We are big ones in our family for making the most of the holidays and, with half-term coming up next week, the discussions have already started about what we are going to do and where we are going to go (with my daughter pushing for the seaside, because who doesn’t want to paddle and eat ice-cream in the freezing cold?). It got me thinking about what we’d done last year, and how a lot of them are wonderful places that aren’t always first on a tourist to do list but are really worth a visit. So, starting today and periodically as I find the photos, I thought I would share them – starting with Middleham Castle in North Yorkshire, which we visited last summer.
Despite living not that far away (about an hour), we actually rented a cottage in Middleham for one of the half-terms, giving us the opportunity to head out each day and see places it might have been just a bit too far to drive to otherwise with a six-year old in the car. Right in the middle of Middleham is the castle, so it was our first stop of the week and – because of how close it was – the last, where we had a lovely picnic in the castle grounds.
It was great walking through the village and seeing the castle rise up from behind the houses (quite a few of which were apparently built with castle stone). Built in the 12th Century, the castle was added to over the years to become a luxurious fortress before being allowed to become a ruin during the reign of the Tudors.
It was the childhood home of Richard III and one of his favourite places to stay throughout his life, becoming part of his Northern power base. The castle belonged to the Neville family, the Earls of Westmoreland and of Warwick, who were Richards’s wards, and it was here Richard met his wife, Anne Neville, and where his son died aged 10 or 11.
During The War of the Roses, both Edward IV and Henry VI were prisoners here at different times. Because I was reading about the War of the Roses at the time, this was the most interesting part of the castle’s history for me but there is so much more to it than that and we spent a good hour or so walking around the grounds and learning more about it’s past, plus that of Middleham (if I remember correctly, for example, the town still say a mass on Richard’s birthday).
To help you get your historical bearings, there is information in all of the key people connected to the castle in a small exhibition space and children get an activity sheet for going around the castle, encouraging them to look for features etc. There is also plenty of space for them to run around and explore. My daughter loves these type of historical sites where there is freedom for her to be a kid, whilst we learn lots of boring old facts!
And, once you’re done with the castle, because you are slap bang in the middle of the village, you can spend time wandering the streets and popping into shops and pubs (both of which we did a fair bit). There are some lovely independent shops, three pubs and a couple of tea rooms, all of which we ate in and none of which I wouldn’t say give a go to. It all makes for a lovely day out or longer visit and I know, for one, we’ll definitely be back.
What about you – what are your half-term plans (if you have half-term next week) – is this type of day out your idea of fun?