History Comes Alive For Schools at Dundonald

Last year, professional Glasgow historian and archivist, Dr Kirsteen Croll found work closer to home for family reasons. Glasgow’s loss proved to be Dundonald’s gain, as she’s making a remarkable difference to the community where she grew up.

Kirsteen knows Dundonald Castle well – it inspired her as a child and started her own love of history. Surrounded by enthusiastic staff and volunteers, she decided it was the perfect place to launch an affordable Education service for schools, and inspire a new generation of historians.

New ways to learn about Castles & Scottish History

At last, there’s focus on Scottish History, in both primary and secondary schools. Most Scottish primary pupils are given the chance to learn about Castles and the Wars of Independence as they grow.

Kirsteen could see so much potential. The Castle is accessible to schools all over Ayrshire, and has great links to Glasgow and beyond. It means that most little ones have a short journey on their day out and once there, it’s an easy walk up a small, scenic hill for fun in a safe environment, where they can be free of any restrictions!

Special Touches

A school visit typically lasts from 10 am to 2 pm. Assisted by wonderfully detailed models, children will find out about the four settlements and castles which have existed on the hill and engage in activities to actively assist learning. Moira Park, Secretary of Friends of Dundonald Castle, has generously hand-stitched 35 wonderful medieval costumes for boys and girls, and they are invited to dress up to fire their imaginations.

A walk up the hill, and they’re greeted by a Viking soldier, a Scottish Man-at-Arms and a learned Friar, who will explain all about how and why they dressed, fought and ate in medieval times. Costumes are well made and authentic – a mixture of Moira’s handiwork and loans from Historic Environment Scotland. As many weapons and artefacts as possible are real, so there is no danger of anybody losing interest!

Detailed Knowledge & Plenty of Action

Inside the castle, the children will meet the formidable Sir Colin (featured in the picture). Colin Park is a truly knowledgeable local historian, with a lifelong love for his subject. A former policeman, he looks the part as a fierce knight, is imposing but warm, and fascinating to children, leaving them with lots of questions – none of which are too much trouble for him to answer.

The children learn so much more about medieval life than by sitting in their classrooms – about medieval diet, how people lived and worked, the structure of society, the nature and purpose of fortifications, ghostly tales of past prisoners in the dungeon pit and lots more. They are given the chance to burn off physical energy too, with jousting and battles galore. There’s a toy horse, lance, sword and shield for everyone.

It’s so much fun and not surprising that schools are queueing up this year to visit Dundonald Castle. It’s informal, it’s friendly, it’s jam-packed with knowledge and everyone just loves it.

Only the Beginning…

With this year as Scotland’s year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, there’s even more reason to be excited! The Castle has secured funding for a state-of-the-art geophysical survey, which will provide more opportunities for schools to actively participate in archaeology¬† – still covering history and creative subjects, but also geography, geology, maths and science.

The lovely lady who developed it all could not be happier. Kirsteen says, “The Education Service at Dundonald Castle is really taking off! In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have imagined how successful it would be. We only started structured visits 9 months ago and, through the enthusiasm and creativity of staff and volunteers, we have been able to inspire so many children – some of whom don’t often have the opportunity to visit places like the Castle. Many children are coming back with friends and family, and we couldn’t be more pleased about the effect we’ve had on them.”

Leave a Reply