Visiting Warwick Castle 1100 years of history
11 Centuries, can you imagine it? As a Canadian (and a massive history nut) visiting Warwick Castle was a dream come true. I had prepared myself by watching documentaries on the history of Warwick Castle and taking in all I could on the history of the Castle.
These days Warwick Castle’s owners, are the Merlin Entertainments Group, who own Madame Tussaud’s. They have spent over $20 million dollars in restoration work.
Top Tips for visiting Warwick Castle
- Book your tickets online and save
- Wear really comfortable shoes, expect to walk a LOT
- Remember much of the Castle is NOT accessible
- Take a picnic
- Some attractions cost extra be prepared
- Tourists take your disabled sticker with you
- Don’t shop there the tourist tat is overpriced
- Get to the Dungeon tour early
- Book your “Princess” Tower tickets early if you must go
- Keep your ticket if it rains
- Take water and snacks
- Take a picnic
- Take cash the ATM is expensive
Warwick Castle Prices
Tickets cost a substantial £29 or if purchased online £21 so book online before you go. This price is for anyone over the age of 3.
Parking for Warwick Castle costs £6 and the parking lot is about 2km away from the Castle entrance. It is a BRUTAL walk let me tell you.
Attractions that cost extra include: Dungeon Tour, and Dragon Slayer
If you are a tourist planning on renting a car bring your disabled sticker with you so you can park in the accessible lot which is much closer to the Castle itself. No staff member bothers to tell you there is a drop-off area for those with mobility issues or challenges near the admissions area.
It is noted on the Castle’s website if you know to look for it. We saw many older and disabled tourists on the path that were having a very hard time on the walk to the Castle. Merlin Entertainments should be putting on some sort of transportation from these parking lots to the main gates of the Castle but I can’t say that any of the staff on the grounds of the walk to the Castle gave a damn about people struggling on the path.
Most tourist attractions in the UK are jam-packed during the summer months when the kids are off school. We did not have any problem visiting Warwick Castle and there were no real crowds when we visited in mid-August.
Take a picnic with you. The range of food available at Warwick Castle is pretty poor. There is a pizza buffet for £7.50 per child and £12.95 per adult but the quality leaves a lot to be desired. The Courtyard Restaurant offers Costa coffee but again the pricing is outrageous and it’s a hell of a long walk back to the Courtyard from the farthest reaches of the Castle.
Wear your best walking shoes. There is a LOT of walking and over 600 stairs to manoeuvre if you want to get some of the best views. There are not a lot of benches or places where you can rest anywhere on the grounds.
Souvenirs and gifts – don’t bother wasting your money. The gift shops are full of throw away kids toys. We saw a paper Knights mask for £8, lots of stuffed anime figures that bore no relation to the Castle and the usually cheap tacky tourist gifts.
Warwick Castle has one cash machine, queues can get quite long in the summer months and the charges for using the machine is really high.
The gift shops and restaurants all accept major credit and debit cards but it’s advisable to take cash for water, ice creams and other small purchases.
History of Warwick Castle
The original Warwick Castle or rather a fortification was built by the Saxon Ethelfleda who was the daughter of Alfred the Great. The fortification was used to defend against the invading Vikings.
The Castle sits proudly on a sandstone bluff at a bend of the River Avon. The river, which runs below the castle on the east side, has eroded the rock the castle stands on, forming a cliff. The river and cliff form natural defences.
It was in 1068 that William the Conqueror built a motte and bailey which was a wooden fortification on the hilltop. In the 12th century, a stone castle replaced the wooden fortification and it became one of Britain’s most impressive strongholds.
Of course, during the period from the 13th century to the 17th century, Warwick Castle survived many dramas. In 1153, the wife of the 2nd Earl of Warwick was tricked into believing her husband was dead and so handed the castle over to Henry of Anjou who was to become King Henry II. Unfortunately, when the Earl heard what his wife had done he did drop dead.
King Henry fortified Warwick Castle and introduced a new layout to the Castle with buildings inside the walls. It wasn’t until the 11th Earl that Warwick Castles defences were enhanced which was around 1330-60. A fortified gateway called a barbican was added and towers were built on either side of the wall which became known as Caesar’s Tower and Guy’s Tower. During this period the Watergate Tower was also added to the Castle’s defences.
The gatehouse features murder holes, two drawbridges, a gate, and portcullises – gates made from wood or metal.
Caesar’s Tower is the original Gaol and it is 147 feet tall, this is the tallest tower at the castle, and has 3 stories excluding the Gaol. On the walls fo the Gaol you will see graffiti left by prisoners who scratched their names into the walls while they awaited their sentencing.
This is also the area where you can take the Dungeon Tour. Instead of wax dummies, you get actors in costume from the Monk to the Plaque Doctor it’s all here. Children under 10 aren’t allowed and if you suffer from claustrophobia or have some mobility issues don’t go. The tour is dark, dank and the actors a little “disnified” but not dignified. The place sort of smells mildewy and the overacting is a little too much for my taste. It is also dangerous, narrow, close stairs that are quite worn out.
Cost of the Dungeon Tour if included in your ticket is £27 if you buy online and £34 at the gate. If you want to add the Dungeon tour later it will cost you an extra £10.
Guy’s Tower is twelve-sided, and stands 128 feet tall and has five storeys. The first four storeys consist of a central stone-vaulted chamber with two small side rooms; a garderobe (toilet), the other was probably used as a bedchamber. The fifth storey is a hexagonal guardroom.
In the early 1480s, King Richard III had two gun towers built. The Bear and Clarence Towers were left unfinished on his death in 1485.
Warwick Castle’s residential buildings are on the eastern side of the castle facing gorgeous views of the Avon. These buildings include the Great Hall, the library and the Chapel.
The Great Hall is the largest room in Warwick Castle and it is the most impressive area of the Castle. You cannot take strollers into the Great Hall so be warned. Although the Great Hall and State Rooms are up a flight of 11 steps, there is a wheelchair lift.
There is a short staircase to the Great Hall and when you enter it is pretty spectacular. Its immense vaulted ceilings and incredible displays of weaponry are pretty amazing. The Great Hall itself dates back to the 1300s and there is a superb display of armour within the Hall including armoured horses.
Today it’s home to some splendid suits of armour – including armour for horses, and a tiny one made for the four-year-old son of the Earl of Leicester.
Look out for the magnificent Kenilworth Buffet, a wonderful piece of furniture, carved by local craftsmen from a single oak tree from the grounds of Kenilworth Castle, for the Great Exhibition of 1851. The buffet is made from a single oak tree which grew at Kenilworth Castle and was cut down in 1842.
The carvings represent scenes from Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel, ‘Kenilworth’. It was published in 1821 and centres on the secret marriage between Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and Amy Robsart. The central panel shows the entry of Queen Elizabeth I into Kenilworth Castle through Dudley’s gatehouse in 1575 as part of a three-week visit.
Dudley was in love with Queen Elizabeth and wanted her to marry him, unfortunately, he had a wife who died shortly afterwards under strange circumstances.
Exploring the State Rooms
Many a crowned head has eaten dinner in the State Dining room. The room was commissioned in 1763 and has entertained King George IV and Queen Victoria.
There is a Cedar Drawing Room in an Italianate style.
The Blue Boudoir has silk wallpaper and the Green Drawing Room with its superb works of art.
In the 1600’s Sir Fulke Greville built a small chapel on the site of what is believed to have been the location of a chapel dating back to 1119. There is a beautiful little Chapel tucked away with its own pipe organ.
The rooms upstairs have been set up Tussaud style with wax dummies and tableaux of dinner parties and entertainments in the house when it was a family “home”. The exhibit is called “The Weekend Party”. Guests include the Prince of Wales, Winston Churchill and other luminaries of the era.
The exhibit is spread over 12 of the previous family apartments that have been decorated with items from the period.
Travel back in time to the civil war of 1471 with Richard Neville the most powerful and richest peer in England. One of the original leaders of the War of the Roses and originally a Yorkist (the White Rose) he switched sides to the Red Rose (Lancastrian) and earned his nickname of the Kingmaker by helping the Tudors come to the throne of England.
Warwick Castle Events
The Mighty Trebuchet
Warwick Castle is home to one of the largest working siege engines in the world the Trebuchet is capable of flinging cannonballs weighing in at over 13kg. Sadly if you have mobility issues it is difficult to get to the area where the Trebuchet stands and is demonstrated. It is around a 10-15 minute walk or push to the main areas. For safety reasons, the trebuchet is set up on the opposite side of the river to the Castle.
It takes a team of 8 people to operate the machine which stands 59 feet tall and weighs in at 22 tons. As it is so large you can see it from quite a distance.
It takes around 15-20 to get the trebuchet set up and the operators are quite entertaining.
The Falconer’s Quest
In the summer months and main tourist times, Warwick Castle hosts a fabulous display of birds of prey. There are owls flying over you, a bald eagle and an Egyptian Vulture to name a few.
It’s pretty dramatic watching kites landing on the towers and flying back to the falconer I have to say. It was probably the best display I’ve seen since the one at Birr Castle in Ireland.
Time Tower at Warwick Castle
Enter the Time Tower (CaesersTower) & witness the birth of Warwick Castle, which once controlled the middle of England for over a thousand years. These ages have now passed along with their stories…until now.
Join characters from the Castle’s past as they travel through time on an adventure quest through Warwick Castle’s dark history of bloodshed, death, treachery & destruction and discover for yourselves the true story of 1,100 years of Warwick Castle through the Ages.
Time Tower is an immersive audiovisual multimedia experience capturing the essence of Warwick Castle’s rich and vibrant history!
The Princess Tower
Okay so I’ve never been known to admire a Princess and this “entertainment” sort of does my feminist head in.
It’s a sappy Disney, no boys allowed exhibit/quest, god only knows. The usual nonsense of brave knight and Princess breaking curses and solving riddles and all that crap.
A few of the Princess Tower rules:
- You must have a ticket and book a time slot
- Many stairs to the tower so no strollers you have to carry the little ones
- No photography or mobile phone use
- We heard boys being turned away
Held in front of the Castle as you are exiting from the admissions area. This guy is pretty damned impressive and you learn quite a bit which means in future when watching archers or longbowmen in movies you will be much more critical.
A summer-only show taking place in the evening at an extra cost of £20. This is an evening show complete with fire jousting, stunts and battles on horseback and by the light of torches. There is a twilight procession to the courtyard of the knights and their beautiful horses. A spectacular light show finale with mythical monsters and pyrotechnics.
The Horrible Histories Maze
You will pass this on your way to the Castle again just outside the admissions area. It’s an interactive walkthrough experience that combines obstacles, quests, special effects and some interesting “movements” and smoke effects. Again a load of rules, no high heels, no eating, no drinking, no strollers but it is wheelchair accessible.
For the kiddies, there are areas dedicated to Vicious Vikings and Stormin’ Normans Terrifying Tudors, Slimy Stuarts and the Frightful First World War educational and fun for them.
Seasonal Events at Warwick Castle
The War of the Roses is usually held in the main summer months of tourist season and is quite the spectacle. Watch and learn about the clash between York and Lancaster and how that led to a new royal regime.
Staying at Warwick Castle
Fancy a night in Warwick Castle? Well, it’s possible you can stay in one of the luxury tower suites in Caesar’s Tower. £600 per night. However, the price is for two and does include champagne, fresh flowers and fruit, a 24-hour concierge service, two days’ unlimited access to the castle with all-day dining and parking and posh breakfast brought to your room or served in the grand dining room.
There are at least 50+ steps up to the rooms so you had better be fit although they do carry your luggage up for you.
Or how about some glamping? A stay in the King’s Luxury tent costs around £95 per person per night. Now that does include 2 thrones and a good breakfast.
Medieval themed Lodge pretty luxurious but starts at £160 per night for a family with 2 kids under the age of 12.
Fortunately, all stays do include a 2-day ticket to the Castle and breakfast.
How to get to Warwick Castle
Easy to get to by car the Castle is right off the M40 and well signed. As mentioned before parking is a pain in the feet as it is a hell of a long way from the actual castle entrance.
You can also get to the Castle by train to Warwick station which is about a 25-minute walk from the Castle.
Travel on the Warwick Castle Express – Departing from London every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, from April – November. Depart at 8.30 am, relax on-board a luxury air-conditioned Golden Tours coach with free Wi-Fi and enjoy the journey. Packages include Castle entry.
I have to admit to being disappointed by my trip to Warwick Castle. As a person with mobility issues, the walk was cruel and it didn’t put me in a great state to actually enjoy the Castle. We were given 2 complimentary tickets to the Castle itself which were gratefully received as the cost of them and parking were very off-putting and we would have been horrendously disappointed if we had paid the entry fee.
All in all, Warwick Castle is disappointing, the lack of decent food and places to sit, the tacky cheap tat in the stores. The fact you have to pay extra to park and there is no transportation of any kind on the grounds to be able to access areas outside the castle for special events. The cost is really outrageous as well and to charge a 4-year-old child the same as an adult is simply gouging.
On the other hand, it is an incredible historic location, I just wish in their attempt to be all things to all people they would up their game a lot given the entry fee.
I was also very surprised by the lack of “guests” and the treatment of guests attempting to sort out tickets. There was only 1 person at the ticket booth at the first entrance to the Castle and no signage telling you there were more ticket booths inside. In fact, it took us over 45 minutes of waiting in lines to get to where our complimentary tickets were being held.
I always feel a bit sad about not giving a great review when my entry tickets have been provided at no charge, but then it wouldn’t be a brutally honest review. There is much that needs to be done at Warwick Castle to make it worth the ticket price.
Have you been to Warwick Castle and what did you think?