An al fresco feast of comedy, music and food (Review)

An al fresco feast of comedy, music and food (Review)

WE all need something to smile about at the moment, right?

Thanks to the team at Warwick Castle we can laugh our socks off in an outdoor environment suitably socially distanced and safe in the knowledge that no rules are being broken in the pursuit of much-needed live entertainment. What’s not to love?

Warwick Castle, Picnic In The Park, comedy, live music

A new lifestyle festival, which opened yesterday, is one of the castle’s innovative approaches to COVID-friendly music and comedy. Set against a backdrop of one of the UK’s most stunning vistas, one doesn’t sense any form of sacrifice in terms of venue.

In fact, I’d love to see more outdoor festivals such as this become a permanent feature in summers to come as a welcome complement to the theatres.

Picnic At The Castle, which runs for eight days and nights over the next two weeks, offers top tunes, big laughs and delicious locally-sourced food, all enjoyed from your very own fairy-light-clad COVID-compliant pergola.

Warwick Castle, Picnic In The Park, comedy, live music

Situated in the shadow of the magnificent castle on the banks of the River Avon, this natural scene is more beautifully set than any theatrical backdrop you’ll ever see, as we settle back for two hours of our choice of either live stand-up or music.

As one of the comic’s said, if we get bored of the entertainment, we can stare at the view instead!

Groups of up to six can book a pergola, while couples can sit out under a personal parasol and, depending on what time of day you decide to come, there’s a suitable tasty treat to accompany your experience.

Warwick Castle, Picnic In The Park, comedy, live music

Festival Sessions include:

Yoga Session: 8:00-10am – find balance and reconnect with nature, followed by a delicious healthy breakfast.

Graze session: 12:15-2:15pm – Sit back and enjoy two musical performances while sampling a tasty graze box.

Gorge session: 3:15- 5:15pm – Sit back and enjoy two musical performances or stand-up comedy while sampling tasty treats.

Banquet session: 7-9.30pm – Enjoy stand-up comedy shows or live music acts while munching on a delicious hog roast and making use of the caravan bar. Particularly look out for Phil Wang, headlining on Sunday night.

Last night’s feast of comedy, headlined by hysterical sister act Flo & Jo, certainly hit the spot – as did the interval hog roast!

And there was even the bonus of the weather staying kind for us too.

As dusk fell, with our bellies full and our ribs tickled, there were few places we’d rather be at that moment in time.

Warwick Castle, Picnic In The Park, comedy, live music

If I was to add any suggestions for an even more enhanced experience, I would like to see better lighting. It was difficult to make out the comedians when night fell as they chose to perform off-stage. And the ‘sweet treat’ which followed our hog roast did slightly disappoint.

However, these are minor imperfections on what was an otherwise much-welcomed distraction from the issues of the day.

At between £30 and £50 for adults, the price is better value than it might at first seem because it also includes castle entry, either on the same or following day. (In itself worth £22)

With a new emphasis on al fresco entertainment in the present climate, this is one of those I would be inclined to recommend. A truly lovely evening – but bring along your brolly just in case.

Picnic at the Castle is only available via pre-booking online. For line-ups and bookings visit: www.warwick-castle.com/explore/events/picnic-at-the-castle.

A feast of music and comedy at the castle

A feast of music and comedy at the castle

THERE’S plenty of opportunity to make up for lost time at outdoor events this summer with a fantastic new lifestyle festival at Warwick Castle, from this week.

Between September 17th-October 4th you can catch comedy and live music shows as part of the brand new ‘Picnic at the Castle’, held in partnership with creative events specialists Midsummer Nightcap. This imaginative festival offers top tunes, big laughs and delicious locally-sourced picnic hampers (including a medieval-style hog roast to suit the surroundings), all enjoyed from COVID-compliant pergolas.

Picnic at the Castle, Warwick Castle, live music, comedy, hog roast

Groups of up to six can book their own pergola, while couples can sit out under a personal parasol located in the beautiful Castle grounds. Choose between a tasty meat or vegetarian graze box option during the day and enjoy a hog roast picnic during the evening (vegetarian alternatives are available). Each hamper is full of locally sourced, high-quality food, perfect for sharing.

Festival Sessions include:

Yoga Session: 8:00-10am – find balance and reconnect with nature within the grounds of Warwick Castle, followed by a delicious healthy breakfast.

Picnic at the Castle, Warwick Castle, live music, comedy, hog roast

Graze session: 12:15-2:15pm – sit back and enjoy two musical performances sampling a tasty graze box and sipping on scrumptious cocktails.

Gorge session: 3:15- 5:15pm – similar to the ‘Graze’ session above, get together to listen to two musicians whilst enjoying tasty treats and tipples in the grounds of Warwick Castle

Banquet session: 7-10pm – on Thursday and Sunday evenings enjoy stand-up comedy shows, with Friday and Saturdays boasting headline music acts. Munch on a delicious ‘hog roast’ and make use of the caravan bar, for an evening spent either crying with laughter or dancing the night away!

“This really is a socially-distanced outdoor experience like no other, it’s the perfect way to reconnect with loved ones and enjoy live entertainment in one of the most beautiful locations anywhere in the country,” said Francesca Nally, Managing Director, Midsummer Nightcap.

Picnic at the Castle, Warwick Castle, live music, comedy, hog roast

Nick Blofeld, Divisional Director of Warwick Castle said: “We’re delighted to have ‘Picnic at the Castle’ with us this September. We love seeing our guests enjoy themselves at the many different events we host at the Castle every year.

“Picnic at the Castle has all the ingredients for a fantastic, and safe, experience. It’s going to be great fun and genuinely distinctive with live music, comedy and a luxurious picnic all served up in a beautiful setting alongside the river and the Castle as a backdrop.”

Confirmed acts include:

Headline musical performances confirmed so far include Roy Stride – lead singer from Scouting For Girls. Lucy Spraggan (X-Factor contestant 2012) and Ferris & Sylvester – 2020 winner of ‘Emerging Artist Award’ at the UK Americana Awards.

Phil Wang, Picnic at the Castle, Warwick Castle, live music, comedy, hog roast

Headline comedians confirmed so far include Phil Wang, pictured, (Netflix, Live At The Apollo), Flo & Joan (Amazon Prime, Live At The Apollo) and Sindhu Vee (Live At The Apollo, Have I Got News For You)

Drinks caravan bar ‘Maggie’ will also be on-site providing a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, with a  variety of special occasions’ packages available.

Picnic at the Castle is only available via pre-booking online. All bookings include access to the Castle, car parking, live entertainment, dedicated gazebos and picnic (hog roast) hampers.

Tickets can be booked at: www.warwick-castle.com/explore/events/picnic-at-the-castle.

Warwick Castle reopens its gates this weekend

Warwick Castle reopens its gates this weekend

WARWICK Castle will be amongst the first UK attractions to reopen its gates to the public following easing of lockdown restrictions.

Warwick Castle, COVID-19

While indoor areas remain off-limits for the time being, the extensive grounds and gardens around the iconic Castle will provide a welcome destination for visitors keen to take a day trip away from home.

From Saturday 6th June, guests will be able to explore over 64 acres of stunning ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped gardens, including riverside strolls along the Avon and the famous Peacock Garden with its resident flock of over 20 peacocks.

More adventurous visitors can climb the Conqueror’s Fortress, which is the highest point of the estate, to capture incredible views across the beautiful Midlands countryside and Warwick itself.

Whilst the usual shows and indoor attractions aren’t reopening just yet, the castle’s renowned birds of prey will still be undertaking their daily exercise and training for the full reopening,  so visitors may be lucky enough to see them whilst on site.

COVID-secure processes in place

A number of key processes have been implemented to ensure visitor safety including:

  • Increased health and safety procedures for enhanced cleaning of all areas including toilets and seating, introduction of one-way systems supported by clear wayfinding, social distancing markers and sanitiser stations
  • Entry will be dependent on advance online booking only, with availability subject to new daily maximum capacities to ensure allowance for social distancing. Temperature spot-checks may be carried out.
  • Contactless payment for food and drink, from takeaway outlets offering snacks, hot and cold drinks and ice cream
  • Activity kits on sale for families to find all the fun while exploring the outside areas
  • Toilets will be available to guests on a one-in-one-out basis.

Warwick Castle, COVID-19

‘Baby steps’ to full reopening

As part of global leisure company Merlin Entertainments, the castle has benefited from advice from colleagues across the globe, including those in countries where restrictions have already eased allowing attractions to reopen, on how best to reopen in line with new safety requirements ensuring the safety of all visitors.

Warwick Castle initially closed on 21st March 2020 along with tourism businesses across the UK.

Warwick Castle, COVID-19

Divisional Director Nick Blofeld said: “After ten weeks of closure, we can’t wait to reopen our gates and share the beauty of the Castle’s outdoor spaces with guests again. Warwick Castle uniquely offers a rich history and over 60 acres of rolling grounds, we are anticipating our loyal guests across the Midlands and beyond will be really excited to return to the Castle and have a taste of normality, even if it is two swords apart.”

We are delighted to be amongst the first attractions able to reopen to the public, albeit on a limited basis for the time being. These first ‘baby steps’ are a really positive sign for us, the wider industry and indeed the general public and we can now start to rediscover everything that this country has to offer.”

Opening exclusively for the first weekend on 6th and 7th June to Warwick Annual Pass and Merlin Annual Pass holders only, the castle grounds will be open to all guests from 8th June onwards on a pre-booked only basis. Visit: www.warwick-castle.com

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. . . at Warwick Castle

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. . . at Warwick Castle

THE frosts of winter are often a sure sign that Christmas is around the corner – and never more so than in the form of an ice rink.

Set against the spectacular backdrop of Warwick Castle, visitors are being invited to soak up the seasonal fun by donning some skates and taking to the ice.

Warwick Castle, ice rink

We were among the first to be let loose on the rink which can also be enjoyed after the castle closes. Skating by night in one of the country’s most historic settings is truly a magical family experience.

And all ages and abilities are welcomed – and supervised from a distance, as nervous parents (including this one) cheer on from the sidelines with cautious encouragement. Novices soon find help is at hand should they need it and, despite the inevitable slips and spills, there were beaming smiles all round.

Warwick Castle, ice rink

Plus there’s some supportive plastic penguins to help the littlest skaters stay safe and confident on their blades.

To keep warm, seasonal snacks and drinks are available from a selection of festive vendors and the atmosphere in the bedecked castle grounds is wonderfully festive. It’s certainly jolted me into the Christmas spirit.

Warwick Castle, ice rink

During the winter period, guests to the 64-acre Castle grounds can also enjoy a Winter Birds of Prey show, Horrible Histories® Scavenger Hunt, Winter Wedding Princess Tower experience and more.

Nothing heralds Christmas more than the wide eyes and smiles of the children on a traditional ice rink in the historic night time setting such as this.

Skating is available until Sunday, January 5th. Ice rink and Castle tickets cost from £25 per person. Tickets for the ice rink only are from £13 per person with the option of special late-night skating experiences as the rink stays open into the evening on selected dates.

Further details at: www.warwick-castle.com/explore/christmas-at-the-castle.aspx

Light up your lives with Dragon Slayer

Light up your lives with Dragon Slayer

THERE’S a battle playing out between man and beast every night in Warwick these days. . . and it’s attracting quite an audience.

Dragon Slayer has returned to the castle after its success entertaining the crowds last year. And this time its even more spectacular.

The two-part show tells the story of Guy of Warwick in 14 twilight performances, including equestrian stunts, fire-jousting, a torchlit procession and a literally dazzling confrontation between warrior Guy of Warwick and his nemesis – the dragon.

After the 45-minutes the audience is encouraged to make its way across the bridge into the Castle’s historic courtyard where a stunning finale soon unfolds.

Dragon Slayer, Warwick Castle

Here the castle walls become a 31-metre-by 80-metre blank canvas for a light projection and pyrotechnics show the likes of which I have not seen surpassed anywhere else.

Using 150,000 lumens of lights, 500 house lightbulbs and even more fiery elements to this year’s show, the castle is ingeniously transformed into a thrilling stage of light and sound to bring this legendary tale to a thrilling conclusion.

The Dragon Slayer spectacle is one not to be missed, even if only for its stunning finale, which has this year been extended due to popular demand.

If you’re a regular to the castle, as I am, this is a wonderful opportunity to see it in a very different light.

Dragon Slayer, Warwick Castle

For the ultimate experience, Show and Banquet tickets start from £75 per person, including fast-track entry, car parking, three-course banquet with unlimited soft drinks and two servings of alcoholic drinks, exclusive entertainment during the banquet, and a ticket to Dragon Slayer. Show and Hog Roast tickets start from £30 per person including fast-track entry, car parking, hog roast (vegetarian alternative available) and one drink, in addition to entry to Dragon Slayer. Show Only tickets start from £20 per person with complimentary car parking. Bookings must be made online in advance and are subject to availability. And for those with show only tickets there’s a selection of good food options courtesy of Digbeth Dining.

And talking of availability, you’ll need to act fast as the dragon’s final outing is next Monday (August 26th). Further information at: www.warwick-castle.com