Warwick Castle is one of the best preserved castles in this country and it’s a spectacular sight as you approach. These days it’s owned by Merlin and is a very commercial enterprise.
Adult full price ticket prices are £30.60 (to see all attractions) and a child’s ticket is £25.80. That said it’s possible to secure some better deals than that. We bought some tickets online and got some entries free with clubcard vouchers. Buying tickets online and in advance will save up to 40%, but be warned buying online on the day won’t save anything except time (you can take advantage of the fasttrack entry system ). We got into the castle very quickly, via the Fasttrack entry booth, with our club card vouchers and pre-bought tickets. Another way to save money is not to go to some of the attractions. We didn’t pay for the Merlin: Dragon Tower (because every review, I had read, said it wasn’t good value for money) and the Castle Dungeon attraction (not suitable for the under 10s). You can save nearly £8 on a full adult ticket this way. It’s also worth looking out for 2 for 1 deals and considering the family ticket option. If you live close enough by and think you would visit more than once in a year, then I think the annual passes are good value.
The first part of the castle that we encountered was the rather eery, but beautiful Peacock Garden. As you approach you can hear the peacocks calling and as you walk through you’ll see lots of them. I’ve never seen so many in one place before: there was one tree that had 3 peacocks perched in the branches. If the real peacocks aren’t enough for you, there are topiary versions too.
On entering the castle courtyard the 2 boys in our party (aged 7 and 5), dashed off to start the Towers and Ramparts route. The adults took a deep breath first as it warns at the start that the route includes 530 steps and is one way only. There are lots of spiral staircases and panoramic views, so this isn’t one for those with mobility issues or with a fear of heights. That said it is great fun. The boys even wanted to take the narrow passageway (many would see this and declare it a dead-end) round the back of one of the towers, even they had to do it sideways and I found it a bit claustrophobic.
‘Kingmaker: Eve of Battle’ is an indoor story of the preparations, in the castle, before a battle in the wars of the roses. My son isn’t very keen on waxworks and other models of people, so he took a bit of persuading to go round. To begin with it’s also quite dark too. It was interesting and pitched at a good level for children, plus they can try on a helmet or two. You see the blacksmith, the knight, the kitchens, the ladies and the earl all getting on with their lives in the run up to a big battle.
The Great Hall of Warwick Castle is a stunning room filled with a vast array of weaponry and armour, including 2 full knight and horse armour displays. We came across a helpful and informative ‘peasant’ who gave us some information about it. If you’re going into battle, German armour is the thing to have apparently (much better than the British variety).
There are also a number of outside activities. As it was raining the entire time we were there, we didn’t try out any of the outdoor attractions. We are hoping to return soon under the Rainy Day guarantee (for online bookings), so with luck I’ll be able to update this post then.
Eating: If you bring your own picnic then there are outdoor picnic tables available. The food options provided by Warwick Castle are on the expensive side and will soon add up when you have a family to feed. I’d suggest going into town if you want to eat out. We went to The Tuckery Cafe on the Market Place. The service was efficient and the prices were good at £3-5 for a main meal. There is a children’s menu and overall they serve typical cafe food. A downside is that there are no toilets, but there are public toilets at Market Place.
Parking: I find it very irritating when attractions charge for parking – it feels exploitative and I dislike being ripped off. Warwick Castle want £6 off you to park your car for the day. You need to get your tokens on the way back to your car after you have passed through the exit. You will see the machines on your way in if you go through the main entrance and not the fastrack one. To be fair to Warwick Castle they need to put something in place otherwise they’d get loads of shoppers parking there. They could have a token system without a charge though or with one that just covered the costs of policing. £6 for parking is unacceptable in my view and I’ll be tempted to see if I can find cheaper parking on my return visit. If you have a Warwick Castle annual pass (from around £38 each) or a Merlin annual premium pass(from around £172 each), you can get free parking.
Cash Machine: A word of warning the cash machines are the charge you a fee type.
What else is there to do nearby? Warwick is an attractive town and has a handful of museums, plus some interesting looking, non chain shops. If you think you might want to explore Warwick, I’d suggest avoiding Mondays as that seems to be the closed day as we found on our visit. You’ll still be able to find somewhere to eat and some of the shops were open on Monday though.
Return visit July 2013: We went back to Warwick Castle. It was a glorious day and this really made the visit. In fact, I would suggest trying to time your visit to Warwick Castle to take into account the weather as the trebuchet, birds of prey and fighting knights shows would be no fun at all in the rain. We parked in The Stables carpark near the stables entrance this time which is a small, premium carpark and was priced at £10. This is a lot for parking, but it was very convenient and might suit if you had very small children or a heavy picnic. We were also able to try out the children’s playground which was well designed, well-kept and very popular with the two 6 year olds we had with us.
Return visit: August 2013
We went back again and this time got to see the knights jousting which was a great show, but it isn’t always on, so it’s worth checking the schedules if you are interested. I’d also recommend the Warwick Warriors show in the castle courtyard. Bear in mind that you can’t get onto the castle ramparts during the falconry display when you’re planning your day.