Spending a Day - And Night - At Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle. 

OK, so I know it's been made into a bit of a tourist resort but there's lots to see for us history lovers interested in the real deal. The bricks and mortar of the castle is twelfth century, being rebuilt on an eleventh century Norman framework. There were people dressed up as knights just walking about. There's a Trebuchet, for goodness' sake. And there was jousting. Like, could there be any better day out for a Medieval history fan than this

Warwick Castle is just a few minutes' walk from the train station - we got lost though and asked a friendly local who showed us a back way in through a tiny gateway in a stone wall. As you walk (and hopefully don't get lost) take in the town - it's full of interesting stone archways and old buildings. My one regret from the day was that we didn't explore Warwick before heading home, so that's something you might want to do before you jump aboard your train.

At the entrance, after a quick security check of bags, we had our tickets checked and were waved in through the main stone arch of the castle, to find a bustle of tourists and families, food kiosks and vans,  and the separate apartments of the castle. Exciting. 

The first thing to do was the Dungeon. We'd booked tickets to tie in with our arrival, so we joined the queue at the given time. You're taken, in groups, down steps and into small, dark rooms with guides and actors fully in character from the second you start. We ended up seeing a ghost, interrupting some sort of autopsy situation (I got picked as visitor interaction, don't ask) and witnessing a beheading (complete with spraying 'blood'). There were other bits too, but I don't want to give too much else away. If you're an introvert, be warned that audience participation is likely, and by shuffling off towards the back you still might not escape. The actors were incredible - completely in character, dressed perfectly and made us laugh as well as spooked us. It was quite scary, although there are opportunities to go and find a costumed person as you're ushered into each room if you really have to leave. 

We were then left to explore the rest of the castle - the stomach-flipping, knee-wobbling at the tops of the towers, as you look out high, over the rooves of Warwick - along with the apartments with armour, mannequins and the well-known Kingmaker exhibit. There's also a model which tells the story of the castle, and you have plenty of chances for photographs and selfies along the way. We watched the Trebuchet fire, saw a stunning birds of prey display and, before heading to our lodge, we watched a tournament between the Yorkists and Lancastrians, themed on the Wars of the Roses. You had to pick a side, and cheer along in the stands. Huge floppy York/Lancaster hands were available to buy. 

There are also plenty of places to eat, and it's a little expensive, as you'd expect. We took a packed lunch with us, but it wasn't enough for the whole day so we did end up buying extras towards the end of the day.  

After an obligatory photo-op at the stocks, we walked to the Knight's village, which took about 20 minutes, from memory, alongside the car park. It was well sign-posted, check in was easy and we settled in for the night in our lodge. 

I loved the lodge. It was decked out in Medieval style, with a shield on the wall and little touches like Medieval-inspired art on the walls. Slightly less Medieval, but appreciated, was the TV and coffee and tea making facilities. The food, which is eaten in the nearby dining hall, was good and it was self-serve. Food was constantly replenished and there was plenty, including drinks and dessert. We had seen on the website that the knights would be entertaining in there during dinner but I think we were too early - we opted for the earlier sitting - so they weren't there. 

The situation of the lodges (you can stay in a more upmarket lodge with more bedrooms and two floors, or a tent) was beautiful. There were signs not to be noisy after a certain time, and our neighbours ignored that, getting merry with a few bottles of wine at their bench outside into the wee hours, but it was no big deal really. You have to let people have some fun, and we were tired and hot from the day's exploring so slept really well. 

The coolness of the trees (we visited on one of the hottest days of the year), and the beautiful wooden decking that lit up at night with spotlights was so pretty. Yes, you're in the middle of a commercial, touristy site but somehow the surroundings still buzz with a thousand years of history. In the morning, I woke up early for some reason and sat outside my lodge with a coffee, just sipping it in the silence of the castle grounds, taking it all in. 

Oh yes. On checkout, if you book for two days, you can get a special code for the back gate which means you enter the castle on your second day without having to go through the main entrance. We were the only ones  there once the castle had opened, because we were on the opposite end of it - so we pretended in our imagination and for a bit of fun that we lived there. It was good for about two minutes, until the crowds made their way around. 

I know people who have slept at Warwick Castle in special apartments, in the actual castle. They've loved it. I know people who have slept in the tents, and they've loved it too. Since we got home we've only talked about going back for another stay. It had everything. For the kids, it was engaging enough not to feel like a historic day out, with the jousts, the dungeon and beautifully created exhibits. For me, I found history everywhere: from the views of Warwick's Medieval church through a high-up, turret window to the story of the Kingmaker. I let my hand drag softly against the ancient stone walls as I made my way up the steps. You're not bored for a minute. And we can't wait to go back. 

Find out more about overnight stays and short breaks at the Warwick Castle website. 

Info: I stayed at Warwick in August 2019 as a fully-paying, anonymous customer and they don't even know I'm writing this. All opinions are honest and my own. 

Enjoyed this? You might also like: Tracking The Southampton Raid of 1338, 10 Things to Know About Stratford Upon Avon Before You Visit and Following the Tudors in Plymouth

Warwick Castle was central to many of the events of the Wars of the Roses during the fifteenth century. I explore the stories of some of the women who became tangled up in the conflict in Warwick, including Ankarette Twynhoe, Anne Neville, Anne Beauchamp and Margaret Countess of Shrewsbury. It's all in my book Forgotten Women of the Wars of the Roses, published by Pen and Sword.  Order your copy here. 

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