I’ve often said that I wish they’d had Horrible Histories back when I was at school. My experience of history at school had been ok at primary school (good old ‘topic’ work on the railways, the plague, civil war and navvies. But after that, at secondary school it was really dull, and all too modern for me. Too much about the world wars, and nothing about the history that I was much more interested in from my reading of Jean Plaidy books.
So I love old castles, and after our last (not so enthusiastic) visit to Warwick Castle when it turned out N wasn’t well, I decided we should try again this year. So on Sunday, I grabbed my trusty Kelloggs vouchers and we headed there.
A couple of days before N had his knight’s costume turn up, so he wanted to take his costume with him. Of course, as is a 3 year old’s prerogative, on walking 20 metres from the car, he decided he didn’t want it on at all, so we ended up trudging round with it, after he’d spent the walk to the castle stripping off.
This time we arrived prior to opening so we had prime car parking space – only 5-10 minutes walk, rather than the surprise 10-20 minutes walk that we had last time, having pre-booked tickets. Usually I would pre-book tickets to venues to get discounts and avoid the queues, but this time we had ‘adult goes free’ vouchers, so I only paid for the child price. Admittedly N is under 4 so would usually go free, but an on the door child price worked out cheaper than buying an adult ticket the day before. We didn’t have to queue for long, although N was quite happy sitting down
During the summer, Warwick Castle features Horrible Histories. There are children’s activities and stamps they can collect for visiting the different areas and eras. We saw lots of children of different ages with them, but I’m not sure how they got them, or whether they had to pay extra. Considering I’d paid for a child to enter, I’m surprised it wasn’t mentioned – no upselling if it cost extra, and no signs around telling you about it. N’s a little young to anyway, but it would have been interesting to know about it!
It’s a great idea though, keeping children interested with different activities. There were the characters dressed up, fronting different tents around the castle site. We checked out the moat buckets,
examined the pigs head in the medieval food tent, and played medieval ‘Operation’ complete with groaning patient whenever the buzzer went off. I had my first occasion of being classed as an old person after a boy of around 10 asked if they had the game ‘Operation’ in your day. Hmm, thanks.
N loved the Viking ship, so spent a lot of time rowing along with lots of other children his age.
We had a walk up the steps to the top of the mound. Thankfully not up to the actual ramparts as I don’t think he’d have made it up 550 steps…or maybe he would. N gave a commentary all the way up ‘more steps’, ‘I can see lots’, ‘going up higher, Mummy’. Later on in the day he wanted to climb it again, but thankfully I distracted him with something else.
We made good use of the shows taking part. We watched the comedic story of ‘Arthur and the sword in the stone’. It’s great how these are aimed at children, but cater for the adults with the innuendo and wit part.
Like last time we watched the firing of the Trebuchet. N just wanted to eat his lunch (even though it was way too early), so he was a bit distracted.
After the action, I had a hug from behind from another little boy. I’m not sure who was more surprised, him or me. Although I think it was him as he ended up in tears having confused me with his own mum sitting in front of us, with similar hair and a navy cardi on.
We wandered off for a bit after lunch. I wanted to take N into the Princess Tower which is a story based session for 3-8 year olds, but the next available session was 1.5 hours later which would have clashed with the jousting. Previously I thought you could book your times for that, but it was just turn up and get your ticket. Considering they weren’t even open the first time we went past, it would have been handy if there’d been somewhere else to get timed tickets when you first turned up as they didn’t offer any other times, just told us to come back later.
Instead we went into the actual castle and the state rooms.
As well as the usual armour, tapestries and furniture, they also had a ‘Summer weekend party’ exhibition around various rooms where you saw models from the history, and could hear the story being told by the ‘models’. N quite liked wandering round the rooms so it gave me the chance to see a bit more of the history.
One thing we’d not seen last year was the Engine Room and mill part of the castle. You walk along the river to get there. Needless to say N stepped in a muddy puddle alongside the path and I had no tissues or wipes so had to pour a bottle of water over his foot and sandals as he protested ‘I’ve got a mucky foot’. Everything cleaned off, we watched the water for a while.
Then made our way in to look at the engines and cogs. Horrible Histories was also here with a room set up as a Victorian school. It’s a great way to bring history to life with gory stories, terrible tales, and all fact based. The children and adults sat in class were having a great time.
I promised an ice lolly to N to avoid having to walk up the mound again (what is it with children and their never ending stamina?) before we went to watch the jousting. All I can say was the crowd is nowhere near as organised and polite as at Blenheim.
We had a good space at the front, put out our picnic blanket and sat down next to another family. A girl plus a couple of young boys sat next to us the other side which was lovely as N made a little friend with the younger one. But where at Blenheim everyone sits down, puts out blankets and there’s space for walking round (mainly I suppose as there’s a rope rather than wooden fence to see past), at Warwick people just push through their kids, and push up behind. We had other children sitting behind us on our blanket, dripping ice cream on our stuff and telling off N for standing up. Er, he’s 3, it’s not like you can’t see round him…or maybe you could if you’d not all crushed up close. At Blenheim we don’t tend to stay for the whole display as N gets bored, and with this although it was only 25 minutes long, he was still fidgeting. But because the crowds behind us were so tight, there’s no way I could have stood up and packed up our stuff.
The jousting however was good. No faffing around getting the children in the ring to parade round, and wasting time before getting to the action. I was gutted we ended up sitting in the ‘Yorkist’ end having been at uni in Lancaster, for their War of the Roses.
Jousting’s always great fun, with some amusing story telling.
By the end, N was ready to go home, but after 4 hours we’d definitely got our money’s worth and seen a lot of what was going on. I’m glad we went back to Warwick. N had a great time and it was lovely spending the day out there.
Are you a castle fan? Have you seen any Horrible Histories events?