Helmsley Castle is one of English Heritage’s amazing properties, situated in the picturesque town of Helmsley. At over 900 years old, there is so much history to discover in and around the castle which is perfect for a history buff like me!
At the weekend, we decided to pay Helmsley Castle a visit as they were running an event, Helmsley Under Siege. The event promised to transport you back in time to the 17th Century to experience the famous battle of Marston Moor. I have to be honest and say that I did initially have reservations about whether my 1 year old would enjoy it. The event was aimed at 3+ years old so he was considerably younger than the recommended age. However, I can happily say that my little one had more fun than us!
On arriving at Helmsley Castle, we initially struggled to get parked. Despite there being both a main and overflow public car park, the event was extremely popular. With a stroke of luck, we managed to get parked in the main car park as somebody happened to be leaving at the same time. I would suggest to others to get there nice and early to English Heritage’s events!
Activities in the Camps
The site was divided into the Royalist and Parliamentarian Camps. Our first stop was to the Royalist Camp where the Royalists had ‘taken control of the castle’.
My immediate thoughts were how great it was that the atmosphere gave you a sense of actually being there in the 17th Century. A multitude of tents had been set up, each displaying props for you to explore. Walking around or manning their tents were actors who interacted with the visitors and answered questions. I loved that they remained in character and came across as extremely approachable. This really added to the immersive experience.
Whilst we were in the Royalist Camp, we were entertained with music from Hautbois, a lively duo who specialise in historic music. They played music from the period using traditional instruments which really added to the performance.
After this, we walked to the Parliamentarian Camp which was located on the opposite side of the castle (approx 5 minute walk). Here, they had lots of interactive activities for all the family!
Children were invited to become junior soldiers and take part in a drill. Unfortunately, my little one was too small for this but it looked like a lot of fun!
As well as activities for the kids, there were opportunities to gain an insight into life on the battle field. At various points of the day, there was a chance to find out about the siege weapons and. what it was like to be a soldier in the civil war.
When the time came for the reenactment, we found a spot to sit down to watch the first assault. Unfortunately, at this point, it decided to rain. A lot. This meant the performance was slightly delayed. However, one thing that really impressed me was that they did not cancel it. They were true professionals and continued with the reenactment despite the on/off rain. This really rubbed off on the audience who were equally happy to stick about and get wet (After some coaxing to come out from under the tree)!
I have to say it was definitely worth getting wet for! It was action packed and I love how they recreated the sounds of battle with roaring cannons and the rattle of gunfire (We brought T’s ear defenders but he wasn’t bothered in the slightest!). There were good use of props and their surroundings, such as clambering up and down hills.
Unfortunately due to weather being forecasted as continuous rain, we had to call it a day before the final battle as somebody didn’t pack the waterproofs (I’ll take it as a learning curve!). We were really disappointed that we had to miss the last reenactment.
Other Things To Do at Helmsley Castle
As part of the event ticket price, you can explore the beautiful and historic grounds of Helmsley Castle. Some parts of the buildings are open to the public so you can experience for yourself what it would be like to live there, and educate yourself on the facts shared around the building. One of the buildings even has activities for children to enjoy.
There is also a little gift shop where you can purchase lots of novelty gifts. A firm favourite amongst the children we passed were the spears and swords.
Although there isn’t a cafe, there are plenty of picnic benches. Perfect for eating a packed lunch during your walk. Or if you fancy something a little warmer, then you can pop into Helmsley town where you can find lots of quaint cafes to enjoy some homemade food.
Overall, we had an amazing day! It was obvious that English Heritage had put a lot of thought and effort into the event. We would definitely attend another and would highly recommend them. You can find out what other events they’re hosting this Summer on their What’s On page!
If you’d like to find out more about English Heritage and the work they do, then visit their website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk
** We received free entry in in return for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.