Eden Camp is an award-winning modern history museum based just outside Malton. If the word ‘museum’ conjures up visions of large brick-built buildings with shiny ticket offices, light-filled atriums and glossy galleries, then Eden Camp couldn’t be more different. In fact, it’s a family-owned attraction housed in a former WW2 Prisoner of War camp! We visited again recently with our three children and spent an afternoon exploring, learning and eating ice cream (no visit to a museum is complete without ice cream, apparently). Here’s why we’d recommend it for families.
1. You’ll be transported back in time
Around 250 Italian prisoners of war built the camp back in 1942, and it could hold over 1000 prisoners at any given time. The prisoners are long gone, but the camp lives on as a place to learn about life during the war, from life at home to the gruelling experience of the front line. With around thirty huts to explore, there’s an awful lot to take in and learn about.
2. It’s history brought to life (no complaints about being bored!)
In many ways, Eden Camp isn’t your average museum. It’s clear that a lot of time and attention has gone into creating an experience that’s accurate, memorable and enjoyable for all visitors. As anyone who has visited museums or galleries with children knows, an engaging experience that everyone can connect with is vital, or you’ll be back in the car/on the bus faster than you can say ‘Can we go now?’. Our children particularly loved the reconstructed scenes, like the 1940s high street complete with butcher, bike shop and sweet shop (of course). Scenes depicting the prisoners in their bunks and families doing their laundry brought home the reality of the era and led to some interesting chats with our kids about how hard life was back then (a life without a TV – the mind boggles…). It’s easy to see why it’s such a popular choice for school trips – a morning at Eden Camp is worth a week in the classroom.
3. There’s something for visitors of all ages
History buffs, veterans and visitors with a keen thirst for detail will be in their element at Eden Camp: there’s a vast amount of information about all aspects of the war, from the animals who helped to the experience of women to the music, fashion and food of the era. The collection of original objects, medals and vehicles is impressive, and the only limit will be your energy. For younger visitors who won’t or can’t read the displays, there’s more than enough in the way of immersive exhibits – complete with sounds and smells – for them to get the gist. Some of the huts are dark and might be unsuitable for younger visitors, but these are well signed (and our youngest, who wasn’t keen on the dark huts to begin with, was fine once she’d been in a couple).
4. There’s a brilliant play area
The play area at Eden Camp is an unexpected bonus – it’s brilliant! Our children always need a bit of a run-around after a car journey, so they couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the two really good play areas (one for 5 and unders, another for children up to 12). The Prisoner Exercise Compound is free with admission and a brilliant place for hide and seek (adults, watch your heads if you’re ‘persuaded’ (forced) to join in!). The area for younger children has been completely re-done, with a tunnel slide, assault course and space to run about.
5. It’s in a great location
Because we often pass Eden Camp on our way to the coast, we had it in our heads that it was further away than it actually is. We were there within 25 minutes, which makes it a really accessible option for a day out. We spent around three hours there, and could quite happily have combined it with a trip into Malton (Groovy Moo gelato anyone?!) or Castle Howard or even as part of a visit to the coast.
Good to know – There’s a cafe serving hot and cold drinks and meals, with a nice indoor seating area and picnic tables outside. You’re welcome to bring your own food to eat outside too. Special events run at Eden Camp throughout the year – keep an eye on their website for details. Wrap up warm if you visit during winter as this is mostly an outdoor experience and it’s Yorkshire!
Address – Eden Camp, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 6RT
Travel time from York – 25 minutes (approx)
Opening hours – Open daily, 10am to 5pm (closed for the Christmas period)
Parking – Free
Tickets – Pre-booking required