Sussex / UK
The Abbey ruins at Battle
Get ready to step back in time and immerse yourself in the location of one of Britains most iconic battles. Re-enact the incredible battle and stand at the spot where King Harold met his historic end.
The Abbey ruins at Battle are a National Heritage site, which means you have to pay to go in. A family ticket will set you back just short of £30 so it’s not a turn-up-and-have-fun location, it’s a planned day out.
I tend not to write about National Heritage sites, because others have done a better job already. However coming from a walking-blog perspective, the historic narrative brought the whole place to life. It was amazing!
The walk begins and ends through the gift shop. Once through you’re presented with a courtyard and a path leading to the right. The grounds and how you travel through them are up to you, however the guide does offer a couple of walks to choose from. The walks are designed to lead you past many of the attractions, so there’s no worry of missing anything.
One of the key attractions is the Visitor Centre. It is a great introduction to the history and is packed with interactive things to do. You can see if you’re strong enough to lift a Norman Axe, wear chain mail or see what Norman words we still use today.
The Visitor Centre sets the scene beautifully before continuing to the walks. If you decide to take these walks, I would recommend getting the audio tour. I have never done this before, anywhere – but it was great!
At specific points on the walk are markers where you can play a piece of audio and the landscape comes to life.
While standing half way down the hill, there’s a great description of how the tired Saxon Army held their ground in a line at the top of the hill. While the Normans charge up fierce and battle-ready. And you’re there! You can see where both armies would have been.
Scattered throughout the walk are wooden carvings of Norman and Saxon soldiers. These tend to be the markers for an audio tour and help push the story along. They’re also fun for the kids to pretend to have a fight with them.
The grounds are vast and you can actually venture off the path (as we did) and explore a lake and more woodland. It extends the walk by about 20 minutes but it was well worth it and offered some of the more prettier things to see.
Once back on the path we continue the audio tour which leads to the crescendo of the Battle. Just as you think the Saxons have prevailed, the Normans trick them into breaking their line and the battle is won.
The loop of the battlefield ends back at the William the Conquers’s famous Abbey. Although built after the battle, the abbey offers the only tangible connection to history. Explore the atmospheric ruins, heavy stone walls and even stand at the spot where King Harold is said to have been killed by an arrow through his eye.
Seriously, kids love stuff.
On the surface this is just a walk in a field with an old abbey ruin to explore. However the experience they have created offers so much more. The brilliant story telling sends you back in time, helping you visualise each harrowing moment. It brought history to life, moreover fun and education to a family walk.
To find out more visit the National Heritage Site for: 1066 BATTLE OF HASTINGS, ABBEY AND BATTLEFIELD