Medieval. Dreamy. Romantic. Moated like the sandcastles we used to build at the beach…and you can even arrive by steam engine which only helps transport you back a little further in time, closer to the year 1388 when Bodiam Castle was completed.
Our day out in East Sussex, England to visit Bodiam Castle last August actually began with us boarding a restored steam engine in Tenterden for the picturesque ten mile journey through the Rother Valley. The coaches and locomotives, dating back from Victorian times, are operated by the Kent & East Sussex Railway and chug along past little towns, farms, and just generally lots of scenic views.
Upon arrival at the station in Bodiam be sure to allow some time to get up close to the engines especially if you’re with a male of any age…they’ll need a few minutes to check out all the parts and pieces and see how it all works. You’ll definitely have a smiling guy on your hands if you take my advice. :-)
From the rail station it’s only a few minutes walk to the castle with great views of it through the trees as you get closer and closer. Keep your camera handy as this castle is one photo op after another.
The castle was built from 1385 to 1388 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge with the permission of Richard II presumably to defend the area against a French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War. Looking at it further though historians think it is unusually far from a coastline for this to have really been the reason to build it. Despite this it was built with many defensive features like the crenels (gaps in the stones) at the tops of the towers on each corner and at the entrance that could have been used to shoot arrows through. It is also moated and that would have helped keep attackers from gaining access to the base of the castle’s walls. If they did manage to get up to the castle and get to the gatehouse they then had to contend with the ‘murder-holes’ where guards would drop all sorts of things on them to get them to turn back- like boiling water, hot sand, and even rats!
These days, instead of being greeted with rats dropped on your head at the gate, visitors are welcome to stroll the grounds and encouraged to explore the remains of the castle. There are lots of neat little nooks and crannies among the chambers, a water well, and then stairs to allow you to climb the towers for wonderful views of the surrounding countryside from the roof.
After exploring I highly recommend finding a spot in the shade under one of the great trees to enjoy an ice cream and maybe even a little afternoon cat nap especially if it is as hot as the day we were there… like 34°C (or 93°F)! My goodness that wasn’t the English weather I was hoping for to escape the Houston heat! Oh well it might have been hot but the view way more than made up for it.
For schedules and fares for the train from Tenterden to Bodiam please visit the Kent & East Sussex Railway site.
For more information about Bodiam Castle like operating hours and rates, please visit the National Trust Collection site.