Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Warwick Castle - lively history on the Avon

Inside some of us there is someone who dreams of adventures, knights and history-making events. As a child I was far more interested in reading boys' adventure books than the prissy offerings for most girls so it's not surprising I enjoyed what this castle has to offer.

Time was limited duing my few days in England but at least I got to sample Warwick Castle which, these days, is well and truly set up to nourish such dreams in young and old alike.
This castle on the banks of the Avon River has 1100 years of history from when the daughter of Alfred the Great first built there until now when Merlin Entertainment purchased it from Madame Tussauds.

The Tussauds era is still evident as many manequins and set-pieces remain to illustrate moments and personnages in history including Winston Churchill, Henry VIII, and life in the Middle Ages.
I was impressed by the original carved panelling on one of the old bedrooms. It's so detailed and atmospheric.
Warwick Castle was owned by the Kingmaker Richard Neville during the Wars of the Roses until he was executed. It was in the Beauchamp family for generations before that and later the Grevilles, Dudleys, Plantagenets. There must have been a great amount of political and military intrigues happening within its walls - if only they could speak.

Warwick Castle is home to one of Europe's largest seige machines. It's an example of a Trebuchet which would have been used in laying seige to castles in former times. The day I was visiting I just managed to arrive at the clearing as staff fired a flaming ball high in the air. They only fire once, unfortunately; blink and you miss it and the audience is usually quite a distance away, for safety reasons.

Throughout the grounds there are activities for families, such as archery practice and watching the hunting birds performance. We were told that one experienced eagle decided not to follow instructions and return home. It decided to go hunting on it's own and found a sheep so from then on it couldn't be trusted. Its son is now performing on a 'short invisible leash of rules and disciplines'.

I enjoyed the costumed staff and watching various themed activities but there was no time to see all or do justice to anything. My advice would be to make a visit of almost a full day. It's accessible by train from London. You can stay overnight in a castle bedroom if you wish as the owners cater for accommodation, events and tourist events. They have different themed activities happening throughout so check out their website for specific details.

You need to allow as much time exploring the inside of the castle as the exterior. There may be guided tours of the property but on my Marcus Evans day trip we were left to our own devices for 1.5 hours, hopelessly inadequate to see or appreciate much. I advise at least three hours there. You can always find find things to eat and buy.


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