Warwick Castle is one of the few mediaeval castles in England that has survived virtually intact.This has led to it remaining as a private residence with some sumptuous state apartments right up to the present day. Now it's a tourist attraction, and it has made the most of what it can offer. For example, the gatehouse, which could have been a rather boring 'oh look it's got a double portcullis' walk-through building, is transformed into an exhibition of Neville the Kingmaker, with lifelike models, armour, staff in period costume, and even artificial mediaeval smells.
Being private, it receives no state funding at all. Possibly as a consequence, the entry fees are eye-watering: the cheapest adult walk-up ticket is 23 pounds (half price for chiuldren 4-11), and car parking is an extra 6 pounds. These prices are similar to theme parks such as Alton Towers or Legoland; admittedly, like theme parks, some smallish discounts are available on advance or multiple purchases. The castle has a few additional attractions -- a bird of prey show, archery (costs extra), a children's playground, jousting knights -- but I found the half-theme-park experience (right down to a switchback ticket queue with muzak playing) hard to adjust to.
I wouldn't recommend it for kids under 5 (or their parents). Pushchairs are banned from the state apartments; the walk around the battlements requires climbing and descending 3 towers with spiral staircases; the dungeon (which I missed) is not recommended for young children; and being a castle, a lot of the information is martial in nature. For older kids, there is the playground, and a special Princess' Tower (playroom?) available. At least food prices are more like National Trust prices than theme park prices -- 3.50 for sandwiches, 1.80 for a can of Appletise. (This is from a stall; I didn't try the restuarant).
The bird of prey show ended up as a kind of analogy of my whole visit. It featured Dexter, one of a pair of Harris hawks. He performed well, though the keeper emphasises there was no love between him and Dexter, it was all done for food rewards. However, Dexter's brother, Charlie, no longer does the flying shows because he is less interested in entertaining and more interested in killing pigeons. My visit felt like half (rather exploitative) entertainment and half a lesson in bloody history, with a few paintings and early electricity generators to lighten it up (sorry, bad pun).
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