Over the August bank holiday weekend we visited the annual England’s Medieval Festival at Herstmonceux Castle near Battle in Sussex. We had heard positive things about the event but this was to be the first time we actually got to take part. The festival is on from Friday right through until Monday evening with both day and weekend tickets available. We were lucky enough to camp for the night on the Saturday which meant we caught two full days and and evening of Medieval themed performances, adventures and experiences. We were really impressed by the huge variety of activities going on non-stop during our stay, each time we thought the day was winding down there would be a torch lit procession or battle reenactment or firework display! This was our first time camping at a large event like this as a family and it really was the ideal introduction to festival life appealing to all ages from tot to teen and even us parents! Here’s just a few reasons why I think England’s Medieval Festival is perfect for families…
Bringing History to Life
The Medieval Festival is a great way for the whole family to learn about history by experiencing it first hand. Over a thousand actors from all over the world help create a thoroughly convincing historical experience through numerous displays during the weekend. From jousting to castles sieges; grand parades to falconry, even a breath taking evening horse and fire show in front of the castle the Medieval Festival allows you to become immersed in history so much so that there are moments you can really believe you’re either on a film set or have actually time travelled! Indeed it’s equally the small things like the acoustic music, drinking mead in the Buxom Wench, the street filled with traditional market vendors and the smells of fresh manure and fire cooked foods that add to the incredible atmosphere here. Dressing up also plays a huge part in the Festival, which our younger children particularly enjoyed. The castle grounds are filled with young knights and princesses as well as noble men, soldiers and peasantry folk.
The Festival is set in the idyllic grounds of Herstmonceux Castle. Even without all the trimmings Herstmonceaux is an incredible place to walk around and absorb. The castle is set in a 300 acre estate including woodland, formal themed gardens and of course a 15th century moated castle all providing the perfect back drop to this Medieval fiesta. Highlights for us also include the Magic Garden, the Enchanted Woods, the pretty castle courtyards and the grand castle entrance.
There are numerous opportunities to get involved with hands on experiences for all ages. Popular attractions included a Princess School, Robin Hood Adventure Woods and a Witches Circle. Older guests could try ‘A Knight’s Life’ experience or floating around in the castle moat in one of the fabulous boats made on site by The Coracle Society. 2017 also welcomed the first ever Medieval Spa beside the castle walls offering a chance to relax in a luxurious wood-fired spa and sauna. We loved exploring the activities in the woods where the children could have a go at bushcraft and survival skills.
Food and Drink / Shopping
If your children are like ours then they’ll love a good browsing session around the colourful markets and stalls. Our kids loved all the costumes and jewellery but there were also some beautiful hand made crafts on offer as well. Be prepared to take some extra cash as there are no ATM’s on site and plenty to tempt you! The main area with all the food stands is like a Medieval High Street! It’s great! There’s a busy vibrancy bombarding the senses with tastes, smells and sounds. We tried a whole variety of foods from cheeses, to curly spuds on a stick; delicious home bakes and succulent meats. Then there’s the drinking houses…of course! The Buxon Wench is the largest pub opposite the main castle entrance. This place comes to life in the evening with live acoustic sets, dancing crowds and an incredible party atmosphere.
If you’re lucky enough to camp during the festival you’ll be treated to a number of experiences that are exclusive to those staying over night. Once the gates are closed and day visitors have left campers are invited to join torch-lit processions from the camp marching alongside with the drummers and fire twirlers. On Saturday night we were treated a spectacular torch lit display with fire breathing and incredible stunts…then on Sunday night the celebrations exploded with a dramatic fireworks display over the castle and late night dancing in the Buxom Wench Tavern. Finally, every evening there are two showings at the open air cinema all with a Medieval theme (Tangled and a Knights Tale were on during our stay) offering the perfect way to relax as a family after a hectically fun filled day.
So if you’re looking for a thoroughly family friendly festival experience which offers a 4 days of non stop entertainment In an absolutely stunning location I can wholeheartedly recommend England’s Medieval Festival! We were already planning next year’s visit before we had left the car park….always a sign that a good time was had by all!