When you're preparing the kids for a stop at Hadleigh Castle, it's best to clarify for them that they are ruins: it's a very different castle experience to tourist fort with museum and shop built in, but to the imaginative kid this is even better!
The ruins of the two ancient towers and part of the curtain wall are all that remain standing of Hadleigh Castle, but of course the destruction of the ages as wrought on such an indomitable seeming structure is fascinating for kids, and the backdrop of the Thames estuary and Essex marshes make for great nature walks while they role play knights and kings (or indeed queens!). Why not pop some regal dress up stuff in the boot to surprise them with? Great family photo opportunity!
The grounds surrounding the castle remains are pleasant for a family picnic and there's plenty of space to run about and play, but be warned though it's a little isolated, and there are no toilets or other facilities nearby whatsoever.
As a point of interest King John gave the land to Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent (no relation to Chris) who then had the castle built when he was all but ruling England while Henry the III was growing up, however he then fell out with the king and had to return all his lands before he'd finished moving in!
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No, there is no parking.