I was invited to a press trip to Warwick Castle and an overnight stay at Straford-Upon-Avon. The first part of the trip involved an 80 minute train journey from London Marylebone to Warwick. Chiltern Railways run services regularly London Marylebone, and usually you'd receive 2 for 1 entry to Warwick Castle with your train fare. It's also accessible from junction 15 off the M40 for those who'd rather drive.
Once we arrived in Warwick, it was literally a three minute taxi ride to Warwick Castle. The castle was absolutely stunning with a picturesque backdrop. The grand hall featured a large Christmas tree with logs burning, which made it feel very Christmassy. On our first tour of the castle, we entered the Castle Dungeons - not one for the faint hearted. I don't like to be scared, so I didn't really enjoy this part of the trip, however I imagine those who do enjoy being terrified, would love it. We then headed for our Christmas lunch, which was delicious. The carvery offered a choice of two meats (pork and beef), which I had a generous portion of each! For the second part of our tour, we watched the duelling gents (fun for the children) and flight of the eagles (fascinating birds), followed by visiting Merlin: Dragon Tower. I don't watch Merlin the programme, so I couldn't quite make the link between the two. I also felt the tour could have been expanded on, as there were only two rooms. For the last half hour, we had free time to explore the castle. We wandered around the grounds and admired the view. The sun was setting and it was just beautiful. We walked up the steps to the top of the Mound (one of the oldest parts of the castle) and the view was extraordinary. As we came down, I pleasantly surprised to see peacocks wandering around and heard there's also a peacock garden, which unfortunately we didn't have time to visit.
For the second part of the trip, we caught a 36 minute train journey to Straftford-Upon-Avon. After a brief taxi ride (didn't really need a taxi, it would only have been a ten minute walk!) we checked into The Legacy Falcon Hotel, which is a stone throw away from the centre of town. We had a two course dinner from the hotel restaurant, which had a lovely atmosphere. The food wasn't gourmet, but we enjoyed our drinks and a chat before the theatre.
After our meal, we walked a few minutes down the road to the Swan Theatre to watch the performance of The Orphan of Zhao. This could be one of the best plays I've ever seen - it was outstanding to say the least. One of the best things about the Swan Theatre is that the stage is level with the audience, so you almost feel like you're a part of it. This is exactly what theatre experience should be about.
We started the second day with full English breakfast at the hotel. It was a Sunday so most attractions and shops weren't open until 11am, but we found the City Sightseeing bus which ran from 10am with a bus every half an hour. To fully appreciate it I'd advise sitting on the top deck, but seeing as it was absolutely freezing we sat downstairs and appreciated the view from the windows! The bus circulated the town, to Shakespeare's Birthplace and Anne Hathaway's House. We also had the option to hop off and take a look in the cottages, then to catch the next bus.
There was plenty more to see, but we ran out of time. I would have loved to shop a bit more as there was a good range of shops, including the Christmas markets. Overall I had a fantastic time!