Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Warwick Castle - Medieval Adventure!

On the 28th July we took advantage of some 2 for 1 vouchers that we had aquired which were valid for entry to any of Merlin Entertainment's facilities in the UK. Being so close by we chose to visit the magnificent Warwick Castle.

When we arrived at just after 1100hrs we feared that we had made a mistake as the school holidays had already started and we had to park about two miles away from the entrance in the overflow car park! It did mean though that we were parked nearer to the exit than most and would probably get a quicker escape at the end of the day!

We walked up to the entrance and paid our £19.95 fee which turned out to be a real bargain. Things have certainly changed for the better since my last visit here over ten years ago.

We wove our way through the throngs of school children and took the obligatory pictures in the stocks. Elaine was fortunate as 400 years ago we would have been throwing rotting vegetables at her!

The original castle was founded in 1068 by William the Conquerer so there is quite a bit of history to work through during the visit! The Castle retained its defensive role until the 17th century when it became more of a stately home, remaining so until 1978 when it was sold to the Tussauds Group (of Madame Tussauds fame) which turned it into a major tourist attraction. Pictured from Ethelfleda's Mound (the original 1068 earthworks) the defensive qualities of the castle are clear.

The central courtyard is the venue for regular medieval combat demonstrations. The actors are really good and provide an hilarious commentary as they demonstrate ancient techniques and lay to rest many myths about fighting in those times.

The castle is home to various exhibitions detailing life behind its walls throughout the centuries. From Kingmaker, through to the Great Hall, Victorian life and even the more recent visit of HRH Queen Elizabeth II super realistic Tussauds waxworks entertain the visitor. In the Great Hall Elaine finally found her 'knight in shining armour'!

The 'Flight of the Eagles' show takes place outside the ramparts twice a day. The audience have the privilege of getting up close and personal with an Eagle Owl, a Rüppell's Griffon Vulture, a Bald Eagle and a fabulous Stellar's Sea Eagle. The show is so up close and personal that the Rüppell's Griffon Vulture's wing even clipped Jon's head as it came in for a swooping landing from the castle ramparts!

Bald Eagle

Stellar's Sea Eagle

Next up on the list of activities for us was our picnic lunch, what a fantastic setting for some cheese and biscuits! Keen not to miss out on anything we ate quickly and headed down to the river island to see the jousting tournament. Once again the actors provided a very realistic show for us to enjoy whilst the Jester worked hard to keep us laughing!

A walk in the Peacock Garden was rewarded with a full show by many of the cocks. They are obviously natural showmen but I'm afraid that we seemed far more impressed than the hens did!

We took a quick walk around the ramparts so that we could get all the way round to Caesar's Tower before the 1700hrs firing of the world's largest Trebuchet. The top of Caesar's Tower gives a fantastic view of the river island and the large catapult to which it is home! 1700hrs came and off shot a 150kg fire bomb over 200m through the air. A very interesting way to round off a great day in the castle.

We hot footed it out of the castle, through the archery and medieval cookery demonstrations, to get to the car and beat the traffic. We were semi-successful and decided that we should call into Warwick itself before heading home. The town has some fabulous architecture and many Tudor buildings still survive. How could we resist having a quick drink at The Tudor House Inn to bring an end to a fabulous day?

We highly recommend a visit to Warwick Castle. There is plenty to see and do to keep adults and children alike entertained for a full day. We didn't visit the Princess Tower (a mile long queue of little girls dressed as Princesses did though) or the Dungeons (you must pay extra to visit this new exhibition but by all accounts it is well worthwhile). Just remember to take a pair of comfortable shoes and a spare memory card (or film for some of you) for the camera!

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