As a child and still as an adult I love a trip to a castle. One castle that I’ve not been to before is Oxford Castle and when we were invited along to see it, I wondered how I hadn’t been before as Oxford isn’t too far for us.
I did wonder if the girls would be too young for it, as before you can explore on your own you have a guided tour. There is no denying that Holly probably is a bit young at age two, but Alice isn’t and I think it’s good for them to see our history. My parents and niece who is 6 years old came with us, as they hadn’t been before either.
The best bit about visiting Oxford is the adventure starts as soon as you get to the car park, as in Oxford there are no car parks and you have to do the park and the ride. This includes no parking at Oxford Castle either, as it is right in the middle of the city centre.
I mean who doesn’t love a ride on a double decker bus? We got to sit upstairs at the front and the girls all loved it. It is only a ten minute ride into the city centre and from the bus stop, it’s about a seven minute walk to Oxford Castle.
It’s quite strange to one minute be walking past all the shops and restaurants and then suddenly there is the beautiful castle. Alice and Ruby spotted the Pillary’s straight away and that got them excited from the start. The holes were a bit small, as they could easily get out!!!
We headed inside and once we had checked in, it wasn’t long before our tour guide arrived to take us around. The guided tour takes about an hour and then you are free to look around yourself. You can only visit the castle with a guided tour.
The tour starts with a walk up George’s Tower, which under 5’s are not able to climb. My mum waited downstairs with Holly and she was entertained with the toys and colouring that they provided, which was brilliant. This part of the tour is about 20 minutes.
We climbed half way up and the girls managed the steps easily, with me telling them to keep looking at their feet to make sure they didn’t loose their footing. We went into a dark room and the guide gave us a talk about the prisoners who were kept in their. Alice was fascinated that they didn’t have any beds or toilets.
Oxford Castle was used as a prison until 1996, which is actually really recent and surprised me.
We then climbed the rest of the tower, which in total is 113 steps to come out at the top. We were now at the highest point in Oxford and the views were spectacular. They had a platform that we climbed up to be able to get the best views.
I think this was the highlight for Alice and Ruby. Alice was really proud of herself for making it to the top and not being scared.
Once we had climbed back down and collected my mum and Holly we carried on around the rest of the castle.
We headed downstairs into the dark atmosphere of the 900 year old Crypt, the only surviving remains of the St George’s Chapel.
There was a haunted corner, that people have been known to get home and seen a face within their photos that they took….there is no face in mine!
We then headed to a room with a Pillary in it, often mistaken for stocks, but stocks are the ones that are only for the feet. Prisoners were put out in the streets and people would come up and throw anything they wanted at them. The favourite being rats!
As it was prison, jailers could be found walking round!
It was then time to head into the jail!
Before cameras were invented they would have people who had a photographic memory to remember all the prisoners faces. That way if they escaped they recognised them and put them back in jail.
Once the camera was invented prisoners had their mug shots taken, one facing the camera and not smiling and one to the side.
As part of the guided tour, the tour guide takes photos of you just like this and you have an option to buy them at the end. Priced at £7.95 for one photo. BUT, because at the end you can walk around the castle on your own. We went back and took our own for free!
There was a chance for the girls to dress up as convicts too which they loved! My niece is a bit better at being a miserable prisoner than Alice, who is just too smiley.
Once the guided tour finished, after about 50 minutes we were then able to explore the castle on our own. With the exception of the George’s Tower which you can only do as part of the guided tour.
Included in your ticket price you can head over to walk up the mound by the side of the castle. This is quite steep and there are no safety railing for you to hold on to or stop you falling down the mound. It was quite windy when we got to the top, but the views were lovely to see.
We all really enjoyed our trip to Oxford Castle and it was particularly lovely to hear Alice and Ruby talk enthusiastically about it once we got home.
During the summer holidays and at the weekend’s only Oxford Castle is running a King Of The Castle event, when the King Arthur legends will be brought to life with a series of activities for all the family.
Throughout the school holidays, families will be challenged to a quest around the castle as they complete their guided tour, seeking clues to help them solve a ‘King of the Castle’ themed trail.
It is running on weekends from July 22nd to Monday 29th August 2017, with two sessions running each day. Pre-booking is recommended. You can find out more about it here.
Disclosure: We were kindly invited to visit Oxford Castle to enable me to write this post. All views and opinions are my own.