Berkeley Castle has been on my wish list of places to visit with my sons for a while, I was therefore delighted to be invited to the popular family attraction to review and host a family pass giveaway. If you have clicked through to enter our family pass giveaway scroll to the bottom of this page, if you are interested in reading our review and top tips for a memorable visit you are in the right place!
The castle was completed in the late 12th century and has been the home to the Berkeley family ever since. It is the oldest inhabited castle in England, set in a staggering 6,000 acres of rural estate.
When pulling into the car park I wondered if I had made a mistake, everyone entering through the gates were middle-aged couples with no children in sight however I stopped worrying as soon as I spotted the free dragon hunt guide tailored towards the castles young visitors. Later we bumped into several families making the most of the sunshine by exploring the castle grounds.
Whilst watching a short introductory video featuring the history of the castle (whilst being pestered by Charlie who had spotted a swing which he just had to go on!) I was surprised to learn that Midsummer Night’s Dream was written for a Berkeley family wedding and Edward Jenner, the son of the vicar of the town of Berkeley, developed the worlds first vaccine – the smallpox vaccination saving more lives than the work of any other human.
After picking up our dragon hunt booklet from the guides hut we walked down an embankment to a woodland play area. Both boys enjoyed playing on a rope swing and exploring a teepee whilst I prepared our picnic. After lunch we walked along the castle walls searching for dragons which Charlie (aged 5) particularly enjoyed.
After a short game of Connect 4 we continued walking along the impressive lawns taking in the views of the castle. It was exciting to first experience the castle from afar before getting up close and personal and taking a peek inside the castle rooms.
With two boys to look after on my own and no push chairs permitted inside the castle I decided against a guided tour inside the castle and instead we simply walked through at our own pace (well at Harry’s pace to be fair!) It was difficult to take any decent photos of the rooms whilst also trying to prevent Harry from hurtling off under the ropes which are in place to protect the furniture however I did manage to take a few.
Charlie was particularly interested in the kitchen and we had an interesting chat about how staff at the castle would have cooked and prepared food without the use of the modern gadgets and gizmos we have available today.
I intend to return to the castle over the summer to experience the guided tour and learn more about the castles fascinating but rather gruesome history including the murder of King Edward II which notoriously took place at Berkeley in 1327.
After exploring the castle rooms the boys were keen to hunt down the dressing up area and had fun running around the grounds as fierce dragons! It took a while to convince my boys to let other children have a turn at being dragons but a bribe of an ice cream from the Yurt Restaurant we had spotted when we arrived at the castle worked a treat! The prices were fairly reasonable with an ice cream and two ice lollies £5. Kids lunch boxes were also available.
Before heading home we snuck inside the butterfly house located inside the gift shop/entrance. 42 varieties of butterfly from as far afield as Japan and Indonesia live in the purposely built house. Charlie and Harry were captivated by the fluttery creatures and we spent 20 minutes looking for all the different species (we left when Harry decided that he wanted to ‘feed’ the fish with stones and I thought we better head home before we got kicked out!)
Top tips for a family day out at Berkeley Castle
Number one tip – Wear sensible footwear. I am not sure what possessed me to opt for a pair of four-inch wedges for a visit to Berkeley Castle but I did and I regretted immediately! To fully explore the castle grounds and easily manage the steep steps inside the castle you need to wear flat sensible footwear.
Be sure to check the opening times before visiting. The Castle is closed on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for private events.
There is plenty of space to enjoy a picnic. The designated area with picnic tables is by the entrance however we enjoyed our lunch by the teepee and rope swing. There is plenty of grass to spread out and enjoy a picnic in the castle grounds if the weather is cooperative!
Best enjoyed with young children on a dry day. The highlights of Charlie and Harry’s day were definitely taking part in the outdoor dragon hunt and exploring the castle grounds. Apart from the castle itself, the arts/crafts room and the butterfly house most of your time will be spent outside. On a wet day with young children I would opt for other nearby attractions such as Cattle Country Adventure Park which has several indoor play areas including a beach barn. You can read our review for Cattle Country here
Refreshments available on site – The Yurt Restaurant serves full meals, kids picnic boxes and also scrumptious looking cakes. We enjoyed ice creams as it was such a hot day however it was a tough decision as the cakes looked lovely!
Trail route – From the guides hut we took a left down the hill and into the teepee play area for a picnic. If you are taking part in the kids dragon hunt this is best way to start exploring the castle grounds as it takes you down to the moat where you walk around to the lawns and follow the trail clues from 1 to 8 with the last one bringing you out by the cannons in front of the castle. Make sure you pick up the dragon hunt trail sheets and pencil from inside the guides hut.
Be prepared to ditch the push chair – The castle grounds are on a whole fairly push chair/ wheelchair friendly however I did struggle in a couple of places on the dragon hunt and push chairs are not permitted inside the castle or butterfly house. Bear this in mind if travelling with babies or toddlers, as you may wish to pack a baby sling/carrier/harness.
Butterfly house – We left the butterfly house until last which made the compulsory walk through the gift shop with two kids fairly easy as I diverted their attention away from the souvenirs and onto butterflies!
Pack your camera – Do not miss the kids (and adults!) fancy dress area and take your camera to capture some cute shots. My boys absolutely loved running around pretending they were dragons!
Lastly, check out the whats on guide. There were no special events on during our visit which was lovely as it meant we had the place almost to ourselves however often for the same admission price you can visit when a special event is taking place. For example this weekend for the late May bank holiday weekend they are hosting a Tudor Festival with a falconry display, fancy dress competition, opportunity to meet and greet actors dressed up as King Henry etc which sounds like a fabulous family friendly event. Check out the whats on guide for Berkeley Castle for more information.
Need to know
Berkeley Castle website – www.berkeley-castle.com
Admission prices – Adult £11, child £6 (3-12), under 3’s free
Location – Berkeley Castle, Berkeley, Gloucestershire. GL13 9BQ
Disclosure – Our visit was courtesy of Berkeley Castle. All opinions are as always our own.
Copyright – All images copyright Travel Loving Family
Family Pass Giveaway – Berkeley Castle
This family pass giveaway ended on Sunday 5th June at 11.30pm. Thanks to everyone who entered.