With the pandemic still ongoing and shifting levels of lockdown causing still more uncertainty, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there are enough nightmares to contend with before focussing on Halloween, writes Chris Campbell.
But if your kids are anything like mine (an energetic eight-year-old and a ten-year-old who’s more excitable than she cares to let on), the spooky season has become hard to avoid. With the October half term upon us, parents everywhere may be wondering anxiously how to entertain the family safely. Thankfully, Warwick Castle has been re-vamped as The Haunted Castle, providing all of the usual attractions and plenty of additional family-friendly frights to make a hugely enjoyable day out.
A great deal of care and attention has gone into re-opening the castle safely, as all guests are temperature checked on arrival and a good number of sanitising stations are provided throughout. There’s an admirable attempt to stagger small groups walking through the castle’s narrower ramparts and walkways, too. The Horrible Histories maze has wisely been converted into a one-way walkthrough attraction, to prevent groups of families bumping into each other – and whilst this may have taken a bit of the fun out of the thing, there’s still much to enjoy and plenty of grisly facts for young and old to absorb.
An unexpected highlight for us was the Haunted Hollows, a walkthrough attraction featuring enough Halloween decorations to keep everyone entertained. It’s the sort of thing kids adore, and absolutely on the fun side of the season: there aren’t any serious scares to be found in the Hollows. Younger kids will relish the opportunity to join Knight’s School to practice their swordfighting, or Wizard’s School to help the Castle Magician polish up his potion-making. These enthusiastically led fifteen-minute warm-ups take place throughout the day on the Oak Tree Lawn; no booking is necessary.
Something witchy this way comes at Warwick Castle
Take a breather in the Courtyard and you’re likely to see some of the entertainment provided on the Dead Centre stage. It’s a tricky job trying to warm up a gaggle of parents on an overcast morning in October, but the performers throw themselves into it with gusto and a couple of terrible puns are usually all it takes to raise a smile. There are plenty of tables and benches are provided in the Courtyard, all periodically cleaned by the castle’s staff which makes it a great place to take a break safely.
Dare you brave the Haunted Hallows?
The Falconer’s Quest was a highlight for all of us, featuring an impressive variety of birds of prey, from the huge Andean Condor to the dazzlingly fast Peregrine Falcon. It’s a must-see during your visit to the castle, but the popularity of the event and social distancing can mean that you’re sitting a fair step away from the centre of the action, so grabbing a place on the riverbank early (bring a picnic blanket) is advisable. Despite this, the team worked hard to ensure that everyone got an excellent view of these magnificent birds – handlers walked throughout the crowd, allowing all areas of the audience to get up close and personal with the stars of the show.
There was plenty to enjoy for all of us at the Haunted Castle and the kids are already talking about returning to see if other themes appear throughout the year. It’s well worth the trip and will surely be a highlight of the October half term.
* The Haunted Castle runs until November 1. Tickets cost from £21 per person. Visit warwick-castle.com to book or for more information