Bolton Castle is a really nice day out. I would recommend getting there in the morning, looking at the castle, watching some of the shows, eating some lunch in the tea room, watching any shows you missed in the morning, and then leaving around 2 or 3pm. You could spend less time if you don't care too much about the different shows (they have a birds of prey show- not as good as at Warwick Caste, but still great - an archery show, an owl show, and a wild boar show). The Castle has a number of rooms that are in excellent condition, including the rooms where Mary, Queen of Scots stayed while she was under house arrest there. The gardens are very nice, and there is a lot of information throughout the Castle to give you an idea of its rich history.
The only problems I had were that (1) the tea room is a bit expensive. Not prohibitively so, but enough to notice the price. Also, (2) the waitresses in the tea rooms could have been a little nicer. It seemed like none of them wanted to be there. (3) The shows could have been more consistent. Would have liked to see the archer shoot some arrows, but it did not happen while we were there because of the people walking around...
However, the woman in the gift shop, the woman who did the bird of prey show, and the archer were all extremely nice. The prices in the gift shop were very good (the wool they sell is made from the sheep on the property!). And the parking is refunded when you buy your entrance ticket. It is definitely worth a visit!
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