IMPOSING Castle? Check. Long history of gruesome and gory goings-on? Check. Add in some grown-up thrill seekers and mini ghost-hunters ready to be scared out of their wits and you have all the ingredients for the Haunted Castle - Halloween Spooktacular at Warwick Castle.

Let’s face it if it’s a backdrop of creepy corridors, dank dungeons and haunted hidey-holes you are looking for, then Warwick Castle delivers. You don’t need to suspend much disbelief to feel the gripping cold hand of fear as you descend down the historic Castle’s spiral stone staircases on your journey towards The Castle Dungeon (10+), a live action show that doesn’t just show you the dark side of the Castle’s past but let’s you live it too.

You might only watch in horror as the Castle cook carries out a makeshift post-mortem on an unfortunate plague sufferer – or it could be you pulled behind the curtain to face an operation of your own. You’ll shiver in disgust as the torturer explains exactly how he used the tools of his trade on those kept within the bowels of the Castle. Or perhaps he’ll pick you to demonstrate his ‘chappy chopper’ on. (The less said the better boys.) The interaction is all part of the fun – which this show retains – right up until the spine-chilling finale when you meet the ghost of a long-dead Sister. Who’s laughing now?

At this point, we still felt brave so we headed straight from this to the Paranormal Encounter (10+). The show is built on a ‘Most Haunted’ style premise with ‘TV presenters’ telling spooky stories about the Castle’s past inhabitants – and us peering into the gloomy corners of the Castle’s rooms to make out shadowy outlines.

There was a less organised feel to this show so our group was left questioning each other over what was real and what was not. Perhaps a deliberate ploy? I won’t ruin it for readers but the final room featured dark and strobe lights that chilled me, while my more sheltered 11-year-old pronounced himself ‘petrified.’

It was definitely a good time to return to the rest of the family to enjoy the Haunted Hollows – an outdoor walking trail exploding with Halloween decorations. Bright green pools, floating heads, gargoyles, pumpkins, bats and skeletons jumped out at us (not literally) every step of the way. This was a lot less scary. As a staff member described it, “it’s cute ghosts.”

With our nerves suitably settled, we headed to the Junior Ghost Hunt. This was aimed at a much younger audience and featured a ghostly take on the popular children’s book, ‘we’re going on a bear hunt.’ The Witches Tower was also a hit for my little horrors. A steaming cauldron set the scene for us before we discovered the Princess of the tower had been replaced by a witch with a revenge plan. Her dealings with the errant Prince through a magical, talking mirror enchanted my youngest daughter. The little ones also enjoyed the Dead Centre stage in the Castle’s Courtyard where shows included the witch’s workout and the wizard’s hunt for an apprentice.

Although not Halloween themed, it was certainly worth catching the Falconer’s Quest, an absolutely spectacular birds of prey display. The skilled falconers showed off a host of birds including a bald eagle, Harris’s hawk and the scarily named bone vulture. Feeling the wind whistling over our heads as they flew just inches above us and filled the skies above was a real treat.

Finally, it was time for the Dead of Knight (12+), the Castle’s scare maze. It was a flat ‘no thanks’ from my son so I had to go it alone and, with a lot of very chilling, jumpy surprises – again in the dark depths of the Castle, it is definitely best suited to the more hardy thrill-seekers among us. You can even visit in the evening for that extra fear factor.

Halloween at the Haunted Castle was all the best bits of Warwick Castle, a fabulous day out on any day, with a special twist for the spooky season.

 The Haunted Castle at Warwick Castle runs until Nov 3 with tickets from £15pp (evenings until Oct 31) or £20pp (day). Spooky Sleepovers including two days at the castle, late-night access and parking start at £80pp for a family of four.