One of the fun things I enjoy about writing a romantic suspense series is doing research. Research doesn’t get much better than when you get to go on field trips. Much of the time while I was in the UK, and throughout Europe, I was tucking away sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and experiences, which I look forward to pulling out for my book series. The setting of Book Two in The Ranfurly Mysteries will partly take place in the UK.
Our family set out on Day 3 of our trip to Warwick Castle, Warwick, UK. We took the direct train from London to Warwick out of Marylebone Station. If you plan to do this, keep in mind, there are 2 stations in Warwick. Make sure to get off at Warwick Station, and not Warwick Parkway. Warwick Station is a mile from the castle.
Our hotel was about 10 miles from the station, so we were thrilled to find a taxi office as soon as we walked off the train platform at Warwick Station. It was between 12 -15 pounds to take the taxi to our hotel from the train station. Another thing to keep in mind if you decide to take the train from Warwick back to London Marylebone, you have to walk a few blocks from the Warwick Station to get to the platform. Be careful about that one… there are signs posted, so pay close attention. We nearly missed our train because we were waiting at the wrong platform.
Warwick Castle was a bit crowded in August, as all of Europe goes on holiday that month, but in comparison to a theme park in America, the crowds were small. Also, the weather was glorious, and Warwick Castle has so many things to do and see. It delivered.
This castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1068, and has weathered the many storms of war through the centuries. It played a vital role as a stronghold in the War of the Roses and the English Civil War. Last century, it was sold by the 8th Earl of Warwick to the Tussauds Group in 1978, as maintaining the old place was costly. The Tussauds turned the place into a museum, and more recently, a theme park.
The inside tour gives guests a real experience of the castle’s history from 1068 AD up until the early 1900’s. While the way the Tussauds Group turned the place into a theme park might disturb the R.I.P.’s of the late Earls of Warwick, and might upset the neighbors of the castle (I actually met someone in a laundromat who lived on the castle border when he was a kid who told me this), the castle is a real treat for tourists. Tourists like us!
If you aren’t familiar with the Tussauds Group, you should be. Here is a little backstory for you. Marie Grosholtz (who later married and became known as Madame Tussaud) was born in 1761 into a family of executioners. Her mother was a widow and housekeeper for the famous anatomist and wax maker Philippe Curtius. He taught Marie all there was to know about the art of wax sculpture.
Turned out Marie had a knack for it, because she got invited to work in Versailles for King Louis XVI. She sculpted many wax figures of people during that time, including Benjamin Franklin. But, if you know the history, Marie would discover all too soon that it was not going to be a great time to work in Versailles for long. The French Revolution happened, and Marie’s employer, King Louis, along with his wife, Marie Antionette, and all the aristocratic leaders of the day, were chased out of their luxurious lifestyles, and eventually beheaded.
Marie escaped the terrible fate of her employers, but was sent to prison after the take over. On her release from prison, she was forced to prove her allegiance to the Revolution by making death masks of the nobles and her former employers, the King and Queen.
After prison, Marie married Francois Tussaud, and inherited Philippe Curtius’ wax business and sculptures. Marie, who then became known as Madame Tussaud, left her husband to tour the British Isles with her wax figures and masks. Eventually she settled on Baker’s Street in London, where she opened Madame Tussaud’s Wax Figures with her sons. The Chamber of Horrors was the name of the famous room where she displayed her masks of the beheaded. The Madame Tussaud Wax Museum remains in London to this day, and is one its top attractions.
Her craft was passed on to future generations, and many of these wax figures are now on display at Warwick Castle. I included a couple for you to see below!
A Victorian Era Music Lesson and the wax figure of a famous singer during that time, Clara Butt, who was 6 feet tall, is in the music room at Warwick Castle.
Another part of the fun was the outdoor attractions the castle offered. There were a few shows for entertainment on the castle grounds, including a performance with a working trebuchet, an impressive Birds of Prey show, and a reenactment of The War of the Roses that included jousting, sword fights, and great horsemanship.
If you have youngsters, the castle is a wonderful and hand on educational place to take them. Kids can practice archery and learn to be a knight. You can download a Warwick Castle app and see the layout of the grounds and castle before you go, plus check out all the shows and attractions. (I did.) If my kids were little and we lived in the area, we would become regulars at this place, for sure.
We finished our day off with a night of entertainment within the courtyard of the castle. The Dragon Slayer show featured local performers who were very talented, and a whole lot of pyrotechnics, a firework show, and action-packed fun. We stayed the night at The Holiday Inn Express in Stratford, which was lovely, and affordable. But it is an Uber or Taxi ride away, and we had trouble getting online to order an Uber after the show. I ended up flagging down a taxi which drove past us in the town of Warwick, but it took awhile to find anyone available. You can probably find places to stay in walking distance of the castle, right in the town of Warwick. I found and booked all our hotels through booking.com.
We also spent some time strolling the town of Warwick after the castle closed and while waiting for the evening show. We ate at The Chip Shed, which had yummy fish and chips! My daughter was able to order something gluten free and dairy free, and we all enjoyed the food. Although, there were food trucks inside the castle, and we could have just stayed there to grab a bite. We wanted to explore the town of Warwick, though. So we got our 25,000 steps in!
We had a jolly good time in the UK. I personally would have liked to have spent more time in the charming town of Warwick, to explore the book shops, stores, and more of its streets. But alas, we were only there a day, and we had reserved seats on the Eurostar to Paris waiting for us.
My only regrets: A few more days in the area would have been nice: a day to drive through the Cotswolds, which weren’t far from there, a day in Oxford, and a day to spend in Stratford-Upon-Avon, where Shakespeare lived. The other regret is that we could have afforded to bring our two younger kids, who stayed behind in California with my parents. We hope to return to the UK with them in a few more years, once they graduate high school.