Disclosure: we were provided with tickets free of charge for the purpose of this review.
A week or so ago we picked up one of Georgie’s best friends, Lily, and took her for a day out at Warwick Castle with us, to check out what they have on offer for the Christmas season. It was a really lovely day out and thankfully the weather was (mostly) kind to us, letting us explore the castle and grounds to our hearts content.
The first thing the girls headed to as soon as we entered the grounds was the Horrible Histories maze, where you can “Get Lost in Time”. Georgie and Lydia have just started watching the TV shows for Horrible Histories and have even bought themselves a multipack of the books to share, so they were really excited to explore the maze and complete their passports by stamping them in each themed area.
Dotted around the maze were signs of Rattus Rattus marking dead ends, wanted posters for him, and a scattering of facts about the different eras of history featured in the Horrible Histories maze. There are six areas to explore; Vicious Vikings, Stormin’ Normans, Measly Middle Ages, Terrible Tudors, Slimy Stuarts, and Frightful First World War.
Once we had worked our way around the maze we found the first clue in the Horrible Histories Reindeer Hunt, which took us all over the castle grounds throughout the day, collecting letters to fill in the passports.
After escaping the maze, we headed into the main courtyard, and the girls were immediately drawn to the Princess standing outside the Princess Tower, so we booked ourselves into the Princess in the Tower experience, which is included in your ticket price. It was soon time to head up the tower, and so I took the girls in while James hunted down a hot drink – he ended up buying a reusable travel mug which you can then pay £1 to have refilled at all the drinks stalls around the castle, which was good value especially on a cold day! The girls especially enjoyed it when I got a hot chocolate refill which we all shared.
All three of the girls enjoyed the Princess Tower, which was an interactive experience with a princess telling a story, and getting their help to ‘rescue’ a trapped prince from a painting so he could marry his princess. They also got to help her decorate the Christmas tree with baubles and decorations that we hidden around the room when we entered. The whole tower was really nicely decorated with the princess theme, including lots of props like Snow White’s Apple and Cinderella’s Pumpkin in the first room you go into, which the girls loved looking at. The princess got them all involved and made sure every child got their chance to put something on the tree.
We exited the Princess Tower just as a tour we were interested in was about to start, so we hurried over to the Great Hall to join the ‘Kids Tour – 5 Cool Facts For Young Explorers’. I have to say that Brogan, the lady who gave this tour, was so good. She really got the kids watching engaged with what she was talking about, and they got to try on helmets and peer down a secret passage. Both James and I enjoyed the tour almost as much as the girls did – it was really interesting and her enthusiasm was infectious. There are lots of different tours running throughout the day, and they are included in your ticket cost which is great.
The castle has been decorated beautifully for Christmas, and both the adults and children were oohing and aahing at the huge Christmas trees, and gorgeous decorations everywhere. There were traditional decorations like paper chains and so on too, and the overall effect was wonderful and made me feel very festive.
We headed down to the Undercroft Restaurant for lunch, where you can have unlimited pizza, pasta, salad & drinks for £7.50 per child and £12.95 per adult. All five of us were very hungry so we definitely got value for money as every one of us went back to get seconds. The pizza was really tasty and there was a good range of salad available too.
After lunch we had some time before our Santa timeslot, so we went for a walk around the grounds to hunt down all the missing letters for the Horrible Histories Reindeer Hunt, which took us down to the mill and up to the peacock garden, where the girls enjoyed exploring the paths and watching the peacocks roam around.
It was time to head back into the castle for our Stories with Santa timeslot, so we went in to wait in the Great Hall and showed the e-ticket on my phone, before heading into a waiting area for everyone in the same slot to arrive. In this room, an elf encouraged the kids to sit on the floor around her and they had a lovely chat about Christmas and what gifts they wanted – and Lily piped up with the answer when she asked if anyone knew how many sleeps there were to go!
Once everyone had arrived we headed down the hallway to join Santa in a beautifully decorated room with cushions on the floor for the children, and he proceeded to have a lovely chat with them. He said some lovely things about Christmas and being good and so on, and then he read out a letter from someone wanting to apply to work for him.
He told the children how he had flown to Warwick Castle and landed on the roof and that he had the jingle bells from his sleigh, which he then picked up and led the room in a sing song of Jingle Bells. It was a really lovely experience and Georgie has declared him to be the real Santa, unlike all the others we’ve seen this winter, who were just his helpers.
I think this was a really nice addition to the day – especially as it doesn’t cost anything to book into! Unlike some Santa experiences you don’t get a free gift – but you also don’t pay extra so that is forgiveable – and besides if you do the scavenger hunt to find the reindeer you get a pop badge anyway.
Once storytime was over, every child got the chance to have a photo taken with him, which you could buy afterwards for £12 (ouch!). They had various gift bundles available using the photo which were better value, but instead of showing the photos on a screen they were printing them out for you to see – this felt wasteful as I don’t think every one could have sold (we didn’t buy ours) – and also it’s a bit mean as if you don’t want to buy it but your small child sees their physical photo, they don’t really understand why they can’t take it home, if you don’t want to buy it.
I was ready for a sit down to rest my damaged knee, so I got myself a hot drink in the courtyard while James and the three girls scaled the hundreds of steps up and down the huge Guy’s Tower, where they enjoyed waving to me from the top! James & the girls reported back that the views were magnificent and that it was a bit scary.
Since our last visit to Warwick Castle, they have added the Time Tower which is an audio visual experience that takes you back in time to see how the castle came to be, and introduces you to the different owners and so on throughout time. We all really enjoyed this – the girls especially enjoyed the wall full of moving and talking portraits.
It was time to head home once we had emerged from the Time Tower, so we took the girls to the Kingmaker shop where they had some really reasonably priced souvenirs to choose from, and then popped into the Courtyard shop to get their limited edition pop badges which were the reward for completing their Horrible Histories passports – they were delighted with these!
As you can tell from the smiles in all these photos, all three girls really enjoyed our day out at Warwick Castle – and James & I did too! It had been a few years since our last visit, and we really enjoyed exploring the castle and grounds, especially with it looking fantastically festive for Christmas.
The private Stories with Santa sessions have to be pre-booked on their website, and you can save money on the ticket price by booking ahead of time, too. They are running every day from today to 24th December, and we highly recommend them if you are looking for a really lovely Santa experience.