Mikey and Hannah Check Out the Castle Dungeon on a Brisk Day in January
This blog is based on episode 128 of the Scaretrack podcast, the UK’s first podcast dedicated to the scare attraction and haunted house industry. Please be advised that we have no censor. The language used may be of an explicit nature and isn’t intended for younger listeners or the easily offended. All views expressed are of the individual hosts and don’t necessarily reflect those of Scaretrack, our guests, or any of our associates. So, if you’re still here, let’s get scared.
Episode 128 was an on-location review of the Warwick Castle Dungeon. Hannah and I went on January 9, 2019, a cold but sunny day. Warwick Castle is owned by Merlin Entertainment, which also owns Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington, and Hyde Park in Germany. Merlin owns lots of theme parks and also midway attractions such as Madame Tussaud’s, SEA LIFE Centers, and the Dungeons brand. In the UK, Merlin has the London Dungeons, York Dungeons, Blackpool, and the Glasgow and Edinburgh Dungeons. There’s one in Amsterdam we visited, one in Hamburg, and one in San Francisco. They’re all around Europe and the US, too. The Dungeon brand that we all know and love here on the podcast is a more family-friendly, immersive scare attraction, let’s call it. However, they tell us they’re not a scare attraction, and they’re very bold about saying they’re not a scare attraction. Yet, they have signs everywhere that say, “This attraction is designed to scare.” You can make your own decision on that one.
We visited Warwick Castle to have a nice day out. You can get in with your Merlin Annual pass, which we had, and you can get a free upgrade to The Dungeons with your Premium Annual pass. Without any further ado, let’s get into our review of the Warwick Castle Dungeon.
First of all, Hannah was cold. “It’s going really well, it’s quite cold,” she said. “What’s the date? The 9th, 10th of January? It’s quite cold, it’s nice and sunny, and it’s not too busy here today. There are kids screaming everywhere, but it’s not too busy, which is good. Usually when we come here, it’s a summer day and quite crowded. I was looking forward to seeing what the castle dungeon is like when it’s not peak time.”
I was as well. The main reason we went was for the Castle Dungeon at Warwick Castle. It’s been here a fair few years. I remember when it first got installed probably about ten years ago. It’s definitely been here a few years, and it’s had a few extra scenes as well. The Witches of Warwick have now been added to it toward the end.
We arrived at Warwick Castle, and went around a few different areas of the castle as well. There’s a mini scare-cam video on our YouTube Channel; you can check that out by searching for Scaretrack on YouTube. You’ll be able to see just a little bit of the castle—nothing too scary. “Fear is a funny thing” is basically the tagline of the dungeon. It’s worth noting that if you’re a Premium Annual Pass holder for Merlin, you can come into, obviously, Warwick Castle for free and also go to the Castle Dungeon for free. You have to go to the Courtyard shop to upgrade your ticket if you want a free entrance into the dungeon. It sells out really early in peak times, but on our visit, it was just us, a couple of couples, and a few school groups.
They don’t like us taking our recording device inside any of the Dungeons, so what we thought we’d do was go in, enjoy it, come out, and give our full, in-depth review.
How Warwick Castle Dungeon Compares to Other Dungeons
We enjoyed this one because it seemed the most authentic. I think everything is in a real castle.
Hannah agreed. “I really liked it because it is in the castle, and the windy staircases between scenes are real windy staircases. I think that added a great atmosphere, and it would be exciting to see if Alton Towers does the same. Alton Towers is in The Charley and the Chocolate Factory. They should have had it in the Tower, because then it would be as authentic as Warwick.”
There was a nice group of people that decided to start making their own queue. We joined the queue. So, we went into The Castle Dungeon, bypassed all these school kids, experienced the Dungeon, and now we’re going to tell you all about it, including comparing it to all the other Dungeons we’ve done around the world.
Here’s what Hannah had to say: “I really enjoyed it. I always enjoy the atmosphere at Warwick Castle. It’s one of the Dungeons that has the most seats.”
Hannah made a good point. Nearly every scene, apart from maybe the first two, was a sit-down scene, as opposed to some Dungeons where you’re standing for quite a bit. You get picked on if you get to sit down sometimes.
The opening scene explained the plague, and then you go into the scene that’s in every single Dungeon, in which there’s the plague doctor.
“I really enjoyed that scene,” said Hannah.
The plague doctor was quite good. It was such a dark, small space. He used quite a lot of jump scares, but not typical ones. Like, he made you jump by raising his voice, and I really enjoyed that.
I was a little bit disappointed by the very first scene. Usually, there’s someone down in the pews in the darkness, but, in this case, there was no one there.
“I was watching a waxwork person for ages, adamant that it was moving and was a person,” said Hannah.
Overall, I’d say the beginning was a bit weak. There was no jester, for example, like at other Dungeons.
“I think that could have been due to space, though,” offered Hannah.
Space, or off-peak actors. I could have sworn I’ve seen that actor, John Paton, before.
Hannah said, “I couldn’t even see the projection actor, the manikin with the projection face. I couldn’t see that because of the space.”
Hannah was right—it was a lot smaller. After the torture scene, as in any other torture scene, you sat in your seat, and someone was in the cage. The actor in that was cool, and it was fun. But I forget what we did after the torture scene. I can’t remember. We went into the docks, and you stand in the dock during the courthouse scene. I was charged for whittling in the well.
“A wee whittler,” said cheeky Hannah.
This must have been a serious charge, because I had my willy chopped off by the torturer. You go into the courthouse scene where you have the naked-witch story like in all the other scenes, but the actor in there was really really good—I thoroughly enjoyed that. After that, you had the execution scene, which I don’t think many Dungeons have anymore. The first time we saw it was in this Dungeon, but other Dungeons have cut out the execution scenes since new scenes have arrived. You’re basically watching someone get their head chopped off, and your little seats move, which was fun, again.
Then we went on to the Labyrinth of Lost Souls, and we finished with the Witches of Warwick, which was good—more of a big, show-building scene. You could tell that one had been made for it, compared to the other rooms. They used to have things that tickled your head in there, I remember, and that didn’t happen this time. Maybe someone was touching my head—who knows. All in all, it took about 40 to 45 minutes. I really enjoyed it. I think we said before we went in that it has better atmosphere than most Dungeons because it’s just more authentic.
“Yes, definitely,” Hannah chimed in.
Apart from the last couple of scenes, the beginning part of it was truly realistic. You were in the castle, and it was all real—huge and real surroundings.
“Which is really great,” Hannah responded, “but I think that would be hard to try and replicate at the busier Dungeons because of all the windy stairs and ‘mind your heads.’”
That’s for sure. It felt quite claustrophobic in there.
“With bigger groups that would be very difficult,” said Hannah. “But, it worked perfect here, and I loved it. It’s one of my faves, and probably my favorite dungeon in the UK.”
I definitely agreed with Hannah. It didn’t have any rides.
“Yeah, but every time we went to the other ones, the rides were closed anyway.”
Hannah made a fair point. Sometimes, it’s just nice to finish on a drop tower or it’s nice to start on a boat ride. We mentioned the Alton Towers Dungeon opening in 2019. It would be good to see if they use the boat ride, because there’s a massive boat ride system in there that’s been used for three rides previously. In my opinion, it would be silly not to use that. It would be good to see how that goes.
So, the Castle Dungeon was really enjoyable. The actors were really good. Like I said, it was a shame to have that slightly weak beginning, but other than that, the actors were all on point and the scenes worked really well. We did have someone want to leave a scene because they were too scared, but the actor handled it very well. That must happen from time to time at Warwick Castle, which is bigger than you think in terms of a tourist attraction. There are people here from all over the world.
“I went through with a man from Costa Rica,” said Hannah.
There were ethnicities from all over the world coming to Warwick Castle. In that regard, it’s similar to London. It has people who don’t necessarily speak English as their first language, and they deal with that really well, even though we all speak in English. It’s not like when we went to Amsterdam and they could speak in English and Dutch and French and German. Obviously, we’re still spoiled when it comes to English attractions. The Dungeon was really enjoyable, really atmospheric. “Authentic” is definitely the word.
“I’ve always thought this every time we go into Warwick Dungeons—it probably has the lowest lighting of any of the Dungeons,” said Hannah. “Very dark—so dark that, in some of the scenes, it took you a while to adjust so you could see what was in the corners. I think that added to the fear factor and why that one person wanted to leave—maybe prompted by the actor asking, ‘Does anyone want to leave?’ Which you don’t usually have. No one usually asks us if we want to leave.”
Speaking for the rest of Warwick Castle, just a quick round-up, it was a really fun place to come to. There’s lots of history, you’ve got a few other sorts of mini attractions such as the Time Tower, which was a fun little projection show. They had a real jail here—a real castle. There was a lot of history. It was a fun day out, and there was a bird show we were about to watch. I know in summer they’ve got loads more than on the off-peak day on which we visited. But yeah, it was a fun few hours, or day out with the family. We were enjoying ourselves.
Thus concludes our mini review of the Castle Dungeon at Warwick Castle. Like we said, on these off-peak days, they don’t have quite as many activities going on. However, there were about five, free, guided tours throughout the day. One could join all those tours, and there were two bird shows as well. Obviously, with both The Castle Dungeon and The Time Tower, there was plenty to do at Warwick Castle for all the family. There’s not a lot of scare stuff to do in the middle of January. We were trying to find as much content as we could. We thought The Dungeons, since they’re year-round, would make Warwick a great destination, and it was.
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