Looking for a memorable wintry day out? Then head to the wonderful Warwick Castle, set in 60 acres of Capability Brown-designed grounds in the heart of one of the UK’s most charming towns, Warwick. With its one thousand years of history, Warwick Castle has provided generations of aristocracy – including the wife of Richard III and the earls of Warwick – with a home, while other notable guests over the centuries include Elizabeth I and Queen Anne. See it this year while it is still in the throes of celebrating its 1,100 year anniversary.
These days, it is particularly noted for its seasonal events, such as the recent spooky Halloween week, which was great fun when I visited with the family last week. We witnessed the Trebuchet Fireball Spectacular, which sees a huge fireball being hurled 30 feet in the air and which takes place twice a day at the castle. With its picturesque setting on the banks of the River Avon, it is now gearing up for the festive season ahead and will soon transform into a winter wonderland for its innovative line-up of events.
The Castle bedecked in glittering decorations, with its traditional 25-feet-high Christmas tree taking pride of place in the Great Hall, will be a sight to see. And, particularly on my radar are the winter torchlit tours during which you can explore the castle by torchlight and learn how Christmas was celebrated throughout the ages. There are also dining events, such as the Highwayman’s Supper (19 and 20 December), Great Hall feasts and Medieval banquets (selected dates in December). It’s a modern way of taking a leaf out of history.
Looking for somewhere to stay, nearby? Then my money is on the The Arden Hotel Stratford. A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, based directly opposite the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon.
While it’s said that Shakespeare wrote many of his works in the hotel’s garden, don’t expect to see creaking floorboards and characterful beams overhead. Instead the hotel is elegant and contemporary with a zingy colour palette and luxury touches, such as fluffy towels, Orla Kiely toiletries, huge tubs and soft beds. After all, in this part of the world, there’s history all around you, whether it’s at the Castle or in the atmospheric towns nearby of Warwick, Stratford and Kenilworth.
The Arden’s restaurant – The Waterside Brasserie – was also a highlight. Contemporary British cuisine meant standout dishes, such as pan fried cod loin, parsley and salt cod pearl barley with tomato chutney. Looking back in time just got very modern indeed.