|FAMILY|Oxford Castle Unlocked | LarabeeUK

|FAMILY|Oxford Castle Unlocked

A couple of weeks ago, we were very lucky to be invited to visit Oxford Castle Unlocked, we were booked onto the tour which lasts 1 hour and for T to attend a ‘Knight school’.

NOTE: If you don’t want to read our review in detail and are happy for our ‘in a nutshell’ synopsis, jump to the bottom of the post J

The first thing I did was head over to the website to find out a bit of history about the castle which is something I like to do when I visit attractions, sadly I feel that the website is very lacking in information about the castle.  I had visited The Crypt and Prison before and vaguely remembered ghost stories that I thought T would like.  Luckily some Paranormal websites managed to fill me in although I’d have like to find out a little more about the history before our visit.

We got there quite early on the day and so went for a Pizza beforehand, we hadn’t realised that we were booked on a specific time, so don’t make the same mistake as there’s not much to do if you’ve a lot of time on your hands.

Whilst waiting for T’s knight school session, we decided to visit The Mound, although from the ground it doesn’t look very high and even when using the cleverly designed path you don’t realise how high you are until you look around and see the panoramic view of Oxford.

T then attended his Knight school session, which was one of T’s favourite parts of the experience, a medieval knight guide teaches the children some super sword skills which is a fabulous interactive part of the experience.  The sessions last 15 mins each and only run at the weekends.  I think T could have done this for about 2 hours, he loved it so much, of course, we had to rush into the castle shop afterwards to buy a new sword for him to practice his newly acquired skills!

The tour was conducted by Anne Green who was dressed the part of a 17th Century servant.  Each of the hourly tours are hosted by a different character from different eras from the Castles history.  The tour started by travelling up the 101 steps of St George’s Tower, we went the first 42 (ish!) steps to Empress Matilda’s room. 

Once in the room, we were told the story of Empress Matilda and how the room had been used in the past as a cell with a lot of people being held there.  Our tour guide was very entertaining and provided lots of historical detail, engaging with her audience and telling the stories in a vivid and entertaining manner. 

We then ascended the remaining steps to the top of the tower, T was really not keen on the steps and was worried that he would fall.  Although once we got to the top and he was glad he did as he loved looking over Oxford and being up so high.  Here we heard how the castle originally had 4 towers, and how the others were knocked down and that sadly the ‘Castle’ as a full building no longer exists as it was destroyed in the English Civil War but the Unlocked experience has been designed around the remaining features of the castle, St Georges Tower being the main feature along with The Crypt, the Prison wing and The Mound.

We then went down to The Crypt, I must admit, this was the part I was looking forward to the most and it’s where I did my first Paranormal Investigation, T was absolutely buzzing for this part and couldn’t wait to go down to the ‘Haunted Crypt’ as he called it.  Our time there was very short and not as much time spent there as either T or I would have liked.  We were very briefly told about the Crypt being the oldest part of the experience and that it used to be used to store dead bodies, we were advised that we could go back down in there if we wished after the tour had finished, so we were very excited by this prospect.

After the Crypt, we were taken to the Prison D wing, where we were told that The Castle had been used as a prison shortly after the English Civil War and closed in 1996, most of the cells were redeveloped as the Malmaison Hotel, however, 1 wing was kept for the Castle experience, the tour guide talked us through some of the characters who were held there and the gruesome punishments they endured and hard labour even small children were forced to do, we were then given the opportunity of having prison photo’s taken, T and The Hubs happily obliged and looked forward to purchasing the photo’s.  Our tour culminated in the prison museum which had more details about the people and punishments.

We were told by our guide that we now had free reign to The Crypt, Prison and mound, we had a look around the prison and went to pick up our photo’s, unfortunately, The Hubs head had been cut off of the photo and so we didn’t buy them which was disappointing.  As T and I were really looking forward to re-entering The Crypt and doing a spot of Ghost Hunting, we excitedly headed back down to The Crypt, sadly, despite waiting 10 minutes, there was another group down there and so this wasn’t possible, although it was interesting to hear a little more about the history from this guide.  Unfortunately, our parking was due to run out and so we couldn’t wait until The Crypt was free.  We did manage to take some extra photo’s in The Crypt and it gave T a nice little Ghost Hunting experience without it being too scary!

We really enjoyed our visit, although I do feel that it didn’t really live up to the description ‘Oxford Castle’ and with so little information on the website it’s easy to miss that the ‘Castle’ is in fact just a tower and the tour is based more on the prison rather than a traditional British castle.  That being said, the tour was very good, the guides were exceptional and really put a lot into their presentation.

Great for a couple of hours but you really are not going to spend a day here and I do feel that it’s a little pricey for what you get.

Our review in a nutshell:-

  • 1.  The tour lasts between 50mins – 1hr great to keep little minds engaged.
  • 2.  You are not able to visit the museum without attending the tour.  Pre-Booking is highly recommended, unless you don’t mind waiting.
  • 3.  The tower is not suitable for under 5’s, pushchairs and wheelchairs, however, a video tour is available to people not able to climb the tower.
  • 4.  Knight school has set sessions per day, only at the weekends through the summer.
  • 5.  Tesco Clubcard vouchers can be used but you cannot pre-book with them.
  • 6.  No dogs are available in the attraction.
  • 7.  There’s a short walk from the nearest car-park, but it is expensive and it does get busy.
  • 8.  This attraction will not keep you occupied all day, so we’d recommend you adding another attraction onto your visit (we love Oxford Natural History Museum!)
Oxford Castle Unlocked is open from 10am daily and the last tour starts at 4.20pm, the only dates it closes throughout the year are 24, 25, 26 December.

Admission prices are:
Adult - £10.95
Student / Concession (60+) - £9.25
Child (5-15) - £7.75
Child Under 5 - FREE
Family (2 adults + 2 children) - £35.00
Carers - FREE

Disclaimer: we were given complimentary access in return for our honest review.

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