What it's like visiting Warick Castle with Young Children
Even when you're trying to live like a local, you can't visit Europe without a stop at a historic castle or two. The first castle we visited was about an hour and a half from our "hometown" in Buckden, England. Warwick Castle, or as the locals say it "Warick", is a medieval castle dating back to the 11th century. It was expanded upon in the 12th and 14th centuries and was owned by the Earl of Warwick from the 17th century until 1978 when it was bought by the Tussauds Group (of Madame Tussauds Wax Museum fame). Warwick Castle is open most days from 10am to 5pm. They offer quite a range of ticket prices, and buying online a few days in advance will save significantly off the "at the gate" price. You will be locked in for a certain day so be sure your trip is planned before purchasing. We booked online 2 days in advance and paid £18.00 for each of us, a bit pricey, but then so was everything else in the UK. Add an additional £10 for parking and £15 for food and it turned out to be an expensive day.
With an exchange rate of $1.71 at the time: (£18 ticket * 2+ £10 parking + £15 food) * 1.71 = $104.31 USD
So, is Warwick Castle worth visiting? Read on to learn about our visit.
Warwick is a unique experience and one probably best enjoyed by families with children a bit older than Eleanor. After learning that it was owned by the Tussauds Group, I was not surprised that it felt a lot like an amusement park with costumed actors, live shows, and a gift shop full of wooden swords. That said, the castle is very interesting to see, and they did a fine job dressing it up as it may have looked hundreds of years ago.
Upon exiting the ticket area you're treated with an impressive view of the castle from across the area where the moat would have been (it's empty now). The main post photo above was taken at this location. You then walk across the bridge and enter through a large gate much like one would have done on horseback 500 years ago. The courtyard inside is equally impressive, with a large grassy area in the middle, large turrets at the corners, and a building on the left that contained the living quarters.
The interior of Warwick Castle contains a fair number of rooms to view, most of them decorated as they would have been for the Earl of Warwick around the 18th century. The floor of the Great Hall had a beautiful pattern and was the only original piece to have survived a fire. The "guest" bedroom contained a bed that was just last year discovered to be the bed Queen Anne was in when she died. Be sure to check the schedule for the free tour. We saw quite a few rooms and the guide was very knowledgeable.
The Shows & Exhibits
We caught a few of the free / included shows on our visit. Many of them were a bit cheesy and over the top, but entertaining nonetheless and I'm sure great for children slightly older than Eleanor.
First was the Trebuchet Fireball Spectacular. More on that below. The Flight of the Eagles show was neat, especially for us Americans, as it had large bald eagles flying just over our heads. The sword fighting demonstration in the courtyard was okay from a distance, but be sure to get there early to nab a seat next to the "arena".
Also, though not so much a show, the battle preparation exhibition tucked away behind the gift shop was really nice and we were glad we hadn't missed it. It was full of Madame Tussaud's famed wax statues, but I didn't see any Brad Pitt lookalikes in the bunch.
The Trebuchet Fireball Spectacular
The castle is home to the world's largest working trebuchet. It was built based on historical designs and takes 8 men half an hour to load and release. The actors make quite a show of the firing, which is understandable given the actual firing only takes a few seconds. But it really was remarkable to see given there aren't too many places in the world where you can see a fireball hurled 300 meters by a working catapult.
Our visit to Warwick Castle was definitely on the high side of pricey when compared to some of the other castles we visited later in the UK. The actors and shows made for a completely different experience than we got elsewhere, for better or for worse depending on your preference. The castle is definitely geared toward families with children but we believe can be enjoyed by anyone.
For more information on Warwick Castle, visit the Warwick Castle website.