REVIEW: Stay, Play Explore Warwickshire

So, summer 2020 looks a little different to how we’d envisaged it at the start of the year. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. The coronavirus pandemic and increased local restrictions in Greater Manchester has really impacted us:

  • Big family wedding in Ireland – cancelled
  • A week of travelling around and discovering Ireland – cancelled
  • Family visiting the UK for the summer – cancelled
  • Boys’ having sleepovers at Gma’s – cancelled

You can probably get the drift. The cancellations combined with the unpredictable weather were really starting to make us think this summer would be a complete write off. So after a bit of umming and ahhing, we decided to at least try a short UK break for a change of scenery.

We decided to go for this great Warwickshire deal with Stay Play Explore. We’ve done a Leicestershire package with them before so thought we’d check out a new part of the country with some friends of ours.

Stay, Play Explore is great for families. You pay for bed and breakfast package at a hotel and get family entry into three local attractions. Yes THREE attractions!

After arriving on the Friday afternoon, we decided to go for a leisurely swim in the hotel rather than drag ourselves out. Then headed into Stratford upon Avon for an evening stroll and some yummy fish and chips.

I should point out that fish and chips wasn’t the plan, as yummy as it was. We had visions of wandering around then finding a nice family friendly bistro to have a good meal. We didn’t really consider the impact of Covid ie limited spaces and the need for advanced booking, especially for larger groups. There are so many great looking restaurants in Stratford it’s a shame we didn’t get to try. But the great thing about wandering around was that we got to see a few sights, including the Royal Shakespeare Company and some lovely statues dedicated to good old William Shakespeare.

My favourite Shakespeare character, Puck

Saturday however we got up bright and early and made our way to Warwick Castle. Just a 20 minute drive from our hotel and seemingly slap bang in the middle of Warwick.

With all things Covid to consider, it really was a good day out. Temperature checks an sanitizer on the way in. Well-managed queues to get into buildings. We really didn’t feel like our experience has been restricted.

Even Queen Liz I wore a mask!

That said, the walk up the tower was rather difficult with a mask on. I do have mild asthma but some other adults made similar comments. But once you’re at the top, you do get a lovely view over the rest of the castle grounds.

Tired at the top!

We also ventured inside for a tour of the main castle and great hall. A fun walk through history with plenty of stairs, paintings and restored artefacts. Even the kids enjoyed it!

Henry VIII and his wives

They really loved wandering around the Horrible Histories maze, although social distancing didn’t quite go to plan here, despite the one way system. But still, as with everything, it was a fairly easy way to get the kids to take in some facts whilst walking around.

Horrible Histories maze

The older ones tries their hands at archery (£5 each) but the icing on the cake was the birds of prey show at the end. Not only did they do a great job of seating groups on the field with enough space, but the show itself was stunning. . So much so I forgot to take photos! 😬

A word on food. Only a couple of food stands were open: fish & chips and a pulled pork, which were yummy but a bit pricey. All in all, a great day was had by all.

Next day we ventured into Stratford town for a wander. Small but very picturesque, managing to maintain some of its Tudor architecture. A few street entertainers and buskers, as well as plenty of nods to Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s birthplace

We used our second SPE voucher to visit the MAD Museum (pre-booking required). A lovely little museum on the centre of the town full of clever and entertaining pieces that combing engineering, science and art.

Definitely not a full day out but worth a visit if you fancy passing some time.

We stayed at the Mercure Walton Warwickshire, based on 64 acres of fields between Warwick and Stratford upon Avon. The hotel wasn’t amaaaazing (although it was 4 star), but it did what we needed it to do. King size bed for hubster and I, plus two single fold out beds for the boys. We’ve stayed in plenty of places where they’ve had to share and that has just caused arguments.

The room was pretty comfortable but the bathroom was a real example of fashion over function. A wet room style bathroom with rainfall style shower. Sounds great, but the floor didn’t slope to the drain enough, meaning the entire floor remained wet ALL day.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, breakfast also looked slightly different. The hubster was heart broken to discover buffet style was no more ☹️. Instead we had to preorder from a limited list of hot sandwiches, pastries and fruit, all of varying quality. To be fair, the kids lapped them up, but hubster was disappointed he couldn’t consumer his usual 5 course 3000 calorie holiday breakfast 🙄.

Apart from the damp bathroom, I have to say we had a great weekend. The kids had fun and got see somewhere new with friends. I got to sleep in a bed I hadn’t made and eat food I hadn’t cooked. Win win! And all for a great price. We still have another entrance ticket to use, so will definitely be venturing back.

If you are looking for a budget friendly family break, I’d certainly recommend checking out Stay Play Explore. In addition to Warwickshire and Leicestershire, they’ve recently added York.

2020 hasn’t been a complete write off after all!

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