As I walked across the drawbridge at the medieval Warwick Castle, I eyed the portcullis suspended ominously overhead. Armed with only a camera, I knew I’d be an easy target for any of the castle archers positioned along the protective wall above. I’d traveled the 2 hours northwest from London in my 200+ horse-powered rental car, making it through the countryside and across the River Avon unnoticed.
I could’ve planned to stay for just the day, but my itinerary included exploring the land’s finest nearby places, like the Cotswolds and Stratford-Upon-Avon. I only hoped the Earl of Warwick would see me as a friend and not a foe.
From the outside, the 13th and 14th-century stonework stood unwavering and impressive. The site itself dates back to the time of William the Conqueror and earlier! Nothing remains of these early wood and earth fortifications, but for a raised mound where a tower is perched as part of the castle’s defenses.
Climb the over 600 steps to explore the castle’s wall and numerous towers. Quickly dart past the bow and arrow openings and out of sight on Bear and Clarence Towers, lest you be struck by an enemies arrow. Maneuver along the narrow ramparts and up the 5-story Guy’s Tower to scan the village and peasant fields beyond for invading armies on the approach. Race to the gatehouse and ward off an attempted castle siege by strategically hurling stones, hot liquids, and human waste on fearsome invaders below.
Yikes! I’m glad I wasn’t around for an attack like that. Human Waste?!
Ok…In all seriousness, Warwick Castle’s owners, Merlin Entertainments Group, which is an entity including the Tussauds Group, who are well-known for their life-like wax figure museums, have spent over $20 million dollars in restoration work. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Great Hall, the Library, the Staterooms, and the bedrooms, where careful research has been done to accurately restore the living quarters.
Placards, not only provide information but also encourage visitors to ask their questions to any of the well-placed history team experts. Beware, though! I asked a question about a secret door and passageway and got an unexpected answer that involved adultery, murder, and paranormal activity!
Their restoration goals were to spotlight the castle’s history, but to also provide interactive exhibits allowing visitors to experience the centuries of history that have taken place within the castle walls.
Many of the events and exhibitions are designed to be super family-friendly. A calendar of events is posted on the castle’s website. (I wonder how the medieval wifi was?)
There are jousting matches along the river, history team tours, and birds of prey and bowman shows. Kids (and adults!) can practice their archery skills alongside the castle lawn. There’s a first-come-first-serve Princess Tower experience, a terrifying Castle Dungeon experience, and trebuchet demonstrations where projectiles are catapulted over 900 feet away.
While I enjoyed cheering on the jousting knights and trying out my bow and arrow skills, I knew the Castle Dungeon experience was not for me.
The dungeon walls have initials and dates scored into the rock by former prisoners who spent years confined by the damp and murky underground. It’s dark, with only a single shaftway, now window, for light. While building the exhibit, construction workers reportedly ran in terror out of there (!) after having repeatedly seen an apparition of a man wearing a tunic and trousers.
Ok, I know I might sound like a big baby, but I don’t do horror. I’m sure it would’ve been terrifyingly interesting to see medieval torture devices, but even the official website warns the dungeon “should only be visited by the bravest people and those with the strongest stomachs.” I’m sorry, what?! No, no, no.
The modern day complaint with the castle’s shows and exhibitions is that they are campy and too gimmicky. Some TripAdvisor reviewers have expressed their dissatisfaction.
There’s a reason, though, the British Tourist Authority continues to rank Warwick Castle among the Top 10 Historic places in England.
I guess, purists would rather a less glitzy atmosphere, but for a history buff like me (with an overactive imagination), why you need to spend a day at Warwick Castle is obvious. It combines history and great fun to create an unforgettable learning experience!
- Warwick castle can be especially busy on weekends, with tourists and locals visiting for the day. The ideal time to plan your Warwick Castle visit is on a weekday during the spring or fall.
- Tickets are cheaper when purchased online and at least a week ahead of time. Buy a ticket to enter the castle or add on to include the Castle Dungeon experience. Due to the frightening nature of the exhibit, the dungeon isn’t recommended for kids younger than 10. Buying your tickets for the dungeon online will allow you to set your preferred entry time.
- Tickets are about $26 for adults and $23 for kids. Group tickets for families of 4 and 5 are available, offering a savings of about $30.
- Food and drinks are sold on the castle grounds. Visitors are also encouraged to bring a picnic lunch from home as a way to enjoy the castle’s 64 acres of grounds and gardens.
- Warwick castle is easily accessed by car off of the M40. The castle can also be reached by taking a train to Warwick Station and, according to the the official website, is just a 15-minute walk away. Combined rail and admission tickets are available.
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