Regular readers of this blog will know we’re big history fans. So, when we were invited to stay in a fisherman’s cottage in Deal, Kent for the weekend, there was no way we could leave the town without paying a visit to Deal Castle.
Deal Castle was built by Henry VIII in the late 1530s and is in the care of English Heritage. Along with Walmer and Sandown Castles, it’s part of a trio of defensive castles along this shoreline that are so close you could easily visit them all in one day. There’s a cycle path linking the three, and on a fine day I imagine it would make a pleasant trip along the coast.
It was a fresh, sunny day when we visited, and the children spent a long time running around the outer bastions, which are only a little more than a stone’s throw away from the sea. There are several cannons and stacks of cannonballs, which give a sense of how the Tudors might have defended the shoreline against the Catholic powers of Europe.
The fortress ramparts were open, with a spectacular view of the sea. Even so their walls were high enough that it felt safe for little visitors to race around on top of the castle, playing soldiers.
After a good runaround in the fresh salty air, we headed down into the Keep.
As with most historic buildings, at Deal Castle you had to be careful on the stone staircases.
Inside the basement of the Keep, there was a small interactive display, where the children could read more about the castle, and answer history questions.
But my two (aged 6 and almost 4), were more taken with ‘the Rounds’, the narrow passageway running around the entire basement, with gunports overlooking the outside. These were dimly lit, a bit spooky, and liaible to occasional flooding.
Perfect for mini explorers, then. There were only a few exits and hardly any other visitors (it was February, off-season); although we lost sight of the children a few times, it felt very safe inside the castle. It was a great place for allowing kids to roam uninterrupted.
The basement was full of nooks and crannies, like the cavernous oven above (and yes, the children did try and climb inside it….)
The upstairs of the Keep had been modenised and was, to my mind, less exciting. It did give more information about what life might have been like for soldiers in the garrison though, and we came across an interesting Burma Star memorial (in the picture above).
Deal isn’t a large castle; it was only ever used as a garrison, rather than a permanent residence and so it’s possible to whizz round the place in an hour or two. It’s cheaper to enter than many English Heritage places (£6 per adult; £3.60 per child over 5; free with English Heritage membership), and with all its cannons and gunports it was a good place to start a discussion with the kids about Kentish history, and war with other countries.
Deal Castle is situated in the town of Deal, Kent, 9 miles from Dover. In winter it’s open every weekend apart from Christmas and New Year bank holidays, from 10am until 4pm.
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We were given entry to Deal Castle for the purpose of this post. All views are my own.