This post is a little different as my travel posts are predominantly dedicated to far off places, those most of us Brits would consider “exotic.” However, it’s so easy for us all to forget just how much the UK has to offer and after a recent trip to Warwick castle with my family, I was reminded of just how fantastic some of the UK attractions really are!
A Brief History Lesson
Warwick castle has seen it all, standing since 1068 and commissioned by William the Conquerer it has weathered storms, sieges and fires and has housed a great deal of famous faces during it’s time. Not many places can attest to having witnessed multiple battles including the English Civil War and the War of the Roses which eventually saw the unity of two enemy houses, the creation of the Tudor Rose and King Henry VIII, one of the most famous English Kings accession to the throne.
After surviving the tests of time, Warwick castle is now enjoying it’s retirement as a museum and family attraction where visitors can enjoy learning about the castle’s past and see what it must have been like to step back in time and witness British history for themselves.
Things to do
My personal favourite attraction was the castle itself; meander through the many rooms restored to their former glory, from the medieval banquet table in the great hall to one of the great mistresses of the castle’s boudoir. Take your time wandering around, soaking up the fascinating stories behind each room and some of the items in them. But make sure to have a hearty breakfast as there’s a lot of stairs to climb!
The impressive suits of armour and weapons adorn the walls of the great hall. We were shocked to discover the set made for a small child! Kids complain about what clothes their parents stuff them in nowadays, imagine the poor child that had to wear that!
The castle has had many famous visitors including Princess Diana, Winston Churchill, Henry VIII, Queen Victoria and our current monarch Queen Elizabeth II who dined in this very dining room.
It’s fascinating to be able to take a peek into how some of the people who shaped Great Britain lived and some of the weird and wonderful objects they managed to collect over the many years this great structure has been standing. A few I can remember include a massive narwhal horn (which could have anyone questioning whether at one point unicorns did in fact exist), a beautifully ornate clock belonging to Marie Antoinette ( you know the one; ” let them eat cake” Queen) bought at auction after the French Revolution and the beheading of the French Royal family. I could have honestly spent hours whiling the time away reading and wondering about the past owners of this great castle, It’s a fantastic interactive way for anyone to learn about history; to feel like they are actually experiencing it!
The castle has a number of spectacular view and vantage points which are great to snap some photos and just take in the general grandeur of being on the top turret of a castle. Again be prepared for a climb, but it’s totally worth it.
There are a number of shows and demonstrations throughout the day which are definitely worth a watch! See a live demonstration of the trebuchet – a medieval catapult used to storm castles. It was built by a team at Warwick castle and to date is the largest working siege machine in the world!
My favourite of the shows was the birds of prey demonstration. It provided a great balance between educational information about the birds and how they’re trained and comedic entertainment. Hats definitely go off to the poor bloke trying to maintain his cool while being attacked by a swam of angry wasps – occupational hazard of carrying raw meat on your person on a hot summer’s day!
It was here too that I was witness to my first ever jousting experience, being a fan of ‘A Knight’s Tale’ and horses in general, I was keen to spectate this particular event. Stood in the stands of the York rose ( we had to be loyal to my routes of course) jeering at the Lancastrians, we witnessed a very impressive show combining jousting, fire, sword play and actually a lot of real danger. I can definitely see the sport’s appeal all those years ago before the invention of TV and the internet! They engagingly retold the tale of Edward of York, the scheming King Richard and the eventual victory of Henry VII and the unity between the two houses to create the Tudor rose. The horsemen were incredibly skilled and the horses were having a whale of a time galloping around like the crazy beasts they are. This is definitely not one to miss!
In addition to the shows there are various demonstrations of archery, sword fighting and opportunities for the spectators to try their hands at medieval crafts and weapon weilding. This seemed incredibly popular with the hoards of visiting children.
One of the more recent castle attractions is Warwick dungeons, part of the ‘dungeons’ franchise (there are a number up and down the country including Edinburgh,York and London) appealing to those who like to get their heart racing with a few scares whilst learning interactively about Britain’s often truly horrible history. Unfortunately, the dungeons weren’t included in the 2-4-1 tickets we used and was an extra £9 each so having been to a number of the other dungeon attractions, we decided to give it a miss. However, from my experience at the other franchises, it’s a fun (if not slightly hair-raising) experience and a guaranteed giggle if you’re willing to part with the extra pounds.
Places to Eat
For those like us wanting a cheaper day out, the castle provides a beautiful backdrop for a picnic, however, we were pleasantly surprised to find that food prices weren’t utterly extortionate….
The Undercroft restaurant offers an all you can eat buffet for £12.95 for adults and £7.50 for kids. So if you can eat your weight in pizza, pasta and salad it’s not breaking the bank for a substantial amount of food. We didn’t eat here but there were fantastic smells floating up from inside.
If you feel like splashing out on a proper sit down meal then ‘The Coach House’ is a little more what you could call ‘refined’ and overlooking the peacock garden is a great place for afternoon tea (my absolute weakness!).
There are an abundance of food vendors serving a variety of snacks to suit everyone’s tastes from burgers, pasties, doughnuts and the like. You’re looking at £7-£9 for an adult meal deal which includes drinks and a side.
Money saving tip: If you go to the hotdog stand the child’s hotdogs are the same size as your average hot dog ( with the same size drink and side as the adult portion) and for £2 cheaper so if you aren’t after a monster meal, save some cash and get kids portions.
Top Parting Tips:
Now you may be thinking that Warwick Castle is pretty pricey if you’re paying for a family or group, however, if you’re a keen cereal eater you may have noticed the ‘Adults go free’ coupons on some of the Kelloggs boxes. These little babies entitle you to ‘buy one get one free’ adult tickets and an adult going free with every paying child. This scheme saves quite the pretty penny and not only can they be used at Warwick castle but at many other family attractions across the UK. Check out their website for more details ( http://grownupsgofree.kelloggs.co.uk ) and in the mean time start stock-piling cereal!
Parking at the castle is pretty expensive but quite by accident we discovered you could park all day for £4.50 in St Nicholas park. This is £5.50 cheaper than the closest of Warwick castle’s car parks and is a short 5 minute walk from the castle entrance. The park is also beautiful so if you find some spare time you can stop and have your picnic there, buy a more sensibly priced ice cream or let your kids loose to play in the paddling pool and playground. If you follow the Google maps directions to the castle not the attraction road signs it takes you more or less to the park carpark.
So whether you’re a parent needing to entertain little princes and princesses or a self-professed historian looking to soak up some knowledge, Warwick Castle has something to suit everyone! Find out more by checking out their website here …. https://www.warwick-castle.com
If this post has left you feeling inspired to explore more of the fantastic British Isles, check out some of my other posts about our fantastic country here… https://thejetsetvet.com/category/travel/europe/united-kingdom/