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Glamping Medieval-style

Take a peek inside the new Avenue of Kings premium glamping tents as Muddy spends the night at Warwick Castle.

It’s easy to see why Warwick Castle is so appealing. One of Britain’s top historic houses and monuments it’s seeped in history and still a hugely impressive sight – a striking medieval castle built from an original by William the Conqueror on the River Avon with beautiful Capability Brown gardens. During the May half term my sister and I took our three youngest children (aged nine and 11-years-old), for an overnight stay in one of the new Avenue of Kings premium glamping tents in the Knight’s Village.

Set in a picture-perfect 64-acre wooded estate overlooking the River Avon in a Grade I listed park are a mix of tents and wooden lodges. Glamping was first introduced in 2015; it doesn’t have a ‘theme-park’ ambience, you feel part of the historic, woodland surroundings.

THE LOWDOWN

Our tent was the last one at the far end of this tree-lined avenue.

What’s included? Two days’ entrance to the Castle, buffet breakfast served in the Knight’s Village banquet hall, car parking and one night in the new Avenue of King’s glamping tents. You can arrive any time after 10am to explore the castle, but check-in is at 4pm. There’s also additional evening entertainment in the village for overnight guests – sword fighting lessons and complimentary archery lessons in the morning.

Where? The main entrance to the Knight’s Village is on Stratford Road, in the centre of this attractive historic, market town. Reception is just a few minutes’ walk from the car park, so you don’t have far to carry your luggage.

OUR TENT

How grand! These are not your typical family tents, we’re talking plush four-posters with an imitation stained-glass window behind, wooden thrones and velvet throws – a scene worthy of a film. I was almost expecting a camera crew to jump out of the bushes. The setting is also stunning and extremely peaceful. Our tent overlooked trees, grassy fields and the river. Even better you don’t need to cook or bring food – apart from any snacks, picnic stuff and should you so desire, a bottle of vino, perhaps.

All linen (bedding, towels etc) is provided. There’s a long mirror, plugs and Wi-Fi but if you fancy a night-time tipple you’d be advised to pack some cups/glasses. The tents have modern shared bathroom and shower blocks; a short walk from the tents.

That night there was an enormous electrical storm predicted. My sister and I sat chatting on our porch as the kids settled down we watched flashes of lightning in the clear sky with our Prosecco. It was better than Love Island. Apart from the faint rumble of thunder and some light rain I have to say I slept really, really well in my cosy single.

Our children loved the whole experience. Sleeping in a medieval-style encampment added an extra ‘living history’ dimension to visiting this stunning castle, granted it’s a far cry from the reality as portrayed in Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories book – Measly Middle Ages! 

SCOFF & QUAFF

Dinner, an evening buffet, is available in the medieval-style banquet hall near the main Knight’s Village entrance (£18.95 for adults; £9.95 for kids), where breakfast is also served. It seemed very popular with parents of younger children looking for a no-hassle on-site option. There are so many excellent food options on the doorstep in Warwick we decided to eat out. It’s an easy 10-minute walk into town.

Whether you feel like fine dining at Tailors Restaurant, imaginative vegetarian/vegan dishes at Fusca; contemporary Mediterranean at La Mesa and Tasca Dali; Thai at The Art Kitchen or good old fish and chips from The Chip Shed – you’re spoilt for choice!

Our kids fancied pizza so we chose this year’s Muddy award-winning independent family-run restaurant Dough and Brew, known for its chilled vibe and industrial hipster interior. I do love communal family dinners, but here if you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet, your children can tuck into delicious homemade sourdough pizza perched on stools while watching a big screen film wearing wireless headsets.  We were back in time for entertainment by two bantering sword-fighters in the Banquet Hall at 7.30pm.

THINGS TO DO AT WARWICK CASTLE

It was lovely to take in the Capability Brown gardens escaping the hordes at 10.30am and walk straight into castle grounds from the Knight’s Village for a day of exploring without having to worry about queues, tickets and parking.

Our three were very taken with a family of impossibly cute baby ducklings snoozing with their mother on the riverside first thing the next morning.

A view of the Riverside Arena. You get the most amazing panoramic view, all the way to Stratford, from the top.

We watched a live demo of The Mighty Trebuchet (above left), the largest working siege machine in the world, launch a rock over 150m in the air, walked up The Mound – the oldest part of the castle – as the birds of prey demo Flight of the Eagles was in full flow and gained a bird’s eye view of the first War of the Roses show.

My sister and the kids walked along the top of the castle ramparts and medieval towers. After that the kids were positively psyched up for even more terrifying thrills in The Castle Dungeon, a 50-minute immersive horror show with live actors and special effects. But as it’s not suitable for under 10’s we’ll save that for next year (*wipes brow – I’m so squeamish when it comes to the sight of blood, even if it’s fake!). It’s also an additional £9. Instead we opted to go on a rather more civilised tour of the grandiose state rooms inside the castle with its realistic Madam Tussaud-like models of historic figures – and the Time Tower, an audio- visual multimedia experience outlining Warwick Castle’s 1,100-year history.

For lunch we stopped off at the Conservatory cafe and sat on the sunny terrace overlooking the gorgeous gardens and some beautiful, very vocal peacocks.

We got lost in the Horrible Histories Maze (below)…

And finally, best till last, Wars of the Rose Live: this dramatic live action jousting battle with lots of horse-back stunts and sword-fighting is now in its second year. You can choose whether to support the House of York or Lancaster, and cheer on your side. It’s on twice daily on weekends in June and July, then twice daily (every day) during summer school holidays for no additional charge. It was packed during our visit which heightened the atmosphere.

Warwick Castle’s first night-time spectacular Dragon Slayer – combining projection and light show, dazzling pyrotechnics, fire jousting and live action stunts  – premieres on Friday Aug 3, with 8 performances scheduled throughout summer. Places are limited, so booking is advisable.

MUDDY VERDICT:

Good for: A short break, particularly if you’re travelling from afar, as gives instant access to the castle grounds so you can fit in a full action-packed itinerary straight after breakfast. Glamping looks like it’s a big hit with families on our visit judging by the number of under 10’s children in full knight regalia re-enacting scenes from War of the Roses with their wooden swords around the Knight’s Village on our visit. There’s lots of space for kids to play (but watch out the river, although fenced off, is deep) and trees to climb. A romantic spot for couples too. I can imagine if you’re getting married at the castle, it’s a good option for wedding guests.

Not for: Ultra serious history buffs. This is a Merlin owned entertainment attraction in one of the UK’s best medieval castles with a full programme of fun family- orientated heritage activities. If you’re pregnant, suffer from claustrophobia or have a fear of heights, you’re advised to avoid The Castle Dungeons and walking along the towering castle walls.

££: You can stay at the New Avenue of Kings premium glamping tents from late June to September from £259 per night (glamping has shared bathroom facilities). Standard glamping tents start at £139 per night and Wooden Lodges – available year-round – and including a private bathroom,  are from £159 per night.

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