A family of four sit on the ruin walls of Carisbrooke Castle

Carisbrooke Castle Family Guide

Experience almost 1000 years of royal history as the kids enjoy the grounds of Carisbrooke Castle.

You won't find any 'hands-off' signs here. Climb cobblestoned stairs, circle the Norman keep's high walls and sprint across the bowling green where the imprisoned Charles I played before his execution.  Don't forget to say hello to the resident donkeys who demonstrate a centuries-old tradition at the castle.

Kids walking through the Carisbrooke Castle entrance

Family Essentials

  • Food and drink: Pack a picnic to enjoy on the lawn or at the tables and benches outside. A tea room serving a selection of locally produced hot and cold food is open daily from April to October, and at weekends from November to March.
  • Toilets: Male and female toilets are located in a separate block inside the courtyard. There is also a disabled toilet and baby changing facilities.
  • Dogs: Feel free to walk your dog on a lead around the castle, but please don't go inside the museum together (with the exception of assistance dogs).
  • Parking: Parking is provided for about 100 cars, which is about 50 to 100 metres from site. There is a £2 charge for parking however this is refundable on admission to the castle. Please note this car park can become full on event days or during peak viewing times. Additional off-site parking is available in the town, but is not managed by English Heritage.

See our opening times
A man and two children sit on the toy cannons at Carisbrooke Castle

LET OFF SOME STEAM

'There's plenty for the kids to see plus they can burn off some energy, so as a parent it's ideal. They're in a safe environment, there's plenty for them to do.

'When things like the jousting and the battles are on, we're here all week and come up with a packed lunch or a picnic and just chill out for the day.'

Louis Attrill, visitor

One of the Carisbrooke donkeys with his tongue poking out

Visit the donkeys

Meet Carisbrooke Castle's star attraction - a family of friendly donkeys named Jigsaw, Jack and Jill. Their names are inspired by the castle's most famous prisoner, Charles I, who signed his secret letters with a 'J'. Donkeys have played a role at the castle since the 17th century when they would walk on a tread-wheel to raise water from the well. Originally the wheel was turned by prisoners, with the first mention of a 'horse or ass' taking over in 1696. 

Today they are very well looked after, working for only two or three minutes a day. The wheel is only used to demonstrate the technology and the labour is shared between the four donkeys. The rest of the time you can find them on the lawns or in the Donkey Centre.

TAKE 5 MINUTES WITH JIGSAW
Stairs leading to the Carisbrooke keep

DON'T MISS...

  • Motte and Keep: Brave the 71-stair climb to explore the 14th century remains of the spectacular motte and keep. Kids will love wandering around the circular walkway and dreaming about the medieval warfare that took place from the height of these walls. Can you see an enemy attack on the horizon?
  • Gatehouse: Get your cameras ready for a family photo outside the iconic gatehouse entrance. This has been the principle entrance for the past 900 years. Gaze up at the two turreted drum towers, added in 1335-36, with its cross-shaped slits for archers and gun ports. Discover the gate-passage beneath the towers and see if you can spot the remains of three drawbridge pits.
  • Beatrice Garden: When Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, succeeded her husband as governor of the Isle of Wight, she moved in to Carisbrooke Castle in 1913. Take the kids for a walk through her private garden which has blossomed since the 17th century. The gardens have been used for both pleasure and kitchen purposes and today you'll see clipped hedges, fruit trees and decorative shrubs and flowers.

A man dressed as a knight on horseback

EVENTS At THE CASTLE

Shake hands with some of the characters from Carisbrooke's history and get involved with activities inspired by the past. See gallant knights on horseback ride across the bowling green and discover historic Carisbrooke like never before.

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The exterior of Carisbrook Castle

EXTEND YOUR STAY

Not ready to leave so soon? No problem. Call the castle home with an overnight or weekend stay at Carisbrooke. Enjoy a unique family getaway in the contemporary apartment that once served as the castle's service block. The cottage sleeps four, plus a cot.

With access to the castle grounds you'll be able to open the door to the keep and the bowling green on your doorstep.

Stay at Carisbrooke Castle
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