Review: A Grand Day Out at The Royal Armouries

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When our biggest Viking isn’t running about the house pretending to be Spiderman, we can usually find him with his wooden castle recreating very noisy battles between his piles of knights. A trip for this budding Sir Galahad to The Royal Armouries was long overdue, so we headed over to Leeds to check out the UK’s national collection of arms and armour.

What’s the concept? The Royal Armouries is the home of over 8,500 armour-related objects across five galleries: war, tournament, oriental, self-defence and hunting. Whether it’s shiny swords, massive cannonballs or armoured horses, there’s something interesting to look at around every corner and fire even the youngest imaginations. It’s not just old stuff in cabinets either: the museum has made a massive effort to bring the exhibits to life with lots of opportunities for visitors to get their hands on the items. There are plenty of talks from experts throughout the day, as well as some very memorable demonstrations by real life knights in armour (or so our son believed). He loved watching the duel and demonstration but the littlest one found it a bit worrying (she loved the elephant armour though).

What’s in it for kids? You don’t have to be an armour fanatic to get something out of your visit to the Royal Armouries. Our four-year-old absolutely loved it. There was enough to do and see to keep him entertained –and asking endless questions! – for the whole visit. And the littlest Viking seemed to enjoy looking at the shiny armour too. When we felt we’d seen enough armour, we headed up to the Jester’s Yard play area. It was well worth the small entry fee (£2.50 per child) as we spent over an hour there. There’s a lot to do, all with a knights and princess theme. The biggest Viking enjoyed dressing up and playing with the other kids, while the littlest one was happy drawing and painting. The only problem was getting them out of there.

Where can you eat? There are a couple of cafés, but we found the range fairly limited: a small selection of hot and cold food. As usual, we’d been disorganised and not taken our own food, but next time we’ll take our own and sit in the designated picnic area (which is nice and spacious with plenty of seating).

What’s the damage? It’s Yorkshire’s favourite price: free! The closest parking is in a multi-storey and isn’t cheap.

What’s the verdict? It’s a young knight’s – and damsel’s – dream come true. The biggest Viking keeps asking to go back, and we certainly will.

Good to know The Jester’s Yard play area is well worth the money if you need a bit of a break from the armour and the kids need to let off some steam. If your Viking is over 4ft tall, they can also have a go in the crossbow range for £3. There are lots of activities for kids during the holidays, so do check the website for what’s on.  Coming up at Easter are lots of activities around the ‘Knights: Myth and Magic’ theme.

The Royal Armouries Museum, Armouries Drive, Leeds LS10 1LT – Open daily 10am to 5pm (last admission 4.30pm) – Admission is free!

This article was first published in the Autumn 2014 issue of Little Vikings magazine.

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