August 8, 2012 by talkaboutyork
With a spare afternoon and two children on the brink of saying those immortal summer holiday words ‘I’m bored’, we decided to explore one of York’s landmarks – Clifford’s Tower.
It’s an English Heritage property, which for us meant that entry was free (I am a massive fan of doing free stuff during summer holidays). If you’re not a member it is £4 per adult and £2.40 per child, family is £10.40.
Clifford’s Tower is all that remains of York Castle which was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068, just two years after that famous battle at Hastings (I get the impression William was quite a busy chap). The original was burnt down in a siege in which many of York’s Jewish citizens were killed. You can read the history here. It was subsequently rebuilt as a stone building and was named after Roger de Clifford who was hanged there (I have no idea why or who he was).
Anyway, we arrived to discover that English Heritage is running something called Time Travellers this summer. Kids get given a passport and every time they visit one of the participating English Heritage properties, they get given a sticker. After they’ve collected four stickers they get sent a gift in the mail.
The Time Traveller event at Clifford’s Tower was learning what it was like to be a child in Medieval Times, specifically, what it was like to be a child of a wealthy person who was earmarked to become a knight. A guide got a small circle of children together and explained what they were expected to do – this included pretending to dance as part of court life (my sons did not enjoy this) to learning how to fight with swords (my sons did enjoy this). Having learnt various skills including the art of listening to instructions (a challenge for my children), they went through the knighting ceremony and were made knights.
After that they got a chance to be King.
They’d also hidden little images of English kings and queens throughout the tower, which children could go and look for. There was just one problem with this. Many of the images were hidden on the lookout level. I guess this is the reason most people go to Clifford’s Tower – to see the view from the top level. But for someone who gets very curly toes when they go up high, it’s not a comfortable experience.
In fact we only got halfway up the steep and winding staircase before I decided that I wasn’t going to cope. My boys were desperate to go to the top but somehow letting them loose up high on an old, crumbling building without adult supervision didn’t seem like the smartest thing to do, so we sadly didn’t get to explore the top part. We shall have to return with my husband who doesn’t suffer from vertigo the way I do.
In short, I think the Time Traveller activities were fun and helped bring history alive for kids. But I’m not sure I’d pay £10.40 for a family ticket as there isn’t really that much to do once you’re there. If you’re an English Heritage member, its definitely worth a look. It won’t take you long to see most of it, so I suggest you combine it with a visit to the York Castle Museum which is directly opposite it. I shall do a separate review on that.
Finally, be warned that there is a gift shop on site (cue the ‘can we buy something’ chant) and they do occasionally have fun fair rides in the area between Clifford’s Tower and the museum, which will incur nagging. £2 a pop. But given the rest of the afternoon had been free, I splashed out.