A Knight’s Day Out at The Battle of Hastings

Retrospectively, buying an axe, sword and shield for three little boys was not my finest moment.  What came next was pretty brutal even by battle of Hastings standards!  That aside we had a wonderful time exploring the battlefield and abbey.  The one date in English history that everyone knows is 1066 and the battle that took place here moulded our country into what it is today. It’s the last foreign invasion this country has seen and is a rite of passage for any self-respecting Brit.

There is a lot to see and do at Battle Abbey; the exhibition centre, amazing playground, abbey ruins, castle wall walk, gatehouse tour and the eerie battlefield itself to walk round. The space is large enough for children to feel and run free.

With film, interactive computers and weapons to hold, the exhibition centre depicts the gory history, greed and treachery of the royals which led to the Battle of Hastings. Just to feel the weight of the sword and chain mail on display shows these were not ordinary knights and warriors but extremely strong men.

The medieval themed playground is a real treat. The thought and engineering that has gone into this space is extraordinary. The children were completely immersed (their weapons barely got a look in) they loved it!

The abbey itself is now a school but the old monks elaborate vaulted dorms are still there to tear around. The kids also loved exploring more ruins until I explained what latrines actually were!

We were here in half term and there were events put on for the kids.  They loved ‘knight and princess school’ which was an interactive session with a very charismatic knight and his comrades. Kitting the kids out with helmets, sword and shields, he taught them lots of different sword manoeuvres and kept them all captivated. It ended in a mass battle, with surprisingly few injuries!

The battlefield itself is very atmospheric, especially at this time of year – in all its bleak splendour. You really get a grasp of events on a walk around the site and gain a better appreciation of the terrain over which the battle was fought.  Carved life size battle-ready Norman and Saxon soldiers are dotted around the perimeter and a huge arrow sculpture marks the spot where Harold fell in battle and the fight was lost. I would love to see the actual battle re-enactment that takes places every October to commemorate the occasion.

This trip is worth a whole day and the walk round the battlefield is a must – but little legs may complain by the end. We are prone to attracting mud and all got filthy so wellies are definitely a must. A perfect day out in the winter or spring - out of season and away from the madding crowds and coaches that the summer brings.

I wish we could have stopped off at the Bluebell Café Tearoom afterwards but we squeezed every last minute out of the site and arrived too late – it’s just across the street and looks truly lovely.

Information

1066 Battle of Hastings, Abbey and Battlefield
High Street, Battle, East Sussex, TN33 0AD
Open Weekends 10am-4pm & school holidays
Family (2 adults 3 children) - £26.20, or free for English Heritage members
Dogs welcome in all areas too
Audio guide available for children and adults