Discover why a visit to Warwick Castle is a fun-filled, action-packed day out for visitors of all ages.
Most schoolchildren in the West Midlands will have spent a day out at Warwick Castle. But somehow I managed to miss out on it when I was at school.
So when I was invited to spend a day at Warwick Castle, I was very excited about finally seeing what the venue has to offer.
Ollie came along with me for the day on this occasion, and there was lots to keep him entertained during our visit. This is not just a day out for families with children.
Warwick Castle combines a sense of history with a fun day out. And there’s so much to do that you might just need to plan a return visit.
Read on to find out why a day at Warwick Castle is an exciting day out for people of all ages.
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The History of Warwick Castle
The first castle at Warwick was constructed on the orders of William I (William the Conqueror) in the years following the Norman invasion of 1066. It sits on a bend in the River Avon, which provides additional defence to the site.
This first construction was a wooden motte and bailey castle, which was replaced by a stone-built castle in the 12th century. It was then refortified during the Hundred Years War, and used as a stronghold throughout the Tudor era.
The castle was owned by the Earls of Warwick until 1590, when the then Earl of Warwick died without an heir. At this point, the castle reverted to crown property. And it remained in the ownership of Queen Elizabeth I until the end of her reign.
In the early 17th century, the castle was granted to Sir Fulke Greville. He converted into a stately home for his family, and it remained in the Greville family until 1978.
The current owners of Warwick Castle are the Merlin Entertainment Group, whose other properties include Alton Towers and Madame Tussauds.
As well as providing an entertaining day out, they also take their role as custodians of the castle very seriously. They have invested heavily in its restoration and maintenance.
How to get to Warwick Castle
It’s really easy to get to Warwick Castle by car. The town of Warwick lies just a few minutes drive from Junction 15 of the M40, so you can easily get there from all around the country.
It’s also within easy reach of the Cotswolds as well as towns like Stratford upon Avon and Royal Leamington Spa. So it’s easy to tag a visit to Warwick Castle onto a stay in one of these locations. It’s also a great day out from Birmingham.
The last few miles of your journey will take you along the A429, and through Warwick town centre.
If you’re travelling by public transport, the nearest train station is miles away at Leamington Spa. You can then either take a taxi or take a bus to Warwick Castle.
How much does Entrance cost at Warwick Castle?
If you buy your tickets on the day, entrance to Warwick Castle costs £29. Combined entrance to the Castle and Dungeon together costs £34. Parking costs £6 per car, and you’ll need to buy a token for the car park barrier at the castle.
However you can save money if you book tickets to Warwick Castle online. You can also buy two day saver tickets, or even an annual pass which works out at great value if you plan to visit more than once. It’s also worth checking out the special offers online.
All of the tickets include entrance to the castle and its grounds, as well as some of the daily shows.
And if you book online, you also get a Rainy Day guarantee. This gives you a free return visit to the Castle, grounds and gardens within 60 days if it rains for an hour or more during your visit.
Arriving at Warwick Castle
Ollie and I visited Warwick Castle on a Friday in July, starting with a fairly straightforward trip down the M6.
Once off the motorway, our journey took us through Warwick, with its mix of half-timber buildings, Georgian town houses and modern architecture.
We parked on the Field car park, which is large and well organised. From there, you will have a walk of around 20 minutes to the entrance of the castle itself.
On the way, we saw peacocks wandering through the grounds. We also walked past the glamping village of tents and lodges where you can stay for a short break at Warwick Castle.
Once through the security gates, we headed into the castle to look around.
Exploring the Castle
There’s a lot to see and do at Warwick Castle. So it’s a good idea to use the online planner before you visit, to plan your day in advance.
The castle itself is in good condition, and has been very well maintained. Over £6 million has been spent on the castle’s restoration over the last 10 years alone.
The grounds and gardens are beautiful, and although we visited in the summer holidays, it still didn’t feel overcrowded.
You should leave at least four hours for your visit, but you could spend the full day at the castle and still not explore everything fully.
Ollie and I knew that we wanted to watch a couple of the live action shows, and I definitely wanted to explore the interior of the castle. But there was a lot that we didn’t get chance to see during our visit.
And it’s definitely a day out that will appeal to people of any age!
Although I’m fairly scared of heights, I also love the view you get from high up.
So top on my list of things to do was tackling the 500 steps that lead to the top of Guy’s Tower. This has the highest viewpoint at the castle, but it isn’t actually the tallest tower. Caesar’s tower holds that accolade, standing as tall as 10 double decker buses!
We first checked out the view from Bear and Clarence Towers, which you can see in the photo above.
These were originally intended by Richard of Gloucester (later Richard III) to form a mighty tower house as tall as Guy’s Tower. But work on them stopped when Richard III died at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
After that we carried on up the steep and narrow spiral staircase to the top of Guy’s Tower. It’s quite a climb, and I started to wonder if it was such a good idea after all.
But then we emerged out into the cool fresh air, and I knew it had been a very good idea indeed. The view from the top of Guy’s Tower is absolutely stunning, and well worth the thigh-burning climb.
From the top of Guy’s Tower, you can look down into the castle’s courtyard, and across to the Mound. This was one of the earliest parts of the castle, which was originally built in a motte and bailey style.
And you can also see out across the Warwickshire countryside, and over the rooftops of Warwick itself.
Walking back down the steep staircase takes some care, and wasn’t my favourite part of the day. But a little discomfort is worth it for the view you get from Guy’s Tower.
The Great Hall and State Apartments
The Great Hall was also high on my list of things to do at Warwick Castle. It’s the largest room in the castle, and is packed full of things to explore.
This part of the castle was originally built in the 14th Century, and was where the nobility ate and slept. It was rebuilt in the 17th century, and then restored in the late 19th century following a devastating fire.
In the Great Hall, you’ll find suits of armour and displays of weapons dating back hundreds of years. Ollie was quite impressed by a glass cabinet containing a set of grenadier guns, used for launching grenades.
The room also contains the Kenilworth Buffet, an intricately carved oak sideboard which was created for the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Its panels depict scenes from Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Kenilworth.
One scene shows Queen Elizabeth I arriving at Kenilworth Castle, while a second shows her meeting Amy Robsart, the wife of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. The final panel shows the Queen meeting with Robert Dudley.
From the Great Hall, you then continue through to the State Rooms. These are incredibly lavish, and have been extended and improved throughout the centuries. They have played host to the most important of guests.
I particularly loved the State Dining Room, with its intricate gold decorated ceiling and impressive portraits on the walls.
The room was originally commissioned in 1763, and royalty including George IV and Queen Victoria dined in this room. It is still used to this day for important dinner parties.
The Peacock Garden
Warwick Castle is set in 64 acres of grounds, and I was particularly keen to see the Peacock Garden.
The gardens were first laid out during the reign of Elizabeth I. But these gardens were dug out in the 17th Century to provide further defence to the castle during the English Civil War.
When the castle was converted into a stately home in the 1750s, the development of formal gardens became a priority. And the 1st Earl of Warwick commissioned one of Britain’s most famous gardeners, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, to design the formal garden.
The Peacock Garden is thought to be Brown’s first castle commission, and features the detail and sweeping curves and for which he is known.
With its resident peacocks, topiary hedges and large fountain, it’s a lovely place to take a few minutes rest during your day at Warwick Castle.
And while you’re there, you could also call into the Conservatory Tea House which looks out over the garden.
The Mighty Trebuchet
Unfortunately the Mighty Trebuchet is out of action through to the end of 2019. But you can still watch a fascinating talk about the history of this machine.
The talk explains how the trebuchet’s team would prepare it for battle and how it would be used.
Even the youngest members of the audience were kept engrossed by stories of how a trebuchet would be used to launch missiles, dead animals and pots of human waste over the walls of castles under siege!
And even though I was visiting Warwick Castle with an older teen, it was clear that there are plenty of activities to keep younger visitors happy.
Warwick Castle for Kids
Warwick Castle should certainly be on your list if you’re looking for an exciting day out with kids.
Whether they want to help solve a mystery in the Princess Tower, or learn sword skills in the Knight School, there are plenty of activities to keep little ones entertained.
And the new Horrible Histories Maze is a great way to explore history through a series of puzzles, plots and obstacles.
Food and Drink at Warwick Castle
Whether you want a quick snack or a sit down meal, there are plenty of options at Warwick Castle.
You’ll find food and drink stalls dotted around the grounds, selling everything from sweets and cold drinks, to burgers and loaded fries.
I didn’t see too many vegetarian options, although I did have a very tasty cheese and onion pasty for lunch. And I also saw that the Hog Roast stall sells vegan pulled jackfruit rolls as well as BBQ pulled pork rolls.
If you prefer to sit down for lunch or just have a break from all the walking around, there are a few different options.
You could visit the Conservatory Tea Room which looks out over Capability Brown’s Peacock Garden. Or alternatively head to the Undercroft for a range of fresh pizza and pasta dishes, including vegetarian options.
And the newly renovated Coach House in the Stables Courtyard sells a delicious range of food and drink. You could start your day with a hearty Knight’s Breakfast, and pick from a lunch menu that includes burgers and dirty fries as as well as soups and sandwiches.
Or if the weather permits, why not bring along a picnic to enjoy by the riverside or in the Castle courtyard?
After looking around the castle and grounds, Ollie and I also took in two of the fabulous shows.
The standard admission fee includes both Wars of the Roses Live and The Falconer’s Quest. You’ll need to pay an additional fee to venture down into The Castle Dungeon, or to watch the amazing evening show Dragon Slayer.
You can check the show times for the day you’re visiting using the online planner.
Wars of the Roses Live
Wars of the Roses Live takes place in the purpose built jousting arena on River Island. As you approach the arena, you’ll need to choose whether to back the red rose of the House of Lancaster, or the white rose of York.
Ollie and I took up our places on the side of Lancaster.
The show tells the story of the Wars of the Roses, and how Henry Tudor came to take the throne as King Henry VII. The actors really draw you into the story, but for me the real stars of the show are the beautiful horses.
They seemed to be very happy and well cared for, and were taken out of the arena in between the parts of the story in which they feature.
I was also pleased to see notices saying that the show would be cancelled in the event of high temperatures.
Anyway, back to the story…
The show first pits the House of Lancaster under the leadership of Queen Margaret against the House of York in a battle of jousting skills. The audience plays their own part by cheering for their chosen house.
York are victorious in the first part of the war. King Edward IV takes the throne, and Margaret is exiled to France.
But if you remember your history lessons, you’ll know that the House of Lancaster proved to be the eventual winners
Edward VI dies suddenly, and as his sons are too young to take the throne, he is succeeded by his brother Richard of York acting as their protector.
Cast your mind back to your history lessons, and you’ll probably remember that Richard of York cast the princes into the Tower of London.
He took the throne himself as Richard III, who was definitely not known as a benevolent king!
It was at this time that Earl of Warwick, Richard of Neville, switched his allegiance from York to Lancaster. This was one of the reasons he became known as Warwick the Kingmaker.
And under the leadership of Henry Tudor, the House of Lancaster defeated Richard III’s forces at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
I was hoping for a reference to a car park in Leicester, but alas, it was not to be.
Henry Tudor takes the throne as King Henry VII, while Elizabeth of York is left to mourn the loss of her father, uncle and two brothers.
But the show ends on a happy note when Henry VII marries Elizabeth of York. The marriage unites the two houses, removing the risk of any further wars. And Henry becomes the first king in the Tudor dynasty which will rule for the next 120 years.
Ollie and I really enjoyed this show, which brings history to life and thoroughly entertains the audience.
If you’re visiting Warwick Castle this summer, I would definitely recommend finding time in your day to watch Wars of the Roses Live.
After a break for lunch, we headed over to the Riverside Arena for our second show of the day.
The Falconer’s Quest
The Falconer’s Quest takes place in the Riverside Arena, which looks out over the river and River Island.
There is some seating available, but if you want to guarantee a seat you need to get there quite early. Our show was due to start at 2pm and we found that all of the seats had gone by 1pm, as people gathered in the area to enjoy their lunch.
But it wasn’t a problem. We found a decent spot on the grass and sat down to enjoy our lunch while we waited for the show.
The Falconer’s Quest tells the story of Hobby, a falconer who is sent out to travel the world. His mission is to seek out birds of prey and bring them back to the castle.
This will restore birds of prey to skies over the castle, and elevate the Earl of Warwick in the eyes of the king.
The show features up to 50 birds of prey, who swoop over and above the heads of the crowds. As well as being entertaining, the Falconer’s Quest showcases the important conservation work being carried out at Warwick Castle.
The display started with the beautiful and graceful barn owl, but also included less familiar birds like the Stellers sea eagle.
The skillful falconers directed the birds around the arena, showing off their skill as well as that of the birds.
We were amazed by the speed and agility of the peregrine falcon, which flew past our heads so quickly it was just a blur. In Tudor times, this bird was so highly revered that people would bow to it as it was carried past.
At the other end of the scale came the awe-inspiring Andean Condor. This is one of the largest birds in the world, and it swooped from one side of the arena to the other, barely needing to flap its wings at all.
And the falconers showed us how the Harris hawk could be used for precise hunting. These are one of the most popular birds in falconry, as they are very social and easy to train.
They are even used to deter pigeons from visiting the grass courts at Wimbledon.
It’s quite something to find yourself right in their line of sight!
The show concluded with a fabulous display as several Harris hawks were released to soar and swoop around the arena.
It gave an idea of what the skies over Warwick Castle would have looked like back in the Tudor age. And the sight actually brought goosebumps to my arms.
This show was one of my favourite parts of my day at Warwick Castle. I definitely recommend fitting it into your itinerary when you visit!
A Historic Day at Warwick Castle: My Review
Ollie and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Warwick Castle. We didn’t really know what to expect, but I think Ollie had the idea that it was more suited to younger kids.
But actually Warwick Castle is the perfect day out for people of all ages. And you could easily spend a full day at Warwick Castle and still not see everything that it has to offer.
If you love history, then you’ll enjoy exploring the castle and learning about its role in British history. The beautiful State Rooms are a real glimpse back in time, and the Peacock Garden is a serene place to sit and relax a while.
For people visiting with children, there’s masses to keep them occupied and entertained. I really wish that I’d brought the boys here when they were little, because there’s just so much to do!
And if you love action and adventure, the live shows will definitely delight you. Ollie and I both enjoyed the shows that we watched, and I’d love to return for the Dragon Slayer show.
I’m sure that we’ll come back in the future, not least because Lyle missed out on a fantastic day out!
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