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31 July 2017


i have somehow gotten myself quite the reputation as someone who will just about go anywhere in the uk to explore it, and so far, i've had some really great adventures. i've seen parts of this country that i never would have got to see if it wasn't for this silly blog, and i will never not be totally grateful for every opportunity that comes my way through it. but. well. i think my stays in the uk have peaked with this last trip to warwick castle, for six reasons:

the castle grounds

the original castle was built by william the conqueror after the battle of hastings in 1068. i mean, that's a statement i've read a hundred times over, and i still can't fathom the fact that i saw a thing with my own eyes that is that old. i'm almost certain i've seen things that are older in my life, but, nothing as important or as historic as this.

the grounds are simply stunning. from the pedestrian entrance off the main road that's enclosed by roman stones, to the luscious and overgrown pathway that leads to the main medieval gate, the immediate impression is: impressive. i'd not long finished reading harry potter when we arrived, and i can tell you this: the last time i felt this impressed by a castle was when the screen rolled up and the doors of the great hall opened up into hogwarts. it's almost just as big too, if those models are to scale...

the knight's village

we were lucky enough to spend the night in the knight's village, in one of the log cabins. it was a bit wet and windy when we arrived, so we were grateful to not have to spend the night in one of the white tepee tents that filled the fields behind our cabin, though, they did look quite fun to sleep in! we weren't able to officially check in until 4pm, so when we came back to collect our luggage from reception, we were able to see all the other fun the village had to offer - other than the totally unique "camping" experience!

the dining hall was large and filled with rows and rows of wooden tables and chairs, and was decked out in total medieval regalia. once the ooh-ing and aah-ing had ceased, we moved on to our cabin for the night: lucky lodge 113. it's made for four, but not four adults - of which we were a full party, so two of the group stacked themselves into the kid's bunk beds in the box room while ben and i took the main room. the beds were very comfortable, and the room had that familiar medieval feel that we'd encountered in the main hall. knowing i was going to be spending the night under some pretty realistic armoury was definitely the makings of a wonderful evening (and the banquet dinner didn't hurt, either)!

the animals

between arriving and checking in, we made our way into the grounds for a wander. on the way to the jousting (we'll come to that in a minute), we strolled past the aviary. we were expecting ravens  and woodpeckers and the like, but what we encountered was so much better: a massive selection of genuine birds of prey. we followed the keeper down to the event space, and got ourselves comfortable for the show; after seeing an american bald eagle chained up not two metres away from us, we were excited to see it fly - among other things.

for an hour we watched archie the eagle and his comrades in wings take to the very-close-to-our-heads-sky, and flap about like utter cool guys. it was literally amaaaazing to watch a fully-grown bald eagle with a wingspan of more than six feet fly directly at my face and only pull up at the very last minute. terrifying, but very cool. i can't remember the specific other types of the birds on show, but there were vultures and owls and falcons, and oh my god, it was so bloody surreal.

the activities

but the highlight of the weekend? the jousting. real-life, traditional, competitive jousting. obviously, it's a very dangerous sport so it's only taken part in by the pros. and yes, there is such a thing as professional jousters - we saw the van for the knights of middle england's jousting squad as we had entered the castle ground that morning - and laughed just as hard as you are now too! i really wasn't expecting it to be so intense, but it was.

we were asked to pick a side - either lancaster or york, and from there the show erupted. we were taken through years and years of historic battles, leading to the start of the tudor empire. i'm sure you already know your english history, but for those who don't: i won't spoil that particular victory for you. what i will say is this: giant wooden poles are heavy, and make a reeeeally loud noise when they crack. or when they smash into armour. or when they're  dropped to the ground. of which they did all three, and often. think: a knight's tale and times it by 100 real life points, and you're halfway there. it was a highlight, let me tell you that. the trebuchet and the archery were cool too, but like, not as cool as that. 

(no horses were hurt, i'm positive. they were all so well trained and looked after, and you could actually see those middle-english knight's feeding them treats and thanking them for their efforts, which actually warmed my heart; i loathe the idea of animals being used for entertainment, though i understand that these are very carefully looked after and are never in direct danger of being hurt. so, for the sake of a bit of history, i will let this one slide...)

the state rooms

ever wondered what a royal party in the victorian times would be like? well, in the state rooms you can now find out for yourself. daisy, the countess of warwick would throw lavish weekend parties for her royal guests (of which both king edward vii and the prince of wales were) back in the late 1800s, and a full recreation of these parties now remain across 12 beautifully designed rooms in the castle. what were originally private apartments are now filled with wax figures of former guests of daisy's (who, incidentally was noted as being a champion of women's education, a former labour candidate, as well as a vegetarian. well, well, well. she sounds fab!), including one of a young winston churchill reading a book in the library.. indeed!

the authentic furniture and soft furnishings inside the rooms really brought the recreations to life, as do the recordings that play throughout the tour of the apartments. there's even a "weekend party" event that you can book, if you prefer to stay at the castle over a weekend (instead of mid-week when it would be more ideal to stay so you'd have all the activities to yourself), so you can enjoy the recreation of victorian britain yourself. i'd highly recommend checking out the apartments, whatever your plans for the castle, as they're seriously beautiful and create such an incredible window into that era.

the medieval town

the town itself is so bloody quaint, that it could and should easily be as well visited as it is now, with or without the castle there. patriotic bunting hung from tudor building to tudor building, and there were gas-lit lamp posts lining the still-cobbled streets. the pubs were proper, the people were friendly, and the puppies were many. sure, there were the token "ye olde knight's fish and chippery" and the like, but other than a few foolishly-named businesses, it was very much another lovely midlands town, with all the charm you'd expect of middle-england.

i had such a wonderful time at the castle, and would definitely go back in a heartbeat as there's still so much to see and do there. the gardens, the island, the dungeons - i didn't get to see any of these this time around, and i would like to go back for a week-day sleepover (maybe in a tent!) instead, when there are likely to be less kids about.. we were the only adults there without them this time.. the shame! the overnight stays start from as little as £40 per person, which includes two days of castle access, breakfast, and a banquet fit for a king, which is exceptional value - and the trains are really regular too!

*we were guests of warwick castle, but all thoughts are mine.

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