Sleep like a Kingmaker at Warwick Castle
- Credit: Warwick Castle
Over the years, the kids and I have slept in with insects, dinosaur fossils, and awoken to roaring lions at the zoo. But our night in a Knight's lodge at Warwick Castle was certainly the most comfortable.
A sleepover in the grounds of a castle is an experience children will remember - but add in sword skills, archery, and the chance to explore some fun history - and it's pretty unforgettable.
Under two hours up the M40 from North West London, we arrived at Knight's Village just as the castle was closing. Our two-room woodland lodge was decked out with a modern bathroom, comfy beds, and medieval features like shields, crossed swords, and falconry gear.
The stay includes evening entertainment and we were soon watching two Knights and a medieval maiden entertain the children with stories of dragons and princesses, and a lesson in sword skills. All this took place on an idyllic stretch of the Avon, while sipping drinks from the bar.
Lodges are equipped with kettles only, so it was off for a plentiful buffet dinner in the medieval themed restaurant before returning to the fray. We set off on a quest for letter clues among the medieval glamping tents, raised wooden boardwalks, and trees, a trail which kept our 10-year-old busy for an hour and earned her a badge. Winding down, we sat out on our outdoor terrace to enjoy an evening cuppa before turning in.
The next morning, we loaded up with a hearty buffet breakfast (fruit, cereals, pastries, full English) before walking up to the gates for opening time. Run by the same folk behind Madame Tussauds, Legoland and Shrek's Adventure, the castle is a great blend of fun, technical wizardry, and spectacle, but as you pass impressive crenelated walls and walk under the gate tower into the keep, you realise this is no theme park but a serious bit of history.
That's hit home by the Kingmaker exhibition which evokes the sights, sounds and smells of the night before the Battle of Barnet; a decisive engagement in the Wars of the Roses during which Richard Neville the Earl of Warwick - known as the Kingmaker for his powerful influence over the English throne - led a Lancastrian army, and was killed by Yorkist soldiers.
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The Time Tower exhibit uses film and animation to take visitors back even further to Anglo Saxon times when Alfred the Great's daughter Aethelfred built a fortification here, followed by Norman conquerors with a wooden Motte and Bailey castle. Stone buildings, towers and ramparts followed which you can explore today - alongside the great hall and state rooms.
Younger visitors will enjoy interactive activities - including a playground and live show - based on Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson's trainee dragon Zog. Our older kids loved the Horrible Histories Maze which involved collecting stamps, and there's a terrific Dungeon experience set during the plague years. What happens inside the dark, narrow walls should stay shrouded in mystery, but you will meet a monk, a witch, an executioner, a torturer and a plague doctor who will try to scare you.
Emerging into the sunshine we were glad to sit by the lake with fish and chips and enjoy the Falconer's Quest, a stunning birds of prey show which sees huge eagles and owls swoop over your head. Over the river, they were rehearsing for the dramatic Wars of the Roses Live show featuring jousting, sword battles and archery. It runs daily until September 4 and is included in the ticket price. For a small fee you can try your own hand at archery too.
Anyone old enough to grip a wooden sword will find something to amuse them here, and an overnight stay just makes it extra special.
Overnight packages based on two adults and two children start from £169 for Glamping and £219 for Lodges and include parking, breakfast and entry into the castle. Warwick Castle is open from 10am daily. Day tickets when booked in advance from £29. Wars of the Roses LIVE! runs until September 4 and other summer spectaculars include shows such as Dragon Slayer. Details from https://www.warwick-castle.com/