Warwick Castle: Stairs, Swords and Fire

by WordChazer

Be prepared to walk if you visit Warwick Castle. While the majority of the attractions are located around the courtyard, there’s a lot to see with 10 centuries of history on show.

From the dungeons to the ramparts, it’s all open to tourists, although some exhibits may not be suitable for all visitors. Owned by the Tussauds Group since 1978, the on-the-gate entry price of £30 for an adult or £25 for a child may seem steep, but the number and variety of attractions make it very good value for money. Online prices for advance tickets are cheaper and printing your own ticket cuts out the entry queue.

Start with the Towers and Ramparts for a Spectacular View

On entry, visitors should take time to wander the courtyard to get a feel for where everything is and perhaps plan their day around the events. There are sword fighting roleplayers in the courtyard, falconry displays and special events at certain times of the year. Some of the exhibits have timed entry, so it may be best to pick up the tickets for these first and work around them.

If great views and hands-on history are of interest, set aside an hour for the ramparts and towers climb. The stairs are nearly vertical in parts and the handholds are welcome. The ‘hands-on’ bit comes on crawling up the final few stairs to the top of the tallest tower. The notice at the bottom of the steps says that it is a one-way tour and not suitable for the elderly, infirm or young children. It’s also a great stair climbing workout for those who want to test their stamina against unyielding original narrow stone spiral staircases drenched in history. The views from the top are amazing and it’s easy to see that the castle was built where it was for a reason. The towers have arrow slits and machicolated floors to allow nasty substances of all kinds to be dropped on attackers at the base of the walls below.

Machicolations in the tower turret - watch out below!
Machicolations in t...
Paula Thomas, Octob...
Arrow slits - poke your eye out, sir?
Arrow slits - poke ...
Paula Thomas, Octob...
Aerial view of the River Avon
Aerial view of the ...
Paula Thomas, Octob...

Falcons, Dungeons and Roleplaying

Slightly less energetic but still not for the faint hearted is the Flight of the Eagles show. Being buzzed by a bird of prey with a wingspan of around 6’ is definitely an experience, especially as the falconers admitted that things don’t always go to plan. Watch out for the tale of Igor, the only bird ever to be sacked from the show. He decided to supplement his diet with extra local duck, which didn’t please the castle staff too much. They will definitely tell you about Boris, his son, who is only a juvenile but showing signs of being as good as his dad in flying terms. There’s also Marvin, who on the day we visited was behaving more like an oversized magpie than a bird of prey and was more entranced with a piece of shiny wrapping he saw on the ground than he was with entertaining us. 

The roleplayers, however, entertain at regular intervals with a demonstration of swordplay and an explanation of the history of the importance of a sword to a true gentleman. This is a chance to see Live Action Roleplay (LARPing) in action.

The Dungeons are definitely for able bodied adults only; children under 10 are not permitted and anyone between 10 and 18 must be accompanied by someone over 18. There is a long list of further restrictions, therefore the cost of the tour is not included in the main ticket price for Castle entry and has to be purchased separately. A typical walk-through tour lasts 50 minutes and operates on a timed entry basis. The last point on the Useful Tips list states plainly: Entry is non-refundable for snivelling wimps.

You have been told.

If the Gunpowder Plot had succeeded in 1605, Princess Elizabeth would have been abducted and made queen. She was only nine years old.
November 5th 1605 was always so much more than Guy Fawkes blowing up Parliament. Assuming that he had lit the fuse, would there have been a Catholic Uprising?
Coughton Lodge is an ideal place for a social gathering, a team building event, a family get-together or simply as a relaxed base to explore the many local attractions.

Princesses, Real and Pretend

For the younger children, the Princess Tower provides a chance to live the dream, if only for a while. Adults, meantime, are recommended to visit the static displays in the house. The Royal Weekend Party shows life in Victorian high society, as enjoyed by the likes of Frances, Countess of Warwick and the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. There is also the chance to view a selection of other rooms in the Castle, including the Great Hall, the State Dining Room, various drawing rooms and bedrooms, plus the private chapel of the Earls of Warwick until the start of the 20th century. The Kingmaker exhibit at the end of the room tour shows how preparations for battle were made in the mid-15th century.

The Mighty Trebuchet

As a spectacular finale to the day, why not watch the firing of the Trebuchet on River Island. This is a reconstruction of an enormous catapult which was used as a siege engine, capable of hurling rocks into or dead animals over defensive walls. The demonstration is often performed with a flaming projectile to show the height and length of shot possible.

Visitors can potentially spend an entire day at Warwick Castle, as the attraction is open from 10am to at least 5pm, by which time even the most ardent would-be swordsman or princess is likely to be tired out.

Updated: 12/25/2013, WordChazer
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DerdriuMarriner on 07/13/2017

WordChazer, What happens to a "sacked" bird such as Igor? How is Marvin doing?

Mira on 04/28/2014

It seems like they know how to make the most of this tourist attraction. Here in Romania we had wonderful furniture, art and artifacts at Bran Castle (Dracula's Castle) but at one point I think they stripped the castle bare of all that. (Well, the architecture remains, and it is very interesting.) Don't know how things are these days. I should look into it. Anyway, it's great that they have falconry and shows of all kinds there.

ologsinquito on 01/13/2014

It's interesting to read about castles, because we don't have many real castles here in America, which has no tradition of royalty. There are a handful of castle-like estates built by wealthy industrialists entrepreneurs, and that's about it. The Hearst "Castle" is one that springs to mind.

WordChazer on 11/07/2013

Thanks ologsinquito. I'm honored.

ologsinquito on 11/07/2013

Nice article. I'm pinning this to my Wizzley writing board.

WordChazer on 11/04/2013

Thanks Jo. Always good to have a historian agree with me.

JoHarrington on 11/04/2013

It's been a while since I last went to Warwick Castle, but it's always definitely been worth the visit.

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