Half theme park, half historic castle, there are archery, falconry and knights-in-armour battle shows throughout the day. The attraction is squarely aimed at families with children. There’s knight school in the central courtyard for the littlies and an archery show where kids are dressed in the armour worn by longbowmen from the Middle Ages. A new Dream of Battle attraction is really just a cinema screen in a basement. Again, it’s for the kids, and pretty tame.

But don’t dismiss Warwick Castle as just a place for 8-year-olds (although there’s no shortage of them, all wearing plastic helmets and attacking each other with plastic swords in between mouthfuls of candyfloss). The real highlight here is the castle itself: it’s big, old and as impressive as its walls are impenetrable.

Descend into the underground dungeon or climb the narrow spiralling staircases to the castle’s towers, turrets and parapets.
Gaze over the evergreens and conifers and you can imagine an army materialising on the green horizon, preparing to lay siege to the castle. You can almost smell the cookfires, the scent of dung from the cavalry and the electric tension before battle.

Exploring the castle, inside and out, feels like being transported back in time. Indoors, the baronial Great Hall is loaded with armour and weapons and the staterooms have been faithfully recreated in all the opulence that the earls and barons who once ruled here could have mustered.

Another highlight is exploring some of the 60 acres of parks and gardens around Warwick Castle. Come on a sunny day, wander the rose and peacock gardens or sit down to a barbecue lunch and take in the majestic vistas. Just try not to think too much about the maul while you’re tucking into a burger.

• Trevor Paddenburg travelled to Warwick Castle with Chiltern Railways. Return tickets cost £26

Other top UK castles
Leeds Castle, Kent Residence of King Henry VIII and home to no less than six medieval queens of England, this spectacular castle also has a maze and underground grotto.

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland Every schoolboy’s dream of what a castle should look like, this impenetrable structure rises out of the volcanic rock and is known as Scotland’s ‘castle of castles’.

Skipton Castle, Yorkshire Almost 1000 years old, this is one of the best preserved medieval castles in England.

Caerphilly Castle, Wales The largest castle in Wales is an example of concentric design, with an inner and outer curtain wall surrounded by water defences.

Caernarvon Castle, Wales A World Heritage site, this castle was vital to Edward I’s plans to conquer Wales in 1283. Sitting on the shoreline, its walls encompass a medieval village.

Up in arms
Sword One- or two-handed, used to stab enemies or slash open their throats or bellies. The Saxons considered the value of a sword at 120 oxen or 15 male slaves.
Battle axe Trumpet-shaped blade favoured by the Vikings, used to splice open the skull in one swift deadly blow.
Crossbow Why get too close to the enemy when you can nail them from a distance with this lethal device? So destructive it was banned by the Church in 1139.
Hammer Not for nails – giant hammers were used in the Middle Ages to knock down and smash the ribs or skull of an enemy, even in heavy armour.
Trebuchet A kick-arse type of catapult, this 13th century siege weapon could fling boulders, missiles or dead horses up to 500 yards with deadly accuracy.
Gunpowder This 14th century development changed the face of warfare, leading to cannons and guns.