The old adage of learning through play should be the motto used by conservation charity The Landmark Trust.
It’s incredible that by just staying in one of their wonderful and quirky properties, you can pick up so much historical knowledge. Add that to no interference from modern day distractions like Wi-Fi and television and really you are looking at a near perfect break.
Our family have been keen explorers of The Landmark properties since Ruaridh (14) and Flossie (12) embarked at a very young age on their first adventure, a stay in the iconic Pineapple building in Scotland. They can still vividly remember sitting in the actual pineapple and eating their breakfast and it’s those moments of magic we all remember.
So it was with great excitement that we headed off, with husband Kenny, for a stay at Cawood Castle in Selby, North Yorkshire.
The best bit for Ruaridh and Flossie is when we have the first glimpse of our weekend home. Usually, the properties are miles from anywhere and down long tracks. But Cawood Castle is bang slap in the heart of a traditional village, meaning we felt like gentry as we drew up.
Dating back to the 1300’s, all that remains of this fine castle is The Gatehouse. But with its spiral stairs and magnificent bay windows, it really is grand.
Built as the principal palace of the Archbishops of York, 200 years before The Gatehouse was added, the castle was destroyed on the orders of Parliament during the Civil War. Sited on very flat landscape, it seems a strange place for a fortified building, but this was an important crossroads with a ferry over the River Ouse and on to the road to York.
And it has had its fair share of visitors, including Henry VIII and his wife Catherine Howard and her lover Thomas Culpeper, whose presence caused her to be beheaded! Edward II and his wife Isabella also stayed in Cawood on their way to the disastrous defeat at the hands of the Scots led by Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn.
Archbishop John Kempe built The Gatehouse using the creamy white stone from a quarry at Huddleston and in 1439 he was made a cardinal and to celebrate, a cardinal’s hat is carved into several of the shields on the outside of the building.
The most famous religious man of all, Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, came to Cawood in 1530, when he had fallen from power and had to surrender all his offices except York. It was here that he was arrested by the Earl of Northumberland for treason, on the orders of Henry VIII and died soon afterwards.
During the civil war, Cawood changed hands three times and at the end of the war it was decided that it should be knocked down, leaving just The Gatehouse to be used as a local courthouse, before becoming an officer’s mess during the Second World War. From then on, it deteriorated until 1985 when The Landmark bought it and renovated it into the fabulous place it is today.
The charity has 200 properties, no two the same, across Britain and Italy and income from people staying in them, allows them to restore and keep history alive.
Even though each property is different, sensibly the charity provides the same type of kitchen and bath ware across the 200, to give people that sense of familiarity, with each place revealing so many surprises.
Our squeals of delight came from Ruaridh and Flossie who delved straight into the downstairs cupboard and found two very large and ancient keys, a good excuse to explore and work out where they fit. They soon discovered these opened the adjoining and mighty great hall, now empty and dusty, but with a bit of imagination, you could envisage a few hearty ales being washed down with a great feast.
The Gatehouse is divided into two floors, with the lower, a surprisingly large room, which serves as a lounge, with a beautiful four poster bed in the middle and a small, but compact kitchen just through a tiny enclave.
Furnished sensitively in keeping with its history, the joy is opening the old leaded windows, admiring the gargoyles on the walls and getting limestone wash used to protect the walls, all over your clothes as you brush past.
The second floor is reached by a very spiral staircase and a lovely large bedroom, with wooden window shutters, an old fireplace and a beautiful tapestry on the wall. As with old buildings, we had some unexpected visitors, ladybirds all over the place, coming from the cold to seek some warmth.
The Landmark have ingeniously used what they had and pinched a little bit from the adjoining house to make a narrow bathroom and toilet and if you can climb all the stairs to the top, you can head out onto the roof and enjoy the views of Cawood, a pretty village with friendly folk and several pubs.
York and all its delights are a short drive away, but we opted to head for a bit of teenager indulgence, a visit to Xscape Yorkshire in Castleford. The out-of-town attraction is a haven of fun and has something for all the family from Snowzone to Gravity Aerial Adventure.
We chose a bit of brain busting with a visit to The Escapologist, with four rooms to choose from , including a magical themed one inspired by Harry Potter. It was a visit for us though to Her Majesty’s Hotel and a chance for Ruaridh and Flossie to have mum and dad locked up and they had to work out our escape all in 30 minutes.
Harder than you think, it’s a great way to solve a puzzle and the children had to be friends for a while as they worked out a plan. There was much huffing and puffing, but we got there with a minute to spare!
From there we decided to take it easy and enjoyed two rounds of golf 4D style! The UK’s first glow in the dark adventure golf with some great 3D theming and special effects at every hole.
There are two courses to try out, discovering the mystical lost underwater city in Search for Atlantis while trying to escape from the fury of Poseidon and then rescuing the lost Professor Knochendigger in the Curse of the Mummy.
It really is great fun, with glow in the dark golf balls, spooky sounds and excellent special effects and some really tricky holes to complete.
You could spend all day at Xscape with all its attractions and food outlets and it was certainly strange to leave the buzz of modern life and return to the stillness of Cawood, but the mixture of both new and old proved to be an incredible experience!
Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Follow her adventures with her family on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.
Photographs by Jill Tate courtesy of Cawood Castle