Few things can conjure up the Christmas spirit like a medieval castle adorned with traditional Christmas decor, and Warwick Castle in December is precisely that.
Something of an oddity among the attractions offered by Merlin Entertainments and its annual pass, “Britain’s ultimate castle” is highly underrated or even completely avoided by many pass holders.
During our first visit last weekend, we were lucky enough to visit the castle during the start of its Christmas period.
There are fairly lights around much of the castle, but these are all clear static bulbs – certainly no Blackpool illumination-style flamboyance.
A 25 feet tall Christmas tree welcomes those entering the main banqueting hall, while the tables are all prepared for festive meals in the evening. One room features a traditional sleigh and trimmings.
Medieval and classical music plays quietly in the background, further enhancing the immersible effect of the castle.
As the daylight fades (the castle is open until 5pm), the ambiance of the courtyard really picks up. It is certainly worth staying until after the sun sets.
Staff are all dressed in themed middle ages apparel and are all extremely pleasant, helpful and welcoming.
The waxwork figures within the rooms – including Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth II – are of the same quality as those you can see in Madame Tussauds (although that is no co-incidence).
The Castle Dungeon
Moving away from the festive niceties, the Castle Dungeon is Warwick Castle’s outlet of Merlin’s chain of scare-cum-educational walk through attractions.
A child decides to approach the intimidating entrance and then retreats when he notices one of the greeting actors, who warns “you were this close to death” while making a half-inch gap between his thumb and forefinger – nice!
Entrance is £7.80 on top of standard admission castle admission, but is included for Premium annual pass holders.
The attraction benefits from the unique and highly appropriate setting of a medieval castle – the usual scenes of the plague and execution are all greatly enhanced by this.
The Castle Dungeon is the smallest among its sister attractions in London, York, Edinburgh and now Blackpool. The corridors are cramped, dark and dingy and many feature sound effects and animatronics providing mild scares and unease.
There are the usual lines throughout. The torture chamber – small, medium and liar for the ‘chappy chopper’. The courtroom incurs the usual charges and the plague scene is off-the-shelf.
It would be greatly enhanced by a unique scene tied to Warwick or its famous castle, it also lacks a gripping finale offered by the Extremis drop rides at the other Dungeons (bar York).
Unfortunately we did not have time to experience the new for 2011 Merlin Dragon Tower attraction – which also incurs and additional charge.
All-in-all Warwick Castle left an extremely positive impression on us and it is certainly worth a visit at this time of year, it really stokes up the Christmas spirit.
For the rest of the month, there is currently a special offer on for Merlin Annual Pass holders – giving them the opportunity to bring a friend to the castle for £2 and receive 30% off purchases.