Famous the world over as the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Stratford is set in the beautiful rural Warwickshire countryside, on the banks of the river Avon; it is also one of the most important tourist destinations in the UK. Stratford is also home to the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) whose plays are on throughout the year. Must see sights include: the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the Swan Theatre, Hall’s Croft, Nash’s House, New Place and the Holy Trinity Church to name but a few.
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Located in the heart of the Warwickshire countryside, Rugby is known throughout the world as the home of rugby football and, as you would expect, many of its attractions stir the passions of the rugby enthusiast. It was at Rugby School that Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran. Must see sights include: Rugby School and its museum, the art gallery and museum, and the Rugby Football Museum to name but a few.
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Kenilworth is a delightful Warwickshire town, with many historical buildings, including its famous castle. The Doomsday Book (circa 1086) reveals that the Kenilworth of 900 years ago was a humble agricultural settlement with a population of less than 100. It has a fascinating old town, bordering the picturesque Abbey Fields. Must see sights include: the ruins of the castle, the ruins of Kenilworth Abbey, St Nicholas Parish Church and the Kenilworth Clock to name but a few.
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Wellsbourne Watermill is a nice place to stop - even for just a snack in their tearoom. The scones there are award-winning and made with the mill's own flour. There are nature walks and the mill is one of only a few left in all of England. Demonstrations are done on the hour - 10 to 4 - during the day. Admission to the tearoom is free - the mill is £4.50 for adults and £3.00 for children.
Warwick Castle is the best example, in the best condition, of all England's medieval castles. The original earthen ramparts were built by order of Ethelfleda, daughter of King Alfred the Great, in 914. In 1068, following his victory at Hastings, William the Conqueror had a stronger wooden fort constructed here. The stone walls date back to the 13th century, with construction continuing into the 14th. The castle has been on public display since its purchase by the Tussaud Group in 1978,
Warwick has regular daily train service to and from London, and makes an excellent day outing. Check the web site for information on upcoming special events, such as medieval fayres, exhibitions, and lectures. If you have time to visit only one castle in England, this should be it.
Historic Warwick is a great centre for the tourist, with it’s many antique, china and gift shops and a regular market every Saturday. There is also a wide variety of small specialised shops located around the Market Square, Swan Street and Smith Street plus a selection of pubs, fine restaurants and tearooms
Warwick is a town steeped in history that was founded on the banks of the River Avon in 914 AD by Ethelfleda, sister of Edward the Elder, as a defence against the Danish invaders, on a site overlooking earlier riverside settlements. It was built on a small hill, located so that it controlled the river valley and river crossing on the roads to London, Stratford, Coventry and the salt way to Droitwich. Although the town was ravaged by the Great Fire in 1694, lots of important medieval buildings survived.
Leamington Spa has the rare distinction of the right to use the prefix “Royal” through the grant of a Royal Charter by Queen Victoria in July 1838, a name that is only used by tourists. Leamington Spa is a medium-sized town in Warwickshire, in the heart of the English countryside. It has a Georgian town centre with a modern shopping mall and a spa in the Royal Pump Rooms. Leamington is a nice place to live and a good place to visit with an exceptionally large number of pubs (the town centre alone had 65 licensed premises at the last count).
Formerly known as Leamington Priors – the town is about a dozen miles to the north of Stratford-upon-Avon and is now virtually joined to Warwick. Leamington grew around the saline springs and the Royal Pump Room and Baths, which were opened in 1814. A treatment at the baths was supposed to be very beneficial and claimed to cure many disorders - gout, rheumatism, stiffness of the joints etc - and the spa water was drunk as a laxative. There are many beautiful old buildings in the town, which has a wide, main shopping street - the Parade - and some well maintained gardens around the river Leam. Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor and set a scene in "Dombey and Son" in the town.
The star attraction of Warwickshire (in fact one of the top tourist attractions in the UK) is Warwick Castle but I have to confess to being a tad disappointed when I went.
The castle itself is a fine example of an 11th century Norman building but it is terribly over commercialised and shockingly expensive.
I found the most enjoyable parts to be the ramparts and towers and the views over Warwickshire that they afford but I was left cold by the waxworks and associated paraphernalia.
Warwick castle is owned by Madam Tussauds and they know how to get the most from their paying customers. An adult ticket (2010 prices) is a hefty £19.95 or £27.45 if you want to visit the dungeons as well and a family ticket is a thumping £85 plus £6 to park if you come by car.
Is it worth it? Well no, I don't think it is. There are plenty of splendid castles to visit in England that won't break the bank or make you feel like you are visiting a medieval theme park but if you are really determined to go then don't say I didn't warn you.
There is a wealth of things to see and do in Stratford, most of which are linked in someway to William Shakespeare who was born, lived and buried in the town.
We didn't want to pay to go into any of the attractions but it was good to wander along the banks of the river and to do a short circuit in the town before returning to our convenient parking spot near the river bank. The black and white timbered, 16th century, buildings are in good repair, at least from the outside, and so make good subjects for photographs. There are also many interesting sculptures and statues near to the river basin. During the summer you can go on boat rides or hire rowing boats from there.
It seems that most of the visitor centres are concentrated in a very small area and consequently I would imagine that in the height of the summer season the place would be very busy. In March, late on a Saturday afternoon, the town was comfortably popular but not in an overrun sort of way.
Dating back to Elizabethan times of around 1550 this impressive mansion is the earliest of the major buildings in Warwickshire to survive from that time. It is the ancestral home of the Lucy family, built by Sir Thomas Lucy it has remained occupied by that family to this day although the National Trust now owns and maintains the property and extensive grounds.
We wanted to see inside the house and so aid the entry fee of £900 per adult. National Trust members gain free access upon presentation of their annual pass at the entrance tent opposite the car park. Around midday /early afternoon there is a brief introductory talk by one of the volunteers who will give an overview of the history of the place and the family who owned it. There are stories of William Shakespeare who was reputedly caught poaching deer in the grounds and the impact of the visit by Queen Elizabeth I whose short stay cost the Lucy family a fortune.
Inside the house there are some wonderful items of furniture and paintings. Each room has more volunteer guides who will happily explain the history of each room or artefact. Their enthusiasm for the place was infectious and you could tell they were proud to be representing such an interesting piece of English heritage.
Detailed guidebooks are available in the gift shop.
When you want a break from the history you can take a drink and maybe try some of the excellent homemade cakes in the small cafe next to the sheltered garden. The cream sponge cake was delicious!
The National Trust property of Charlecote Park and House some 6 miles from Stratford on Avon is a good place to experience some of the more genteel aspects of the history and landscape of this part of Warwickshire. The grounds were designed and laid out around 1760 by Capability Brown the landscape architect.
The entry fee is £4.50 per adult for the grounds only. Alternatively members of the National Trust gain unlimited access with their annual pass. With an entry ticket you will be able to wander around the Deer Park and its smaller lake, spotting the herds of Fallow deer that go their merry way; the river Avon and beyond the village of Hampton Lucy with it's impressive church tower. You would be able to enter the outbuildings situated separately and next to the house. These buildings dating back to Victorian times, include the kitchens, brewery and carriages but you would not be able to enter the House.
Free Parking for cars is available next to the garden centre.
Just 2 or 3 miles north of Warwick is the village of Hatton. Here the Grand Union canal has one of the most amazing sights of any of Britain's waterways. The 21 locks that are known as the "Stairway to Heaven".
If you are in the area, maybe to visit Warwick castle or Hatton Country Park then a stop at Hatton Locks is a must. There is a cafe there and ample parking and there are always opportunities to see the barges coming through the locks.
Just 12 miles north west of Stratford and on the Stratford-Birmingham trainline is the market town of Henley-in-Arden. A delightful town - it's high street is 1.5 miles long and contains some 150 registered buildings of historical or architectural importance. With its many 'olde worlde' pubs, award-wining restaurants, the famed Henley icecream, well worth a stop-off.
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We had a very nice time in the Stratford area. We spent one day wandering around Warwick, which was very nice. I couldn't bring myself to pay for the castle, though! It is a huge building and very well preserved but, well, we have plenty of castles here. I think they should do a separate ticket for the gardens - I would have liked to have seen them. I found a small garden at the base of the castle on the river that not only had nice castle-y views but was delightful from a gardeners point of view - lots of small, hidden spaces and different views everywhere you went.
We also spent a bit of time in Worcester. It was not quite as interesting as Warwick (maybe partly because it was raining.:P) but the cathedral was nice and they had people there to answer questions. As an embroiderer, I was fascinated by the alter cloth - very modern (70's) but very impressive stitching. It looked like a nice shopping town,too, though we just walked down the pedestrian area.
The drive to Worcester was gorgeous - we stopped several times to take photos of the autumn colour.
Warwick Castle is a stunning Norman castle. Which with imagination and effort it has been brought into the 21st century and is a fun, hands on place for all ages. The walls are 2.4 &6m thick, there's a portcullis, dungeons, a 44.8m high tower, and the largest trebuchet in the world to name but a few of the attractions.
You will find many of the employees dressed in Medieval garb and going about their Medieval way, in a Medieval way - especially around the living village!
Check the website - they frequently have "special days" when they do jousting, bird of prey displays, weapon & bowman shows and they even crank up the Trebuchet (a colossal catapult and catapult a flaming ball along river island (250m). The shows are great, entertaining as well as being informative & educational
Warwick Castle opens at 10am and closing 5pm.
Adult £18.95, Child £11.95. A family ticket (2+2) is available for £52 & there are other consessions available for seniors, students & for the disabled. Tickets are cheaper if you book on line (48 hours in advance).
The "Ghosts Alive" is paid for seperately (ticket office inside the grounds) and is £2.75 per person. The recommendation is that "Ghosts Alive" is not suitable for children under 8yrs. My 7 year old was brave and thought it was great but my 6 year old lasted approximately 20 seconds before he was in floods of tears and wanting out (& he was not alone). NB children, regardless of age, HAVE to walk - they CANNOT be carried - due to health and safety.
The shops which are dotted around the castle have good value items - especially the items for children - I did not feel ripped off at all.
Look out for the lady at the entrance selling the drinks cup - for £5 you can buy the large, plastic flask and the idea is you can "top up" for free continually throughout the day. Also children's "Horrible History" maps are available for the kids.
A great day out.
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22 Avenue Road, Leamington Spa, CV31 3PQ, United Kingdom
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