Review - Visiting Hadleigh Castle, Essex

Hadleigh Castle, in Benfleet (Essex), stands on a hill overlooking the Thames Estuary. It was built by Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent, in the 1230s and used by Edward II and Edward III before eventually being sold off as building materials by Lord Riche in 1551. It was built on unstable clay which caused landslides and the tower to collapse so it wasn't ever going to survive in great condition. Now an English Heritage site this once royal residence is in ruins which will capture the imagination of children. 

The ruins of Hadleigh Castle in Essex and an information board
The ruins of Hadleigh Castle, Essex, are great to explore with children

Visiting Hadleigh Castle, Essex

Hadleigh Castle is a great place to go for a morning picnic followed by a walk. It has stunning views: inland toward Hadleigh bike trail and the other direction looks over Southend seafront. It’s a great open space for children (and dogs) to run around. 

Why is Hadleigh Castle a good place to visit with children?

  • The site is managed by English Heritage and is free for everyone to visit. 
  • The views are beautiful and it’s a wonderful place to take a picnic. 
  • Children love to explore the ruins and there are information boards to read and learn about the castle’s history. It’s important to note that English Heritage state the the ruins aren’t for climbing on. 
  • You can go for a lovely walk past the castle, down the hill and enjoy the view of Southend including the trains running along the seafront.

A view of the ruins of Hadleigh Castle and a dog
Hadleigh Castle is a great place to explore with children and dogs

What Age Children Will Enjoy Visiting Hadleigh Castle?

The castle is best enjoyed when children are old enough to walk. It's about 5 minutes walk from the parking to the castle and there is lots of space to run around. Younger children will love pretending to be knights, Kings and Queens, while older children will appreciate the view. It’s a great open space for children to enjoy and as they get older you will be able to walk further and explore.

Is it suitable for pushchairs?

In summer when it is dry you might be ok with a normal pushchair, but the rest of the year you will need an off road buggy as the main earth track can get boggy. To walk beyond the castle you need to go through a kissing gate or over a style, which will be a challenge with a pushchair.

View of the tower at Hadleigh Castle and looking out over the Thames Estuary
There are stunning views from Hadleigh Castle

What You Need To Know Before Visiting Hadleigh Castle

  • Entry is free.
  • There are no facilities or staff on site (so no toilets, shop, visitor centre or cafe).
  • In summer there is often an ice cream van in the parking area.
  • The nearest facilities are at the Salvation Army Tea Rooms at the Rare Breeds Centre, but this is currently closed (it's likely to reopen in the spring when the Rare Breeds Centre opens for the season). 
  • Hadleigh Castle is not restricted entry and visitors are welcome any time in daylight hours all year round.

Is it dog friendly?

Hadleigh Castle is a great place to visit with dogs. English Heritage request dogs are kept on a lead when on the castle grounds, but be advised there are often dogs not on leads.

What to take with you

  • Food and drink.
  • Walking boots or wellies as it can get very muddy in wet weather.
  • A travel potty if you have a little one who is recently toilet trained.

Plenty of green open space at Hadleigh Castle
There is plenty of open space to run around

How To Get To Hadleigh Castle and Where To Park

Address: Castle Lane, Hadleigh, Essex, SS7 2AP

The road to Hadleigh Castle is a small turning and you drive down a residential road before you get to the car park, but there are the usual brown signs so keep an eye out for those.

You park at the very end of Castle Road and walk from there. There is space for about 8 cars and it’s free to park. You might be able to park at the Rare Breeds Centre car park if the road parking is full. 

View down the castle hill towards the train line and water
View over the train line to the Estuary

What To Do Nearby Hadleigh Castle

Hadleigh Rare Breeds Centre has an interesting range of animals (mostly sheep and goats) and is right next door. It has seasonal opening and is only open in the summer months. Entry costs: £5 for adults, £4 children (2022 prices)

Hadleigh Country Park and bike trails are 2 minutes drive away. There is a cafe and facilities. The cafe is cashless and open 7 days per week from 9.30am to 3pm (weekdays) or 4pm (weekends).

Hadleigh Town Centre has a Morrisons, McDonalds and a few interesting independent shops.

It's not far to Canvey Island (about 15 minutes drive) or Southend (about 20 minutes drive) where you can visit Adventure Island, the planetarium or Southend Aquarium

Wat Tyler Country Park and Langdon Hills Country Park (home of the Peter Rabbit Trail) are both about 20 minutes away.

Photographs and recommendation made by Charlotte who is on Instagram as @the_wolf_mother_project

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