10 school trip ideas: stately homes, palaces & castles

Date Posted: 18/03/2014

Children watch the Trebuchet at Warwick Castle.

Pictured: Children watch the Trebuchet at Warwick Castle.

Give students a glimpse into the lives of Britain’s gentries, nobles and royals on a school trip to one of the UK’s stash of stately residences.

1. Warwick Castle

This year Horrible Histories returns to Warwick Castle, promising to reveal even more about favourite periods of history from Smashing Saxons to Gorgeous Georgians; with six encampments around the castle housing actors and interactive games.

Brave students (over the age of ten) should enjoy the Castle Dungeon with its grim and gory retelling of plague tales, whilst only the boldest should venture down into the dark gaol to see the oubliette, where prisoners were left to die.

2. Alnwick Castle

Later this year, Alnwick Castle will be commemorating the outbreak of World War One with a special exhibition based ‘below stairs’, examining the impact of the war on the inhabitants of the castle and its estate.

Students can also tour the lavish State Rooms, filled with a stunning variety of art including works by Canaletto, Titian, Van Dyck, Turner and Dobson, and an impressive gallery of Meissen, Chelsea and Paris porcelain.

3. Renishaw Hall

The still lived-in Renishaw Hall is almost 400 years old and displays an intriguing mix of historic collections and modern day touches.

Teachers can also choose from specialist tours of the property including a literary hall tour, focusing on the aspirations and careers of the famous ‘literary trio’ Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell.

4. Highclere Castle

The new Egyptian exhibition in the cellars at Highclere provides two different experiences for schools: a collection of Egyptian antiquities including information on hieroglyphs, and the path to the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb and a recreation of the treasures uncovered there by the 5th Earl and Howard Carter.

The present Earl and Countess offer the opportunity for Primary Schools to visit the exhibition as part of their study of Ancient Egypt under the National Curriculum.

Medieval archery at the Bishop's Palace and Gardens.

Pictured: Medieval archery at the Bishop's Palace and Gardens.

5. Blenheim Palace

Currently home to the 11th Duke of Marlborough and family, Blenheim is well known as the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

There is a selection of themed tours available at Blenheim for school travel organisers to choose from. The Sir Winston Churchill tour provides an insight into a truly remarkable man – at once soldier, politician, statesman, painter, writer, orator, family man and bricklayer.

6. Holkham Hall

In addition to the attraction of the hall itself, Holkham is also home to the Bygones Museum, incorporating The History of Farming exhibition. The museum, with its displays of domestic and agricultural memorabilia, allows groups to learn about life in times gone by.

A new exhibition in the hall entitled Duty Calls: Holkham 1914 to 1918 will tell a small part of the story of the war’s impact on both the Coke family and the residents of Holkham Village.

7. The Bishop’s Palace and Garden

Home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for 800 years, this medieval palace is located in the heart of the picturesque city of Wells in Somerset.

Pupils can look around the bishop's private chapel, explore the ruined Great Hall and meet the famous mute swans who live alongside the moat and ring a bell when they want food. There are also a number of sculptures spread throughout the grounds of the palace.

8. Powderham Castle

September is a popular time to visit Powderham, when the herd of around 650 fallow deer begin their rutting season in the surrounding Deer Park. A deer park safari can be booked for teachers wanting to take a closer look at this and the other wildlife on the estate, as thousands of birds migrate to the marshland for the winter.

Below stairs at Kentwell Hall.

Pictured: Below stairs at Kentwell Hall.

To make your schools’ visit even more special the castle’s own archivist is on hand to give talks to your class by prior appointment. A selection of entertaining guided tours will reveal secret doors, stunning castle rooms and intriguing stories.

9. Kentwell Hall

Kentwell Hall in Suffolk is one of England’s finest moated Tudor houses. Whilst not a stately home, this ‘little great house’ remains a lived-in family home.

The hall is best known for its Tudor re-creations and events from May to July when the manor is transformed to the 16th century. As far as the eye can see, actors in Tudor dress will be going about their everyday business, and the house will play host to pageants and fairs.

10. Stansted Park

Set in parkland within the South Downs National Park, Stansted Park, the former home of the Earls of Bessborough, promises an authentic Edwardian upstairs/downstairs school visit.

Students can venture below stairs to see the extensive servants’ quarters, which have been dressed as if still in use - including the butler’s rooms and the wine cellar. The footmen’s uniform hang in their cupboards and the housekeeper’s room awaits her return.

School Travel Organiser's Guide