From legendary stories of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table and the shadowy and brutal forces of the medieval Knights Templar, these soldiers of the realm still hold a certain mystique that still fascinates to this day. Of swords, crusades and bloody battles, as well as outstanding bravery, these historical figures inspire films and TV series such as Game of Thrones and it seems, people can’t get enough of them.
Monkey is only six, but he has at least three swords (I’m not counting the lightsabers), as well as two shields and a costume. It’s fair to say that, typical of boys of his age, he’s quite into the whole thing. When I revealed to him we were going to be exploring the historic Warwick Castle and stay over in a Knight’s village he was, understandably, quite excited – especially when I told him we’d be watching a jousting show, getting close to birds of prey, as well as seeing a mighty trebuchet at work.
The Knight’s Village
Tucked away behind the extensive grounds of the magnificent castle is a hidden retreat that hosts families looking for a different type of stay. The Knight’s Village is Warwick Castle’s own quarters and has a selection of different accommodation options – from wooden lodges to glamping tents.
What’s impressive about the village is how cleverly set out the properties are, with long wooden walkways in between, as well as open green spaces and views overlooking the River Avon, as well as a reception and dining area – which serves a buffet breakfast, as well as a medieval family feast in the evenings.
And while the Village itself is not huge, there is enough privacy from other people should you so wish it. However, what was lovely was seeing all the children from different families come together to play in the evening.
When you stay at the Knight’s Village, there are a few perks afforded to guests that are not available to day visitors such as having a dedicated free parking area close by, which is included in the price of your stay – rather handy as you don’t have to lug all your luggage too far. Another fabulous extra is the use of a special coded entrance into the grounds of the castle – it made us feel extremely important getting our own VIP gate.
A Day (or two) At Warwick Castle
An overnight stay at the Knight’s Village also comes with a two-day pass to Warwick Castle itself which will give ample time to explore all it has to offer. Unfortunately, we really only had the one – but we tried to cram as much in as possible. In fact, probably a bit too much, as by the end we were all exhausted.
On the day we arrived there was not a cloud in the sky, and with the good weather also came the crowds. Being half-term holidays, I wasn’t really expecting anything else, but thankfully, the grounds can take the onslaught of visitors and although it was very busy, with plenty of queues, it didn’t feel too overwhelming.
Steeped in over 11 centuries of history, medieval Warwick Castle was developed from the original 916 rampant by William the Conqueror, who built a motte and bailey fort in 1068 – and it has seen countless battles, imprisonments, royal visits as well as murder!
But while there is so much to discover and learn, for children is all about the fun. And Warwick Castle strikes the right balance in bringing history to life in an imaginative and thrilling way.
The attractions, which include The Horrible History Maze, the birds of prey, the Castle Dungeons, the Great Hall as well as the Towers and ramparts are all a must-see but what we particularly enjoyed during our family day out, were the shows that showcased some amazing feats of bravery and ingenuity as well as being thoroughly entertaining for the whole family.
The War of The Roses Live, which details the epic conflict between House Lancaster and House York in 1455 is a thrilling spectacle of special effects, stunts, crowd participation and jousting. Monkey was enthralled, and even the relentless heat of the day, as well as the mass of bodies in such close proximity to us, didn’t spoil his enjoyment.
Another fun event was Monkey joining in at Knight’s School. While I was rather taken aback at having to fork out £13 for a wooden sword so he could participate, it was a good laugh watching the children getting into character, and learning to swing their weapons above their heads under the shadow of Guy’s Tower.
We also marvelled at the largest working siege machine in the world, the mighty trebuchet, launch a projective 150m away! Monkey gasped as the storyteller told of the days gone by where poo infected with dysentery would be fired at their enemies!
Meanwhile, the gardens, which were landscaped by Capability Brown, brought us respite from all the activities and we enjoyed wandering the Peacock gardens and having some refreshments in the conservatory. We spent a while watching the magnificent peacocks (we counted 16 of them) showing off their feathers and couldn’t believe how tame they were – the kids went right up to them.
An Overnight Glamping Experience
When the Castle closed at 5.00pm it was noticeable how many people had already left, so it gave us the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll back to the VIP gate where we made our way to reception to finally check into our tent for the night.
Brand new to the Knight’s Village is the Avenue of the Kings, which houses the King’s Luxury Tents. It took some time for us to find the right one, as there were no numbers on them – and they were that new, they didn’t even show on the map.
Once we unlocked the padlock and unzipped the canvas, we were all stunned by how spacious it was inside. Not only is there a four poster bed, adorned with luxurious bedding and pillows, but two singles, a chest for belongings, electric lights, as well as towels and a power socket. They had even provided a cot for the baby, which didn’t take up any room.
I was also impressed with the toilets and washing facilities which were situated behind the tents. They were clean and tidy, and it was good to freshen up before dinner. Even Peanut joined me and had a whale of a time splashing under the showers.
Later on in the evening, although we had the option of going into Warwick town centre to have our evening meal, we thought it would be more fun to have the Medieval Family Feast in the dining hall, which consisted of two huge turkey legs, all the trimmings, gravy as well as starters and desserts. It was pretty good fayre, and Monkey loved watching the two knights fighting it out for the nightly entertainment.
Now as most of you all know, I’m not a keen camper but while I was happy to do this for one night – I don’t think I could have done another. Why? Well, although the bed was extremely comfortable, as with all tents, during the day they are stuffy and hot, and during the night, you can definitely feel the temperature drop. They’re not soundproof either, and I was well aware that the baby wasn’t too happy being in an environment he didn’t know – and I was worried he’d wake up the rest of the village. But that said, apart from a few cries, we all slept pretty soundly.
While I would suggest some extra touches – such as a towel rail to place wet towels on, and perhaps a coat stand to be able to hang a few items of clothing, the King’s Tents were pretty awesome, and I know Monkey absolutely adored the thrill of staying in it. The novelty certainly hadn’t worn off the next morning and he declared he could live in one forever! Would I do it again? Most definitely and it’s a great way to end a fantastic day of fun.
Meanwhile, while the service was slow and disappointing at the Medieval Hall from some of the waiting staff, the food itself was excellent. But we did feel somewhat crammed in such a small dining hall because they place the tables in such a way to make room for the evening entertainment. People couldn’t get past me, without me having to shuffle my chair in each time and we were all eating cheek by jowl, and when you’re paying a premium, it’s not the most relaxing of eating experiences.
That said, our day exploring Warwick Castle was excellent, and we truly wished we had another day to be able to return to see all the things we had missed – they really do know how to put on entertaining shows and it was a fantastic family experience. Monkey really did feel like a knight for the day and was only too happy to tell people he stayed over in the grounds of a real castle…
Things To Know
• Stays in the Knight’s Village in a Kings Luxury Tent begin from £259 per night which includes parking, breakfast, a two-day family pass to Warwick Castle, as well as the War of the Roses Live.
• Castle Tickets cost from £18 per person if you book online and in advance.
• The Medieval Family Feast cost £18.95 per adult and £9.95 per child.
• Daily activities and shows are included in the cost of the ticket, and The War of the Roses Live is on twice daily on Saturdays and Sundays until the school holidays, when it then becomes twice daily.
• There are several refreshment kiosks serving cold drinks and snacks, while there are two restaurants serving hot food and drinks.
* We were hosted by Warwick Castle for our stay, but as always my opinions are my own.