Clearly when the Romans first built Portchester Castle a gazillion years ago on the banks of Portsmouth harbour, they intended for it to be an awesome place to play peek-a-boo. It’s a bit of a beautiful ruin, but that makes it more fun than a castle full of antiques for your toddler to crush and puke on.
The grounds are free – so you can go into the walled in fort-y bit without paying to have a nice picnic.
It’s on a sort of pebbly beach with nice views over the estuary. Ok, you’re not going to be paddling in it, but it still counts as beach in my books.
It’s only £5 per adult (age 5-15 £3, free 4 and under), which is a bargain for entry into anything in this country. And it’s English Heritage (of which we are sort of still unactivated members of…), so all free for members.
Spiral staircases of death. These aren’t for the faint hearted with a toddler and a baby in a carrier, but you do get some awesome views from the roof.
Toilets for our lovely potty trainer? Why yes, but council ones out in the car park. That’s not as bad as it sounds, but does include those weird 1960’s sink/soap/handdryer in one contraptions that never quite go right. (This is not the actual one, I didn’t have that kind of foresight).
Food: Most people would probably picnic here, but ice creams and drinks are available from the gift shop (which incidentally has an awesome range of prince/princess/knighty/dragony kids toys), and I’m told there’s a cafe in the church which we didn’t check out.
Access: The grounds are fine, but the castle itself has lots of randomly spaced & sized steps unsurprisingly. Damn those medieval people not thinking of my pushchair. We took one in a carrier, a set of toddler-carrying grandparents and Gravel got herself (turns out she’s a girl by the way, Weasel informed us of this fact the other day, and we are trying to gender-reassign her now in our brains) a new method of travel.
Parking: Council car park which appears to be free. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before.
Verdict: Awesome. Go for a picnic and a beach walk. You probably wouldn’t check out the castle more than once, but it is cheap, so might as well. Weasel loved running around the ruins playing peek-a-boo and collecting rocks.