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Did you know the Battle of Hastings didn’t actually take place in Hastings?
The Battle of Hastings actually all happened in a field around 8 miles away in a village called Battle. The area is now an English Heritage site and you can visit the Abbey and Battlefield where the armies of King Harold and William the Conqueror battled it out all those years ago.
On a regular day you will walk the battlefield, reading the plaques explaining how the Battle of Hastings progressed. You can really imagine the armies in situ and get a feel for how the battle unfolded. You can see the Abbey ruins, visit the cafe and play in the unique play area. The site is dog-friendly too so your pup won’t miss out on the gorgeous walk.
Entrance to Battle Abbey is free for English Heritage members. Use voucher code EH2021 for 15% off your annual membership – valid until 31st July 2021. Take a look at the membership details and sign up here.
English Heritage’s special Battle of Hastings event days!
To really bring history to life and get the most out of your visit I recommend you visit on one of English Heritage’s special event days!
We went in October for their 1066 Battle of Hastings Weekend and it was fabulous!
We were greeted at the entrance with two very enthusiastic team members who divided our family group into the Normans and the Saxons (cue a lot of excitement from the kids because their Grandpa is actually called Norman and they of course, wanted to be on his team). As we walked the battlefield there were challenges set for the teams so we could have our own ‘battle’ as we explored and learnt about the 1066 one.
The cafe was running a barbecue (outside only due to Covid restrictions) and we all enjoyed burgers and hotdogs to refuel after the walk around the battlefield. We explored the abbey ruins and then headed over the falconry display. We were really lucky with the weather – it was bright and dry and we could enjoy sitting on the grass in the field, watching the birds show off their skills and listen to the explanations of how they were used ‘in the olden days’.
My favourite event of the day was the open air theatre re-enactment describing the build up to the Battle of Hastings. I never really knew how the battle came to be before then. The performers were funny but really informative. If history lessons were like that at school I’d definitely have paid more attention.
The kids favourite part of the day was painting their own shields and then taking their new wooden shields and swords into battle in the Norman Boot Camp. They had a lesson in sword play before recreating a full (non-contact) sword fight with an instructor.
If you’re not visiting on a special event day you can pre-order your Norman Shields and wooden or foam swords here in the English Heritage online shop and take them with you. It might just help your little ones feel part of history.
Other highlights were chatting with a real live knight in full chain mail with a very heavy sword, and toasting marshmallows over the big open fire. There was also archery available but the queues were quite long and our kids decided they didn’t fancy it. I’m sure in the normal way the wait times wouldn’t be so long but cover restrictions and social distancing slowed the process down somewhat.
The only thing missing due to Covid was the jousting. The kids would have loved to have seen jousting! Ah well… it gives us an excuse to go back again soon.
Please check opening info and ticketing details on the English Heritage website before visiting as things change frequently in response to changing government restrictions.
Non-UK residents can purchase an English Heritage Pass which will allow you access to over 100 historical sites including Battle Abbey and battle field. If you plan to visit 2 or more of the sites over the course of a 9 or 16 day trip to the UK it’s going to save you money to get an Attraction Pass for Overseas Visitors (and it includes a guidebook to help you plan your trip!). Check the latest price and order your English Heritage Attraction Pass for Overseas Visitors here.
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