Our day at Hampton Court Castle.
On our recent visit to Wales and my half of the family, we stopped first at my Dads. His place is the closest, at just 3 hours without stopping. Near his place is the beautiful Hampton Court Castle, Leominster. (In case you were wondering, this one came first! Hampton Court Palace in London came a hundred years later!)
So on Sunday we headed to the castle. Gray is obsessed with castles right now, his favorite toy is a cardboard castle I found on Amazon (actually for pets!) for all his toys to play in.
The price of entry is pretty standard for these kinds of places, at about £60 for a family of 4 adults and one child (Baby didn’t count) for entry and a guided tour (pre-booked). It isn’t National Trust, rather a private family owned place. We rolled up at opening time on a Sunday which is 10.30am, and fond the carpark blissfully empty. When we left at mid-late afternoon, it was quite full!
The gift shop was lovely, with loads of different types of trinkets for both young and old to take away. Through the gift shop you enter into the walled ‘informal’ gardens, where we found bed after bed of lush herbs, fully loaded apple and pear trees, pumpkin patches, courgettes, marrows and plenty of other fruit and veg ready to harvest!
Gray loved running around the beds, making his way to the formal gardens. Here there was a gorgeous gazebo in the middle of a little man-made pond, which seemed to be the center of about four or five different water features which all joined it!
Our next stop was the one we were most looking forward to with Gray.
This was a huge old-fashioned (And well grown!) hedge maze with a tall tower in the middle.
One thing I noticed as we walked around was the signs posted to lead us places. I don’t know why but I just loved the style they had chosen, to me they had this wonderful air of an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ sort of theme to them.
As predicted Gray loved leading us all through the maze and did impressively. He would loudly declare ‘oh no, dead end!’ now and then but always carried on with enthusiasm.
Grandad did a lovely job of making this part a magical adventure. You actually reach the tower three times before you can enter! You reach each side, only to find a large door that doesn’t actually open!
We then scaled the tower to the top where we could see over all of the maze! We could see the main castle in the distance, the gardens we had come through and the grounds, it was just lovely. We were so lucky with the weather.
On the way back down you might think ‘oh no, we have to find our way back out!’ but no! There is a second stair case, this one leads down! It takes you through a slightly creepy, dark tunnel to a waterfall! The waterfall can be passed behind (which I did not do, baby wearing made me too big for the very narrow space and also, the waterfall was a bit ‘splashy’) Gray loved going behind and getting a bit sprayed, though!
We then walked around a sunken hidden garden, it was just beautiful. To go back up into the main grounds there was a path but also some large flat rocks that step-stone over the stream running down to meet the pond, it was really something magical.
Gray just loved the stepping stones and Daddy was thrilled to find some wild mushrooms to photograph! We ended up using my phone to take pictures until the battery died, then using his phone to take a bunch more, as well as him using his big fancy camera to go nuts! We must have come away with over 200 at least!
We came up past a small playground to the main lawns, which were just stunning. Littered with giant trees and stretching around the south and east sides of the castle, we managed to get some of the most beautiful shots there.
The large conservatory area on the left is the old Orangery, now the Orangery café! The food was divine, I had the most gorgeous Ploughmans, topped with sprigs of parsley, chives and dill from their own garden!
Gray was ecstatic to find in his kids lunch box he got a pen, not just any pen! This was a pen that would also light up when touched to paper, that also had a stamp in the top, that also had a bubble wand in the middle! Holy cow!
After lunch, we went on a tour of the castle.
I must admit I wasn’t looking forward to this part. I managed to get Rhyd to sleep in the carrier now that he had a full tummy but my main concern was Gray. How was an almost four-year-old going to stay interested and quiet on a 45-minute tour of an old castle?
Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry at all. The tour guide, Ruth, asked his name and age before the tour started (he was the only child!). She then made sure to address him by name in every single room, asking his opinion, challenging him to count things and find hidden objects, she even let him cross a barrier to help her demonstrate a secret door!
I couldn’t believe it, after 45 minutes he was still engrossed and at the end asked us if we could do it again! Ruth was amazing, she really made what I dreaded being a grumpy-toddler event into a happy-excited-toddler event! He was so respectful and calm while the boring bits were being discussed because she was peaking his interest enough in just the right moments to keep him focused!
After the tour, despite the random showers we had (thankfully) managed to avoid until this point, we sat outside in the beautiful courtyard and had an ice-cream, because why not? After that, we gently meandered our way back through the gardens until we all agreed it was time to go home and have a lazy afternoon.
Hampton Court Castle is exceptionally beautiful and we had a wonderful day.
It was both exciting and relaxed, historically fascinating and all around lovely to experience.
I cannot wait to go there again next summer once Rhyd is walking and can run around the lawns; I know Gray will love it even more then too. I really can’t recommend this place enough to families, the kids are so well catered for and the gardens are just so beautiful, huge and exciting for them to run around!
I hope if you do try it out you have just as amazing a day out as we did!
(note: while this post does contain an affiliate link, I was not paid or requested to write this review in any way, this was written entirely due to wanting to share my positive experience with you all!)