The kids are screaming, you're running late and your hubby laughed at your getting ready dancing to Sean Paul... suddenly, an hour in the car after a night of being kicked in the head by your toddler doesn't seem that appealing.
Well, I can confirm that if you're thinking of visiting Warwick Castle, it's worth a little bit morning stressing.
By the time we got there at 10:30 I was expecting it to be packed but we easily found a parking space thanks to the attendants and it didn't take us long to walk up to the castle. We didn't have to queue at the turnstiles thanks to our Merlin Annual Passes and so we headed straight in. If you buy your tickets on the day you can expect to pay up to £19.80 but can make a saving by booking online.
As a lover of castles and history in general, you'd think I'd be tired of looking at old buildings but I could never get bored of somewhere like Warwick Castle. It's beautiful and overflowing with historical facts, fun stuff for the kids and entertainment for all ages.
It's worth noting that although pushchairs are welcome in the castle, they are not allowed within the Great Hall and can't be taken up any stairs. And there are an awful lot of stairs. We ended up leaving our pushchair parked up outside whilst we went inside the castle. It wasn't too bad because Ollie is a happy walker, but a baby carrier would be needed for smaller babies.
Some of the towers and ramparts are undergoing renovation at the moment so we didn't visit the Guy Tower during our time there but we did get to visit the gatehouse and barbican and describe to Lily and Oliver how an attacking army could be caught between the two huge portcullis and have all sorts of nastiness poured on their heads. Unsurprisingly, Lily was particularly amused by the thought of pouring excrement onto someone's head...
The towers and ramparts are not for the faint hearted. I'm not a fan of heights at all so am not in a hurry to do it again, despite the views from the top being amazing.
Our slot was just about to begin as we got to the Princess Tower. As you enter there is a space for you to have a green screen photograph taken, you can then purchase these photos at the end of the experience, if you wish.
I was ridiculously excited for this part of our day. As you gather in the first room of the tower you learn all about the gallant Guy of Warwick and the loyal Princess Felice before being invited by another Princess, Helena, to enter a second room to hear more of the story, hunt for clues and solve the riddle. As you would expect from a Merlin attraction, the acting was good and the experience for the kids (and geeky adults like me) was magical.
We exited the Princess Tower right next to the Undercroft Restaurant in time for some lunch. At this time of year, there are two restaurants open on site - The Coach House and The Undercroft Pizza and Pasta Buffet. You pay as you enter (£10.95 per adult and £6.50 per child, under 2's go free) and then fill up on unlimited drinks, salad, pizza and pasta. We were able to use our Merlin passes again for 20% off and so found it very good value for money. However, at full price I may not have been as satisfied - Lily certainly didn't eat enough for me to 'get my money's worth' and although nice, I didn't think the quality of the food was as good as a similar buffet on the high street.
After lunch it was time to explore inside.We parked up our buggy and visited the Great Hall and State Rooms and enjoyed the 'Royal Weekend Party'. I could have loitered around for hours - there is so much to look at, facts to discover and new things to learn. We also ventured into the Gaol and the Bear Tower which Lily found particularly fascinating.
My favourite attraction is 'Kingmaker' which is all about the Earl of Warwick, Richard Neville, preparing for battle. It's a fun and immersive attraction with lifelike mannequins and things to watch, smell and even try on - although Lily wasn't impressed with the helmet! I loved taking Lily around and sharing snippets of what I already know with her and reading out fun facts.
Both Lily and Oliver really enjoyed a walk around the Peacock Garden and the Horrible Histories Maze. I don't know what it is about Peacocks but they're stunning to watch.
I'll admit, I wasn't sure if Lily and Ollie would enjoy Warwick Castle as much as Matt and I, or older children, but they had a brilliant time. There was plenty for even Ollie to enjoy and (thankfully) most people seemed to find it amusing (rather than annoying) when he shouted "Oooo" upon entering every room!
Despite being there for hours, I still feel like there is plenty left to explore during another visit - we didn't see the Time Tower, Falconry, Kid's Tour or Mill, let alone the Jousting and Trebuchet displays that are put on throughout the summer months. I'm sure we'll be heading back soon over the next few months, our annual passes will run out in June and we want to visit the Castle again before then!