Review - Warwick Castle 2020

Ollie decided last summer that what he'd really like for his 5th birthday was a Knights and Dragons themed party.

I was (obviously) more than happy to oblige! I mean, I love history, I love tales of Knights in Shining Armour, heraldry, jousting, combat... I got planning straight away, I sorted the colour scheme, the plates, the room layout, the balloons. Everything. Combined with party planning? This was going to be EPIC.

And then, just before I started purchasing things. Ollie changed his mind.

He didn't want a big party anymore, he wanted a treat, something like his trip to the Natural History Museum except with his current passion in mind - Knights and Castles.

So with that in mind I started planning a day out at Warwick Castle instead.

We've been there before as family when we had Merlin Passes a few years ago and I was looking forward to returning with the kids a bit older. I knew there would be more for them to do and more to interest them this time round.

My two little Knights were ready to go and we were first in line when the castle opened it's gates. Having got there early we parked relatively close and we had already pre-printed our tickets at home which saved us time queuing for the ticket office. It's worth booking your tickets online as it saves you time and money on the day, as well as including a guaranteed return for free if it rains for a certain amount of time during your visit.

We decided to go the week before Ollie's birthday, during half term, because there was a week of special archery demonstrations in addition to the usual shows and attractions. On arriving we immediately checked out the timings of the shows so that we could plan our day without missing out on something we really wanted to see.

Our first activities included the Kingmaker exhibit, the Time Tower and the Princess Tower. These were all inside and perfect for keeping out of the torrential rain which hit shortly after our arrival. Ollie wasn't a fan of the dim lighting in the Kingmaker exhibit but it remains one of my favourite areas, I love the idea of exploring a castle in the midst of the inhabitants preparing for battle. We were able to explore the sights and sounds, try on the helmets and armour and read a bit about Richard Neville which is always fascinating.

Lily particularly enjoyed the Time Tower with it's pre-recorded interactive features which take you through the history of the castle from Anglo-Saxon times to the present day. It was the first time we'd visited this feature and it was a great way of introducing you to the castle and it's history! If you visit, try and head here first as it sets up the rest of the day really well.

The Princess Tower had been a big favourite the last time we visited. You need to get a ticket for a time slot but this is free and the slots are regular so you don't have to wait long. We used the time before our slot to visit the Great Hall and State Rooms which was good timing and kept us out of the rain. Having visited the Princess Tower before, the experience wasn't quite as magical for the adults but Lily was still amused even when Ollie was grumpy and I'm always a big fan of a princess story.

As Ollie's birthday is usually a little wet and windy I didn't expect a day of bright sunshine. However, I was glad for the previously mentioned Rainy Day Guarantee because the weather during our trip was truly horrific and it did impact the enjoyment a little. Ollie struggled when he was wet and cold, as I imagine most nearly 5 year olds would and I would have felt bad if his day had been ruined by the weather. Luckily, we were able to make the most of it and worked our day around the weather as much as posisble.

The wind and rain was worse around lunchtime and nearly everyone visiting seemed to head inside to escape the downpour. We had planned to take part in the Children's Tour but it seemed really busy. So, to avoid the crowds we decided to grab some lunch and headed out of the castle into the town to the Chip Shed for a tasty lunch (I'll review that separately another time).

We got soaked both before and after lunch but were relieved to have a brief respite in the afternoon which allowed us to watch the show in the Bird of Prey arena and also spend some time on the Have A Go Archery which went down really well with all members of the Kirsch family!

The staff were very friendly and good with the kids, despite there being a queue behind us I didn't feel like we were rushed at all which was nice and we had enough arrows for all of us to have a go. Ollie loved this part of the day and all of us would've have done more archery if we could.

We also used this time to explore The Mound which is the oldest part of the castle and offers some great views from the top. There were so many learning opportunities on our way to the top and I loved sharing my passion for history with Matt and the kids. 

Warwick Castle does feel like more of an attraction than a historic castle in many ways but I don't see this as a bad thing. I enjoy the modern amenities associated with Merlin Attractions whilst also being able to learn and explore about history with my kids and that's what I love most about Warwick Castle as somewhere to visit for a day out.

Ollie refused outright to go into the 'Gaol' of the castle - the original castle dungeon. But Lily bravely ventured down with Matt, shes always up for adventure! They're still a bit young to try out the 'Castle Dungeon' so we didn't purchase this with our tickets. I'd like to try it out one day, perhaps when the kids are older.

Determined to pack in as much as possible to our day, we wandered around the 'Royal Weekend Party' before braving the elements for the Horrible History Maze. We didn't hang around too much but did ensure we visited every area of the maze to get our history passports stamped - and putting Matt and Lily in the stocks. 

Of course.

By the time it got to the archery demonstration at the end of the day we were pretty soaked and beginning to get really cold. However, we refused to be deterred from the last bits of entertainment, squeezing everything we could out of Ollie's magical treat.

I'm glad we stayed because the skills shown by the performers were seriously impressive. I used to be part of a historical re-enactment society and, I'm ashamed to admit, it has made me a bit fussy when it comes to costumes, characters and combat. And yet I found little to criticise as the group performing the show were fantastic. I like the attention to detail in their clothing and their backstory, the snippets of history they gave and the way they made it all so entertaining. It ignited a fire in my tummy and me want to rush home and put on one of my dresses, desperate to be part of something like that once again.

The last part of our day was the Knight Training. By this point Ollie was flagging and so only Lily took part, unfortunately slipping in the wet mud at the end (whoops) which meant we just had to enjoy a warming hot chocolate in the Coach House restaurant. I didn't complain, it was a lovely way to round off a fun-filled day.

Despite being there from opening to close I still felt like there was much more we could have done. I'd love to take a tour of the castle on our next visit as well as explore more of the grounds and the castle exterior. I was secretly a little relieved that the Battlements and Towers were closed due to the high winds as I'm not really very good with heights but it would be good for the kids to try it out again as they were small the first time we did this.

I'm also looking forward to new attractions coming to the Castle from Easter time, so we'll be using the guarantee to visit once again and (hopefully) enjoy some brighter weather and even more of the castle.

Most importantly, Ollie had an amazing time. The trip fuelled his imagination and he couldn't stop chatting about it when he got back to school after the break. I may have been sad about not planning a party for him this year, but the smile on his and Lily's faces made our day at Warwick Castle a worthy birthday treat!

*I have not been asked by anyone to write this review, all opinions are my own*
Our Cherry Tree © . Design by Berenica Designs.