Built on the River Avon by William the Conqueror and the Normans in 1068, the impressive medieval structure was one of many that originated as a fort. The property has since been transformed and is now known as Warwick Castle & Knight’s Village, owned and operated by Merlin Entertainment Group which also oversees Legoland and the London Eye. Merlin’s vision for the castle was as a theme park complete with onsite dining and lodging facilities. As such, it has become one of England’s top attractions. However, if you are expecting a theme park in the traditional sense, with thrill rides and flashy shows, perhaps some clarification is in order.
Warwick Castle has been extensively refurbished and features staterooms and a Great Hall that are now decked out as a recreation of the castle in its heyday, with period-piece furniture, wax figurines, and replica props. This allows visitors a walk-through experience, to marvel and admire the fashion and household decor of over a thousand years ago. Though not entirely authentic, the settings are stunning and are sure to keep your camera clicking. If you have ever visited Casa Loma in Toronto, the experience is somewhat similar despite that the eras are different.
The Time Tower features an audio-visual presentation of the battles and bloodshed the castle has endured in its extensive history. However, both the castle and the Time Tower are questionable as to how entertaining they are for very young and impatient children. Similarly, the content expressed in a live 2-man comedic play is likely to be way beyond their comprehension.
The Trebuchet – essentially a replica of an ancient catapult – is on display in the midst of 64 acres of beautifully manicured gardens and ponds. Vibrant and graceful peacocks roam free throughout the gardens and make for amazing photos as well as a very relaxing atmosphere. No doubt, adults will enjoy such a setting. But again, this is not something that is likely to keep young children or teens interested for any length of time.
The Castle Dungeon, as one would expect, kicks things up a notch and is on par with the type of attraction found in many theme parks. This is also a walk-through experience featuring 7 different rooms that are set in the 1300s when the Black Plague ran rampant throughout England, as did witch hunts and torture chambers. Special effects mix with live actors portraying plague victims, a persecuted witch, and a torturer fond of punishment and pain. They all come together to illustrate the castle’s extensive bloody and often shocking history. As entertaining as this interactive experience may be for teens and adults, we would not recommend it for very young children.
So where do young kids fit into this theme park experience? Luckily, the Horrible Histories Adventure Maze will keep them engaged with challenges that include an invading Viking Ship and the task of escaping the maze while collecting stamps for a prize upon exit. There’s also a swordsmanship workshop and some live shows, including Birds of Prey, which features eagles and a falconry display, and a live-action jousting show called War of the Roses. Toy swords are available for purchase throughout the park so kids can into the spirit of their surroundings, though we’re sure some parents won’t view this as a good thing.
The Kingmaker experience allows visitors to prepare for battle using wax figures and sensory effects that tell the story of Richard Neville, commonly known as Warwick the Kingmaker, in the year 1471. Merlin has also added the Kingmaker DigiTrail, allowing guests to download the free and easy-to-use Kingmaker DigiTrail app before or during their visit. The challenge is to gather items—such as a horse, armor, and weapons—to become a squire in Neville’s army. The app is designed for families and encourages them to point their smartphones or tablets at trigger points throughout the attraction resulting in rewards.
Overnight accommodations are available onsite in the Knight’s Village which features a variety of castle-like suites in the Tower, or Medieval Glamping. Rates fluctuate depending on the season and day of the week, so it’s best to check the website for details. It is to be noted that overnight stays come with free access to the castle and shows on the 2nd day.
There’s no doubt that being in the presence of this castle is overwhelming considering the jaw-dropping history behind it. The structure is wildly impressive and the grounds are beautiful. Some might argue that turning it into a theme park was in poor taste; however, attendance would indicate that tourists are happy with the transformation. Certainly, it’s something to see and the attractions and shows are interesting. That said; if your idea of a theme park includes the type of experience offered by Six Flags and Disney Parks, it’s likely that you (and your children) will be disappointed.
Lead Photo via Pixabay
Article Photos via Warwick Castle