Review: Colchester Castle Museum where touching the exhibits is actively encouraged - the perfect destination for half term fun

Fun at the castle museum

Fun at the castle museum - Credit: Archant

Don’t touch that - it must be one of the most over-used phrases in a parent’s vocabulary.

Josie, six, loved her day out at the castle

Josie, six, loved her day out at the castle - Credit: Archant

The signs at Colchester Castle Museum, however, contradict us all and actively encourage children to touch models, replica archeological artefacts and chain mail armour.

The recently reopened museum, within the ancient castle, is filled with interactive, hands-on exhibits that entertain children and fuel their thirst for knowledge.

Dressing up stations accompany several of the displays and for just £1 children can loan a mini tablet pre-loaded with an app that leads them on a journey around the museum’s two floors.

It lets them delve a little deeper, see beyond the walls of the museum and see how ancient buildings were created using traditional techniques.

My arch in progress - Josie Sadler

My arch in progress - Josie Sadler - Credit: Archant

Our first stop was a pile of foam blocks, which need to be put together to create a Norman archway. The supporting frame is then pushed back to see if your arch can support itself - a lesson not just in history but also problem solving and engineering - all cleverly dressed up as a fun game.

The Roman dressing up station gave us parents a chance to step back to our childhood and we dresses as soldiers ready for battle.

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There is no set route around the museum, you can leap between the Roman era and Iron Age, from Norman times to modern history, but cleverly colour coded symbols denote which age each exhibit relates to.

During our visit, staff were sewing in the thatched round house, making and repairing costumes for this attraction, and encouraged children to have traditional face paint or just try out the outfits.

Natalie and Nick Sadler get into the spirit

Natalie and Nick Sadler get into the spirit - Credit: Archant

We learnt about the arrival of the Romans in Colchester, Boadicea’s attack on the town, the destruction of the Temple of Claudius, which now forms the base of the Norman castle and about recent treasure hauls.

We watched videos, raced chariots, hovered over an ancient toilet and heard descriptions about what life was like for the different classes within the Roman society.

And before we knew it, it was closing time and we were forced to leave.

We visited the museum on a Sunday afternoon and spent a good two hours wondering around, but could easily have spent much longer.

There is a lunch area on the ground floor, predominantly used by schools, where you can enjoy a packed lunch or a hot drink from the machine if the weather is miserable. Alternatively, take a picnic and enjoy in the extensive Castle Park grounds that surround this fortress, extend your visit by exploring the ornamental pond, scrambling the climbing frame, hiring a pedalo or simply reenacting a Roman battle in the vast open space.

For more on half term days out, Hallowen news and more, visit our online autumn guide here