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Unmissable castles to visit this summer

If you’re in search of family days out this summer, nothing beats an epic castle. Whether your kids love playing King Arthur and Knights of the Round Table, or just want to run around sprawling grounds and sample some decidedly modern activities (anybody for crazy golf?), a castle is an amazing summer attraction.

The best castles for families combine kid-friendly facilities, fascinating exhibitions that aren’t wearisome for smaller visitors, and plenty of on-site fun to keep everybody in the family busy. Looking for castles to visit this summer? These five should be at the top of your hit list.

Leeds Castle, Kent

Leeds Castle, Kent

Summer 2019 is an excellent time to drop in on Leeds Castle, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time fan. It’s the 900th year anniversary of the castle’s construction, and this summer, from 27 to 28 July, it’s holding a Carnival of History to delight kids of all ages. Witness jousting, huge processions of carnival performers, and live cannon fire — it’s a two-day romp through the castle’s long history that will captivate onlookers.

Beyond that extravaganza, Leeds Castle offers a host of activities summer-round. The castle itself is a beautiful medieval slice of history with sprawling gardens, and kids will be kept busy on one of the castle-themed playgrounds, in the maze, or playing adventure golf in the grounds. They can also take in falconry demonstrations as on-site birds of prey take flight daily, or get active with punting or a Segway tour. There’s even a Go Ape trail in the castle’s woodland for thoroughly exhausting tree-top fun.

Where to stay: Daleacres glamping and camping site

 

Stunning views of Leeds Castle in Kent

Stunning views of Leeds Castle in Kent

Kelburn Castle, Ayrshire

The medieval Kelburn Castle is appealing year-round, but it really shines in summer. In 2019 the castle itself features a graffiti project that will reward close attention; visitors can while away hours spotting hidden animals and objects in the vast graffiti piece that covers the walls and south turrets. For energetic kids, there’s a host of different options, from the trails in the Secret Forest to an indoor play barn, a Wild West Saloon and, for older children, the Adventure Park, with suspended walkways and stepping stones. Adults will also love the vast grounds, complete with their own waterfall, walled garden and yews that have lived in the grounds for over a thousand years.

Between 8 and 19 August fans of the Gruffalo can experience a special event at Kelburn: interactive Gruffalo trails through its Secret Forest, including pony rides and ranger-led lessons in the art of making Gruffalo Crumble.

Where to stay: Strathclyde campsite

 

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

This summer, visitors to the stunning historic attractions of Alnwick Castle get a special treat: a real joust. Well, perhaps not as real and bone-breaking as the originals, but the Joust of the North takes place at Alnwick on 3-7 August 2019, complete with jesters, falconry and the spectacle of thundering horses and armoured knights.

Alnwick will also delight Harry Potter fans, as it was a setting for the first two films in the series and offers a range of magical activities targeted at children, including broomstick training and a dragon’s lair. From gilded state rooms to the Capability Brown-designed rolling grounds, Alnwick has something for everybody in the hottest months of the year.

Where to stay: River Breamish campsite

 

Enjoy the view of Alnwick Castle

Enjoy the view of Alnwick Castle

Pembroke Castle, Pembrokeshire

Pembroke Castle’s list of activities for summer ticks off all boxes, from the interactive and informative to the animal-loving and the spooky. Kids who want to defend the 11th-century castle from marauders can join in the Keepers Of The Castle show and Tournamental, which sees them join forces with live actors in fearsome battle. They can also learn some medieval moves at Knight School, observe a dragon parade with miniature dragon puppets, and see flight displays involving falcons, owls and other birds of prey.

Older children and scare-proof adults can dive into haunted history with the nightly Ghost Tour, which starts at 6pm and takes guests into the depths of the castle’s ghostly past.

Where to stay: Freshwater East campsite

 

Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

One of the best castles for families in the UK, Warwick Castle comes to life in summer. There’s almost too much to do in a day: during the summer months, jousting appears on the schedule, as does a Knight’s School to teach children the art of self-defence with swords and armour. There’s a full-size trebuchet on the grounds (which actually fires), and the UK’s biggest bird of prey show, involving up to 70 birds daily.

If that’s not enough to captivate you, the castle’s dungeon tours, Time Tower and Horrible Histories Maze take guests of all ages back through the place’s often-grisly past. Miniature princesses can break the riddles of the Princess Tower, while nature-lovers will love the sight of the Castle’s 20 peacocks roaming free across its rolling grounds.

Where to stay: Moreton-in-Marsh glamping and camping site

 

Stunning Warwick Castle peeks out from behind the trees

Visit Warwick Castle with the kids

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