The tagline: ‘Britian’s Ultimate Castle’ hardly filled me with hope of rugged, gothic ruins on a secluded hill. The wesbite says it all, really, that this is commercial castle aimed at drawing the crowds, and particularly families, given the number of special events advertised. I expected the castle to be swarming with little children and everything to be overpriced.
It was those things. But it was one of the most genuinely lovely days out I had had… this is why.
Firstly, we arrived by bus and I think walking into the castle through the little gate by the bus stop, through a grand walled ditch (which we thought was rather like the Green Knight’s castle, because it was all green) and up little steps made our entrance lovely, rustic and olf-fashioned. So we avoided car park fares and parking.
We also got lots of money off, because we have RSC Key cards (young people only, I’m afraid). Incidentally, there is another offer for students on ‘studentbeans.com’. So we didn’t feel we were being ripped off before we entered, despite it still being expensive. We didn’t pay for all the extra things you can do – like go into the dungeons or visiting the Merlin section. There was also a Princess Tower Tour, which we were persauded was definitely for little children, and depsite our comparative youth we decided not to risk it. We did, however, decide that it was necessary to play in the sweet playground – all wooden and rustic (fitting, no garish coloured swings or plastic bouncy horses). This was genius fun. The rose garden I can imagine being impeccably lovely in the warmer months, though it was sadly lacking colour at this time of year.
Once you depart from the manicured lawn, the faux-Medieval banners in the courtyard and the gift shop of swords, cutlasses and plastic key rings, the castle is beautiful. We looked down onto green Warwickshire hills and woods, and imagined cantering across the pastures. Climbing to the top of the tower was a feat in itself, and we were treated with a sunset. From the top you can peer down onto old Warwick streets and the timber-framed houses (the one with the red door we are going to live in, we decided), the river, the fields and the rest of the castle, distant below. At dusk we ventured beyond the castle into the grounds, played pooh sticks on the bridge, ventured down to the boat house and went for a walk, finding huge logs to sit on, chat and while the time away. And we walked back in the dark, looking up at the spot lit castle against the night sky and fairy lamps in the hedges. In the darkness and quiet after the crowds had gone, it felt as though for a moment the castle was ours… then back we went through the Green Knight’s passage, the wooden door and onto the cobbles of the street outside.