Warwick Castle used to be one of the Lee Family go-to-days-out when I was little. Just 40 minutes in the car, or an hour and 10 minutes on the train, it’s an easy trip from Birmingham. So when Mr Fletche and I were kindly invited to check out the new summer programme of shows at Warwick Castle we jumped at the chance. How much could it have changed in 30 years?
Disclaimer: I received two free tickets and complimentary car parking to visit Warwick Castle in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions are my own as always
It’s raining. After the hottest UK day on record just three days earlier, typically the weather has taken an ominous turn for the weekend. We forego sunglasses and picnic blanket, and pack hats and umbrellas. You’ve gotta love a British summer.
We make the 40 minute drive to Warwick. We’ve checked the website for event times, and have timed our arrival perfectly 45 minutes prior to the midday Wars of the Roses show.
I don’t remember the car park being quite so far away when I was younger. From the overflow Field car park it’s a good 15 minute walk to the Castle entrance. Definitely something to consider if you may have someone with tired little legs at the end of the day. I’m totally talking about me by the way. The queues for ticket collection and the bag search are immense. We hear so many different accents that it’s like we’ve popped in to the United Nations. School groups mill around, frustrated teachers trying to herd students who keep escaping from their assigned spots.
I don’t play the “don’t you know who I am” card very often but this time I use it to jump the security queue. Being an invited guest sometimes pays off. There’s a slight confusion with tickets at the turnstiles: apparently they really don’t know who I am. People we passed in the queue are now gleefully skipping past us. But finally, we’re in. It’s 11:50, ten minutes until showtime.
Visitors Tip No 1: If you want to see a specific show, make sure you check out times on the website beforehand. Then make sure you leave plenty of time to account for car parking, walking to the Castle, ticket collection, security, turnstiles and to get to the show location. Peak times – definitely aim to arrive at least an hour early.
We don’t manage to pick up a map on our way in so we have ten minutes to find a large jousting arena. Can’t be too difficult to find. We follow the crowds until we spot a likely venue. River Island. It doesn’t seem to be the place for a spot of shopping. Unless you want to buy a large foam finger signifying your support for Houses York or Lancaster.
We have to pick a side. I can’t quite remember the ending of this particular war (it’s been a long time since secondary school History) but decide I want to support York. After all, I have to drive over Birmingham’s Lancaster flyover most days, and it rarely gives me any joy.
It turns out I’m quite the enthusiastic York supporter. I lead my fellow Yorkists in cheering loudly at our knights, mourning the death of King Edward IV and booing the dastardly Lancastrians. This is why I’m not allowed to visit the pantomime any more. I then feel a little bit uncomfortable about King Richard III’s reign and start wondering if I can swap my white rose for red. A bit like Sir William Stanley. (See, I learned lots.) And then the Yorks and Lancasters pretty much wipe each other out at the Battle of Bosworth, and Henry Tudor steps in. The rest, as they say, is history.
There’s a good mix of history and action, with some wonderful horsemanship, epic jousting tricks and fearless battle scenes. Plus you get to cheer, boo and take part in a medieval Mexican wave.
The Wars of the Roses show is included in your entrance ticket. The show runs twice daily until 1st September, and it’s always best to check the website for showtimes.
The archery and jousting sessions looked particularly popular with the wee ones straight after the Wars of the Roses show. There’s also a Knights School which takes place regularly on the Oak Tree Lawn. I’m sure a full risk assessment has been taken on the whole process of letting children brandish pointy toys. I was almost stabbed in the leg once or twice by amateur knights who hadn’t quite got the hang of handling their weapons in a crowd. There’s also the Horrible Histories maze for the brave and adventurous!
We watch the Knights-in-Training whilst devouring a pasty from one of the food trucks dotted around the gardens. In good weather there are loads of places to set up a picnic so if you’re trying to save a few pennies (after buying all that essential Knight/Princess gear) this is a great option.
Visitors Tip No 2: There are loads of filter water stations all around the castle and gardens, often located right next to the food trucks. So make sure you take a refillable bottle with you and fill up at every opportunity!
After a quick wander around the Peacock Garden (where, I can confirm, we did find peacocks) we head down to the riverside arena where the Falconers Quest takes place. We’re too late to get a bench seat, and not fancying a soggy bottom, we stand. As the name suggests, we follow a young falconer, Hobby, as they embark on a quest to bring birds of prey to the skies above Warwick.
It’s an impressive display as birds such as a barn owl called Oscar, an Andean Condor called Rosie and a Bald Eagle called Henry swoop and soar overhead. Their talons come tantalisingly close to the heads of the crowd gathered below them. Flash the super-speedy Peregrine Falcon takes delight in a steep descent towards the river before pulling up and returning majestically to the skies. And as Hobby’s quest comes to an end we are treated to a myriad of birds of prey all gliding and drifting around us. I pity the poor falconer that has to count them all back in at the end of the shift. “Anyone seen Rosie? You know, big bird, 9ft wing span?”
The Falconers Quest is included in your entrance ticket. The show runs twice daily until 3rd November, and it’s always best to check the website for showtimes.
This time round we stuck to the shows and didn’t take a Castle tour, although there are a number of different themed guided tours which take place regularly throughout the day. The tours are included in the entrance fee. It does cost extra if you want to include the Castle Dungeons in your visit. There’s also 64 acres of gardens to explore.
Entrance tickets to Warwick Castle cost from £21 (when booked online) and includes both The Wars of the Roses and the Falconry Quest shows. Judging by the crowds outside I’d definitely recommend booking online, although you will still have to queue for a bag-check and the turnstiles. You can pre-book your tickets here.
Warwick Castle is open from 10am – 5pm during the summer season. If you’re planning a visit then I’d definitely recommend checking out the show times beforehand to plan your day
Visitors Tip No 3: Don’t forget to pay for your parking as you leave the castle as there are no pay stations at the car park. Parking costs £6.
Despite the weather, we had a lovely day at Warwick Castle. It’s definitely changed in the 30 years since my last visit, when I believe you could enter the castle grounds for free? There’s certainly plenty of attractions and events to keep everyone happy, whether you’re a child, or just a child at heart. And I apologise to anyone I may have startled during my over-enthusiastic medieval cheerleading.