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Warwick Castle

We are going to be several days in the Cotswolds in Sept, traveling by car. Any thoughts on Warwick Castle?

It sort of looks like a medieval theme park and quite touristy (kind of like the Renaissance Faire attraction here in Lancaster County, PA; only on steroids). We are going to see Blenheim Palace and the Chatsworth House.

My wife and I are skipping London and focusing on Cotswolds, Peaks, and Lakes -- so I wonder if Warwick is a possibility or is it mostly hype and glitz?

Recommendations and thoughts. Thanks. Ted

Posted by
1801 posts

We went to Warwick Castle in 1989 and really enjoyed it. It is an authentic castle which belonged to "the Kingmaker" from the War of the Roses era. We thought it gave us a real feeling for what castle life might have been like six hundred years ago. We have been back to England several times since then ( no Warwick visits), but on our trip this summer we are re-visiting the castle and staying in the town. If you go to Warwick, also make time for nearby Kenilworth which is mostly ruined. It's quite interesting to contrast the two.

Posted by
11503 posts

I took my 13 yr old about 10 years ago.. and have to say.. we enjoyed the day immensely .. but yes. it does have a bit of a fair atmosphere.. there was even a really well produced jousting tournament and demonstration of a catapault..

Do I think its a completely authentic experience.. no of course not.. did I enjoy it.. yes.

It is however not just "hype and glitz" I mean the history there IS real.. but it is a developed site for sure.

Posted by
3551 posts

Don't be fooled by all the touristy things that have been added to Warwick Castle. It is one of the most historically significant castles in England. Originally, a fort-like castle (motte-and-bailey) was built there in 1068 by William the Conqueror. Before that, the Anglo-Saxons had a fort there to guard against invasions by the Danes. Before that, the Romans built a Roman road, the Fosse Way, through the property.In the 1100's, King Henry II built a stone castle on the site.

It was the home of Richard Neville (Earl of Warwick) in the 1400's. Also known as "Warwick the Kingmaker", he was a master warrior, jouster, and had political influence that allowed him to place who he wanted on the throne of England. King Edward IV was held prisoner there by Neville, who attempted to rule as king in his place. The two round towers were built in the late 1400's by Richard III, who was made famous (or infamous) by Shakespeare's play of the same name. Lots of major players in English history associated with this castle.

Warwick is a medieval castle in good condition. Many of England's medieval castles are gone. Ruined by wars, or fallen in from neglect and their stones robbed to build local churches and houses. In 1978 there was talk of it being sold and possibly a shopping center being built there. It was bought by the Tussauds Company, who run Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London. So, rather than tearing it down, they restored it, adding some touristy stuff. But it's better than having it torn down. The revenue from the touristy stuff and visitors keeps the castle standing. Better than the alternative fate for Warwick Castle.

To see a medieval castle that has not been restored or well-cared-for, go see Middleham Castle in Yorkshire. It also belonged to Richard Neville the Kingmaker, but fate has not been kind to it:
Note that the stone houses in front of the castle are made of the exact same stone as the castle. My take on it when I was there was that the stones were taken from the ruins of the castle to build the houses.

Go see Warwick. Ignore the part you don't like, and enjoy a truly beautiful medieval castle. We are lucky to be able to see it in its present condition. The interior is beautiful, with an amazing great hall, suits of armor, and sword display. No, it is not hype and glitz. I think their website makes the castle look like a cheap medieval fair, which does not do the castle justice. They sometimes have falconry displays and jousting, which are well done. I have been to Warwick four times, and will go again next trip to England.

Posted by
228 posts

We went to Warwick castle for a day just a couple of years ago, and we LOVED it! In fact, it was one of our favorite memories while we toured the Costwolds! So, yes, absolutely go! We were there for a good 5 hours and could have spent another 1-2 but they were starting to close down for the day. For two intelligent adults without kids, we had a fun time and still refer to our day there. Keep these things in mind when you are there: (1) get off of the ground and climb those staircases up to the top of the towers (the views are amazing!) and down into the heart of the gaol (you'll see what I mean). (2) When you are leaving the castle and heading back to the car parking lot, the path follows a 10 foot stone wall which seperates the town of Warwick from the castle. There is a doorway in the wall not too far from the admission building. Go through this door and voila, you're in town. There are pubs right there for afternoon tea, sweetshops, etc. Since you're already paid for parking, why not explore the town (small) before leaving.

Also, perhaps a big splurge: but you can stay overnight in the castle!

Blenheim palace is fantastic. We wish we had spent hours in the gardens, as these outshone the palace. Don't waste your time going upstairs on the 'historic' tour... it's a series of rooms full of information areas/hands on things for kids/ etc. But if there is a person playing their steam-organ, be sure to ask him/her to play Bach's 'Toccata and Fugue in D Minor' and of course Wagner's classic 'Bridal chorus' (here come the bride...). Be sure to take time to go over to their gardens... absolutely fantastic!

Posted by
135 posts


as the previous posters have stated, Warwick is a genuine castle and is worth a visit (I've been), accepting that it is easily the most 'theme park' developed castle in England (that I know of, anyway). It's also quite dear to enter, as a result.

If you have an hour to spare the same day, and you'd like to see another castle that was majestic once and is still a great castle ruin that is not 'glammed up', try Kenilworth Castle, only 5 miles or so from Warwick. It makes an interesting comparison, and it is also very different (even in colour!). Cheaper too.

Posted by
214 posts

Also be sure to go down and cross the river for some great photo ops of the castle and river !

Posted by
31491 posts

Yup, touristy. Didn't bother me at all. I liked it very much and we had no kids with us. The views are extrordinary. The views from the river back to the castle are fab too.

Posted by
1801 posts

If you would enjoy having a bit pf historical context for your Warwick visit, check out The White Queen* - either the historical novel by Phillipa Gregory or the video series based on the book. Both focus on the Nevilles, Edward IV, and Richard III at the time when the owners of Warwick were at their most powerful.

Posted by
700 posts

When we were at Warwick Castle they also had a falconry demonstration which was quite interesting. Enjoy!

Posted by
2620 posts

Warwick Castle is a fabulous castle. It has a few touristy things, but it's certainly not hype and glitz. I thought everything was quite well done. I definitely recommend it.

Posted by
10344 posts

Warwick castle may be spendy but it's well done.

Posted by
51 posts

I grew up a mile away from Warwick Castle (and actually went to school on the other side of the river from it) so I can confirm that yes its changed a lot in the 20-25 years since I first went there.

Its still worth it though.

I know you said you're travelling by car, but consider parking in Leamington Spa, and taking the train over to Warwick - the castle is maybe 10 minutes walk from Warwick station, and by having national rail tickets (from memory around £1.50) you get to use this:

which can significantly reduce the cost (although some of the special exhibitions you have to pay extra for)

Posted by
51 posts

Just to add to my post, the station at Leamington offers parking for a fee, but from memory there are usually plenty of places within 5-10 minutes walking distance that are cheaper (or free) than the station car park.

Posted by
1904 posts

When I looked at the website for the Warwick Castle I immediately thought we wouldn't go there. We are a group of older adults and young adults. My first impression is that it is a family/small children outing. But, after reading all the reviews here it makes me think I had the wrong impression.

Posted by
3551 posts

Susan, they have possibly the worst website I have ever seen, as far as misrepresenting the castle/attraction they are advertising. Their website makes the castle look like a cheap medieval fair, which does not do the castle justice. Too bad they don't give a detailed history of the castle on the website, which is far more interesting than the corny people dressed in costumes, etc.

When you go to Warwick Castle, ignore the modern-day stuff that's been added. Get away from the crowds and go to a quiet part of the castle. Concentrate on the castle itself and its history. Walk through the castle and imagine what it must have been like to have been there in 1400's England. Go up on the high wall, as Kent said. Get a feel for the history of the place. That is the beauty of Warwick.

Susan, suggested reading to enhance your visit to Warwick Castle, books about the 1400's, the time of Richard Neville, the Kingmaker, an interesting (or dangerous) time to be around Warwick Castle:
The Wars of The Roses, by Alison Weir--Background on the plots and schemes of Richard Neville
The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England, by Dan Jones
Richard III And The Princes In The Tower, by Alison Weir--Did he kill his nephews in order to be King, or is he accused unjustly?
The Kingmaker's Daughter, by Phillipa Gregory--about Anne Neville, who married Richard III.

Posted by
72 posts

Thanks for all the advice on Warwick Castle. We are not going!! Blenheim, Chatsworth and Edinburgh Castle will be enough for us. Ted