Travel

Castle Capers

I’d had a couple of weekends at home, quite enjoyed them actually, but it was time to travel again.

I plumped for Warwick and a trip to the Castle, I fancied something different.

It was a smooth journey across the country – have you noticed how rubbish the roads are east to west compared to north to south – but on arriving it got tricky, I couldn’t see the hotel, the sat nav told me I’d arrived but I couldn’t see it!! I drove around and turned around a few times then found it, it was covered in scaffolding. Parking was the next problem, I ended up parking on the street nearby and walking to the hotel on the Main Street.

After checking in finding my room was the same as finding the hotel!! I love a challenge but when you’re desperate it’s not funny! It was a lovely old building, the floors literally went up and down and creaked, I love that, I love old buildings with a history and a soul, I feel more at home in places like that rather than modern ones. I eventually found my room, through another door. I’ve got to say I was a little disappointed, they’d modernised it, I guess I’ve been spoilt with staying somewhere like Camelot Castle in Tintagel that was being kept and refurbished sympathetically in keeping with its history.

I’d asked at the reception about food, they didn’t serve dinner but I was welcome to bring a take away back, there were a few around but I plumped for fish and chips. I dumped my bags and trundled down the road, passing a beautiful building that dated back to 1571. I walked through a long arch way, that was dark, it wasn’t so long you couldn’t see the end but when you hear footsteps behind you you kind of tense up and walk a little quicker.

It was a man, he caught up with me and said something about the building I’d stopped to have a look at and take a photo of, I agreed ( I think!) that it was a beautiful building, thankfully he just carried on walking. I don’t want to be mistrusting and nervous but my problem is I’m too naive and gullible, I can’t believe everyone is bad.

I got my fish and chips from The Chip Shed and trudged back up the hill to the hotel, it was only a five minute walk. They were delicious, washed down with the small bottle of red wine that was in the room – which incidentally went down really easily!!

Breakfast the next morning was lovely after I’d moved my car from a roadside to the hotel car park at the back, I could stop worrying about getting a ticket. The car park had been full the night before.

I wrapped up and set off for the Castle, which was only a five minute walk in the opposite direction to the chippy.

It was snowing. I’m bored of winter now. I want to go out without thinking about how many layers to put on along with coat hat glove scarf and waterproof trousers. It seems to have been winter for a very long time.

I found the castle and went to buy a ticket from the kiosk. The elderly gentleman asked if I’d like the dungeon experience ticket, I said I wasn’t sure, could he recommend it – to which he replied “you’ll have some stories to tell” – he talked me into it, I said one ticket please, he said just one? 🙄 he was very chatty and pleasant so I’ll let him off. I love chatting to people like that, I like to think I might make difference to their day – they do to mine.

I went through the turnstiles and saw the castle. Wow! It’s a proper castle, not a ruin, it’s on a mound with a grass moat/ ditch around it. It’s quite something. We’d been as a family many many years ago but I couldn’t really remember anything of it.

I walked across the bridge and through to the central courtyard, passing underneath the portcullis’s and the worn walls and over the cobbled stones. It was a beautiful sight that awaited me. The grass in the centre was green and lush and ahead on the other side of the courtyard was a mound with a winding pathway up to the top called The Conquerers Fortress, with shrubs all over and trees behind the battlements at the top.

I walked all around the courtyard, stopping to have sit on a metal bench under a tree and listen to some beautiful music that was being played through a speaker behind me. It was nice to sit and soak it all in – even if it was bitterly cold – and try to imagine what it must have been like back in the days of the Knights and jousting and ladies acting coy in their presence.

I moved on and made my way round to the Great Hall, entering through some wooden doors with iron scroll work on them.

The main hall was full of Knights on horse back in their armour (I found my knight in shining armour!😄), intricately carved wooden furniture, weapons galore displayed on the walls, high above the doorways at each end.

I walked around and through into each room that had displays in them. One of them had King Henry and his wives as a display, even as a statue he looked imposing. As I waited for a space to be able to see better I put my hand on a large, simple wooden chest. I immediately felt sad, tears welled up in my eyes, I don’t think I’ve experienced that before. In fact, the whole place, inside and out as I made my way around, felt incredibly sad.

I carried on walking around until a very large group of foreign students descended and kind of filled each room, so I made a swift exit, it was nearly time for my dungeon experience anyway.

I made my way to the corner of the courtyard where the entrance to the dungeons was. There was a black and red tent that had a sign above the entrance that said ‘Enter Here All Ye Sinners’.

Now I was quite nervous about this, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it, I knew it involved real people but I didn’t know to what extent they interacted with you. I normally like to know what to expect but I manned up and joined the queue. It was all timed with a limited amount of people at a time. A lady called each couple or family through individually into the tent. I was the only one on my own, I got called through and it was where you had your official photos taken, in the stocks and then holding an axe – I didn’t feel odd at all……

We then all joined up on the other side where we were met by the Court Jester. He was hilarious and miserable all in one go, insulting and funny, explaining what to expect and that phones were to be switched off, no flash photography was allowed and to mind our heads.

He lead the way inside, up a very steep spiral staircase and into a dark room and I mean dark. We all stood there and listened to what was being said, mainly about the plague, but all the while not relaxing because you didn’t know what was going to happen.

Nothing did, we moved through to the plague pit and on into the room where the ‘doctor’ was, with a ‘body’ under a sheet on a table.

We all filed in, the doctor began talking about the plague and explaining the gruesome details of the symptoms and the boils and began to pull out the organs from the body. It was at this point he chose a member of the group to be a plague victim. The person he chose didn’t want to do it. He asked him again – he really didn’t want to do it, at which point the doctor said it was the experience he had paid for and he was going to ask him one more time in character to join him… nope, he didn’t want to. I felt it was becoming awkward, there was obviously timing involved and all the guy wanted to do was his job – so I put my hand up and said “ I’ll do it!” This pleased him and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. I didn’t mind, I was enjoying it all and wanted to experience as much as I could.

He sat me down in a chair in the corner and said it was obvious I had the plague as I had boils, fever and fetid breath. He pulled a tattered, dirty and torn curtain around me and switched a light on behind the chair. He then proceeded to hit me over the head with an axe and a mallet, with sound effects. I assume to the rest of the people I was just a shadow and all they could see was me being hit over the head. It was fab! I loved it!

We left him , putting the insides back inside the body and made our way to the torture chamber. This guy immediately put a woman in a cage in the corner and got a ‘volunteer’ to sit on his chair. The poor guy didn’t speak English (the guy he picked). We had to guess what each torture instrument was for, first one I guessed it was for the tongue, I was brave, I spoke up, he fixed his stare on me (incidentally he had nice eyes😉) and asked me if I was a torturer – to which I replied “ in a past life” he told me to make it in this life – I apparently guessed correctly! They used to heat the ‘tongues’ in hot coals and then clamp it on the poor souls tongue, it would sizzle and they just yanked it out!!!! How awful! He went on to a “chappy chopper” no prizes for guessing what this did, to prolong the agony they would do it inch by inch….

Next it was a gruesome looking hook, this was mainly used on the back of the head, there’s a soft fleshy bit at the base of your skull, they would stick it in there, hoist you up and hang you from the ceiling in a vegetative state. Thank the gods and goddesses we have progressed since then…. or have we…

The ‘tour’ carried on through the dark, atmospheric dungeons, I ran my hands along the walls – grim.

Courtroom next, the judge was sitting high up, he picked on people, some were keen some weren’t, sentencing them for ‘crimes’ that would have been punishable back then. He picked on me last, I got booed into the dock in the middle of the room, he asked me my name, then where I came from, to which he shouted “Guilty” and told me to leave!😂

Next was a beheading, I won’t tell you what happened in here, just in case you visit….

Passing through a labyrinth of mirrors we came to the last room, with a witch. I won’t spoil this one either, suffice to say you end up with the hairs on the back of your neck standing up and holding your breath without realising. It was awesome. I’m not overly fond of scary things but I do try and put myself through scary films and things like this. Its good to feel a different emotion, one that wakes up all of your senses, it kind of makes you feel alive I think.

All in all the dungeon experience was worth every penny of the £9. I would definitely do it again. The actors were fantastic, can’t praise them enough, but remember, if you go, interact, don’t be shy, it makes the experience more fun.

After all that I had another walk around the grounds, they are beautifully kept, the trees are all magnificent but I couldn’t get to them, they were roped off so admired and chatted from a distance. I found one I could give a sneaky hug to though.

There was a falconry display going on, I managed to catch the end of it where a white tailed eagle was flying around, he was huge!!! He was having difficulty in the wind though so I don’t think they could do a full display, but the bit I saw was very impressive.

By mid afternoon I was tired and ready for the warmth of my hotel. I went back and just chilled for the rest of the day, it was perfect.

Next day I woke up to snow. I tried not to worry about the journey home, I figured by the time I left after breakfast the roads may have cleared a bit.

I needn’t have worried, it was a perfect journey home, all roads were clear and no hold ups – doesn’t happen often.

I’m glad I went. It was a fab experience and the gentleman in the ticket office was right, it did give me some stories to tell.

If you get the chance to go just go and definitely do the dungeon experience – I can’t recommend it enough.

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