We've visited Warwick Castle several times over the last few years with our Merlin Passes, as it's literally just around the corner from where Ram's parents live. It had been a few years since my last visit to Warwick Castle though and a lot has changed, so we spent a lovely day out there at the beginning of the summer holidays.
Warwick Castle is a very well preserved castle, and has all the features of a castle that you expect to see - a portcullis, turrets, crenelated walls, a dungeon, grand rooms and a huge open courtyard in the middle. You have lovely views across the River Avon and surrounding countryside and there are some beautiful gardens with peacocks.
We started our visit in the Horrible Histories Maze, as we had heard that it can get very busy. The children were given a little booklet with spaces for stamps that they needed to collect at various different locations within the maze. The always love this sort of thing, and had a lot of fun chasing about. Some of the stamps were quite difficult to find and quite a few people were slipping through gaps in the walls, but Harry insisted on doing the maze properly and finding them all correctly!
It was quite educational too, with lots of little informative snippets about different periods in history, like the Vikings and the Tudors.
Then it was time for the Trebuchet demonstration, so we found ourselves a nice spot on a grassy bank (the picture below is taken from the top of the castle, we were lower down with a wider view). The trebuchet takes a few minutes to get into position, with some very hardworking staff running around the treadwheels in the heat. While this is going on you are told about the trebuchet, in essence a huge catapult, which was used to hurl projectiles at the castle walls. They fired a flaming ball, and it was very exciting to watch, definitely worth making the effort to watch the demonstration!
Then we explored the rest of the castle. We arrived at the Princess Tower just as the show was starting so we didn't have to wait, but at busy times you need to collect a timed ticket. We met a princess who introduced us to the story of Guy of Warwick, who was cursed and trapped in a painting, and then the children helped her to break the curse, it was a lot of fun and they really enjoyed it.
The Royal Weekend Party takes you through a series of rooms in the castle which tell the story of a weekend spent in Victorian high society, and the Kingmaker exhibition takes you on a journey as Richard Neville, Warwick the Kingmaker, prepares his army for battle in 1471. We also very much enjoyed the Time Tower, where you can join characters from the castle's past to learn all about the history of the castle, very interesting.
It was a busy day when we visited and if I'm honest it did feel as though the castle wasn't quite set up to handle the large volume of visitors. Even though we arrived just as the castle was opening in the morning we had to park in the overflow car park which was a good 20 minute walk to the entrance, the restaurant ran out of vegetarian food choices at lunch time, and there was a long queue for the toilets.
There was also a queue to climb up the Towers and Ramparts as it's all quite narrow so we gave it a miss. However we were able to climb up to the Mound, which gives you some lovely views both inside and outside the castle.
Finally we spent a lot of time in the Pageant Playground, which fortunately wasn't too busy. It's a good playground with only one entrance/exit, so you can be sure that the children can't escape if you take your eyes off them!
There was plenty going on during the day when we visited and we didn't have time to see everything - as well as the trebuchet demonstration there was a birds of prey show and jousting, and plenty of colourful characters walking around.
There is loads to do at Warwick Castle, there is definitely a lot more there than your typical castle experience, and I'd recommend a visit (avoid peak times if you can, and if you can't, arrive early!)