Just before the summer holidays I went a bit mad on Amazon Local and bought a few vouchers for family days out. The one I was most excited about was a family pass to the building and gardens of Bolton Castle near Leyburn, North Yorkshire.
I’m a bit of a history geek, having a degree in medieval history (not that I can remember much these days!) and am in the midst of Philippa Gregory’s fantastic historical novels.
We made an aborted trip at the end of July but gave up when the drizzle we’d left in turned to pelting rain by the time we were an hour from home.
As a country we are blessed with many intact historical buildings and Yorkshire as a county has more than its fair share. A few summers ago we decided we’d visit as many Yorkshire castles as we could and we are continuing this quest.
So, having visited Ludlow Castle a few weeks ago while on holiday in Herefordshire, we continued our visits to castles by seeing Pontefract yesterday and Bolton Castle today.And what a way to finish the summer holidays! Much of Castle Bolton is intact and we turned up on one of just four weekends a year when a merry band of historical re-enactors had taken up residence. They transformed what would have been a nice day out into an immersive experience which included candle-making, archery, holding actual medieval coins and an 850-year old artefact. Oh, and Husband drinking authentic medieval ale. Everyone’s a winner.
The group of people making the experience so accurate had turned up on Friday lunchtime and slept at the castle for two nights before packing up and going home today (Sunday). In an attempt to be as accurate as possible they eat and sleep just like people would have done centuries ago – with the addition of the odd sleeping bag – that’s a pretty cool kind of camping!
Their knowledge and enthusiasm stretched to a short lesson on how to light a fire, a romp through the words and phrases linked to archery which are still in common parlance today and even a home brewing lesson for Husband, who spent a good 20 minutes deep in conversation with the resident brewer.
We also got up close and personal with a black kite called Dawn and a buzzard called Woody at the bird of prey display. So up close that I had to haul Buddy out of the way three times to make room for them to land on the fence where we’re we’d just been standing. I reckon the birds thought they were the lords of the manor.
Climbing up the roof gave breath-taking views in all directions and I was in awe to stand in the room where Mary Queen of Scots spent many years under house arrest when her cousin Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne.
In the nursery, where children of the Scrope family played for more than 300 years until they moved out in the 1600s, The Tinies dressed up and fought each other with authentic wooden swords and shields, then tried their hand at writing with quills.
Lunch at the castle tea room was delicious, with Husband and I sharing a Yorkshire tapas platter of cheese, baked ham, wild boar sausages (from the castle’s own boar park I hope) and a savoury scone.
We finished the day with The Tinies having a romp around the miniature maze, eventually being directed to the middle by Husband and I from the conveniently-raised hill at the end.
There was just time for them to beg that we go again soon before the pair of them fell asleep in the back of the car. I reckon that’s the most peace we’ve had for the last six weeks, and well-worth the £15 I spent on the voucher.