Event delegates are increasingly demanding and difficult to please, let alone amaze, mesmerize, tantalise and enthrall! Taking your guests to zones one and two is so last year! These days you need to transport your delegates to another world to really free their minds and get them truly engaged. As the market matures, effective, outstanding events have to be nothing less than highly memorable experiences offering rather more than a standard London venue, some soggy canapés and a couple of stilt walkers (although that's a bit unfair to stilt walkers as we once had an amazing one who doubled up as a giant acrobat doing backflips!) so superb stilt walkers are available!
As a result, though, the current transient status of the event world offers a unique opportunity. An opportunity to break away from the tube-travelling crowd, to break with tradition and do something completely different!
But what constitutes 'different'? What will simultaneously engage, inspire and capture the imaginations (and short-term Pokemon-chasing attention spans) of your team or delegates?
Well, the answer could be closer than you think. Imagine if you could transport your guests to another world, another era even, completely out of all known context, to a magical destination where they are all going to be completely and utterly spellbound? A place so magnificent and awe-inspiring, so steeped in history and wrapped in generations of mysterious (and sometimes macabre) stories that they'll all become wide-eyed children again, lost in their imaginations as explorers of a bygone, yet frighteningly tangible, age.
What if I was to tell you that place was just a short hop up the M40, less than a couple of hours from central London? What’s more, if you’re creative, the journey itself can be part of the experience. Well, if you're intrigued, the place I'm referring to is the majestic Warwick Castle, dating back one thousand one hundred (and two, to be exact) years. Warwick Castle was once owned by both William the Conqueror and Henry VIII and was subsequently donated by James 1st to his friend, the Baron Brooke, who spent his fortune doing it up and then had to sell his mistress to pay for it (true story)!
From the moment you arrive in the beautiful town of historic Warwick, you know you're somewhere special. Somewhere quintessentially British, but as Britain would have been at least three hundred years ago. Unspoiled and immaculate with the chocolate-box quality of neighbouring Stratford On Avon.
Upon breaching the imposing castle walls, the magnificent Gatehouse Tower (complete with its impressive iron portcullis) gives way to reveal the central Bailey, itself carpeted by a far reaching (and suitably immaculate) lawn worthy of the stately home it adjoins. Flanked by high medieval fortress ramparts and watched over by the ancient thousand-year-old Motte of the original castle, constructed before the time of William the Conqueror, your eyes are quickly drawn to the Georgian Stately home which backs onto the raging weir on the River Avon, the flowing lifeblood of this age old settlement, beside the immaculate Capability Brown landscaped parkland.
The Great Hall really is so great in every sense of the world that it’s almost an understatement! High ceilinged, stone floored with more authentic battle armour than anywhere else in the world (officially the largest private collection is at Warwick), and with magnificent views down to the river almost a hundred feet below (perfectly poised as a former military stronghold), your guests will be in no doubt that they are somewhere beyond special.
At the intimate event I attended, what first struck me was the sheer feeling of grandeur and exclusivity - the usually bustling place was deserted and really did feel like our own for the night, in its awe-inspiring entirety. It was as if we had travelled back in time hundreds of years and were personal dinner guests of the Earl of Warwick. The house really does still feel like a home and has not been at all institutionalised like so many others which are being worthily preserved by great organisations such as the National Trust and English Heritage. Those places are magnificent museum pieces, whereas this is definitely not. After all, the Castle has always been privately owned and still is to this day. In fact, those who work at the Castle see this current era as every bit as much a relevant part of the long and eventful history of Warwick Castle which, as it happens, was always an event-full place because that's exactly what these grand houses were designed for! Entertaining is at the very heart of Warwick Castle and you have a unique opportunity to become part of that rich history!
Before dinner, we were warmly welcomed by a Knight in authentic (shining) armour, complete with a five-and-a-half foot sword(!) and were taken on a fascinating tour of the State Rooms. I won't ruin any of the amazing tales he told but highlights included the grand (and slightly creepy) bed in which Queen Mary actually drew her last breath, Marie Antoinette's gloriously ornate clock, secret passageways and a tiny gold ring, dug up in the Castle garden in the 1990's, which it is believed, dates back to the 1400’s and may have belonged to the Queen (she had tiny fingers!)
After some hearty canapés and a welcome glass of crisp Champagne on what turned out to be the hottest evening of the year, we were ushered through to the State Dining Room, where Royalty still dine, serenaded by a wonderful string duo, with its magnificent Chandelier, illuminated by electricity for the very first time, having been recently and meticulously wired - making it decidedly less laborious to switch on and off! Ideal for events then!
Beyond our sensational and ornate surroundings, Warwick Castle is equally about impeccable service, enthusiastic hospitality and world class cuisine, prepared by their passionate and brilliant chefs, who make absolutely everything from scratch. Nothing is brought in and their beef melts like butter! Even your most discerning guests will not be disappointed.
Their entertainment is beautifully themed too, from the knowledgeable Knight’s tales to the masterful magician’s magical medieval trickery, who was not only mesmerising, but also highly entertaining (and hilarious, as it happens!)
This is no Disneyland. No fake Cinderella castle. It's not even Alton Towers, perhaps surprisingly from the same group, with its own unique and iconic lakeside ruin. It's the real deal. Romantic and rustic, beautiful yet brutal, magnificent, macabre, refined, flamboyant and steeped in fabulous (and horrible!) history. Destination Adventure!
I believe that life is a series of stories, and this place is a veritable fairytale. With that in mind, I strongly urge you to consider an event at Warwick Castle, whether it be a medieval themed team-building day in the majestic rolling parkland (they have a real life trebuchet and giant cross bow!) with the imposing and iconic castle wall as your breathtaking backdrop, followed by a State Dinner with medieval tours and entertainment. You can even stay in the Tower Suites or, if you’re bringing an army of guests, they have magnificent Knight and Woodland lodges (or even a luxury tented village for Medieval-style ‘glamping’) in the sweeping Parkland - an adventure in itself!
One thing’s for sure though, if you hold an event at Warwick Castle, you and your guests will be treated like Royalty, with one of the World’s finest REAL castles at the heart of it all…!
Will Broome, Founder, Londonlaunch.com
If you'd like to book Warwick Castle for your next event or would like further information please enquire here.
*Activity Photos by Tom Humphries