Built on the River Avon by William the Conqueror in 1068, the impressive medieval structure is now known as Warwick Castle & Knight’s Village, England, and is owned and operated by Merlin Entertainments Group. The company also oversees Legoland and the London Eye. Merlin has transformed the historic site into a theme park with onsite dining and lodging facilities, and it has since become one of England’s top attractions. However, if you are expecting a ‘theme park’ in the traditional sense of 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 and decor along with wax figurines and replica props. This allows visitors a walk-through experience to marvel and admire the fashion and household appointments of over a thousand years ago and question how everything worked. 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 of 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 that weave around ponds and gardens. 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 interested for any length of time… or pre-teen and teens for that matter.
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, as 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 new live-action jousting show called War of the Roses. The concept is similar in nature to Medieval Times, though at Warwick Castle the show is performed outdoors. Toy swords are available for purchase throughout the park which seems to assist kids with getting into the spirit of their surroundings.
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. New this year, Merlin has added the Kingmaker DigiTrail. Guests can 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 and they are rewarded with objects for their quests.
Overnight accommodations are available onsite in the Knight’s Village that 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 its 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 (or your children) will be disappointed.
Lead Photo via Pixabay
Article Photos via Warwick Castle