I’ve wanted to visit Warwick Castle for years – it’s one of the major historical sites in the UK and every time I go to Stratford on the train I go through Warwick and see the signs to the Castle. As a birthday treat to myself I decided to finally visit.
The beginnings of the Castle go back to 914 when Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great, ordered the building of a ‘burh’ or an earthen rampart to protect the small hill top settlement of Warwick from Danish invaders. In 1068, William the Conqueror founded a motte and bailey fort, consisting of a large earth mound with a timber stockade around both the top and base. This mound is still visible as part of the Castle today.
The earliest part of the Castle
Henry de Beaumont was appointed the 1st Earl of Warwick in 1088. Successive Earls followed until the title passed to Richard Neville, who married the prior Earl’s sister, in 1449. This is the part of Warwick Castle’s history I’m most familiar with, because of Neville’s role in the Wars of the Roses and his unofficial title of ‘Kingmaker’. Later, the Castle lapsed into disrepair until James I presented it to Sir Fulke Greville in 1604. In 1871, a fire damaged the Private Apartments and the Great Hall and over 100 years later the Castle was bought by the Tussaud’s Group, marking its beginnings as a tourist attraction.
I booked online because it was a bit cheaper – also you get to skip the queue once you get there. The Castle is not far from the centre of town so it isn’t much of a walk.
Inside, there is lots to see and do. I decided to do all the rampart-climbing in the morning, before it got too hot and before I ran out of energy. There are great views over the Warwickshire countryside, and there are informative panels that explain the history of different parts of the Castle.
View from the ramparts
Underneath the main building there is a walk-through display which shows the Earl of Warwick preparing for battle. Some of the wax figures are a little creepy, but this area is also pretty informative about what is probably the most famous period of the Castle’s history. Across the grounds, there is a ‘time machine’ exhibition which uses video technology to take you through the many centuries of the Castle’s history, with Horrible Histories-style humour.
I climbed to the top of the hill, formerly the old motte and bailey castle, and then decided I wanted a rest. This proved opportune as I was just in time for a birds of prey flying display, which was amazing. I actually ended up seeing two of these, and they were fascinating, featuring kestrels, eagles, an Andean condor, and my favourite – Ernie the owl.
Ernie the owl
I left the big part of the Castle until last. This part was rebuilt after a fire in the nineteenth century. It explored the history of the Castle as a retreat for the great and the good in later centuries, with waxworks of Victorian worthies demonstrating the weekend parties and lavish entertainments that went on here.
Newer part of the Castle
I didn’t visit the Dungeons, being somewhat squeamish – this part costs more to visit anyway. I didn’t visit the Princess Tour either, that being aimed at very young children.
Nevertheless, I found that there was plenty to do – I think all ages and temperaments would find something to entertain them here. I’d definitely recommend Warwick Castle for a day out.
Address: Warwick, CV34 4QU
Opening Hours: 10am-4/5pm depending on season/event
Prices: £36 for an open-dated ticket for one adult that allows you to visit the Castle and Dungeon at any time within 12 months; discounts are available for booking a selected day in advance (as opposed to just turning up), omitting the Dungeon, and for children or concessions. Check the website for special offers. Short breaks are also available.