As we gently trundled through the East Sussex countryside on a gorgeous, hot day, with the sun streaming through the windows, we got our first glimpse of the magnificent Bodiam Castle.
Located across the valley and standing on the banks of the River Rother, the stone grey traditional, medieval castle is easy to spot amongst the green hills and trees. Built in 1385 to act as a coastal defence, Bodiam is one of the best examples of a traditional moated castle.
We’d left the car at Tenterden station and caught the Kent and East Sussex Railway’s heritage steam train service to Bodiam. A lovely way to travel in its own right, it also offers visitors arriving by steam train the chance to save money on ticket entry to the National Trust’s Bodiam Castle (you can either purchase reduced price tickets when you buy your train tickets, or later when you reach the castle).
The railway stretches for 10.5 miles from Tenterden, through the Rother Valley, until it finishes at Bodiam. As well as Tenterden, there’s a good sized car park at Northiam Station, which offers scope for those wanting to park and ride.
The journey from Tenterden was quiet and laidback and took about 30 minutes, with plenty of lovely countryside to admire along the way. When you reach the pretty Bodiam Station, it’s a short walk along roadside paths across the valley to reach Bodiam Castle, which you really can’t miss.
Bodiam Castle is an impressive structure that’s square in design. As well as being a coastal defence, it became a home too – and must have been quite a stunning one! Although the interior of the castle was badly destroyed during the Civil War, the exterior survived very well.
There are large cylindrical towers at each of the four corners of the castle, plus other towers built into the middle areas of the walls. Around the outer walls, the castle is surrounded by a large moat where you’ll see ducks and moorhens swimming around.
If you walk around the paths and along by the moat, you’ll gain a great view of the impressive building from every angle. Although the original drawbridge has long since gone, you do still enter the building in the same way, walking over a bridge across the water to the large gateway.
Despite the main inner part of the castle largely being in ruins, there’s still a surprisingly large amount of it intact that you can explore today. If you don’t mind clambering up narrow staircases – there are good handrails, although some areas are very narrow and steep – you can climb several of the towers. For the less adventurous, a few steps will take you down to see the well (rather murky), or you can walk out and look out of the door at the far side of the castle, overlooking the moat.
Special events are often taking place at the castle, especially during the summer months. On our visit, a woman in full costume gave a talk and demonstration about the type of work she would have carried out whilst working in the household of the castle. She held a captive audience inside those castle walls.
Kent and East Sussex Railway
Tenterden Town Station