The knot garden at Sudeley Castle with the castle's ruins in the background

Sudeley Castle: Visiting With Children

Once home to Katherine Parr and Lady Jane Grey, Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire is one of the most fascinating historic houses in England. Not only does it have incredible stories to tell about its history, it is also the only privately owned castle to have a former English Queen buried in its grounds. As we live just a few miles from this Cotswold gem, we make a point of visiting relatively regularly. A historic castle and gardens may not seem like the most natural place to visit with children. However, Sudeley Castle has plenty for kids to do. Granted, you may hear a bit of whining as you stroll around the indoor exhibitions. But outside in the adventure playground, their woes will soon be forgotten. Here’s a brief history of Sudeley Castle and why we think it’s an ideal place for a family day out.

Sudeley Castle with green tree in foreground and gravel path between castle and grass
Sudeley Castle and Gardens

Sudeley Castle History

The first buildings on the site of Sudeley Castle were Roman villas constructed from 500 to 798 AD. In 798, Winchcombe Benedictine Abbey was founded and construction was completed in 811. The Vikings made their mark on the site in 877, causing extensive damage. The site became Sudeley Castle in 1442, built by Knight of the Garter Ralph Boteler. In 1469, he was forced to sell it to King Edward IV, who then gave it to his brother, the Duke of Gloucester who would go on to become Richard III.

Perhaps the most celebrated era in Sudeley’s history began when Henry VIII visited with Anne Boleyn. During his stay, he and Thomas Cromwell plotted the dissolution of the monasteries. After Henry VIII’s death, the castle was given by Edward IV to Thomas Seymour. He subsequently married Henry VIII’s widow, Katherine Parr, who then lived and died at Sudeley Castle. When Parr died in childbirth having her daughter Mary, the chief mourner was her friend and companion Lady Jane Grey.

After Parr’s death, Seymour was executed for various reasons including his repeated attempts at courtship of Princess Elizabeth, who went on to become Elizabeth I. She visited Sudeley Castle some years later, as the guest of the owner at the time, the third Lord Chandos. After falling in a siege during the reign of Charles I, Sudeley Castle eventually fell into disrepair. It wasn’t until 1782 that Katherine Parr’s remains were found in the ruins of the chapel. When her coffin was opened, her body was almost perfectly preserved.

As you would imagine there is far, far more to the history of Sudeley Castle than I have managed to portray. I highly recommend a visit if you have an interest in history, particularly the Tudors. You can also read more on their website.

St Mary's church viewed from the gardens of Sudeley Castle with hedges in front of the church
St Mary’s Church

Inside Sudeley Castle

The interior of Sudeley Castle contains a variety of exhibitions and video displays where visitors can learn about its fascinating history. It is also used as a private house these days and some family rooms are open to the public when not in use. View an early publication of a book written by Katherine Parr as well as a lock of her hair and her tooth. Learn about the families who have lived there over the years and the current owner. Furniture from various eras adorns the rooms including four poster beds, a vintage globe and even a historically significant toilet!

Henry VIII and all his wives are represented within the castle in replica Tudor dress. Test history-loving children on their knowledge of the famous rhyme. Can they pick out who was divorced, beheaded died, divorced, beheaded survived?

My children are aged 8 and 10 and both have an interest in history, with the older one being particularly interested in the Tudors. However, walking around reading all the information was a bit too much for them. They did enjoy the videos, particularly David Starkey’s ‘The Life and Loves of Katherine Parr, Queen of England and Mistress of Sudeley.” This is shown alongside the exhibition of books and letters written by Katherine Parr.

Henry VIII and his six wives in replica Tudor dress inside Sudeley Castle
Henry VIII and his six wives in replica Tudor dress

The Chapel of St Mary and Tomb of Katherine Parr

In the grounds of Sudeley Castle is the beautiful St Mary’s Church. You can’t miss the ornate tomb of Katherine Parr at the back of the church on the left hand side. Even the children appreciated being able to visit the last resting place of a former Queen of England and the last wife of Henry VIII. The chapel itself is worth a stroll around too. My girls enjoyed looking at the miniature church organ.

Tomb of Katherine Parr in St Mary's Church at Sudeley Castle
Tomb of Katherine Parr

The Gardens

Strolling around the gardens is always my favourite part of a day out at Sudeley. There are 10 gardens in total so if it’s a hot day and you don’t want to spend too much time outside, it’s worth working out which of them you want to see before you go. Children love to see the huge koi carp in the pond in the Tithe Barn garden. However, Sudeley’s centrepiece is the Queen’s Garden, named after four former queens. Two wives of Henry VIII – Anne Boleyn and Katherine Parr. The other two Queens represented are Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I. It is planted with over 80 types of roses.

Other gardens include the Knot Garden with its ornate miniature hedgerows, the secluded Secret Garden and the Ruins Garden, set in the remains of Sudeley’s former banqueting hall. The White Garden boasts an array of white flowers dedicated to the virgin Mary and the Herb Garden was created in 2011 with six herb beds. The East Garden was inspired by a poem, the Tudor Physic Garden is full of Tudor medicinal plants. Last but not least is the Mulberry Garden, filled with flowers, greenery and an ancient mulberry tree.

Don’t miss the maze and the information boards dedicated to Brock the badger, the unusual beloved pet of the Dent-Brocklehurst family. Tales of him growing up with the family’s children in their nursery are both endearing and amusing.

The knot garden at Sudeley Castle with the castle's ruins in the background
The Knot Garden
Girl dressed in black in the plants among ruins at Sudeley Castle
Enjoying the plants at Sudeley Castle
Ruins at Sudeley Castle viewed from among trees along the path
Ruins at Sudeley Castle viewed from among trees along the path

The Adventure Playground

If you are visiting Sudeley Castle with children, the adventure playground is going to feel like a second home. A zip wire, slide, castle and climbing equipment make it great fun for all ages. Head over the wooden bridge and into the shady play area. Children do need to be supervised at all times but it’s great to see somewhere that tempts older children in as well as the little ones.

We were lucky to visit when Past-Times living history were on hand with garden games. Located outside the adventure playground, they provided splat the rat, croquet, quoits and boules. Little touches like this make Sudeley Castle much more fun for kids. Beside the adventure playground is a lawn area with plenty of shade and some benches. It was a lovely place to eat our picnic.

Entrance to the adventure playground at Sudeley Castle
Entrance to the adventure playground
Two girls standing in the doorway into the play castle at the adventure playground
Doorway into the play castle at the adventure playground
Children playing croquet with Victorian characters on a grass lawn
Garden games with Victorian characters

Sudeley Castle Sculpture Safari

Sudeley Castle’s events calendar has plenty to offer for families. We always enjoy their Spectacle of Light at Christmas as well as daytime events throughout the year. At present, the wonderful Sculpture Safari can be found in the gardens. Look out for polar bears floating on a lily pond iceberg, an enormous hedgehog, rhinos, a herd of Sudeley’s beloved elephants and various other animals.

Rhino sculpture on grass next to a hedge
Rhino sculpture on the sculpture safari
Girl dressed in pink stood beside two zebra sculptures
Zebra sculptures
Giant hedgehog sculpture with girl dressed in pink stood beside it
Giant hedgehog
girl dressed in pink leans against baby elephant sculpture at Sudeley Castle
Baby elephant
Elephant sculpture beneath a tree at Sudeley Castle
Elephant sculpture

What else do you need to know about visiting Sudeley Castle?

  • Accessibility: Some of Sudeley’s paths are great for wheelchairs but others will be a struggle due to deep gravel. Two off-road manual wheelchairs are available for visitors. Exhibition areas and castle rooms are not accessible for wheelchair users or those with mobility issues.
  • Car parking: The car park is huge and even with big events on, there’s plenty of space. There are accessible parking spaces close to the entrance.
  • Toilets: You’ll find toilets both at the visitor centre by the entrance and by the café in the castle.
  • Baby changing: Both toilet locations have baby changing areas available.
  • Is this a full day out with children? Absolutely! Even if kids don’t want to look around inside, there’s plenty going on outdoors. Especially at the moment with the sculpture trail to enjoy.

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  1. We love Sudeley Castle – the boys really enjoyed inside, learning all the history in a fun way. Plus they get in free with their Blue Peter Badges too. We haven’t seen this sculpture trail yet so must go soon.

    1. Yes, we have been loving the BP badge discounts this summer, Lia needs to get on and get one too as we’re still paying for her at the mo when Lib is free!x