diamond geezer

 Wednesday, February 21, 2018

ENGLISH HERITAGE: Kenilworth Castle
Location: Castle Green, Kenilworth, Warwickshire CV8 1NG [map]
Open: daily from 10am (reduced opening Nov-Mar)
Admission: £10.70
Website: english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/kenilworth-castle
Four word summary: partially-intact historical hub
Time to allow: a couple of hours

Some castles still stand in their entirety. Kenilworth isn't one of those. Some castles are romantic ruins and little more. Kenilworth isn't one of those either. It does have plenty of knocked-down bits, but crucially also several surviving walls and bits of towers, which is great because nothing beats a genuine medieval spiral staircase.

Kenilworth's a Norman castle enlarged by King John, enlarged further by John of Gaunt, and generally poshed-up by the would-be husband of Queen Elizabeth I. It'll have cropped up in your history books more than once at school. But 500 years of importance came to an end when the Roundheads slighted it, and these days the worst altercations it sees involve pint-size knights on a half-term rampage.

The castle's on the edge of town, a good twenty minutes walk from the station, and ten from the Bus Focal Point. The most interesting way to get there on foot is across the Abbey Fields, where a few remains of a 12th century abbey survive (and the town council have plonked an ugly indoor swimming pool). It's also worth taking a look at the old part of Kenilworth on the hill beyond, which is a lot quainter than the main street.

Entrance to the castle is across the Tiltyard, which would have provided passage above the Mere when all the adjacent fields were flooded for extra defence. After that you're into the main grassy courtyard, which is massive, with the main ruins up the slope to the left, and more resilient buildings to the right. The Tudor Stables are one of these, and contain an exhibition and the cafe. The Gatehouse is another, and also has an exhibition (with a more Elizabethan focus), plus your first spiral staircase to boot.

The red sandstone Keep is massive, but is now a shell, and may have pigeons roosting on the upper levels. Step out front and there's an excellent view across the Elizabethan Gardens, or at least there is in summer. I looked at the gorgeous sunny photo on the take-round map, and tried to match that to the twiggy beds and wrapped-up fountain in front of me, but the geometry (and the bejewelled aviary) were impressive all the same.

Behind the Great Hall, steps lead up the curtain wall, then up again. Here are the proper spiral staircases, tight and narrow and very much the original stone. As I climbed the slippery steps, my eyes getting used to the dark and trying not to put my hand down onto anything a bird had left, London's over-protective Hold The Handrail announcements seemed a million miles away. But the view from the very highest rampart was splendid, both across the Warwickshire countryside and looking inwards over the courtyard below.

The other great bit to climb, using more 21st century steps, is the tower added to impress Queen Elizabeth I. In 1575 she spent three weeks here on one of her royal progresses, as part of Sir Robert Dudley's plan to properly impress her. He threw banquets and dances and massed spectacles, and still the Queen wouldn't accept his hand in marriage, and heaven knows how English history would have been different if he'd been successful. But oh to able to stand in mid-air amid her private chambers, and to imagine what the full £1700 extravaganza might have looked like.

Kenilworth has a bit of something for everyone - deep history if you delve into the audio guide, plenty of nooks for the inquisitive to explore, ample running-around space for livelier kids, and gluten-free rolls with your soup. What there isn't are dungeon experiences, interactive towers and Costa coffee, but Warwick's only a four quid bus ride away for anyone so-minded.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream