Kenilworth a charming market town
Lots of people don’t discover Warwickshire and all it offers because they are so busy cramming into Stratford they totally neglect the rest of the County which is a huge shame. Warwickshire has some amazing country walks and pubs that sit on the banks of the canals and make for a brilliant day out just pub hopping.
Kenilworth is a small market town in Warwickshire. Within striking distance of Birmingham, Coventry, Leamington and Warwick, but retaining its small-town charm Kenilworth has plenty to offer both residents and visitors.
Warwickshire has a lot to offer the visitor and Kenilworth Castle is just one of the outstanding historic places you must visit. Don’t forget to go beyond the castle though and take a wander through Kenilworth Town I promise you won’t be disappointed.
What is Kenilworth famous for?
Located just southeast of Birmingham. Kenilworth is famous for the ruins of Kenilworth Castle, founded c. 1120 and celebrated in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Kenilworth (1821).
Kenilworth is a small market town that dates back to Roman Times it’s a lovely town with a variety of really pretty architecture you will see Tudor, Edwardian, Victorian and Georgian all side by side in the town itself.
Just off Coventry Road in Kenilworth is a field called Parliament Piece. It is believed this is where King Henry III held a parliament in 1266 when his troops where besieging Kenilworth Castle. The siege was the result of Simon de Montfort’s followers holding off the King’s forces from Kenilworth Castle.
The actions of this parliament led to what is known as the Dictum of Kenilworth which is a law that allows rebels of the King to recover lands that have been seized by the crown.
Throughout the centuries there have been many deer parks located near Kenilworth. These deer parks were the exclusive territory of Kings and those of noble blood. They were essentially a hunting range for sportsmen of the day to hunt deer, these deer parks often provide meat for banquets and the households that owned them.
Around 1414 King Henry V had a timber-framed hunting lodge and banquet house near the Kenilworth Castle site. This was surrounded by a moat and earthworks and was used by 15th century Kings instead of the Castle’s state apartments. However, Henry VIII had the house demolished and the timber used inside the Castle.
Elizabeth I visited Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester at Kenilworth Castle several times, the last in 1575. Dudley entertained the Queen with pageants and banquets costing some £1,000 per day that surpassed anything seen in England before.
St. John’s Church
There is a beautiful gothic revival Church St. John’s on the Warwick Road in Knights Meadow that was built around 1851 that is worth a visit.
The King’s Arms
In the 1800s the King’s Arms and Castle Hotel was home to guest such as Sir Walter Scott who worked on his novel Kenilworth from the premises. In 1983 sadly the hotel and accompanying train station were demolished but in 2007 the King’s Arms exterior was copied and re-opened as part of a chain of restaurants.
According to the Kenilworth History and Archaeology Centre, it is thought that Charles Dickens also stayed at the hotel while he was getting ready to write Dombey and Son. The novel was published in 1848 and contains the line “A stroll among the haunted ruins of Kenilworth”.
Kenilworth Restaurants and cafes
The High Street and New Row in Kenilworth has the greatest concentration of unique shops and businesses. It is an absolutely charming place to take a stroll and perhaps grab a seat at a lovely outdoor cafe and enjoy a cream tea.
We highly recommend Alexa Lauren Patisserie on High Street. A Cordon Bleu-trained pastry Chef owns the cafe and they not only serve some of the best cakes and scones in Warwick but they have 21 loose leaf teas to choose from along with coffee, prosecco and great cakes.
On Castle Hill Road you will find Time for Tea which is a delightful cafe that serves everything from cream teas to roast beef dinners. This is the perfect place to have a great breakfast before you head to Kenilworth Castle.
We were treated to an absolutely incredible meal at the Cross Pub and Restaurant by Shakespeare County and in all honesty, is probably the best meal we have ever eaten in England.
The Cross Pub and Restaurant is a Michelin starred restaurant located on New Street Kenilworth. We began with a glass of champagne and an amuse-bouche featuring a gooseberry puree and a smoked mayonnaise to dip these little balls of deep-fried perfection in. Hubs is still trying to figure out how to smoke mayonnaise. As you can see from the photo we didn’t hesitate to dig in before we took the picture.
My starter was a deeply flavourful Cornish Crab soup with a saffron Rouille and fennel. A rouille is a sauce that is made of olive oil with breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron and it is served poured around the fennel at the table. The taste lingers on my tongue even today.
Hubs starter was a Crispy Duck Egg with smoked haddock, potato and cheese in a cream sauce. Expecting some type of Scotch egg this was simply a masterpiece. A delicate ducks eggs inside a crunchy shell that when opened the rich yolk melts into the creamy pool of haddock and potatoes. Divinely inspired.
For mains Hubs had the Duo of Beef with the Cross’s famous Pickled Walnut Pie and a fork-tender pave of beef sirloin. It is the first time he’s had beef in many months and he was literally in heaven. The Pie is a beef one with crunchy pickled walnuts in the rich and deep sauce. That pie was a dream the pickled walnuts just adding that touch of crunch and sharpness that the dish deserved.
I had a Loin and croquette of free-range pork with celeriac, baby leeks and a tart gooseberry puree. What a combination of flavours. You don’t ever see gooseberries in N. America and they added this sharp touch of flavour that cuts through the pork’s richness and delights the palate.
We didn’t have much room for dessert but we decided to share an incredible caramel almond floating island with a superb coffee that left us hungry for more.
The restaurant was casual and the staff were incredible and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this place to anyone who just loves great food. Be warned though you will be shocked at the cost of this place, it’s so reasonable it makes you wonder why anyone would ever eat at a chain restaurant.
More places to visit in Kenilworth
Originally consisting of 15 cottages dating back to the 17th century Little Virginia is named after the famous potatoes brought to England by Sir Walter Raleigh who planted them here. The cottages originally housed the masons and builders employed by Robert Dudley to work on the Castle.
As you approach Kenilworth Castle you will see the massive ditch that surrounds it these were huge water defences that were created by damming the local streams, and the resulting fortifications proved able to withstand assaults by land and water.
Today only the earthworks and masonry ruins remain of the 13the century barbican. this are is now the carpark for the Kenilworth castle which was once called the Tiltyard which was used for jousting in medieval times. This tiltyard acted as damn and was part of the defences of the Castle. to the East lied what used to be called the Lower Pool and to the West, a huge lake called the Great Mere. These days the Great Mere is a meadow.
Nature Reserves in Kenilworth
There are four local nature reserves in Kenilworth all with their own small eco-system.
You will see the cattle grazing on this walk and the fields are used for taking off hay crops in the traditional fashion.
Is a reserve with butterfly conservation at its heart with a recorded 25 species making their home here.
Is an ancient woodland with glades, ponds and ditches. Mature chestnuts, oaks and other ancient species are maintained in the woodland as they were in years gone by.
In the centre of Kenilworth sits the common which is an open heathland with small eco-system pockets being slowly established to maintain species such as the common lizard and glow worms.
Stoneleigh Abbey and Stoneleigh Park
Stoneleigh Abbey stands beside the River Avon, the lands granted to Cistercian monks by King Henry II in 1154. The Monastery was dissolved by King Henry VII and turned into a family home for the Leigh’s.
This English Mansion House is comprised of two halves; the first, made of red sandstone, is a fine example of a Jacobean house, built from the ruins of the monastery. The second, the West Wing, was designed by famous architect Francis Smith of Warwick in the Baroque style. Stoneleigh has played host to several people of note, including King Charles I, Queen Victoria, and novelist Jane Austen. It is believed that Jane Austen modelled her novel, Mansfield Park, after Stoneleigh.
Humphry Repton was a distinguished landscape gardener; unlike Capability Brown (who landscaped the grounds of Warwick Castle) he favoured an uncluttered sweep of lawn, Repton re-introduced more formal items around a house such as flower beds, terraces and balustrades.
Repton created red leather-bound books with his watercolours detailing the gardens as they were to be laid out. One of his finest Red Books is Stoneleighs and is on display in the house.
Stoneleigh also contains a lovely tearoom where you can enjoy an Elizabeth Bennet (Jane Austen’s mother) tea for just £25.95 per person (which includes your grounds entry ticket).
The house and grounds can be viewed by guided tours which run Sunday-Thursday at 11.30pm & 2.30pm. Tickets £6.00 for adults and if you would like a house tour add on another £6.00 it’s worth it.
Why stay in a boring luxury hotel – choose the Festival Caravan that is a stones-throw from Abbey Fields Park, Kenilworth castle, Kenilworth old town, and the greenway path. The caravan is newly decorated and comes complete with a kitchen and it can be kept stationary or towed to your location.
Castle Hill View
Situated within a conservation area and built in 1801, this Grade II listed property retains period features such as exposed beams & high ceilings.
Located in a coveted residential area just yards from the stunning Kenilworth Castle and Abbey Fields, with local pubs and restaurants literally on your doorstep. They also own another apartment that you can rent as well.
A beautiful and luxurious second floor, quiet, one-bedroom apartment in old Kenilworth. This is a newly refurbished apartment in a beautiful listed building with an allotted parking space and secure entry phone. It boasts the best address in leafy Kenilworth and is situated alongside Abby Fields which contains the old abbey ruins and is flanked by Kenilworth castle.
Have you been to Kenilworth? What did you enjoy the most?
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