Taking a Toddler to Powderham Castle in Devon
Today on the blog I share with you our recent visit to the majestic Powderham Castle, just outside of Exeter. The little man is obsessed with castles, dragons and knights and we knew a trip to a real castle would not disappoint. Powderham work with Visit South Devon and you can read a bit more about the castle here.
The castle is only a few minutes drive from where we were staying at Cofton Holidays. It’s literally down the road so ideal if you’re looking for things to do in the area with kids!
Powderham Castle is over 600 years old and home to the Earl and Countess of Devon. It was built in 1391 by the Courtenay family and you can take a good look around the castle on a guided tour. You can’t take photos inside the castle, so all my pics below are of the outside. Which, I’m sure you’ll agree, looks stunning! Especially with the clouds threatening rain. And they didn’t just threaten!
Castles and crutches!
We got to the castle at 11am which is when it opens, daily, from Sunday to Friday. Now beware of this because we rocked up on Saturday and completely hadn’t read that it was closed to private functions! Oops! We had a nice look around the farm shop though.
Now if you’re a regular me and b reader you may have read that the hubby is currently on crutches. I was a little anxious as to how the day would pan out. Castles, crutches, and rain – I just didn’t see it being that relaxing. I was wrong though. The staff let us drive up to the Courtyard area and park the car there if it wasn’t too busy. Fortunately it wasn’t. I guess the heavy rain showers may have put people off.
Hidden doors and haunted hallways
We got to the Courtyard just in time for the first tour to start. The only way to see inside the castle is to go on a guided tour. These last about an hour and depart from the main courtyard regularly through the day. You just turn up for one. You don’t need to book anything.
It was tipping it down when we arrived so we decided to go on the first tour of the day. She was lovely and really accommodating with hubby’s hobbling – pointing out where he could sit down! The only bit of the tour he couldn’t do was ten minutes upstairs but this was made clear at the start.
The tour for me was a real highlight. Our guide told us loads of stories and really engaged with the kids on the tour. I was anxious as B is only 3 (nearly 4) and his attention span isn’t great. And I worried he’d need to pee half way round. Fortunately he didn’t need to pee but he did start crying when I told him we couldn’t eat.
Imagine trying to explain to a toddler that no, they can’t have a snack! Fortunately a pack of raisins managed to keep him quiet.
So yes, I felt a bit stressed about pee possibilities and nagging for snacks – we were told no food and drink on the tour. So if you take little ones, use the loo before and get all the snacking out of the way! Or take something dry like raisins.
The tour took us through a number of rooms in the castle, each with it’s own story to tell. Even though b is very young, and I’m sure people wandered who on earth would bring a toddler on a guided tour, there were LOADS of things for him to see.
There were hidden doors which opened up to reveal secret passageways and stairways. B was very excited by these and to be honest, until they were pointed out, I didn’t notice them myself. They were often disguised as bookcases and it wasn’t as obvious at first glance. B and I even got to open one of the secret doors and lead the tour party through.
There were also loads of “treasure chests”, various trinkets and unusual items to spot in each room. Pineapples on the end of the bed, unicorn horns and stories of knights protecting the castle, all kept b amused.
Loads to do for kids
At first glance you might not think Powderham suitable for children but it absolutely has loads going for it. Take a quick peek at this infographic I put together for family visits!
Pick up the quiz when you buy your tickets and listen out for the answers on your guided tour. If you complete this and another nature trail, you can collect a Powderham Medal from the gift shop!
When the tour finished, we headed to the gift shop to pick up our medal. Fortunately the lady there felt sorry for us and realised we probably wouldn’t complete the nature trail also required to get the medal. There was no way mr d would be able to hobble around.
However my child being my child decided to throw the medal at daddy and demand a toy. At this point my patience was thin after the snack negotiating on the tour. I had to carry a hitting, kicking and screaming toddler out of the castle gift shop. I really do apologise to anyone who had to witness my child being a complete shit bags. One lady even commented as I left that she’d “been there” too. This made me feel slightly better as b was trying to rip my eye out.
So that bit was really relaxing and I managed to bundle b in the car with mr d hobbling behind. I told b to calm down or we would be heading home. I took some time out while daddy had a “word” and after ten minutes or so b had calmed himself. Thank goodness because I was bloody starving and wanted to get a bite to eat!
Recharge at The Courtyard Café
Meltdowns over and we head into the Courtyard Café. They offer a selection of sandwiches, baguettes, soup and jacket potatoes. They also do cream teas and ploughman’s platters. The café has limited seating but offers more in another room next door. There is also loads of seating outside but it was really raining hard at this point. If you are lucky with the weather, you could bring a picnic too.
After lunch we headed into the Rose Garden for a little mooch around.
This is a pretty area and b enjoyed pretending to be King of the Castle. After much exploring and hobbling(!), we decided to head to the car park where the Deer Park Safari sets off.
The Deer Park Safari
Be sure to buy your tickets beforehand. We hadn’t and I had to make a quick dash back to the ticket kiosk. The ride costs £2.50 per person but b sat on our lap so we weren’t charged for him. The tour takes around 30 minutes and heads out over the deer park. We were so lucky as the sun came out, it even felt hot and there was no rain until we returned. And of course we saw a lot of deer. They were very wary of the tractor and trailer. The minute they spotted it, you saw them leap off in to the distance. They are super pretty though and it was lovely to get up as close as possible to them.
Look at that blue sky!
The play area and pets corner
The walk from the car park up to the Walled Gardens which house the play aerea and pets corner was a good ten minutes. Now I wasn’t too sure mr d would get that far on the crutches. Again the staff were fab and let us drive and park nearby. I’m not sure we headed to the right place but we did get parked close enough for the hubby to hobble up. And the rain stopped for all of ten mins!
In the walled gardens you’ll find a huge greenhouse spanning the top of the gardens, a play fort, zip wire and loads of friendly animals. If you ask the staff as you enter for some peanuts, you can feed the white chinchillas. Of course my son had no interest in this and was headed off to the castle fort to play.
There’s even a potting shed if you want to make pots out of newspaper and plant some seeds.
Unfortunately we didn’t stay too long as it started tipping it down again. There’s plenty of room to shelter in the greenhouse though if it rains on your visit!
Powderham is the first castle we’ve taken b to and like I said before, I was a bit anxious as to how he would cope with a one hour castle tour without snacks or a nearby toilet. And to be fair, minus the gift shop melt down, he did really well on the tour. He even asked the guide if knights lived in the castle.
There’s loads for kids at Powderham and I’m actually excited as to where we can go and visit now that b is getting older. Mr D and I can actually head to come more “adult” places and b can still have a good time too. Powderham run special events through the year and I would certainly return if we were in the area! There was so much for kids to see and do and they have a lot of family events running all through the summer!
Have you been to Powderham Castle? Have you dared take a toddler on a guided tour?! Share with me your woes…please!
Disclaimer: We were invited to Powderham to provide this review. Even though we had the medal melt down moment, we did have a lovely day! I’d definitely take b back!