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Festive ice rink skates in to Warwick Castle - review with pictures

The drawbridge has been lowered at Warwick castle to let Christmas well and truly in.

Ice rink at Warwick Castle. Pictures by: Ed Bagnall
Ice rink at Warwick Castle. Pictures by: Ed Bagnall

The 1,100-year-old fortress has been dressed up for the festive season - including the introduction of an ice rink in front of the castle's east wall.

With so much going on it seemed like a good time to try a castle sleepover and take advantage of a free pass to the castle the following day as part of the overnight package.

The ice rink is open daytime and evening and in that spectacular outdoor setting, it's like stepping into a Christmas card.

Twenty-first century aids such as plastic penguins for the little ones to hold on to and ice stewards are on hand. Beside the rink, stalls sell dry, overpriced hot dogs (£5.99), passable hot spiced wine and cider (£4) and an assortment of hot beverages and sweet stuff.

The castle itself is bedecked with festive lights, large baubles and beautiful Christmas trees inside and out. The Great Hall in particular is a Yuletide Dickensian dream.

Santa and Mrs Claus have moved in for the next three weeks and you may bump into them over breakfast - Santa pulled up a chair at our table - or simply wandering the grounds. They have excellent rapartee both with young visitors and each other, breaking into song, teasing and telling a good tale.

Ice rink at Warwick Castle. Pictures by: Ed Bagnall

They even took a turn in the ice rink although not on skates - for elf and safety reasons, of course. If you're coming to skate only, be prepared to pay £13 for just 45 minutes on the ice.

A medieval knight in full chainmail is especially engaging - a natural with children and full of stories.

The overnight lodges were the highlight of the weekend however - think Scandinavian log cabin meets medieval cottage. Our five-person lodge was compact but luxurious, with modcons like TV, kettle and central heating sitting alongside more traditional features such as heraldic shields, bow and arrows ( they don't budge, we tried) and a medieval tapestry wall frieze. The woodland setting, beside the river, is delightful.

Ice rink at Warwick Castle. Pictures by: Ed Bagnall

If your wallet can take the additional hit at this time of year - weekend prices start at £299 - it's an enchanting break. The sleepover package includes the lodge accommodation, priority parking, access to the castle and attractions (though not the dungeon), an elf wake-up call in the morning, cooked breakfast, a special show in the Princess Tower and stories with Santa.

There are other packages on offer - Great Hall Christmas Feast (£79pp), Great Hall Medieval Banquet (£69pp), New Year's Ball (£150pp) and special deals to be had for combined skating and castle entry.

Ice rink at Warwick Castle. Pictures by: Ed Bagnall

The big disappointment was the gift shop. I was prepared for the usual rip-off prices for basic tat that most large visitor attractions offer - worst offender here was a child-size knight's tabard for an outrageous £20 - but worse still was the lack of choice. Too much of the shop is given over to sweets and drinks, while there are hardly any books or anything educational.

But enough bah humbug. Santa sleepovers take place on December 6, 7,13, 14, and 17 - 23.

Skating continues until January 5.

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