Walking through Tamworth centre, a large market town in Staffordshire, you’d be mistaken for thinking it was like any other generic high street – with a recognisable chain of shops that are so prevalent across the UK.
However, turn one corner at the bottom of Market Street and it’s like you’re entering another world. Walk across a quaint little bridge over the River Anker, you’ll soon spot a castle looming in the near distance, and surrounding it, acres of colourful gardens filled with flowers and floral terraces.
As we approached the walkway up to Tamworth Castle’s entrance, it was tempting to just walk around the perimeter to take in the views across the city, but Monkey was desperate to explore inside.
Dating back to the Anglo Saxon period over 900 years ago, Tamworth Castle boasts a wealth of history from its origins as a fortification to defend Tamworth from its enemies, right through from the Medieval, Tudor, Stuart and Georgian eras to Victorian times – where the likes of Prime Minster Robert Peel became a tenant.
After walking through the Ancient Courtyard, we found it easy to navigate the castle through the 15 fully furnished rooms as well as the hallways and chambers each containing fascinating exhibits. In fact, we were impressed by the interactive displays throughout – allowing a sense of touch and feel – from feeling the weight of a Saxon sword to being able to wear a helmet and hold a shield. Monkey really enjoyed the Armoury and ran around pretending to be a soldier.
The rooms themselves also allowed us to get a real sense of what it must have been like to reside in Tamworth Castle from the Day Parlour to the Tudor dining room, where we sat on the seats and pretended to eat all the food on the table. While Monkey thought it hilarious to pick up the brooms and sweep the floors of the pantry kitchen.
Next stop on our tour was a whole floor dedicated to Tamworth’s Story. Not only was there a ‘play corner’ with costumes and toys for children, Monkey was delighted to hold a replica sword from the famous Staffordshire Hoard – the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found anywhere in the world. Monkey also found it hilarious to sit in the stocks, while we all had a turn at the wax rubbings.
After we compared our drawings to which Monkey exclaimed his was the best, we climbed a set of narrow stairs up towards the medieval tower which gave us uninterrupted panoramic views of the countryside and beyond.
Leaving our high vantage point, we continued our tour around the castle through the Lady’s Chamber, and the Servants’s quarters – as well as getting the chance of trying on the Georgian wigs and hats, which made us all laugh. We particularly enjoyed the final five rooms, which tell the story of the Cookes, the last family to live in the Castle as a private residence. Monkey was particularly interested in the Victorian children’s nursery.
The Medieval Great Hall was our last stop. Built to emphasise the wealth and power of its noble owners, we stopped to admire the huge timber beams and Tudor glass.
It made such a pleasant change to be able to be tactile with the exhibits – unlike some historic attractions where it’s impossible to get near the displays for fear of being reprimanded, Tamworth Castle really works hard to make sure that visitors are able to have fun while learning at the same time. History really does come alive and even for four-year-old Monkey, whose attention span isn’t the best at times, he had a blast.
And the best thing? Outside of the Castle there is still plenty to see and do – the Pleasure Grounds not only have large open fields, river walks and bicycle hire – there’s a huge adventure playground as well as a cafe for refreshments. History and outdoor fun make for a winning combination and a great day out was had by all.
Tamworth Castle, Holloway, Ladybank, Tamworth B79 7NA Tickets: Adults £7.00; Kids £5 (5+); Kids £2 (2-4); Family £21
* We were invited to explore Tamworth Castle by Enjoy Staffordshire, who have plenty of short break deals on offer. As always my opinions are my own.