Abandon hope all ye who enter here!
My youngest is just discovering Horrible Histories, but my eldest spent years absorbed in the books – and learned all sorts of stuff, some of it useful, some of it interesting, all most all it gruesome. So even he, as a too-cool-for-school nearly-teen, was excited at the prospect of a day out at Warwick Castle and, more importantly, the shiny new Horrible Histories maze that’s opened there just in time for the Easter hols.
Warwick is a neat castle to visit anyway – it’s small enough so that you feel like you’re not missing stuff, and it’s got lots of interesting history to learn about while you’re there. Lots of stuff to do, too – the towers and ramparts walk (loads of steps), the scary dungeons (“no refunds for snivelling wimps”), shows and displays, activities, and the wide open courtyard and surrounding grounds.
And then there’s the new maze, which occupied and entertained both my little darlings (love ‘em) for ages. And that’s quite a feat, given that one is 12 and one is 5 – so it’s virtually impossible to find anything that they’ll both happily do together.
You start in the middle at the great big signpost, then head off through various doors to various time periods – Vicious Vikings, Terrible Tudors, and so on – in search of Rattus Rattus, who’s ‘wanted for messing up time.’ Once you’ve found your way into each era, you stamp your passport and head off again to the next one.
It’s well laid-out. I got lost loads of times (not a surprise, given my entirely hopeless sense of direction), but the hedges are low enough that I could (just about…) keep track of our 2 and Mr C (who always knows where he is). And there are some sneaky dead ends and doubling-back bits, which keep you on your toes.
There are also Horrible Histories characters wandering around and chatting to you. We got to feel the medieval king’s armour (steady…), talk to a Georgian-era lady (who was freezing, bless ‘er), and had a lovely chat with a man carrying what appeared to be a bucket of poo.
As well as the maze, there’s a Horrible Histories show down by the river later in the day. We wandered down there, once we’d all emerged – there’s a kids’ exit with lots of clambering and a much more sedate adults’ exit – even if we did get distracted by the birds of prey display and the archery (I was hopeless).
I’m not normally a fan of the whole birds of prey show thing, but this one was brilliant. I’ve never seen such massive birds close up – think, 9 feet wingspan – and the chap doing the talking was funny and engaging and clearly loved what he was up to.
The Horrible Histories show told the story of the castle in true Horrible Histories fashion – loads of terrible puns, gory details and time-bending pop culture references. Alan Sugar interviewing one of the Warwick earls? Keith Lemon going through the keyhole to explore Henry VIII’s home? Yeah, it was all there. Both mine raced up front and loved it, and Mr C and I chuckled away happily (while scoffing the biscuits we were hiding from the children).
We popped back down to the river later to watch the enormous trebuchet launch I kid you not — a giant flaming ball into the air. It was properly impressive, and gave a real sense of the damage something like that would have done during a siege or a battle.
We spent the whole day at the castle, even heading back into the maze on the way out at our youngest’s request. She was completely taken with the whole thing – she sobbed when we left – and even our eldest admitted, grudgingly, that he’d had a good time (high praise, indeed).
It’s definitely on our list of places to go back to now, and the maze is bound to be popular. It’s fun to do, there are lots of bits of interesting historical information dotted around, and the castle is right there to explore. Oh, and there’s a man with a bucket of poo. What other attraction can claim that?