Last year, Lola went on a school trip to Warwick Castle with her classmates as they were learning all about ‘Kings & Queens’ as their topic for the term. She came home that afternoon super excited, talking non-stop about her day and all the things she’d seen and learnt, her eyes wide with wonder and her cheeks flushed with the joy of having experienced something she’d never done before.
She has (quite literally) been begging us to visit Warwick Castle as a family ever since. I thought she’d forget all about it after a few weeks but she didn’t and so I mentally planned a day-trip visit into our Summer Holiday Bucket List for this year, hoping that we’d be able to fit it in amongst all the other things we’ve got planned.
Luxury Glamping at Warwick Castle
When Warwick Castle got in touch a couple of weeks ago, asking if we’d like to stay overnight and try out one of their luxury glamping tents at the Knight’s Village in the grounds of the Castle, I jumped at the chance and said an enthusiastic “yes please!”, knowing how thrilled Lola would be when she found out.
Up until that point I’d had no idea that Warwick Castle even offered accommodation. What a fantastic idea – I think pretty much anyone would love the opportunity to spend the night at one of the oldest Castles in Britain, built by William the Conquerer in the 11th Century. There are lots of different options for spending the night, from tents fit for a king, right the way up to impressive wooden lodges.
I’ve been wanting to try glamping for ages now. I spent a year doing ‘proper’ camping as I travelled around Australia in my late teens/early twenties, even sleeping in a car for about six months (!), and now that I’m a bit* (*a lot) older I do prefer to have at least a few creature comforts when I travel. Luxury glamping sounded like the perfect compromise and a real adventure for us all.
We kept the trip as a surprise for the girls, only telling them what we were doing and where we were going the night before our adventure began. They were SO excited: Mimi couldn’t wait to sleep in the tent and try out some archery; Ella – our resident history buff – was keen to soak up every scrap of knowledge she could about the historical events of medieval times; and Lola was overjoyed to be able to show us round somewhere that had clearly made a big impression on her inquisitive eight-year-old mind.
Warwick Castle is only about an hour south of where we live, so once the girls had been to their Saturday morning football and dance lessons and the husband had returned from work, we set off (armed with a backpack each) and arrived at 4pm – right on time for check-in. Knights Village has a separate entrance from Warwick Castle itself and that did make things a lot easier with regards to parking the car and finding our way to the 24/7 Reception desk. Checking in was a smooth process – we were given a map of the site, a key for our tent and all the information we would need for our stay. No question was too much trouble for them, and later on when we discovered that Lola’s airbed had a small puncture in it, it was replaced with a completely new bed immediately.
We made our way on wooden boardwalks and rattan paths through the Knight’s Village, an area of woodland nestled right next to the River Avon, and found the Avenue of Kings easily. The Avenue of Kings is brand new for 2018 and consists of six very regal-looking luxury glamping tents – we were in tent number four. I was impressed that each tent had a sturdy padlock on it for security as I had been a little bit concerned about leaving all our possessions in the tent whilst we were out at dinner and breakfast. They really have thought of everything.
Kings Luxury Tent
We gave the girls the honour of unzipping the tent and their gasps of amazement as they stepped inside told me everything I needed to know. As I followed them inside my mouth dropped open in surprise as I took in our home for the night: an opulent four-poster bed; two decent sized single beds (all complete with thick duvets, multiple pillows, several cushions and the softest velvet blankets I’ve ever felt); an airbed; a full length mirror; a chandelier (all the tents are fully lit and there are plug sockets provided so you can charge your devices if you can’t quite bear the thought of unplugging from technology completely); a comfy chair for curling up in to read a book; and a wooden trunk for storing belongings. There wasn’t much spare space once we were all inside but for the five of us it was ample for what we needed. The toilets and showers (spotlessly clean and with pleasingly hot water) were in a separate block a two minute walk away and enough towels for all of us were provided.
Outside, our view was of a huge field overlooking the river and the sounds of nature filled the air – ducks quacking, geese honking, twittering birds in the treetops, the shuffle of squirrels dashing bravely across open ground to the next tree… We even spotted a heron taking flight. It couldn’t have been more idyllic. The field is where the evening entertainment for glampers (a rotating schedule of archery, swordfighting lessons and jester school I believe) was supposed to take place, though sadly it wasn’t on for the night that we were there which was a shame. In the end it didn’t matter at all – the girls chased around the field together, children from other families staying in neighbouring tents joined in (dressed in full knights costumes!) and spontanteous swordfights ensued. They had an absolute blast whilst the husband and I settled everything into the tent and tried to decide what to do about dinner.
Medieval Banquet Hall
We had the option of heading for the Medieval Banquet Hall for a three course meal (£18.95 per adult and £9.95 per child), but in the end we chose to stroll into the town of Warwick itself for our evening meal as we knew we’d experience the Banquet Hall at breakfast the following morning. Pizza Express is a firm favourite in our house and we had some vouchers to use so it made sense for us to do that. The walk from Knight’s Village into town is actually rather lovely – a shaded walk through lots of greenery followed by what felt like a secret passageway running alongside a castle wall – very exciting! It took maybe five to ten minutes in total and brought us out almost directly onto Jury Street. It was quite handy that we’d been in Warwick not that long ago doing a Treasure Trail there, as it meant we knew our way around quite well!
On our way back to our tent after dinner we heard lots of whoops and cheering coming from the Banquet Hall so we popped our heads in out of curiosity, only to be faced with two knights in full armour having an epic swordfight in the middle of the diners!
The girls played outside until sundown, which in the week leading up to the summer solstice, wasn’t until almost ten o’clock. It took them a while to go to sleep, purely from the sheer excitement of the afternoon and evening, but one-by-one the comfy beds took over and they eventually settled.
Good Morning Glampers!
I’m an early riser – up at 5am most mornings (yes, even the weekends) so I can have some much-needed quiet time to start my day peacefully and occasionally I manage to get some work done before the girls wake up and request breakfast. Despite my lark-like tendencies, I wasn’t particularly pleased when Lola woke me up at 4.15am needing the toilet. I pulled on my boots and my favourite hoodie, grumbling to myself, and we stepped out into the cold morning air. I soon stopped grumbling though as I remembered how much I love being the first one awake – there’s definitely a different feel to the world in the early hours. As we made our way back towards the tent I noticed a tiny hint of pink beginning to emerge above the horizon, a faint glow bleeding into the deep, midnight-blue, star-filled sky above. I quickly grabbed my camera and Lola & I stood together silently watching the dawn break and the most incredible sunrise light up the heavens. It was a pretty special experience to share together.
Once one child was awake, it followed that the rest of our tent woke up too, so we spent an hour or so huddled under our duvets reading and dozing, and I popped out for a shower. The benefits of being the first one up is that there are no queues at the toilet and shower blocks! Eventually, tummies rumbling, we headed for the Medieval Banquet Hall for breakfast as soon as it opened at 7.30am. I have to say it was an impressive buffet affair: toast with various jams and spreads (including Nutella, my girls were thrilled to discover); a selection of cereals and jugs of fresh, cold, milk; yoghurt and fruits; pastries and muffins; and a full, cooked, English breakfast of sausages, bacon, beans, and eggs. Plus a variety of teas, coffee, hot chocolate and juices. The hall filled up quickly with other families, big and small, all chatting and laughing together as they began their day of adventure.
Bellies satisfyingly filled, we headed back to our tent to pack up our belongings so we could spend as long as possible at Warwick Castle itself, which opens at 10am. The girls played together outside for a while, enjoying the freedom of the open space and saying hello to the friendly family of ducks that had taken a liking to them and started following them around.
One of the great things about luxury glamping at Warwick Castle is that included in your stay are two days free entry into the Castle (trust me, you need it – one day isn’t enough to do everything and I really wish we’d been able to arrive earlier on the Saturday so we could have spent the afternoon there as well).
A huge plus point is that you get to skip the entrance queues entirely because you have your own special VIP gateway (complete with a secret code!) to get into the Castle grounds which the girls thought was super exciting. You collect the code (and your free car parking exit token) when you check out at Reception after you’ve vacated the tent.
We’d made a list of all the things we wanted to make sure we saw at the Castle and noted down the times of all the shows so we knew where we had to be and when. Our first stop was the ‘Have-A-Go Archery’ stand. The girls had been pretending to be archers ever since we arrived on site (with Ella channelling her inner Katniss Everdeen having just finished reading The Hunger Games for the second time!) and were desperate to try shooting with real bows and arrows. We paid £5 for 12 arrows, which we shared amongst the girls by giving them four each which made it quite reasonable. They loved every second of it!
Once we were done it was time to head down to The Mighty Trebuchet – a giant catapult. The build-up to the launch is both fun and informative and the catapult itself in action really is quite spectacular. Definitely a show you want to try and catch if you can. Next up was The Flight of the Eagles, a demonstration that showcases some incredible birds of prey. The commentator/bird handler was clearly very passionate about the birds and had a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Watching the various different birds (we saw a bald eagle and an Andean Condor, amongst others) soar through the air, sometimes swooping so low over the audience’s heads that you could almost feel the feathers in your hair, was captivating – they’re so majestic and graceful despite their enormous sizes. It’s worth getting to the Birds Of Prey Arena 15-20 minutes before the show is due to start to make sure you get a ringside position if you can.
War of the Roses Live
At midday we joined the long line of people eagerly waiting to get into the Riverside Arena – the location of the live-action show: The War of the Roses Live. It was easy to get a good spot once we were in the arena, having first chosen our side as being House of Lancaster. We were a bit divided with two of the girls wanting to support House of York, but in the end the majority vote won and we sat on the red side. The seating is mostly undercover too, so when it started to spit with rain it didn’t bother us in the slightest.
This was a show I’d been really looking forward to and it definitely lived up to my high expectations: the excitement of the jousting and swordfights; the beautiful horses; the characters really encouraging the audience to get involved; the history; the thrill of the story they told so very well… it was, in a word, brilliant. My husband declared it to be his favourite part of the day too. At the moment it’s only on at weekends and once the summer holidays start it will be performed twice daily – I would say it’s a definite ‘must-see’ if you’re planning a trip to the Castle (whether you’re glamping overnight or just going for a day trip).
By this point all of our tummies were rumbling loudly, so we headed into the Castle itself to see what we could find for a late lunch. There were a variety of stands selling food but if I’m honest the choices weren’t great – it was mostly burgers and nuggets and chips. No sandwiches, vegetarians didn’t really seem to be catered for and I couldn’t see any healthier options. Normally if we visit somewhere like Warwick Castle I pack a picnic to take with us and it’s probably the best option if you don’t want to wait for ages to eat. There were more formal cafes too, though the queues were understandably equally as long.
After we’d eaten we made our way into the Great Hall and the State Rooms of the Castle. I didn’t think the girls would be interested in this side of things but they were fascinated! The grandeur and opulence of the décor plus the vast variety of weapons and suits of armour on display meant there was something for everyone and we all enjoyed moving from room to room, wondering what we’d come across next.
By this point it was almost half past three and the girls were starting to flag a little having been up since (literally) the crack of dawn and also because of the amount of fun we’d packed into our time at Warwick Castle. Reluctantly we decided to call it a day and head home as we knew they had school the next day too. We couldn’t resist a little detour through the beautiful Peacock Gardens on our way back to the car park though and saw numerous majestic peacocks strutting their stuff along the pathways and in the rose bushes. None with their tails on display (much to our disappointment) but I’m sure if you stayed there for long enough one of them would have put on a show eventually.
There was so much more we could have seen and done – Warwick Castle really is a fantastic family day out. The girls were really keen to go in the Horrible Histories Maze and complete the Time Passport challenge; I wanted to climb the spiral staircase inside the Defensive Tower and take in the views from the ramparts; and the husband wanted to watch the Bowman Show. We’ll just have to save all of that for another day. If we do go back for another visit to Warwick Castle this summer we’ll be sure to go after 3rd August because that’s when the brand new evening show ‘Dragonslayer’ starts. It’s been exclusively created for Warwick Castle and I have to say, all the teasing glimpses we saw dotted around the Castle whilst we were there make it look very exciting.
We honestly had so much fun experiencing luxury glamping at Warwick Castle for the very first time – it felt like quite an adventure and it made Father’s Day all the more special for the husband. I think the only thing that might have made it even better than it was would be the addition of a communal firepit somewhere on site for toasting marshmallows under the stars in the evenings.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to Warwick Castle who invited us to try out luxury glamping at Knight’s Village in exchange for our honest review. As always, all thoughts, feelings, words, images and opinions are completely my own.
I made a little video of our adventures and memories at Warwick Castle because I knew it would be something we’d want to look back on for years to come. The girls have already watched it multiple times!