a small discount if you combine rail and castle.

From Bodiam train station, it’s a short walk up to the entrance of Bodiam Castle where the car park, shop and cafe are located. The toilets are also located there (none at the castle itself). From the entrance, it’s a further 10 minutes’ walk to the castle.

On my father’s recommendation, we stocked up on chocolate brownies at The Chocolate Shop in Tenterden before taking the train to Bodiam. The brownies are excellent.

Have you visited any castles in the UK with your children? Which are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.

Our other National Trust outings include Snowshill Manor in the Cotswolds and Wimpole Estate near Cambridge.

If you’re driving in the UK, make sure you take a look at my post about family-friendly places to stop just off the motorway. It covers everything from play areas to picnic spots, castles to nature reserves. 

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  1. 8th March 2018 / 5:36 pm

    I love that you can get there via a steam engine! Our boys love visiting Castles and they’d love this. I’d like them to read about the kids jobs, like you say one to mention when it comes to tidying their rooms! #Culturekids

    • 8th March 2018 / 5:54 pm

      Yes, it’s such an enjoyable day out: train and castle, perfect mix for my kids!

  2. pigeonpairandme
    9th March 2018 / 11:26 am

    I need to tell my two about the gong scourers! I visited Bodiam Castle as part of a hen do, and I didn’t know you could arrive by steam tain. That’s a great touch. For us, the hen’s sisters arranged a talk on all the bawdy aspects of life when the castle was inhabited. It was a real hoot! Thanks for linking up with #CulturedKids

  3. 16th March 2018 / 7:11 pm

    Bodiam Castle looks awesome! Sounds like there were a few nasty jobs! #CulturedKids

    • smudgedpostcard
      22nd March 2018 / 3:01 pm

      We were very lucky with the weather!

  4. 22nd March 2018 / 10:11 am

    I love visiting old castles with the kids. I actually have alist of castles and old monasteries I want to visit with the kids here in Spain but now I think it would be a good idea to start a list for the UK too 😉 Gorgeous photos!

    • smudgedpostcard
      23rd March 2018 / 7:13 am

      I’ve got a list of places in Spain I want to take my kids. The viaduct in Segovia is at the top, thanks to the Go Jetters cartoon!

  5. Beth
    22nd March 2018 / 1:52 pm

    Oh I need to find a day to check this one out! I have heard of it but not read much about it. Loved your photo of the portcullis – yikes is right! I am local to Hampton Court Palace so I am partial to it, but I have really enjoyed Dover Castle in Kent, and Corfe Castle in Dorset was really interesting – we had beautiful May weather when we were there so it probably enhanced the experience (and photos). Thanks for the tips, my 9 year old could use a reality check on child labor practices. haha!

    • smudgedpostcard
      23rd March 2018 / 7:12 am

      Corfe Castle is very high up my list of castles to visit!

  6. Clare Thomson
    22nd March 2018 / 5:53 pm

    I can’t believe we still haven’t been to Bodiam – it’s not too far from where we live. I thought it was more ruined than this. Your photos make it look enchanting. Our two would love all the gruesome stories here too. Fantastic tip about the steam train. Thanks so much for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • smudgedpostcard
      23rd March 2018 / 7:12 am

      We’re so spoilt for wonderful days out in the UK aren’t we?

  7. 22nd March 2018 / 8:39 pm

    I love that you can get there by steam engine and so would my boys. We love visiting castles and this looks like a great one. Castles are such fun places for kids, where they can explore and pretend as much as they like #FarawayFiles

    • smudgedpostcard
      23rd March 2018 / 7:04 am

      Yes, it’s definitely one of the best for kids, and so scenic. The whole region is amazing.

  8. 22nd March 2018 / 10:11 pm

    We visited here a couple of years ago, and it exceeded my expectations – the care and love into the restoration of the castle is just incredible, A very special part of UK history #farawayfiles

    • smudgedpostcard
      23rd March 2018 / 7:10 am

      I agree, it’s a fantastic place

  9. Ruth
    23rd March 2018 / 4:31 am

    Oh, I am in love with castles and really like the ones where you can wonder around an learn about Medieval times (if they belonged to that period). I do not think I have ever visited a castle with a moat. That would be a nice experience. You joke about the gong scourer but learning about something like that is a good way to teach kids to be grateful for the comforts we are able to enjoy nowadays. #FarawayFiles

    • smudgedpostcard
      23rd March 2018 / 7:14 am

      Yes, any way to combine fun and education is very handy!

  10. 23rd March 2018 / 12:48 pm

    I’m loving your business idea! You need to put it into action! This looks the perfect castle to let the imagination go and get an understanding of life hundreds of years ago. Wonderful setting (especially with those vines nearby). #farawayfiles

    • smudgedpostcard
      23rd March 2018 / 6:42 pm

      Right, I’ll set to work on it this weekend!

  11. 23rd March 2018 / 6:30 pm

    Yes, I’d love to explore this castle! And that steam train — wow! Your photo with all the steam coming off against the scenery is fantastic.

    • smudgedpostcard
      23rd March 2018 / 6:41 pm

      It really is great fun, with or without kids!

  12. Wherejogoes
    24th March 2018 / 11:03 am

    There’s a gap in my education – I’ve never heard of Bodiam Castle and it looks fantastic! To arrive by steam train is surely travelling in style. The gong scourer is hilarious – my kids would remember that. A great day out -castle, steam train and lots to explore. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • smudgedpostcard
      24th March 2018 / 2:38 pm

      I wasn’t familiar with it either, the UK has so many great castles!

  13. 24th March 2018 / 8:33 pm

    Ooh just added another UK castle to my bucket list! Love the moat around it! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

    • smudgedpostcard
      24th March 2018 / 11:21 pm

      Your blog has given me a very long list of places I want to visit 😀

  14. Anisa
    25th March 2018 / 4:39 pm

    I had not heard of Bodiam castle but I am definitely going to have to add it to my list. I love how picturesque it is with the moat around it. And the history is also impressive. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • smudgedpostcard
      25th March 2018 / 7:58 pm

      It’s a fantastic place, I highly recommend a visit!

  15. 26th March 2018 / 4:08 am

    I do love a good castle, and this looks like a good one! Great in fact! Learning a good work ethic is important, but I’m not sure about the toilet job, I don’t think I’ll be applying for that one! #farawayfiles

    • smudgedpostcard
      26th March 2018 / 5:48 am

      It’s grim isn’t it?!

    • smudgedpostcard
      29th March 2018 / 6:30 am

      It’s definitely my new favourite!

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