We decided to make a trip to Vindolanda and Roman Army Museum to bring the Romans to life for them. We had a brilliant day out and now they are thoroughly obsessed!
I have a confession to make.
I’m a history geek.
And I really want my kids to love history too.
We’ve got two sons aged 4 and 6, and I just knew that their imaginations would be captured by learning about a ferocious foreign army invading Britain and building an enormous wall to keep out the wild Scots.
So we decided to make a trip to Vindolanda and Roman Army Museum to bring the Romans to life for them. We had a brilliant day out and now they are thoroughly obsessed!
What is Vindolanda?
Vindolanda is a Roman Fort which just south of Hadrian’s Wall, near Hexham. As the fort has been excavated it has revealed many of it’s secrets about life in Roman times. It is in a beautiful setting with a backdrop of forest, fields and rolling hills. Vindolanda is the most significant Roman site on the entire frontier of the Roman Empire – conditions at the site mean that the level of preservation is unparalleled. This means there’s some really cool stuff to see there.
There is something for everyone at Vindolanda; our toddler loved splashing in puddles and clambering on the wooden replica fort, while our six year old enjoyed watching the videos about the archaeological finds, which really brought it to life for him. Adults will definitely appreciate just how significant this site is for British history, it really is mind-blowing – and they’ll enjoy the tea room too!
There is a museum which houses the finds from the site, including a child’s skeleton, weapons, jewellery, leather Roman sandals, coins (with different Roman emperors faces on them), armour and the Vindolanda tablets – which have writing in Latin on them. The tablets tell us lots about how the Romans lived their lives. You’ll be fascinated to find out that they were very polite and would write formal invitations to birthday parties! I particularly loved seeing writing from women to women, written in the hand of a woman – a very rare thing to see from antiquity.
On another site (around 10 minutes drive away) there is the Roman Army Museum which has a 3D video and interactive exhibits which teach about Roman Army life. The 3D video explores what life was like for a Roman soldier posted to the “edge of the empire.” The boys were gripped. It’s very accessible to children – our boys loved seeing the weapons and armour and have, of course, been re-enacting Roman soldier fights ever since our visit.
Vindolanda Tickets and Costing
Vindolanda is a charitable trust so all the money goes directly to the excavating and maintaining the sites and museums.
It is different to English Heritage in that there is only one Vindolanda, but they plan to continue excavating until all it’s treasures are unearthed and it’s secrets are found out. The continued investment in digging it up, makes it very much feel like living history and like the next big discovery could be found any day, and perhaps while you are visiting!
Family Tickets to Roman VIndolanda are £22.50, this is for 2 adults and 3 children (children under the age of 5 are free).
Family tickets to the Roman Army Museum are £19, again for 2 adults and 3 children
Vindolanda currently have a special promotion to mark it’s 50 year anniversary. You can purchase a family Golden ticket for £45. This gives your family unlimited access to both sites until the end of December 2021. This offer ends soon, but is a great deal, as you could visit during the different seasons and see live excavations up-close between April and September.
Due to current circumstances you need to book a timed slot for entry online.
Is Vindolanda worth the money?
Vindolanda is awe inspiring. Despite its large size, it is still very much a work in progress which is part of its charm. Archaeological digs continue every April to September (run by archaeologists and volunteers).
When on your visit to the site, you can get very close to the trenches to see the team discover new artifacts. You could easily spend a whole summer’s day here, picnicking, playing in the wooden fort, exploring the grounds, watching the excavations and enjoying the museum and tea room.
Vindolanda has been excavated gradually over 50 years, so they estimate it will take another 150 years to complete the job! Looking beyond the areas already excavated, you can see grassy mounds in all directions. You can’t help but imagine what treasures might be lying beneath them still to be discovered – our boys now of course want to be archaeologists, or at least volunteers one summer when they’re old enough.
We would say the Roman Army Museum and Vindolanda are definitely worth the money, giving a fantastic and memorable day out. Everyone in the family will enjoy themselves. Even if you’re not a history geek, by the end of your trip you will 100% be wanting the rest of the site to be excavated, and may even want to volunteer to do some digging yourself! Knowing that your ticket price is going towards the exploration and protection of this site, make it a feel-good investment of time and money.
What if your budget only stetches to one location?
If your budget only allows for one ticket, then we would suggest you go for the Roman Vindolanda ticket as you could easily spend the whole day here during the summer, and 3 hours or so during the colder months. There is the excavated fort, a wooden fort replica, a museum, a gift shop and a tea room.
How to plan your day at Vindolanda
We did both destinations on the one day. We started at the Roman Army Museum in the morning, which took us around an hour and a half to explore. There is a gift shop there and a tea room if you would like to stop for refreshments.
From there it is a 10-15 minute drive to Vindolanda. We abandoned our good intentions to eat our picnic and stopped for lunch at the Twice Brewed Pub for a delicious roast dinner! Our kids enjoyed stone baked pizzas.
We then spent 3 hours in Vindolanda; exploring the ruins, climbing the replica of Hadrian’s Wall and enjoying the museum. In the summer months if there was an excavation going on, we would stay all day.
It’s a thumbs up from us.