Shropshire Star

Travel review: A magical, medieval family trip to Warwick Castle

It was only a few months since we last visited Warwick Castle but we still managed to fill yet another day with new experiences, shows and wonderful displays.

New lodges at Warwick Castle

The castle, its surroundings and all the staff really do make a trip to the attraction a memorable experience. On this occasion we also stayed in one of the lodges, treated ourselves to dinner and breakfast, and took in some of the after-hours performances and classes, which are laid on specifically for those staying the night.

New lodges at Warwick Castle

My wife Kelly, now five-year-old daughter Annabelle, nieces Lucy and Olivia, aged six and nine, and myself arrived around midday and got there just in time for the Wars Of The Roses Live. We’d missed it last time but all the adults and children were thrilled to have caught it this time round.

The storyline was very interesting, as the audience was taken back to War of the Roses. We were rooting for the red roses and thankfully our side won, but the best part was the stunts. The arena was quite small but the riders, horses, actors and stuntmen and women really put on a great show.

At one point one of the riders had his back arched with his head almost scuffing the floor, right next to the horse’s hooves as it galloped along at full pelt before lifting himself up and cheering to the crowd. It was impressive stuff.

Once the battle had ended and we were crowned the victors, – we must have played a part somewhere along the line in the victory – some of the performers came out to chat to the crowd and pose for pictures, which was another nice touch.

New lodges at Warwick Castle

We then headed to the beautiful peacock gardens for lunch. The girls had been there before and they ran to ‘our’ spot for a picnic and play around the water fountain. After a bite to eat we headed to The Falconer’s Quest, the UK’s biggest birds of prey show, which was first launched for the spring season.

We had all been lucky enough to have taken in the show before but it was equally entertaining the second time around as the girls sat open-mouthed while a barn owl, an array of hawks and eagles, an Andean condor, bearded vulture and peregrine falcon all flew directly above their heads. After a wander around the grounds, climbing some of the hundreds of steps that gave us some stunning aerial views of the landscape and the castle itself, we headed to the Horrible Histories Maze.

The maze is great fun and the girls got straight to it, searching for Rattus Rattus and choosing paths to unravel some of England’s most significant moments in history. The challenge includes invading the vicious Vikings, surviving the First World War trenches, uncovering evil plots involving gunpowder – and escaping the maze before things go horribly wrong. We seemed to work our way round it a bit quicker this time, which gave us the chance to look at the mill and engine house that had its own fascinating history.

New lodges at Warwick Castle

The Victorian mill sits beside the River Avon, providing yet more lovely views. However, it was not originally built for show – it had a real purpose of grinding flour and later producing electricity – while a section underneath was even used for catching eels to serve for special occasions. They were seen as a quite a delicacy on the menu of some of the country’s richer landowners.

The earliest known mill was recorded in the early 12th century but a few centuries later the position was abandoned in favour of site it still occupies today. The mill remained largely unchanged until a fire in 1880 destroyed all internal machinery, leaving nothing but the waterwheel and outer walls standing.

But the story did not end there as 14 years ago it became a water-powered electric generating plant, one of the earliest hydroelectric power stations in the country. With the development of mains electricity in 1940, the mill was eventually abandoned in 1954 but following £2 million renovation it was restored to its former glory and opened to the public in 2002.

We had previously visited the Time Tower, Princess Tower and Kingmaker attractions but even bypassing those we had still enjoyed a wonderful, action-packed day that had flown by. It meant it was time to check into our Knights Lodge. We had a vision of how we hoped the lodges would be laid out and if anything they were even better. Situated in lovely woodlands, the kids were able to run about a climb trees while we had a quick drink on the balcony.

Warwick Knights Village

We had been blessed with great weather, which obviously helped, but the rooms and views were superb, with the girls sharing large bunkbeds while we had a comfortable double. There was also a TV, shower-bathroom and coffee and tea making facilities. Perfect. After a quick change we headed for dinner, which was set out like a buffet. We could help ourselves to as much or as little as we liked.

The food included chicken curry, steak pie, veggie sausage casserole and roasted gammon with all the trimmings. The children could also opt for popcorn chicken and chips, if they so wished.

Again, it was very nice and then it was time for the entertainment – which was started by two very funny actors banging their chests in the restaurant declaring they would soon be commencing battle on the field.

In between their best-of-three battle, during which my wife was laughing more than the kids, we also got the chance to try archery, attend knight’s and jester’s schools, and even get up close and personal with some more birds of prey. A pop-up bar was even provided and the atmosphere really was superb.

'Red rose, red rose', went the chants from our side as War of the Roses commenced

After a good night’s sleep, we were up for another buffet, this time a lovely breakfast which included the full English and continental varieties, before heading home. We could have visited the castle and all the attractions again on the Sunday but sadly work called.

A visit and overnight stay at Warwick Castle really is a magical, medieval, experience for the whole family.