Day out at Historic Berkeley Castle

Berkeley castle - from the lawn

The kids and I recently spent the day at Berkeley Castle. Berkeley is a small town located between Bristol and Gloucester, in the county of Gloucestershire, on the edge of the Cotswolds and situated on the Severn Estuary. The Castle is one of the March Castles, built to keep out the Welsh, and is defensive in design. Its location so close to the River Severn may well be the secret of its success, as rather than just relying on a moat like many of its contemporaries, Berkeley castle had a system of ditches across the estate which allowed for all the land surrounding the castle to be flooded as a defense.

Berkeley castle - Canon

Berkeley castle - photographed from canon

Berkeley castle - stunning

Berkeley Castle is the oldest continuously occupied castle in England after the Tower of London and Windsor Castle, and infact the oldest building to be continuously owned and occupied by the same family. It is truly unique in that for more than 860 years the town and Castle, its contents and records, and the family themselves have all remained intact, no small feat if you consider the politics and battles England has seen across those centuries. The first record of a Castle at Berkeley was a wooden fort on top of a mound in 1070 shortly after the Norman Conquest. Between then and 1340 stone towers and walls were added and the castle remodeled into what we can see now. You don't need to use your imagination to picture how life must have been at Berkeley Castle, the minute you enter you are surrounded by the most beautiful medieval interiors, and are transported straight back in time.

Berkeley castle - Entrance

Berkeley castle - carved door

Berkeley castle - courtyard

The castle, as you would expect, has an amazing history. It is best known as the scene of the brutal murder of Edward II in 1327 and for being besieged by Parliamentary troops in 1645. It is also where the Barons of the West gathered before setting out to the momentous meeting with King John at Runnymede at which the Magna Carta was signed. Numerous Kings and Queens have stayed at Berkeley during its long history, It is said on one occasion Queen Elizabeth left in such a huff after being criticised by the lord of the castle that she left her bedspread behind. Francis Drake, Queen Elizabeth's most famous sea captain, was also a regular visitor to Berkeley. The castle's treasures reflect its illustrious past. The tapestries and paintings are stunning, in fact it is all stunning; the first thing my son said when we entered was 'I know, we're not allowed to touch anything'.

Berkeley castle - bedroom

Berkeley castle - Dinning room

Berkeley castle - Minstral's gallery

When we visited, you could join an optional guided tour with a castle volunteer. We didn't, as the kids are better moving at their own pace. We picked up explorer sheets, which kept the children busy looking for facts in each of the rooms. During the holidays, activities are put on for children, and the day we visited there was a Jester (who was lovely) teaching circus skills which the kids loved! There was also a staffed arts and crafts area, and a dressing up area to visit which looked fun.

Berkeley castle - learning to spin plates

Berkeley castle - plate spinning

Berkeley castle - comes complete with Jester

Below is the room where Edward II was imprisoned before his alleged murder, now almost 700 years ago, and the covered walkway that leads to this room.  At the time it was reported to parliament that Edward had met with an unfortunate accident, but the general consensus is that he was killed.  Some historians put forward the theory that he escaped, with another man being murdered in his place.  Whichever story is true there is no doubt that these walls have seen a lot of intrigue throughout their long lives!

Berkeley castle - Edward II cell

Berkeley castle - ancient walkway

We all loved the spectacular kitchens, and associated rooms.  The kids looked at me as though I had two heads when I put forward the idea that a child would have sat turning the spit all day in front of the fire.  They were fascinated to see the lead lined sinks, as they know that lead is poisonous.

Berkeley castle - spit in kitchen

Berkeley castle - lead lined sinks

Berkeley castle - wine cellars

The Castle is surrounded by terraced gardens, some of which, including the stunning lily pond, date back to Elizabethan times.  The kids loved the fact that they might be walking in Queen Elizabeth's I steps.  I suspect that she may have walked rather more sedately than my two!

Berkeley castle - fish pond

Berkeley castle - one of the terraces

Berkeley castle - outside

We had a wonderful day out at Berkeley Castle, and would highly recommend it to everyone.  There are tea rooms in the grounds, where we had a yummy lunch, and a Butterfly house which is included in the entrance ticket.  There are also plenty of other places to visit in and around Berkeley; Edward Jenner's house (The man who developed the smallpox vaccine) is located next to the castle, Cattle Country Adventure Park and Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetland Trust are both just up the road, as is the River Severn and the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal.


Berkeley castle - one of the reception rooms

Berkeley castle - inside

Berkeley castle - beautiful tapestries

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  • Reply Cindy Magee

    WOWOWOW! That is amazing! I love seeing historical sites especially ones that are over a 1000 year old!!!

    March 30, 2016 at 1:09 am
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      It is beautiful isn’t it Cindy, imagine all the drama and intrigue those walls have seen. Must be an amazing place to live :)

      April 1, 2016 at 9:35 pm
  • Reply Mary-the boondocks blog

    What a beautiful castle and a great place to take the kids. My daughter is an English history buff by way of all the tv movies and series. And if I asked her who Eduward II was she would probably be able to share his whole lineage with me. I’m going to share this with her. Your photos are really beautiful!
    Mary-the boondocks blog recently posted…Flowers for Spring in Greece – Int’l Bloggers Club ChallengeMy Profile

    March 29, 2016 at 9:27 am
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Thanks Mary, my kids are mad on History too. Over here in the UK there’s a kids programme called horrible histories and it’s amazing – the kids cant get enough of it. If you and your daughter ever come to the UK, you’ll have to let me know and I’ll take you x

      April 1, 2016 at 9:49 pm
  • Reply Nikki Frank-Hamilton

    Sarah, You are right! I loved it. How exciting to walk and breath the air in the same building as all of these historical figures. And it’s in a castle, I real castle! Then throw in the Jester! I would have been in heaven. Thanks so much for letting me spend the day with you, vicariously! And I love the history that you provided. These walls have seen so much. Amazing!
    Nikki Frank-Hamilton recently posted…Be Different, Be Extraordinary-Week 42My Profile

    October 17, 2015 at 6:45 pm
    • Reply Sarah

      I knew you would – I know you love reading about different places and new ideas:) The Jester was fab! Ironically enough, in the hall that the Jester was teaching us circus skill in is the spot where the last court jester in England died when he tumbled from the minstrel’s gallery in 1728. He is buried in Berkeley as his tomb is inscribed…



      There is one rumour that he may have been pushed as he had apparently made fun of one of Lord Berkeley’s guests who had taken offence!

      October 18, 2015 at 7:57 am
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