We had a wonderful day out last week at Warwick Castle. The unpredictable weather we’ve been experiencing lately seemed to settle for one day and the sun shone down on us as we explored the castle grounds. I booked our tickets online in advance and the trail was included in the ticket price. If you aren’t familiar with the story, it’s a fabulous tale from the author of the Gruffalo. A dragon called Zog enrols at dragon school and the trail followed the book as he progresses through each school year.
Arlo is very familiar with the story and the backdrop of the castle emerged him right in to the magic of story telling. I packed a bag with our book and a stethoscope (if you know you know) and as soon as we arrived we were greeted at the castle entrance by lovely team members who gave us our trail passport to stamp throughout the grounds. You will require a face mask at the main entrance. The first year at dragon school Zog learns to fly.
This beautiful large sculpture greeted us very near to the main entrance and it was easy enough to figure out how the trail worked – with five different locations to represent the school years in the book all marked out with bright orange and blue bunting, so there’s no chance you can miss the locations in the grounds which are marked on the map. Everything is of course outdoors and so although there were little queues as families ahead of us were taking pictures, it was easy to maintain social distance, and this was the same throughout.
As we wandered down towards the castle we were greeted by a knight, and Arlo was in awe – we in fact met several characters dressed up as we wandered around the grounds and they were all fantastic, happy to pose for pictures but also really engaging with the children, bringing the magic and immersive experience to life. This particular knight noticed Arlo’s personalised clothing and so greeted him with a “good day sir Arlo” which delighted him.
The second and third parts of the trail were near to the horrible histories maze and so we spent a decent amount of time getting lost in World War One trenches and a Viking armoury before we even entered the castle courtyard. I think it’s fascinating for Arlo to have this kind of experience, I have a fondness for history myself and to see him connect the dots and realise that Viking’s are (or were) real and not just fiction is fabulous.
Back to the trail – the second and third locations were interactive – there are “stamping pads” in front of each exhibition display which Arlo was familiar with because at the Christmas light trail these were jumped on to change the colours of the lights in the castle grounds. This time the set for the second year of dragon school gave our delightful roars with a good stomp, and the third year display shot out water to put out the accidental fires. At each display area the story of the book was to be heard as it was read out over the tannoy system.
As we headed across to the Castle, Arlo spotted another Knight, on horseback and at this point he decided he wanted to be a knight too – and conveniently the first gift shop was just through the gates and so he got a sword, shield and helmet. I did notice that some families had come prepared and their kids were dressed up as knights for the outing (a great idea if you want to avoid the gift shops on the day). These accessories came in very handy when we went back to Dragon School.
The interior castle grounds are decked out with socially distanced bench seating and there are mobile catering units here serving all sorts of snacks and treats, so here was a good spot to pause for elevensies and to use the loos, before heading across to climb up on an adventure up the castle fortress. “Sir Arlo” led the way and as we got to the top we paused for a while to take in the scenic views which were stunning. Clearly a great spot for a castle, and there’s some interesting signs throughout this area which let you know all about the history of the castle.
I took so many pictures at the castle, how could you not?
Arlo stopped and looked over the grounds spotting a Zog trail location in the distance and so we ambled down and strolled across the river to learn to rescue a princess. I love that in the book gender stereotypes and the tradition of fairy tales having damsels in distress is turned upside down.
Princess Pearl in fact is a strong independent character and ends up helping Zog and so this children’s book has a fabulous twist to its plot. None the less it was fun seeing the adventure course set up at this area to practice princess rescuing with the backdrop of the magnificent castle.
After all of this hard work it was time for us to find a picnic spot, and so back across the bridge to the expansive lawns we found a grassy riverside spot just opposite the boathouse, and to our delight we spotted deer across the water popping in and out of view. There were more mobile catering units in this area available and plenty of space for families to spread out and enjoy the spring afternoon and scenic views.
Arlo tucked in to his packed lunch and we pulled out the story book to read it through and recap our adventures of the day so far. With one more year of dragon school left to complete he was hyped up to wander around and try to find Zog again.
We took the long route the grounds through pageant field and around to the peacock gardens, playing hide and seek around some of the most magnificent trees on our travels.
There were peacocks everywhere you looked in the gardens, you could hear them before you saw them. We were lucky enough to see them display their feathers proudly for us to take some pictures and they seemed to love the attention, either that or they were competing between themselves.
There is a lovely terrace here overlooking the gardens which is open for seated alcoholic drinks if you’re tempted, and you can also purchase takeaway ice creams, which Arlo spotted a mile off. There’s another toilet facility here just behind the building too.
Just around from the gardens the final year of dragon school is set up, on the lawn in the shadow of the castle fortress. At this location Sir Gadabout appears at appointed times to award students with their gold stars. To earn your badge and complete dragon school you have to engage in a game of Sir Gadabout says (just like Simon says). This is where Arlo’s sword and armour came in handy – there was plenty of up and down, point to the sky, kneeling etc for him to participate and he thoroughly enjoyed this part of the day.
Once you’ve earned your final stamp in your passport you can meet and greet a mascot Zog and show him your star and get a photo opportunity. Of course as it turns out the Princess doesn’t need rescuing, but you’ll have to read the book to find out how their adventures end. We spent the best part of five hours at the Castle enjoying the open space, having such a warm day made it all the more enjoyable, well worth the cost of ticket entry, which was £17 for adults and free for under threes.