White Hill, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP4 1LJ
Did you know there is a castle just 20 minutes from Aylesbury? Or that is was one of the most important early Normal castles?
Berkhamsted castle is right next to the train station and is now largely a ruin but enough of the site remains that you can imagine what it would be like. There is a wide open space in the middle of the bailey which is perfect for picnics and letting the kids run around re-enacting the Norman conquest in relative safety. There are a couple of gaps in the walls which mean you can explore just outside of the castle walls but these gaps lead to steep slopes down into the moat. When we were there the moat was dry but there are several life rings dotted around so I imagine there are times when it floods.
After walking around the walls we decided to walk up the Motte. Warning, there are a couple of steep steps up to the Motte. Any by a couple I mean quite a lot. My friend and I both had babies in carriers and it was quite hard work getting up there. This part of the site is certainly not pushchair friendly! I’d also recommend not letting younger children go up before you. The top was a lot smaller than I assumed it would be an there are very long drops off the edge (don’t forget these earthworks were one of the main defences the castle had). You don’t want any little people having more adventures that you’d planned!! Once you are up there though, there is a lovely view across the castle and Berkhamsted as a whole.
We also decided to walk around the perimeter of the moat. This was a really nice walk, albeit uneven in places. It is right at the end of the moat, which also has steep sides and it can be a bit narrow in places so I probably won’t recommend it for particularly young children or those who like to run ahead.
The trainline that goes past the castle is very, very busy. A high speed train goes through every few minutes. It doesn’t spoil the day completely but you certainly are aware of the trains when they thunder past which is a bit of a shame.
All in (without smallest children but with a lot of news to catch up on) we were there for about 2 hours. If you were setting up camp and having a picnic you could make this last a lot longer. There are also a couple of things to do nearby to stretch out the day. There is the Moor Recreation Ground which had a nice little playground. You can also take a walk along the canal. I’ve since discovered that there is also Canal Fields which is a large rec ground that includes a good sized playground, a skate park, Millennium gardens and its own car park
Entry – Free
Parking – There is on-road parking right next to the castle but as this is also right next to the train station and it’s free, it tends to be taken up by commuters. I ended up finding a space next to the pub on station road. I now know there is a car park at Canal Fields (Broadwater, HP4 2AL, free for up to 4 hours), Lower Kings Road (HP4 2AB) is £2.60 for up to 4 hours and St John Well Lane (HP4 1HA) is £3.80 all day
Toilets – None on site. There are toilets in the train station and at Waitrose
Food – Picnics are very welcome. There is also a fish and chip shop near the station and Waitrose is a few minutes walk away.
Rating – 4 / 5 – I’m looking forwards to taking the bigger kids back for a picnic and I’m fairly sure there will be some suits of armour and swords making there way along with us!