Here at English Heritage we are on a mission to #banishboredom this summer. Do tales of Roman legionaries get your heart racing? Perhaps you wish you could clank around in a suit of armour, or ride a noble steed. Our packed events programme will help you find something fun to do wherever you are in the UK this summer.
To help you pick, we’ve broken it down into different periods of history:
The Romans ruled Britain for nearly 400 years – that’s longer than the Tudors or the Georgians. Some of their forts, villas and walls still survive. Hadrian’s Wall is one of the best places in the country to learn about the Romans, and there are some fantastic events.
Learn How to Be A Roman Soldier at Birdoswald every weekend from the 23 July until the August bank holiday, and meet mounted soldiers when the Roman Cavalry come back to Chesters Roman Fort on 20 & 21 August. And see out the summer with a trip to Hadrian’s Wall Live, taking place at Birdoswald and Housesteads Roman Fort over the first weekend of September. Expect gladiators, battles between Romans and barbarians, falconry, and torch-lit parades.
At the other end of the country, and close to the spot where the Roman invasion of Britain began, Dover Castle still has a first century Roman lighthouse, or ‘pharos’, that has since been incorporated into a Saxon church. Over the weekend of the 30 & 31 July they’ll be returning for a Roman Festival. There’ll be gladiator combat, cavalry displays and the chance to try your hand at archery.
English Heritage looks after 116 castles across the country, and many of them will be playing host to some epic events over the next few weeks. Think fighting knights, thrilling sieges, valiant jousts – with a bit of medieval merriment thrown in for good measure. There are so many events that we can’t mention them all here – but here are some of our regional highlights.
West and South West
In King Henry III laid siege to Kenilworth Castle, and 750 years later we’re recreating that almighty battle – the longest siege in English history. Watch the siege as it unfolds at the Siege of Kenilworth Castle event over the weekend of the 28th and 29th of August, or visit us in the week at one of our Siege the Day! events before to help us prepare for the fight by having a go at firing (mini?) trebuchets. And the Hands on History team will be at the castle every day during the summer holidays to help you sharpen your siege skills.
Between 1st and 5th August, we’ll be looking at the funnier side of medieval life with Jesters and Circus Skills.
East and South East
2016 marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, and 1066 Battle of Hastings, Abbey and Battlefield will be marking that with its Summer of ’66 event, taking place every day in August. There’ll be 66 fun things to do to celebrate the anniversary.
Dover will come under attack as we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Siege of 1216 over the weekend of 13-14 August. Noble knights will show off their fighting skills at tournaments at Portchester Castle on 6 & 7 August. Carisbrooke Castle is hosting a Knight School between 30 July and 7 August, there’ll be a Clash of Knights between 9 and 11 August, and there will be jousting on 16 & 18 August and 23-25 August.
In 1066 the Normans landed at Pevensey Castle, and on the last weekend of the summer holidays, 3rd-4th September, they’ll be landing again and starting their Campaign, 950 years on.
There’ll be plenty of chances to experience medieval life at Framlingham in Sussex. Among plenty of other things, the Joust comes to the castle on 23rd and 24th July, you can Meet the Normans 6th and 7th August, and watch a Knight’s Tournament on 20th and 21st July. Check out the castle’s event pages for more medieval goings on.
Meet the Normans at Bolsover Castle on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 July, and come back a month later for the Grand Medieval Joust on Sunday 28 and Monday 29 August. In between there are plenty of other chances to get medieval – see the castle’s event pages for more.
Fighting Knights will clash at Warkworth Castle on 23rd – 24th and 30th-31st August, and at Belsay Hall they’ll be pitching up camp for a Knights’ Tournament over the August bank holiday. Visitors to Scarborough Castle will have the chance to watch a Clash of Knights on 6 and 7 August, and get a taste of Medieval Life and Times on 27th and 28th August.
Tudors and Stuarts
During the eras of the Tudors and Stuarts, England was rocked by Reformation and Civil War, but at the same time, huge advances were made in the arts and sciences. Find out more about the era at Stokesay’s Stories event on 23rd and 24th July, or throughout the summer holidays at Pendennis Castle’s Hands on History – Go Tudor event, which takes place almost every day between 23 July and 31 August, except 26-28 July and Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August.
Bolsover Castle was extensively remodelled during the Stuart era by its extravagant Cavalier owner, William Cavendish. Cavendish was a master equestrian, and there are displays of horsemanship taking place throughout the summer.
If it’s fighting you’re after, we’re reliving two major sieges of the civil war. For five months in 1645, Scarborough Castle endured one of the bloodiest sieges of the entire war – at Scarborough Under Siege you can explore the soldiers’ camps and watch as Parliament’s forces launch their assault to wrest control of the castle from the royalist Sir Hugh Cholmley.
And this year sees the 370th anniversary of the Siege of Pendennis – in 1646 the castle was one of the last Royalist garrisons to hold out against Parliament, and only surrendered after a siege lasting three months.
Finally, you can join the battle at Bolsover Castle’s Roundheads and Cavaliers event, where you’ll get put through your paces as the castle comes under attack from Parliament’s men.
The age of the Victorians was one of scientific discoveries and exploration.
Audley End is also celebrating Discoveries and Inventions from Monday 8 to Friday 12 August, and it holds its Life Above and Below Stairs events every weekend throughout the summer, and has two Stables Weekends planned – the first shows off Horses in Harness on 6 & 7 August, and Stunning Side Saddles on 3 & 4 September.
Down House, the former home of Charles Darwin, is offering the chance to Meet the Darwins from Tuesday 26 to Saturday 30 July, and there’ll be Discoveries and Inventions there between Tuesday 9 to Saturday 13 August. And there’s a chance to join Charles Darwin and replicate his experiments with him from Tuesday 16 to Saturday 20 August during the Secret Science event.
Osborne has Victorian Seaside Fun on offer throughout August, and Stott Park Bobbin Mill has Steam Weekends on 6 & 7 August, 27-29 August, and 3 & 4 September.
We’re celebrating our country’s more recent history this summer. Eltham Palace goes to the theatre for its Curtains Up for the Theatrical 30s event from Monday 15 to Wednesday 17 August, and there’s a chance to be put through your paces at Eltham’s Train the Troops event, taking place from Monday 29 to Wednesday 31 August.
You can Train the Troops at Audley End too from Monday 22 to Friday 26 August, and on Sunday 28 and Monday 29 Audley hosts its WWII Weekend, a major event that explores everything from the horror of the battlefield to the make do and mend spirit on the home front.
If you can’t choose one particular era, there’s no better place to spend a packed day out in history than at Dover Castle’s Castle Live! event over the August bank holiday.
Members do more
- Don’t forget, English Heritage Members get discounted or free entry to our sites and events. A year’s family membership starts from just £52, and we have a range of options for individuals, seniors and couples.