In 2017 Udi and Sivan, an Israeli couple (and their two kids), embarked on a quest to explore Britain’s beautiful historic estates. After many years of residing in London, the small family moved to the Cotswolds where they first stumbled upon Sudeley Castle. Next followed Ragley Hall and by their third visit “they were hooked”.
The couple have hunted out over 90 castles in their first year of castle pursuit. Unlike the usual “visit guides” to historic sites, these “castles chasers” also give insight about things you’ll never find in guide books. Their blog tells not only the historic facts but also gives a unique peek to the stories behind the castles and their past or current inhabitants. “We felt we should not only review each place we visit, but also mark the best ones – pretty much like the Michelin Guide”.
And so like a castles “Michelin Guide”, the castles on their website are rated with each one’s story and a link to further information, along with the history of each location and great photos taken by Sivan who is an eager photographer.
We were lucky enough to interview Udi and Sivan, to know more about their passion and get some tips about travelling with kids:
Tell us a bit about yourselves: What do you both do for a living? How old are your children?
Both of us have an extensive background in media. We have two kids aged ten and six. We used to live in London for many years and like any Londoners we didn’t feel any urge to go anywhere outside of this great city. In the past two years we finally left the town, searching for a quieter place to raise a family. We moved to the Cotswolds and suddenly discovered the beauty of Britain, which led us to our castle chasing project…
How do you decide on the next castle to explore?
There are thousands of castles in the UK but most of them are just ruins with nothing to see really, so we decided to concentrate on sites which actually charge the visitors an entrance fee. We assume that such sites will offer a better visiting experience.
At first, we explored all the castles and stately homes around where we live. Afterwards, we made a list of castles and stately homes that we just must visit and planned longer trips around them. For example, when we decided to visit Raby Castle in the north of Yorkshire we also spent a day exploring Castle Barnard, located only seven miles away.
The photographs on your Blog and Instagram are stunning! Do you have any tips for our readers on how to take great photographs in such vast, not very well lit spaces?
Travelling with two young kids to popular sites during vacation time give the optimal conditions for photographing the countryside and sites. I usually have a very limited time to capture the best frame possible. Therefore, researching every site is a must: looking at other photos of the site, marking the best angles in advance, so once we are in the site, I head immediately to the desired spot.
What is the craziest castle related story you have come across on your adventures?
So far we have collected over 200 stories from castles and stately homes. It’s almost impossible to choose one. Sometimes the craziest stories appear in the strangest places. For example, Lidiard House is a stately home located in the middle of a park in Swindon. It’s not the most exciting place to visit, but it is where we discovered some of our best stories. One of them is the story of 18th century Diana Spencer who had a very similar life (up to a point) to another Diana Spencer we all know as the late Princess of Wales. Another great story from that house is about the Earl of Rochester who decided to open a fertility clinic in London during the 17th century.
From reading your posts, it is clear that you arrive prepared for the castles. What tips can you share regarding getting ready for a visit to a castle or any historical sight?
After we visited a dozen places, we learned that what makes a castle an exciting place to visit is the way it is managed and not its history. Castles are like an iceberg, only the tip of their history and character is exposed. I believe that organisations like the National Trust or CADW (in Wales) have the responsibility to help visitors become engaged with the site they manage. Unfortunately, it is not always the case. In our blog, we review the site visited as well as talk about the visiting experience. I hope that these reviews will help visitors make an informed decision on where they wish to travel next.
Travelling with your kids: How did you get them interested in something that might come across as boring to most children? Are they at all excited about exploring the castles?
It’s the responsibility of the organisations managing the castles to create all sorts of activities that will make the castle or house interesting to all ages. When we visit castles, we make our research in advance to make sure that there are relevant activities for our kids, and when we visit the castle, we do it in turns. Sometimes, when we know a certain castle does not offer any activity for children we are looking for things to do near the castle, and we visit the actual castle separately (I think it’s a real shame because castles should always offer activities for kids)
What’s next for you? Are you planning on publishing a book? Making a TV show or becoming castles tour guides?
These are all great ideas… to be honest, although we started our “chase” a year and a half ago, we launched our blog only a few weeks ago and we did not even finish uploading all the reviews from the castles we visited. What I do know is that we are incredibly passionate about this project and I do hope we will continue it for many years, in every format possible.
We have to ask… How big is your house?
We live in a boring terrace house with no exciting story to tell… I guess this is one of the reasons we felt that we have to go on this exciting quest.
The unique adventures this family have been on is also shared on the website, making it not only a somewhat different source about castles and the story behind them – but also an inspiration for those of you who dream… but not yet dare.
All photos by Sivan Scrivener, chasingcastles.com