Christmas has arrived in Warwick, with a new festive-themed schedule bathing the famous castle in seasonal good cheer.
In times of old people from towns and villages the county over flocked to the Great Hall to see the biggest tree in Warwickshire. And today Warwick Castle is decked out with an impressively giant tree (complete with appropriately giant baubles), fairy lights, poinsettias and presents.
Father Christmas has even taken up residence here and up until Christmas Eve, there are ten ‘Breakfast with Santa’ dates that offer children the chance to meet Father Christmas and his elves in person.
Warwick Castle does history for kids like nowhere else and it bridges the gap between historical information that adults want with fun, games and re-enactments to bring the past alive.
History comes to life
Our first encounter with the past comes with a Black Plague sufferer grunting her way through the queue to take tickets as we head into the Castle Dungeons. We couldn’t make up our mind whether to laugh or be a little bit scared as she ushered us into the darkness, where a collection of projections and live actors brought the dingy cells to life.
The actors who take you round, from the prisoners to the Black Death doctor, do a fantastic job and we see why it’s not recommended for under 10s! Spooky, funny and more than a little gruesome, it will make any youngster pay attention far better than even the liveliest history teacher.
Though there is plenty of interest to be had soaking up the atmosphere in the stately rooms, marvelling at the incredible décor and having your picture taken with a waxwork of Henry VIII, if you prefer a more action packed day, Warwick Castle is park theme park as well as historic building.
The Christmas schedule includes live sword fighting as a band of actors play out a story of betrayal and retribution focusing on, er, a cuddly Christmas penguin. The slapstick humour is matched by the impressive swordsmanship and makes for a great show for both parents and children.
At this stage you might find you need to warm up, which is where the Christmas cavery comes in. A huge plate of festive food warms the cockles and means we’re all set to spend the rest of the afternoon visiting other attractions at the museum.
A not-to-be-missed highlight is the falconry show, which takes place several times a day with different birds to watch. Owls Ernie and Oscar were shown off to us in the afternoon by their enthusiastic trainer, who had a little trouble getting them to do as he said. The pair swoop overhead and, when they do as they’re told, show how birds of prey hunt and catch their food and give an impressive display of flying.
Though it’s easy enough to do Warwick Castle as a day trip, or to stay in the historic town itself, on our trip we chose to take the 36 minute train to nearby Stratford to look around Shakespeare’s home.
This gives you a least one extra day of activities including visiting the place Shakespeare was born and other important houses connected to the playwright, and the famous Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which shows a variety of the his hits as well as plays by other writers. (If you get the chance to see a performance, the Orphan of Zhao is currently on at the Swan theatre, within the newly refurbished RSC complex, and is fantastic.)
Keeping in the festive theme, there is a cute Christmas market in Stratford, the lights are up and a steel-drum player bashes out his own version of popular carols, which makes it an ideal place to get a little Christmas shopping done without feeling harried by the crowds.
Christmas is creeping up on us fast, but there is plenty of time to check out Warwickshire festive fun.
Warwick & Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle is easily accessible from junction 15 off the M40. Christmas at the Castle takes place until 6th January 2013.
Book in advance online for great discounts or call 0871 265 2000. Entry to the Castle for adults from £13.68, children from £9.36 and seniors £10.08. Check the programme in advance at www.warwick-castle.com.
Chiltern Railways run services regularly from London Marylebone to Warwick (86 minutes) and Stratford-Upon-Avon stations. When you go by train you get 2 for 1 entry to the Castle.
Legacy Falcon Hotel
Stay at 16th century The Legacy Falcon Hotel, located in the very heart of historic Stratford-Upon-Avon. Steps away from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, it caters for both pre and post-theatre dining. Email Resfirstname.lastname@example.org or call 08444 119005 to book.
The Royal Shakespeare Company
Book tickets online at The Royal Shakespeare Company or call the ticket hotline, 0844 800 1110.
If you head to Stratford, theatre and attraction tickets, accommodation, brochures, special offers and more information is available on www.shakespeare-country.co.uk, or Discover Stratford, or call 0871 978 0800.