The entrance to the castle is through the old stable block at the foot of Castle Street. Beyond, a footpath leads round to the imposing moated and mounded East Gate. Over the footbridge – and beyond the protective towers – is the main courtyard. You can stroll along the ramparts and climb the towers, but most visitors head straight for one or other of the special, very touristy displays installed inside the castle’s many chambers and towers. The grounds are perhaps much more enjoyable, acres of woodland and lawn inhabited by peacocks and including a large glass conservatory. A footbridge leads over the River Avon to River Island, the site of jousting tournaments and other such medieval hoopla.
Towering above the River Avon at the foot of the town centre, Warwick Castle is often proclaimed the “greatest medieval castle in Britain”. This claim is valid enough if bulk equals greatness, but actually much of the existing structure is the result of extensive nineteenth-century tinkering. It’s likely that the Saxons raised the first fortress on this site, though things really took off with the Normans, who built a large motte and bailey here towards the end of the eleventh century. Almost three hundred years later, the eleventh Earl of Warwick turned the stronghold into a formidable stone castle, complete with elaborate gatehouses, multiple turrets and a keep.