We’ve not been to Warwick Castle for a few years now and when we were asked to go and check out the new Falconers quest show we weren’t going to turn it down. We’ve never seen the falconry displays before there and we were keen to see how things have changed since the last time we were there.
We took friends along with us so I was hoping that would be able to hang around longer than normal and keeping N entertained for more than a couple of hours. It wasn’t a problem and we were there from just after opening until 3.
Most people pre-book for Warwick Castle and I definitely recommend doing this although you will still queue to get in. But the queues do move quickly and you’ll soon be inside the castle grounds. (You can’t usually pre-book with 2 for 1 offers though)
As soon as you get inside there’s a board telling you the timetable of the various displays that are run through the day. It’s worth making a note of the ones you want to see although they are repeated so if you missed it the first time round you can generally catch it second time.
Soon after opening there is generally a Bowman’s show so we watched him shooting some arrows. He’s very good at telling you some of the history around Archers and other medieval jobs and tees the children up nicely for wanting to have a go at the archery round the corner.
Inside Warwick Castle
We decided to go into the castle itself first of all because it’s good to get that done before the formal tours start. When we were there, there were five or six different types of tours going on through the day around the grounds and inside the castle one of which was a kid’s tour so if you want something more formal than just wondering around yourself there is the opportunity to join one of the tours. I would say make sure that if your children want to for a princess storytime, to go first thing and put names down or make a note when the time slots are for things like the knight’s school.
You can walk around quite a lot of the Castle. Downstairs you enter into the great hall with armour and weaponry to look at. This always creates a talking point for children and it’s amazing to see a tiny set of armour for a 6 year old child.
We then moved through to the state rooms with dining rooms studies and reception rooms. Every time we go for something new to see and this time upstairs it was set up like a royal weekend party with mannequins in place describing an event that’s was held and showing the people like Prince Edward and Winston Churchill who were there visiting that weekend. It brings that era back to life especially for the children, and you can read about the individual people who live there and visited and the kind of things they got up to.
We wanted to make sure he got out of the castle in time to find a seat ready for the trebuchet talk. This was going to lead straight onto the Falconers quest so we definitely wanted to make sure we had a good seat for that. But there is no problem with seating for either as you were able to sit on the hill and there was a lot more room for the falconry display compared with the area it used to be in when it was a smaller events. We did manage to get bench seating so it was nice not to have to sit on the floor. I’m getting a bit old to be dragging myself up and down as needed.
We taking a picnic this time and decided that even though it was only 11:30 we would start eating so we can stop the boys moaning about being hungry. Unfortunately the trebuchet wasn’t firing the day we were there because there was a problem with the arm, but the Bowman did come out and do a 15 minute talk about how the trebuchet worked, the people who had to walk it, and what it was used for. So we didn’t miss out totally. We’ve seen the show before and it always gets everyone excited watching it. They’ve built a new area where the trebuchet fires towards, which I presume is the jousting area when that show is on. Before, the trebuchet just fired into grass.
With an hour to go until the falconry displays I wasn’t sure the boys would keep entertained but we didn’t really have time to go and explore anywhere and have time to get back and get a good seat. So we decided to stay put and let the boys entertain themselves by doing running around the grass area and then queuing for some ice creams. It was just enough time and they were chomping through them just in time for the Falconers Quest setting up to start.
It was a bit worrying seeing two swans and their cygnets hanging around on the edge of the river right where the birds were going to be flying. But they were fine although one of the birds did come close sweeping right down by them at one point.
The Falconer’s Quest makes falconry displays more interesting than just seeing a few birds flying about. It’s done as a story, with a young man wanting to help bring birds back to Warwick and become the head Falconer. He goes out travelling to find and master the birds to return to Warwick Castle, and we see the different birds fly as his journey unfurls.
Lots of different birds are brought out, and fly overhead to different towers and falconers. We saw hawks, the super speedy peregrine falcon, a ginormous Andean Condor, Stellar’s sea eagle and bald eagle as well as many others. The end was a spectacular display of numerous hawks being released to fly the air together. In all, the display includes up to 70 birds, the largest bird of prey show in the UK.
We’d been told not to stand up during the display, and given some birds were flying down the rows of seats between our heads it was a sensible reminder. If you don’t want to get too close to the birds, sit on the grass rather than the benches, although they do move the birds around so everyone gets to see them. One poor man was on a picnic blanket and had bird poo on his picnic blanket and trousers! They really do come close.
With the music and voice over, it’s quite a moving show, and for children it’s almost like the narration of a children’s adventure tv show. It definitely kept N and his friend enthralled working out which birds would be flying from where next.
Once the show was over, the boys wanted to have a go on the archery. We got in the short queue before realising we had to pay at a nearby ticket booth. £5 for 12 arrows between them wasn’t a bad price, although their turn did go fast.
We stopped to watch Knight School for a bit – it was really popular with around 50 children taking part with swords, some dressed up as knights and princesses. The knight teacher certainly looked and sounded the part.
Exploring the castle and grounds
The ramparts were calling, so we headed up to climb up the castle walls, and up 500 steps to the top of Guy tower. The next day my thighs were aching a lot, so it was a good work out. The views from the top of the tower were amazing, and with a one way system it wasn’t too much hassle getting back down again.
In different areas of Warwick Castle there are various attractions and displays to see and take part in. We spotted Kingmaker in one corner, and decided we’d take the boys in. But as we didn’t know what to expect, and it got a bit dark, N got wary and didn’t want to go any further, despite lots of younger children heading further in. Our friends went through and it went through what it was like going to battle. Plus the ubiquitous gift shop at the end, where you could buy photos of you in medieval poses and props. It’s a shame N wouldn’t carry on, but maybe next time.
We had some time before heading home so decided to walk round to the mill. It’s a beautiful spot overlooking the river, although the boys weren’t that excited about the turbine and old engines.
As none of us had been up to the Peacock Gardens before we stopped off there in the hope of getting a cold drink. In the building there’s the biggest urn statue I’ve ever seen, but the queue was a bit long for us to queue for drinks. Instead we just enjoyed watching the peacocks (none wanted to perform and show their tail feathers off while we were there), with the boys spotting money that had been thrown into the waterfall.
A final activity saw the boys deciding they wanted to do the Horrible Histories maze. Having a leaflet and needing to reach each era in history to get stamps for each one made it more fun than just a maze. Once we’d realised we didn’t have to go back into the start after finding each one, the maze made more sense. Each area also included lots of horrible history facts, although ours weren’t worried about reading about much. They just wanted to run around the next part of the maze.
On a bank holiday weekend Warwick Castle has plenty of people walking around, and a few queues to buy tickets or do activities, but it didn’t feel ridiculously busy when we walked around. As the weather warms up, be prepared for queues to get busier. We took a picnic – there’s plenty of places to sit and eat – which saved us having to make decisions on where to eat (there’s a lot of delicious looking food vans around the Castle grounds).
We were at Warwick Castle from just after 10 until just after 3, and there’s still more we didn’t get to see. There’s the Time Tower about the history of Warwick, and the dungeon which there’s an extra charge for (there’s a minimum age of 10 years). If you want to learn more about the castle and grounds, there’s also tours included in the ticket price that you can join. Maybe if I didn’t have N with me I’d go on one of the tours.
If you want to see the Falconer’s Quest show, it’s on daily until 3rd November 2019. It’s a special display, so I’d recommend trying to catch it before it finishes.
Have you ever been? What would be on your must see list?
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