Bodiam Castle, near Robertsbridge, is one of the most beautiful castles in Sussex and the stuff of fairytales. The magnificent medieval castle sits within a mirror-like moat protected by a drawbridge and four castellated towers riddled with arrow slits. Set in rural countryside near the River Rother Bodiam is one of the most photographed castles in England. Here’s how to enjoy a day out at beautiful Bodiam Castle.
Bodiam Castle Today
Although the castle’s interior is mainly in ruin there’s still a lot to see and do at the site.
On arrival a short film introduces the castle conveying its history, how it was built, and how the castle was used from the Saxon era to the present day. It sets the scene nicely.
Although there’s not much left inside the walls you can climb the stone winding staircases which lead up to the battlements. Here you’ll find gorgeous views out over the Sussex countryside and down to the castle courtyard below. Regimented vines stretch out in the distance and in the other direction you’ll see the Kent and Sussex Railway. If you’re lucky one of the Kent and East Sussex steam trains will come chugging along to the station near to the castle’s entrance.
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Kid’s Activities at Bodiam Castle
Although there’s not much structurally left inside the castle the National Trust put on many activities for children in the grounds. There are special events during school holidays with archery lessons and falconry walks (additional charges apply for both) as well as the chance to find out about medieval warfare. Perfect for your little knights and knightesses. This summer kids can join Sir Edward’s army at one of the castle’s boot camp training sessions. There are also free guided walks. More information on Bodiam Castle’s summer activities here.
During my visit people in medieval costume were busying themselves with their crafts. Candle-makers were making honeycomb candles, wood carvers whittled away and a very entertaining potter gave us the low-down on a potter’s life in a medieval village.
The History of Bodiam Castle
Bodiam castle was built between 1385 and 1388 by Sir Edward Dallingridge who came from a family of local land owners. This Englishman’s castle was also his home and as well as affording protection for his family it was also built for comfort. There were kitchens, a chapel, cloisters, a well, gun room, lady’s cloister and servants quarters.
Dallingridge must have been a canny type, or maybe he’d made enemies, because he built the castle to be defended from both inside and out. Within the walls he built a self-contained retainer’s hall with both entrances and three of the four towers in direct control from his ‘safe’ area. From the outside a series of defences had to be overcome before gaining access to the castle. You’d need to dodge the arrows firing out of the arrow slits, cross the moat, negotiate a drawbridge and when you finally got to the portcullis you’d be ambushed by boiling oil and water poured from ‘murder holes’ in the gatehouse.
The defences held up for around 100 years until Bodiam was besieged by Richard III in 1484. Then in 1643 the Parliamentarians laid siege and Cromwell commanded that Bodiam be dismantled. The castle crumbled until the Marquis of Curzon acquired it in 1917 and began restorations. On his death in 1925 the castle was bought by the National Trust who still own it today.
Parish Church of St Giles
Just up the hill from the castle is St Giles church where there is a series of medieval brasses on display including a knight in armour who could possibly be Sir Edward.
Visiting Bodiam Castle
Entry costs from £9.90 for adults, £4.95 for children. There are discounts for group bookings and family tickets are from £24.75. Under-fives go free as do National Trust members. Car parking is £3 or free for members.
The castle is open from 10.30am to 5pm throughout the year – check the castle website for precise details. The car park opens at 9.45am.
There is a tea room by the toilets (with baby changing), just before the car park. There are no other toilet facilities inside the castle so you’ll have to go back out to use the facilities (about a five-minute walk).
Castle View Coffee Shop is open during the main school holidays for hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, snacks and ice creams. These can be a little pricey so I’d recommend bringing your own picnic. There is a National Trust shop on-site.
Getting to Bodiam
From Newenden, near Rye, in East Sussex you can arrive by boat. Take the Dannie Lee, a 24-seat ferry, through the peaceful High Weald down the Rother River to the castle. For costs and timings check the Bodiam Boating Station website. (April to September) from Newenden Bridge, Newenden village on A28. Booking advisable.
Nearby mainline railway stations are at Robertsbridge (5 miles) and Battle (10 miles, London Charing Cross to Hastings route). There are no public transport links from mainline railway stations, only private taxis. There’s no taxi rank at Robertsbridge so you’ll need to pre-book a cab. There is a taxi rank at Battle.
By Steam Train
A steam train ride is magical way to arrive at Bodiam. Seasonal steam train journeys go from Tenterden town to Bodiam station: Operated by Kent & East Sussex Railway. Or park up at Northiam and travel by steam to Bodiam. Booking advisable. Downloadable PDF of times and fares here.
1.5 miles (2.2km) east, off B2244, 3 miles (5.6km) south of Hawkhurst. Look out for The Curlew restaurant on crossroads opposite turning to Bodiam. 3 miles (5.6km) east of A21 at southern end of Hurst Green village, midway between Tunbridge Wells and Hastings.
Have you visited any castles in East or West Sussex? Which is your favourite?
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