With hundreds of historical sites and places to visit, it can be a little daunting planning a getaway in England sometimes, especially when you also need to keep the kids entertained. Luckily, most castles and stately homes now offer experiences and attractions to keep the whole family amused; take a look through some of the best historic places in the UK and start planning your next weekend away with the family.
With restrictions easing across England, please continue to follow government guidance and remember to plan ahead and check attraction websites before travelling. Take a look at our top tips on how to escape the everyday responsibly to see how you can make the most out of your day trips and breaks.
Hever Castle & Gardens
Hever Castle & Gardens
Famously known as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle is now one of the UK’s most popular heritage attractions. From its stunning ivy-covered exterior to its variety of mazes (including a challenging water maze), Hever Castle provides an enriching and action-packed day out for the whole family. Learn more about this historic ancestral seat and treat the kids to a play date at the adventure playground.
Developed and expanded from a wooden fort built by William the Conqueror in 1068, Warwick Castle is now arguably the UK’s most famous castle. Step inside the immense stone walls and explore the lavish interiors of Warwick’s Grand Hall, or venture into the Time Tower for an immersive look at the castle’s history. Meanwhile, youngsters will love the Horrible Histories Maze and the chance to get up close and personal with the biggest trebuchet in the world!
Hampton Court Palace may have undergone many changes and renovations since the Tudor period, but it’s still one of the best ways to get a glimpse into the dramatic life of King Henry VIII. Now featuring two contrasting architectural styles (Tudor and Baroque), Hampton Court Palace’s iconic pink brickwork and grandiose frontage leaves a big impression on visitors, while inside, history is brought to life for children through costumed speakers and interactive exhibits. Don’t forget to take on the palace’s legendarily difficult maze too!
Found in the heart of the sweeping Kent countryside, Leeds Castle has over 900 years of history behind it. With special events all year round, there’s never a bad time to visit the stately castle and its surrounding gardens, which feature a maze and a grand moat. With two playgrounds and a land train, it’s sure to be an exciting day out for your little ones too.
Sat high above the English Channel, England’s largest castle has been a key defensive stronghold for the country since the 11th century. Today, this extensive fortress offers spectacular views across the Channel (visit on a clear day and you might spot France in the distance) from a variety of vantage points, and is packed with secret bunkers and towers to explore. Pack a picnic or grab an ice cream from the onsite vendor and make a full day of it.
Sadly it’s impossible to visit the real Hogwarts, but Alnwick Castle offers the next best thing. Used as a filming location for many exterior shots of the wizard school in the Harry Potter series, Alnwick embraces its magical heritage with a series of special events, including broomstick lessons. If you prefer your history to be a bit more authentic, you can spend a whole day exploring the 13th century towers and Italian Renaissance styled State Rooms.
This mysterious monument has been perplexing and amazing historians for thousands of years, and remains an important cultural icon to this day. Walk around the towering stone circle and appreciate just how difficult a task it must have been to erect the structure in the first place. Then, head to the visitor centre to learn more about the excavation efforts at Stonehenge, and get a glimpse into how the circle looks during different times of the year.
Long associated with the legends of King Arthur and Merlin, the clifftop Tintagel Castle has a magical feel from the moment you step inside. And, for the first time in 500 years, the two parts of the Castle are connected via a new footbridge, making wandering the site far more accessible. Get wrapped up in the history of the area or venture below to discover Merlin’s Cave when the tide is out!
The Tower of London is nothing if not versatile. In its near thousand-year history, the Tower has served as a palace, a prison, a zoo and a fortress! Also home to the Crown Jewels, the Tower of London celebrates its history through a variety of exhibits and displays. Walk the historic stone walls, climb the famous White Tower and get up close and personal with the local ravens.
Despite dating back to the era of the Roman Empire, much of Hadrian’s Wall still runs through northern England, stretching for 73 miles from coast to coast. Different sections of the Wall provide different highlights, from the panoramic views at Birdoswald to the tranquillity of the Chesters trail near the North Tyne River, meaning you’re bound to enjoy a family adventure, whichever stretch of the Wall you explore.
Perched high above the Vale of Belvoir in Leicestershire, Belvoir Castle is one of England’s finest stately homes. Offering views for miles around and playing host to a series of annual events (including garden shows and firework displays), Belvoir Castle has plenty to see and do throughout the year. Explore this unique historical location and pop into the neighbouring Engine Yard for some rural retail therapy, including arts and crafts for kids.
Best known for being a key inspiration to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the ruins of Whitby Abbey have had a long association with British literature. Climb the famous 199 steps to reach the pinnacle on which the Abbey sits, and explore the Gothic ruins with sensational sea views in the background. Now featuring a revamped museum and a special interactive Ammonite Quest (which encourages children to learn more about the area), Whitby Abbey provides a perfect spot to build a family getaway around.
Overhanging timber-framed buildings and narrow shop-laden streets make York Shambles one of England’s quirkiest cultural icons. Formerly home to 25 butchers’ shops, the Shambles now hosts a greater variety of outlets, including several dedicated to witchcraft and wizardry (the street is thought to be a major influence on Diagon Alley in Harry Potter). Enjoy a family break in York and be sure to pay a visit to this interesting and unique slice of history.
Attached to Cornwall’s southern coast by a thin strip of land, St Michael’s Mount seems like a small island most of the time, due to tides. However, at low tide, you can stroll across the sand to explore this historic and scenic location for yourself. With medieval pathways and sub-tropical gardens to be found, St Michael’s Mount is packed with surprises.
The grandiose exterior of Castle Howard makes it a place like no other; this stately home took over 100 years to build and at one point in time had its own railway station! Nowadays, the house remains privately owned but is open to visitors and hosts a range of major events throughout the year. Plus, with two adventure playgrounds (including a brand new treetop adventure course), there’s plenty for the kids to get excited about too.