Warwick Castle is under siege. It 1642 and the middle of the English Civil War and Royalists are camped outside the castle, held by Parliamentarians. The invaders have bought cannon with them which they fire at the castle. The smoke from the cannon clears… but the defences are too strong and the castle is undamaged. Despite the Royalists’ best efforts, the siege is ended when Parliamentarian reinforcements arrive and the Royalists flee.
This is just one event in the very long history of Warwick Castle. The first buildings to form part of the castle were built in 914AD by the daughter of Alfred the Great, Ethelfleda, making Warwick Castle nearly 1100 years old. It has survived sieges, fires and has even been successfully invaded. Over the years it has been added to and changed according to the fashion at the time so the building styles and decoration are quite varied.
Warwick Castle today
Warwick Castle today is full of activities and there is plenty for kids to see and do. As with many of these attractions, there is far too much to see in a single visit so try to plan what you’d like to see before you go.
There are shows, mazes, gardens, dungeons and the interior of the castle to explore, as well as walking the castle walls and finding out more about its history.
It is also possible to stay at the castle and various accommodation is offered on the website. You can choose from Mediaeval Glamping or staying in lodges in the Knight’s Village but I’d love to stay in the Tower Suites, where there is even a family room.
Keep an eye out for themed events around school holidays and national celebrations.
As we arrived at the castle we walked through a barbican. This is a narrow passageway between two portcullises. In the days of yore, invading soldiers would be trapped in between the portcullises and would become sitting ducks for the defending soldiers to pick off with arrows, boiling oil or whatever the weapon of the day was. I couldn’t help but imagine what this might have been like as we walked through the barbican.
The first thing we did was to wander around the courtyard just looking at the castle. There is one main building and walls encircle the courtyard, broken by large towers. The castle is built on a mound and the walls are built in a higgledy-piggledy fashion around the mound. Stirring medieval-style battle music plays out of speakers around the site to add to the atmosphere.
Seeing that the trebuchet show was about to start we headed out of the courtyard and grabbed a spot on the river banks. This siege weapon is the biggest in the world and takes four men about half an hour to crank, running in giant wheels like hamsters. The whole thing is run as a show with costumed actors and that music. When the thing finally let go of its flaming payload it was worth the wait – the fireball went pretty high and landed with a hefty thump several hundred metres away. You wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that in the middle of a battle.
Pausing to watch a bit of the falconry show, we went in search of food. There are plenty of food stalls and a couple of restaurants in the main courtyard but they didn’t really appeal. Instead we went to the Conservatory Tea House which had sandwiches and cakes and looks over a garden with fountains and peacocks. “This is much more our style,” exclaimed the husband. You’ll be surprised to hear that he is ribbed mercilessly at work for enjoying the finer things in life…
Next we booked a time slot for the Princess Tower and walked around the inside of the castle while we waited. There is a fantastic display of armour inside the main hall and the rooms are set out as they would have been used at various points in history.
The Cub had a great time inside the Princess Tower. You go in a small group and an interactive mystery has to be solved. I won’t say any more here except that little girls will love it.
We also chose to walk the castle walls. With Bee in the sling we climbed up one of the towers for some great views over the castle and the town of Warwick. There are a lot of steps and many are precarious, especially when walking up and down the towers. Inside the towers are displays showing various events in the castle’s history.
All of this took several hours and so with the children (and us) feeling exhausted we headed for home. We’d like to go back and see the bits that we missed, like the Time Tower, the Dungeon and the Horrible Histories maze. Perhaps next time we’ll risk some glamping…
Know before you go
Warwick Castle is managed by Merlin Entertainment so if you’ve got a Merlin Pass entry will be free. You can book your tickets online at the official Warwick Castle site to save money.
If you’ve got small children use the drop-off section close to the castle before you park your car. It took us quite a while to walk from our car to the entrance.
We wanted to walk along the walls so we didn’t use our buggy; Bee went in the sling. You can leave your buggy at the foot of the steps but I didn’t see a dedicated buggy park.
The Princess Tower needs reserving so book your time slot outside the tower as soon as you arrive to avoid disappointment.
Some attractions aren’t suitable for little ones – we definitely couldn’t take ours into the Dungeon. We didn’t think that the Time Tower would be suitable either. It also had quite a big queue outside it so be prepared.
Make sure you pick up a schedule for the shows. You shouldn’t miss them!
The kids’ costumes in the souvenir shops are very appealing. Be warned, your little ones will want to be kitted out which will cost you an arm and a leg. Months later, the Cub still asks to be a “pink knight” even though we were mean and didn’t buy her anything…