THE yearly check-in with Santa comes with pressure, right?

Excitement from the six-year-old, sure. Questions from our nine-year-old. And expectation from the wife.

So how about cracking it all in one sackful of pleasure and relaxation at Warwick Castle’s Santa Sleepover? Now, that’s got to be good for your elf.

“Where are we going, Dad?”

To see Santa at Warwick Castle – he’s staying there before Christmas for a little break. There’s a light trail he wants to see, his sleigh has somewhere to park, there’s an ice rink, a winter market with hot dogs and marshmallows on the fire.

And if we’re lucky we get story time with the big man and Mrs Claus so you can deliver your list. Oh, and we’re staying overnight in the Knight’s Village of the castle. We can go into the maze and check out the castle too. Any more questions?

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“Are we there yet?”

The light trail around the castle grounds was wonderful and imaginative, and the walk felt like a great way to leave stresses behind and look ahead to Christmas.

The tribute to Her Majesty the Queen was a particularly special touch and the whole thing lasted about 45 minutes.

We even climbed the castle’s highest tower for night-time views over the winter wonderland.

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After the traditional bratwurst – and mulled wine for parental Dutch courage – on to the ice we went. Penguins to hold up the kids, barriers to help me stop. Then, the big bit.

Joshua and Jessica helped to rescue Christmas with the elves after Santa’s compass had broken en route to Warwick – phew!

Elf wake-up call

So into the main room we went for a thank-you from Mr and Mrs Claus. As we stood watching our kids – sat on cushions with a small group of other children, lapping up Santa’s stories, songs and laughter – we knew we were on the good list for another year.

Not the quick photo and bounce on the knee of years gone by, this raised the bar of a Santa experience.

Natural, interactive and not rushed.

The overnight stay in the quaint, cosy lodge in the castle grounds was spot on, a short walk from the festivities.

After an elf wake-up call the next morning, and a slap-up breakfast, with swords in hand we explored Warwick Castle’s maze and playground.

“I wonder if Santa is staying two nights?” the children pondered.

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The trip home was quieter, as the children slept and dreamt of those long Christmas lists.

Mine was all ticked off.

GO: WARWICK CASTLE

STAYING THERE: Santa Sleepovers: Packages, including Stories with Santa tickets, start at £269 based on two adults and two children, staying in a Woodland Lodge. This includes castle entry for two days. To book, visit warwick-castle.com/explore/events/christmas.

PLAYING THERE: Warwick Castle day tickets are from £20 per person booked in advance (including Stories with Santa, £31). A 45-minute ice-skating slot is from £15.50.

After-dark illuminated light trail is from £15.50. Castle entry and the light trail is from £25.50, castle entry and skating is from £25.50.

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