(Apologies in advance to any Kenilworth locals).
You see, Kenilworth isn't really Kenilworth. The original village, what is left of it, is by the castle (beautiful, beautiful castle...immortalised by Sir Walter Scott in his novel of the same name) but the rest of the town nowadays......well........concrete, ordinary shops, ugly shopping centre, UV lights in the public toilets........not particularly pleasant. I didn't stay long, to be honest, and consequently missed the abbey ruins (which actually look as if they might be rather good).
But the castle is an absolute delight, set in green meadows which are at their best in late English Spring (I knew there was a good reason for all those cool, damp days........).
Built in about 1122 the castle first consisted of a 'motte and bailey' ..... an earthen mound surrounded by a defended circular enclosure (thus a typical Norman castle. By the end of the 12th century the original wooden castle buildings and walls had been replaced by stone ones (the local stone is sandstone, which gives the castle its gentle russet tones).
An enormous lake was created in the early 13th century to act as a moat, but this no longer exists.
In 1244 the castle was given to Simon de Montfort, whose family challenged the monarchy in 1266. Kenilworth was besieged, but held out for nearly nine months.
During the 14th century John of Gaunt made major changes to the inner buildings, creating a superb palace.
From 1563 Kenilworth was owned by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and Queen Elizabeth l's favourite. He built a gatehouse and suite specifically for her, and she often visited the castle. After his death the castle was claimed by the crown, was partially demolished during the Civil War and allowed to fall into ruins before being taken into state ownership in 1938.
It is a lovely castle, in a lovely setting, and well worth visiting. Just don't bother stopping in modern Kenilworth!