by Janis on 9th November 2021 / 0 comments

Strolling in the footsteps of valiant Knights

The captivating medieval castle at Bodiam in East Sussex transports you to a fairy-tale world of knights in shining armour galloping through the early morning mist. Bountiful feasts laid out at lavish banquets and crackling open fires permeating amidst impenetrable stone walls.

Or perhaps it’s just me, but Bodiam Castle is so enchanting, its symmetrical posture stands steadfast and casts a majestical figure with its encompassing moat.

Bodiam Castle may just be perceived as ruins; however, during the 14th century, the captivating fortress was the aspiration of many English knights.

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Where is Bodiam Castle?

How to get to Bodiam Castle

- By Train
The nearest mainline railway station is at Robertsbridge (5 miles) and Battle (7.5 miles). You will then need to catch a taxi.

Alternatively, if you are staying in Tenterden, you can hop on the historic seasonal Kent and East Sussex Heritage Railway to Bodiam. Then it’s just a short stroll to the castle.

- By Car
Bodiam Castle can be accessed from the A21and then east off the B2244. There’s a free car park for National Trust members, or parking charges apply to non-members.

A brief history on Bodiam Castle

Knights, Lords and the National Trust

Bodiam Castle is now lovingly managed by the National Trust after being bequeathed to them in 1926 by Lord Curzon and is a Grade I Listed Building.

The commanding moated citadel was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III and a Knight of the Shire for Sussex. He fought against the French many times during the Hundred Years’ War. He was granted permission to erect the courtyard castle by Richard III.

Bodiam Castle is located near the banks of the River Rother. During the 14th-century was a much larger waterway where sailing barges were able to moor. Although Bodiam is not near the coastline, it would have formed part of a defence to protect England against the French.

The north view of the entrance to Bodiam Castle reflected in the moat that surrounds it
The entrance to Bodiam Castle

For Sir Edward Dalyngrigge and his wife, Elizabeth Wardedieu Bodiam Castle would have been a luxury dwelling and left others in no doubt of their status in English society.

Bodiam Castle is located near the banks of the River Rother. During the 14th-century it was a much larger waterway where sailing barges were able to moor. Although Bodiam is not near the coastline, it would have formed part of a defence to protect England against the French.

A stone doorway at the southern end of Bodiam Castle next to the Postern Tower looking out to the moat
Across the moat from the Postern Tower

Fast forward to 1917, and Bodiam Castle was bought by Lord Curzon, the former Viceroy of India. He couldn’t bear to see the castle fall into disrepair of crumbling ruins. He undertook a considerable restoration programme until he bequeathed Bodiam Castle to the National Trust.

The National Trust continued with Lord Curzon’s project adding new roofs to the towers and gatehouse and maintains the charismatic castle we see today.

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Approaching the captivating Bodiam Castle

A fortress with many tales to tell
When you first begin to stroll up towards Bodiam Castle, you’re in awe as it is so impressive. However, the further the magnificent turreted castle lures, you in and the mirrored reflection shimmers across the rippling moat, you’re truly captivated.
An iconic view of Bodiam Castle from the south-east corner looking over the mote.
The south side of Bodiam Castle

We follow the pathway around the castle’s west side and keep peeking through the bushes to get another glimpse. Although it isn’t long and the magical view of Bodiam reveals itself in all its glory.

With the charming moat encircling the four Wealden sandstone crenellated towers, you can almost imagine the iconic ‘bucket and spade’ sandcastle could have been fashioned on the Bodiam fortress.

The boardwalk over the moat to the entrance to Bodiam Castle
The boardwalk to Bodiam Castle
I really can’t wait to venture inside, so my pace hastens, and we’re ready to cross the wooden boardwalk to discover what’s beyond.

Where to stay ...

- The Woolpack Hotel – If you’ve hopped on the historic Kent and East Sussex Railway in Tenterden, this historic inn is located in the heart of the town.  It offers delightful rooms within traditional surroundings, and a delicious full English breakfast is included in the price.

- The Abbey Hotel – Located within the historic and picturesque town of Battle, just 7.5 miles away. This delightful Grade II listed building has recently been refurbished.

You can also explore Battle Abbey, where the Battle of Hastings unfolded.

Entering Bodiam Castle Gatehouse

Halt, who goes there?
As we stroll across the wooden walkway, admiring the carp below, we arrive at the Octagon and Barbican in the middle of the moat. The original medieval bridge disappeared centuries ago and would have branched off to the west from the Octagon, making it easier for the castle to be defended.
The massive stone entrance tower, with its iron portcullis, at Bodiam Castle
Bodiam Castle Gatehouse
Looking up at the iron portcullis set in the massive stone entrance tower of Bodiam Castle
The portcullis at Bodiam Castle
Prior to heading through the twin-towered Gatehouse, look out for the portcullis; this is the original grating and a rare sight in Britain today. Above the portcullis are the coats of arms of Sir Edward Dalyngrigge and a helmet with a unicorn. A helmet like this was worn by the gallant knight in battle.
Looking up at the ‘Murder Hols’ in the vaulted stone ceiling of the entrance gatehouse of Bodiam Castle through which molten tar was poured on invaders.

‘Murder Holes’ in Bodiam Castle Gatehouse

Entering the Gatehouse, look up to the vaulted roof, and you’ll spot ‘murder holes’. It’s through these holes that burning missiles would have been dropped on the enemy beneath.

If you're intrigued by Sussex's fascinating past and weird and wonderful history around the county, then take a peek at "The A-Z of Curious Sussex".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

The cover to the book - 'The A-Z of Curious Sussex'

Exploring the ruins within Bodiam

If only ancient walls could talk
The interior quadrangle of Bodiam Castle is now mainly ruins. The Great Hall, chambers, kitchens, and household apartments would have been built around the majestic central courtyard against the thick stone curtain walls.
Inside the ruins of Bodiam Castle, looking at its mighty stone walls
Interior walls of Bodiam Castle
It’s fascinating wandering around the ancient ruins as you can undoubtedly see where the grand fireplaces once stood in each room. Arched doorways stretching high above now appear to hover in the air, and you can peek through the narrow ground floor windows across the East Sussex countryside beyond.
The view of the interior of Bodium Castle from the Postern Tower
Inside ruins of Bodiam Castle
A couple of the rooms are easier to make out within the fortress than others, especially the kitchen. There are two huge hearths with the kitchen, a bread oven, and the ceiling would have been the full height of the curtain wall to allow the heat to be absorbed.
A large well filled with water in the southwest corner tower of Bodiam Castle
The Well Room
Looking up to the bright sky above the stone southwest tower of Bodium Castle
 Inside the southwest tower

An unusual area just off the kitchen in the southwest tower is the Well Room. The large circular pool is believed to have been fed by a spring. However, the jury is out on how it was used centuries ago. It may have been a water source for cooking, drinking water or even a place to bathe.

In the northeast of Bodiam Castle was the Chapel; the distinctive arched windows are little that remains of this integral part of the castle.

The northeast tower of Bodiam Castle set in the ruins of the interior
The northeast tower
The stone chapel windows set in the exterior walls of Bodiam Castle
The Chapel windows

Hiking the East Sussex Countryside

Bodiam is located in East Sussex, nearby the historic town of Battle and the seaside town of Hastings. This region of Sussex is ideal for hikes as it is in the High Weald (AONB), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. To explore the trails in this region of East Sussex, the Ordnance Survey map that will help you along the route is no. 124, ‘Hastings & Bexhill’.

Alternatively, why not purchase and download the OS Maps App, which covers all of Great Britain.

Climbing the Postern Tower

Look out for the ancient graffiti
Directly opposite the main Gatehouse is the Postern Tower and another spiral staircase to master. We’re getting used to the steep winding staircases now, and with only 56 steps to the top, it has to be done.
The view from the Postern Tower of Bodiam Castle to the south-eastern tower and the countryside of East Sussex beyond
View from the Postern Tower

The square Postern Tower is at the back of Bodiam Castle and would have originally had a drawbridge for tradesmen to enter by. The Postern Tower and the Gatehouse are three storeys high, and you’ll notice the rest of the castle is only two.

The views from the top of the tower are wonderful; not only do you get a birds-eye view of the medieval ruins below, but you also get to see the picturesque East Sussex landscape beyond.

The view of the southwest tower from the Postern Tower of Bodiam Castle
View of the southwest tower
Ancient graffiti carved into the soft sandstone of the arch of the Postern Tower in Bodiam Castle
Historical graffiti
At the bottom of the tower, you’ll spot graffiti adorned on the castle walls. This is believed to have been etched by early tourists prior to the 1850s, and I think it adds a quirky side to the castle.

Our video from Bodiam Castle

The experience through our eyes

We have created a little YouTube video of our visit to Bodiam Castle. Why not take a look?

Also, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them?

World War II Pillbox

Defending the River Rother

The building that undoubtedly wouldn’t have escaped your attention is the Second World War pillbox.

Initially, it may look slightly out of place. Still, I feel it adds a distinctive contrast between the commanding 14th-century walls of protection at Bodiam Castle and defences used during the early 1940s.

A brick-built Second World War pillbox with Bodiam Castle in the background
Second World War pillbox
Due to the location of the River Rother, there is a nearby stone bridge. The troops in the pillbox would aim towards the bridge if enemies tried to cross, and it was used by the Canadian Army and later the Home Guard.

Discovering more of East Sussex

Kent and East Sussex Railway

Arrive at Bodiam Castle in style
If you’ll looking to combine your visit to Bodiam Castle with a weekend away, I highly recommend staying at Tenterden in Kent, just a few miles away. It will then give you the perfect excuse to hop aboard the historic Kent and East Sussex Railway.
The black steam locomotive the Norwegian at Tenterden Station next to the sign to Rolvenden, Wittersham Road, Northiam & Bodiam
The Kent & East Sussex Railway

From Tenterden, catch the heritage line from the quaint nostalgic railway station, sit back, relax and enjoy the sound of the steam train chuff, chuffing through the Weald countryside. It’s such a pleasant way to travel.

When you arrive at Bodiam Station, it’s just a short walk to Bodiam Castle. However, before you leave, visit the hop-pickers hut at the back of Bodiam station. Local families and their relations from London would spend their holidays picking the hops for the local breweries. Not only were you earning a little money, but you could also spend time with your loved ones.

The blue sign for Bodiam on the platform of the Kent and East Sussex heritage railway
Bodiam Railway Station
Britain’s oldest brewer is Shepherd Neame, located in Faversham in Kent; it was established in 1698 and is still brewing today.

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