Including what to do at Portchester Castle
Portchester Castle is a great place to visit for the whole family regardless of the weather. Sat right on the South East Coast, Portchester Castle offers you views and history like no other place.
First built in the last 3rd century, Portchester Castle is one of the most amazing buildings still standing. Once a Saxon fort, the castle itself used to defend the country and has done so for hundreds of years.
The castle and fort are steeped in history and while the museum highlights everything you need to know about the castle, the Saxon Shore, and the Norman conquest, the inner walls are free to enter and explore.
This post covers everything you need to know about Portchester Castle and what to do there as a family.
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Who lived in Portchester Castle?
This once commanding castle was built by the Romans to protect the shore. After the Normans invaded, they built the castle which became a royal home. From 1665 onwards, the castle was used to contain prisoners of war. After 1819, the castle was left by the Army and it became a tourist attraction for guests to enjoy.
It was still owned by the Thistlethwaite family right up till 1926 when it was given over to the Ministry of Works. They gave it its makeover which included fixing the walls and bringing it back to life. In 1984 it became an English Heritage site that is part of a historic England that we all love today.
Booking to visit Portchester Roman Fort and Castle
If you are looking to just enjoy the outer bailey and inner bailey, without going inside the actual castle then there is no need to book. You can just turn up.
If you would like to go inside the castle museum then you do need to book first through the English Heritage website.
Portchester Castle, Hampshire directions
You can find Portchester Castle at Church Road, Portchester, Hampshire, PO16 9QW. It is just 20 minutes from the center of Southampton and can be paired with activities like Fort Nelson and Fort Brockenhurst for the best day out.
Portchester Castle parking
There is loads of parking at Portchester Castle. It is completely free to park in their car parks. The first car park is to the left as you drive towards the castle. This is their biggest car park. They have a smaller car park to the right.
The bigger car park is set next to the only toilets. It also hosts an ice cream van on summer days. The views from this side of the castle are breathtaking as they overlook Portsmouth and the white cliffs.
Portchester Castle opening times
It is completely free to enter the grounds of Portchester Castle. Walk inside the gates and enjoy the huge inner fort, church, and cafe that the grounds have to offer.
The grounds are open from 10am to 5pm daily.
Make sure you visit the on-site cafe which is run by volunteers. The cake itself is out of this world and the staff are lovely with the kids.
The Church runs the same opening times as it is inside the first walls.
Things to do at Portchester Castle
There are so many things to do at Portchester Castle. The fort itself and the outside are dog-friendly.
Make sure that you get there early on a nice day as both car parks get really busy and the roads are really thin, which doesn’t leave much room for parking.
We start at the gates of the fort and let the kids run around the outside. There is a huge green area that is fenced off that they can freely run around.
Walking through the gate, make sure you check for painted rocks. There is a really strong rock painting community that hide rocks throughout the castle for kids to find. Please make sure you re-hide them though so that everyone else who visits can find them too.
Portchester Castle history
Once through the gate, turn to your left. This is the west corner where the castle sits. To enter the castle, which is now a museum, you do need to book a ticket in advance. The castle walks you through Portchester Castle history from its constructions through to King Edward, William Pont, right through to the 19th century.
This is the place to get the ins and outs of everything to do with the castle and fort. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The staff are amazing and are great with all the questions that the kids may have. It really is family-friendly and a great way to get the kids interested in local history.
Portchester Castle church
From the castle, we follow the walls around to the church. This little church is an Augustinian priory that is full of history. Just walking in makes you feel like you’ve been thrown back in time.
Portchester Castle cafe
Right next to the church is the volunteer-led cafe. We stop here every time for our snacks. They cater for all allergies like Gluten and dairy which include cakes and any hot drinks. The seating outside is covered and scattered throughout the old graveyard.
The kids loved eating their cake while exploring the graveyard and everyone who has been buried there.
From there, we continue around the walls until we hit the main gate again. From there, turn left to walk along the outside of the walls. This is where you will get amazing views of the South Coast. See Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower and Portsmouth Harbour one way and the white cliffs from the other.
There is nothing stopping you from walking along the beach when the tide is out and enjoying a bit of crab fishing.
Portchester Castle facts
Portchester Castle is great for all ages. It is stony and grassy but it is flat and great for buggies and bikes.
We take a picnic with us and after our walk, sit by the gate, which also offers some wind protection, and let the kids run around while we lounge about on our picnic blankets. It’s really chilled and a great place for the kids to play.
- The Ultimate List of Walks in Hampshire That Are Child Friendly
- The Best Castles in Hampshire
- The Best Free Things to do in Portsmouth
If you are looking for some fun facts about Portchester Castle to impress the family then use one of these:
Did you know that Portchester Castle was one of the major sea defenses in the South?
Portchester Castle is one of the most well-preserved Roman forts in northern Europe.
Back in medieval Britain, many kings used Portchester Castle as their place to cast off while heading France.
We really love Portchester Castle and can’t recommend it enough as a day out for the whole family.
If you enjoyed this post and would like some more ideas on things to do in Hampshire then head over to the Things To Do section here on Things To Do In Hampshire With Kids where you’ll find over 50 day out ideas in Hampshire that the whole family will enjoy. You could also pop over and follow our Facebook page here or our Hampshire days out Pinterest boards for lots more ideas on what you can do as a family in Hampshire; Days Out For The Kids in Hampshire and Cheap and Free Days Out in Hampshire.
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