THE vast, resplendent edifice looms above us as we make our way towards the entry gates.
Inside, a smiling princess greets us and a dashing knight waves his sword as medieval music fills the air.
For a moment, I feel like I stepped back in time but then the squeal of an excited child snaps me back to the present.
I’m visiting Warwick Castle — one of the biggest tourist attractions in the UK.
Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, it is almost 1,000 years old and steeped in fascinating, often bloodthirsty history. If only walls could talk . . .
In the summer holidays up to 6,000 people a day visit.
Some sign up for a tour, others are just happy to wander along the battlements or up the spiral steps of ancient turrets, guide books in hand and soaking up the atmosphere of centuries past.
There are often displays or events to enjoy in the castle grounds — enjoyable and fun for all the family.
At the moment, because of Covid-19, the organisers are trying to keep everyone safe so have capped the number of visitors to 2,500 a day.
I am one of the lucky ones who has come — with my seven-month old son Jude — to experience the wonder of Warwick Castle on the first day of its reopening.
Excitement is running high. Inside the castle, we first visit the splendid Great Hall and State Rooms. Knights in armour stand to attention and it is easy to imagine the chatter and laughter in olden days around the great banqueting table.
Oliver Cromwell’s death mask hangs from the wall — warts and all.
As our tour continues, our brilliant guide, Tim, explains the history behind every room and the scandalous tales of the Greville family — the English aristocrats who owned the castle in the 17th century.
They were famed for wild parties where they guzzled gallons of punch and become very bawdy and lewd.
Luckily, this all washed over Jude.
Later, looking down from the ramparts, we are rewarded for our strenuous climb with breathtaking views of the 64 acres of grounds surrounding the castle.
Back at ground level, we make our way to the glorious Peacock Garden where I enjoy a well-earned cup of tea.
Even though the weather is rainy, nothing can dampen our spirits and Jude is in awe and wonderment over the beautiful residents showing off their brilliant blue and pink plumage.
After lunch, we follow the one-way route through the Kingmaker sensory experience where sounds, sights and smells provide an immersive experience of life in the castle in the 15th century.
Then we take our front-row seats to watch the critically acclaimed Falconer’s Quest show, featuring the UK’s largest birds of prey.
More than ten magnificent birds fly over us and the crowd gasps as the world’s largest, the Andean Condor, soars by.
Its striking black wings are incredibly long and broad, nearly ten foot when spread.
Very different to any bird we see in our local park. Jude is suitably impressed.
Then after all the excitement, it’s time to check in to our woodland lodge in the Knight’s Village — just a ten-minute walk from the castle but still located on the grounds.
Its medieval styling adds to the historical experience and the bed is so comfy it’s fit for a king.
Lodges sleep between five and seven people and all have self-contained bathrooms and toilets — a godsend when you have a messy baby in tow.
For dinner we enjoy a takeaway burger with chips from the on-site restaurant.
The menu is tasty pub grub which caters for everyone — including vegetarian, vegan and gluten free diets.
It’s reasonably priced and we eat our meal under the trees — yes, it’s still raining — while we watch a sword fight between two knights.
Jude’s eyes dart excitedly as the silver metal clashes.
Later, we retreat to our lodge to get a good night’s kip before the fun begins again tomorrow.
The following morning, we enjoy a full English breakfast in the banqueting hall.
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We need all the calories we can get so we can explore the Horrible Histories Maze, which has been adapted to a one-way trail to make it Covid-secure.
Other outdoor activities include storytime with a princess, and Knight School with a knight in armour.
Then after all the fun, it’s time for me to take my little prince home. We wave a sad goodbye to the magical kingdom and our fabulous, fairytale weekend.
GO: WARWICK CASTLE
STAYING THERE: Semi-detached Woodland Lodges (sleep up to five) or Knight’s Lodges (up to seven) on B&B basis are £222 a night based on two adults and two children sharing (must book online).
Includes two days’ castle entry, themed evening entertainment, wifi, and parking.
See warwickcastle.com/stay-overnight/knights-village. Call 0371 265 2000.
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