What to see in Warwickshire England
Warwickshire is a County in England which is in the West Midlands of the country. It’s also known as Shakespeare’s England as Stratford on Avon is one of the central features of the County. We were able to housesit in Warwickshire for 3 weeks and managed to see a great deal of the county. This list of 23 things to see in Warwickshire is a mere drop in the bucket of this beautiful county.
Thanks to Shakespeare’s England for providing complimentary entry to various locations for the purpose of this article. All opinions expressed are my own and as usual brutally honest lol.
First, for all you N. Americans, it is pronounced War-ick-shire and not war-wick-shire. The name Warwickshire has come from the name Wæringscīr which means “dwellings by the weir”. In the 11th century, Warwickshire was a division of the Kingdom of Mercia. During the middle ages, Warwickshire’s most important city was Coventry because it was so important to the textile trade at the time.
Western Warwickshire at one point was covered by the ancient Forest of Arden which is why many places end with “in-Arden”. We were housesitting in Tanworth-in-Arden which was just down the road from Henley-in-Arden. The Forest of Arden is often mentioned in Shakespeare’s works.
Stratford on Avon is not the only draw for Warwickshire as it includes cities such as Leamington Spa, Coventry, Rugby, Woodstock, and of course Warwick itself.
The area is also duly famous for its canals. The Grand Union Canal, which runs through Leamington and Warwick and onwards to Birmingham is a great place to find a waterside pub and enjoy a pint and watch the canal boats pass by.
The restored Saltisford Canal Arm is now a branch of the Grand Union Canal and dates back to 1799. There is a gorgeous waterside park and the narrowboats that come sailing past provide some brilliant Insta shots.
Visiting Stratford-upon-Avon is truly a pilgrimage for every Shakespeare fan. This town should be a tacky festival of Shakespearean themes and memes. But it isn’t it is a fabulous town just to wander and admire the architecture. Beautiful half-timbered houses some with thatched roofs others wattle and daub, Tudor, Georgian, Victorian and more.
At the heart of the town lies the Royal Shakespeare Company whose productions induce raptures of praise and rightly so. Take in a brilliant production and tour the theatre you will be awed by the technical side and wish you had access to their costume rental.
Warwick is a charming city with its green parks and fabulous architecture. Take a moment to just stroll the streets of this lovely City.
Lord Leycester Hospital
Go and see the Lord Leycester Hospital this historic group of medieval timber-framed buildings can be found on Warwick High Street and they date to the late 14th century. They are one of the finest examples of medieval courtyard architecture.
In 1571 a hospital for disabled and old soldiers was set up. The Lord Leycester is still in use to this day. The soldiers who live here are known as the Brethern. They meet every day to pray in the chapel to pray and give tours through the buildings and the gardens. There is also a cafe called The Brethern’s Kitchen for you to rest your weary bones.
There are several gardens in Warwick that you can visit one is the beautiful garden at the Lord Leycester called The Master’s Garden. Entered through a lovely knot garden, the restoration work of the garden can be admired. It is bounded by the old town walls and includes a Norman arch, a thatched summer house, gazebo and pineapple pit.
Saltisford Canal Trust
The Saltisford Canal Trust is also located in Warwick. A short 10-minute walk from the town centre will lead you to a sensory garden, contemplation area, lock gate and tranquil moorings where you can admire the narrowboats that traverse the Canals of Warwickshire. You can even hire a day boat to cruise the canals.
Warwick Castle is another incredibly popular destination on the outskirts of Warwick. Enjoy and revel in 1000 years of history at this beautifully restored castle. Do be prepared for a hell of a long walk from the parking to the Castle though.
Guy’s Cliffe House
Near Warwick, you will find Guy’s Cliffe House, which is a ruined old mansion dating back to the 15th century, but sadly it has been in ruins since the 20th century.
The site isn’t open to the public but guided tours are occasionally available. Another way to see the place is to find a ghost hunt as the house is supposedly very haunted and popular for paranormal evenings.
This is where potatoes were first planted in England in Little Virginia. Originally consisting of 15 cottages dating back to the 17th century this area 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 Kenilworth Castle.
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.
Home to the best icecream in England for 80 years, as proclaimed by the Guardian newspaper. Housed in the 16th Century timbered building on the main street it serves up to 50 flavours of icecream and frozen yoghurt.
All handmade on the premises and I have to say it is superb. From its Toffee, Apple Crumble icecream to flavours like Clotted Cream, Blackcurrant and the best chocolate icecream I have ever had and I don’t even like chocolate icecream.
This picture-postcard little village is awash with half-timbered buildings and decorated with flower baskets and colour everywhere.
We also found the best fish and chip shop in the area here in Henley the Sea Spray. Huge portions of fish and chips so much so we could have ordered one and called it a day.
Alcester is around 8 miles west of Stratford upon Avon and is known for the two stately homes nearby. The town name is pronounced like Ulster which can be confusing to the visitor.
Alcester has also started a Roman Heritage Museum that is free to visit. It is a simple one-room museum showcasing Roman artefacts found within the area of Alcester. The museum might be small but its volunteers are knowledgable, friendly and more than happy to share their knowledge.
Coughton Court near Alcester (pronounced co-tun) is a stunning Tudor house that is still family-owned under a 300-year lease. Built in the 15th century the family was Catholic and persecuted because of it. Coughton Court is one of the last remaining Roman Catholic houses in the country to retain its historic treasures, housing one of the very best collections of portraits and memorabilia of one family from the early Tudor times. there are family pieces and items such as the chemise reputedly worn by Mary Queen of Scots when she was executed and a bishop’s Cope, with intricate needlework, believed to have been worked upon by Catherine of Aragon.
Coughton Court was gifted to the National Trust in 1946 by the Throckmorton’s, the family continue to live at Coughton Court.
The Kinwarton Dovecote nearby Coughton Court you can visit a very rare 14th-century circular dovecote. This beautiful round building has over 580 nesting holes and its original rotating ladder. The 14th-century dating comes from the ‘ogee’ arch of the doorway. It is the only remaining relic of a moated grange belonging to the Abbey of Evesham, which was situated to the north-west of the Dovecote.
In those days the young pigeons were used for fresh meat. Only the Lord of the Manor was allowed by law to build a dovecote the peasants had to put up with the doves stealing their grain and feeding from their crops.
Grand Union Canal and Hatton Locks
Nicknamed the “stairway to heaven” the locks are a flight of 21 individual locks on the Warwickshire portion of the Grand Union Canal that were renovated in the 1930s to fend off competition from the new horseless carriages and the railways.
These days it is a beautiful peaceful area to have a picnic and watch the colourful narrowboats navigate through this flight on the Grand Union Canal. This remarkable feat of engineering lifts or drops (depends on direction) the Grand Union Canal 146 and a half feet. There’s plenty to see along the Grand Union Canal. From the vibrant heart of London, it leads you out into the rolling Chiltern Hills, through rural Northamptonshire and Warwickshire and into the Birmingham suburbs.
The Rollright Stones
The Rollright Stones are right on the border of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire a few miles from Chipping Norton. They sit on the steep ridge at the edge of the Cotswolds.
The Stones are three megalithic monuments known as the King’s Men, the King Stone and the Whispering Knights.
The earliest of the Rollright Stones are the remains of a burial chamber dating back to the Early Neolithic era and it is known as the Whispering Knights. To the east of the Knights are 4 standing stones which form a chamber around a 5th stone which they guess was a capstone this is called the King’s Men, the stone on the ground between them is the King Stone.
Charlecoate retains the original Elizabethan footprint but today it stands as a grand Victorian manor set in a beautifully landscaped deer park overlooking the Avon River.
Managed by the National Trust the manor has a Great Hall with a barrel-vaulted ceiling made of plaster painted to look like timber and showcases hundreds of years of family portraits. The original two-storey Elizabeth gatehouse still guards the approach to the Manor and remains unchanged from Elizabethan times.
Within the house look for an original letter from Oliver Cromwell demanding the owner Richard Lucy attend sessions of Parliament. You will also spot an original Gainsborough portrait of George Lucy another family patriarch
Set in what would have been the heart of the Forest of Arden which is no long gone Baddesley Clinton was the home of the Ferrers family for over 500 years.
The house was built by Henry Ferrers, a lawyer, diarist and antiquarian, in the late 1500s and it became a sanctuary for many persecuted Catholics who were hidden away in the secret hiding places during the 1590s.
There is a nice restaurant and gift shop to end your tour and from there you can wander the amazing gardens.
A Jacobean and Edwardian mansion originally built in the 16th century. Packwood House was extensively renovated in the 1930s to look like a Tudor Manor.
Packwood House contains an extensive collection of 16th-century textiles and furniture, some of which was purchased from Baddesley House.
The gardens have a famous collection of yew trees numbering over 100. These yews were supposed to represent the “Sermon on the Mount” with 12 huge trees representing the Apostles and the four bigger specimens are the Evangelists.
In 2004 the beautifully restored Compton Verney opened to the public as a major, nationally accredited art gallery. Compton Verney houses six permanent collections, focusing on areas currently under-represented in British museums and galleries.
The gallery is set in 120 stunning acres of classical parkland, designed by none other than Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
There are some architectural buildings on the land such as the Ice House and the Chapel that has now been fully restored. The first Manor House was built on the site in the 1400s and by the 1600s had passed to Sir Richard Verney whose memorial lies in the chapel.
Permanent Exhibits at Compton Verney include the Women’s Library which is a reinterpretation of the library created in 1860 by the Mistress of Compton Verney, Georgiana Verney.
The Library was one of the few rooms that survived in its nearly original condition. Today the room has its original furniture and a doorcase which has faux book spines. It was noticed that nearly all these fake book spines were from female authors. Georgiana was a believer in Women’s suffrage and a champion of women’s education and reading.
Compton Verney also has the largest collection of British folk art in the UK. Folk Art has developed from traditions that come from community and culture and has led to a range of art from the usable to the decorative using materials that are found around the home or community.
Other exhibits at Compton Verney include Naples, Northern European, Chinese and British Portraits. Admission to Compton Verney varies from £10.00 to £14.50 depending on what season you visit.
We spent a lot of time just driving around Warwickshire when we were housesitting, those sort of Sunday drives that lead you to some beautiful places. We had to stop in Wooten Wawen just for the name, apparently, it is pronounced wuten woan.
We made a stop at its parish church, St Peter, which is the oldest church in the county of Warwickshire. Founded in 730 by Aethelric of the Province of Mercia where a Benedictine Monastery was situated. Nestled on a striking hilltop in Wootton Wawen close to the River Alne the Grade I listed building is known as The Saxon Sanctuary
Although most of the current building dates to later periods parts of the tower and doorways are Saxon. They estimate that the early parts of the church date back 1100 years. Apparently Shakespeare used to attend services here. It really was a striking place, the effigies and an “interesting” memorial stone in the floor of a lady who died in 1718 which says: Hodi mini Gras tibia – ‘it’s me today, you tomorrow’.
During the times of the Black Death, bodies from Coventry were transported to the churchyard for burial in an area which has become known as the “Coventry Piece”. This ground still cannot be disturbed.
On the door frames, you will see some Crusader graffiti which are crosses carved into the stone archways.
Right beside the Church, you will see a beautiful Palladian house that was built mainly in 1687 incorporating an Elizabethan house that used to stand on the site. It was horrendously run down apparently when in 1958 it was bought and restored by Allen’s Caravans who opened a mobile home park. The park is quite nice I have to say, it has some wonderful gardens and trails for walking and very prettily landscaped with a shop and post office very nearby.
Right across the road from the Church and house is a fabulous old pub called the Bull’s Head. The pub contains a stone dating the building at 1317, which would make it one of the oldest pubs in Warwickshire at least if not in England.
Inside the pub are fabulous wide fireplaces, one with early graffiti on the lintel that says “M 1697 TH”. The buildings were probably at one point in time small workers cottages but today they have been combined and converted to a great British pub.
For all you Canadians this is not pronounced the same way as the Ontario Leamington but rather Lem ing ton is the way to say it.
Well known for its beautiful outdoor parks and of course the fact that it was a spa town back in the 18th century due to its water which was reputed to have medicinal qualities.
Royal Pump Rooms
Queen Victoria adored Leamington and was a regular visitor and she renamed the town Royal Leamington Spa in 1838. The Royal Pump Rooms attracted people to the famous spa baths up until the mid-19th century, but now they have been redeveloped into an Art Gallery and Museum, Library, Tourist Information Centre, Café and Assembly rooms.
The Regency architecture can easily be seen on The Parade a half-mile long which runs through town. You can find the Royal Pump Rooms that were opened in 1814, the Regent Hotel in 1818 and the Jephson Gardens in 1834.
The gardens were a lovely place for the rich to stroll once they had visited the waters. They are in the centre of town on the Parade with the River Leam flowing south of them.
The Leam Boat Centre is also close by for anyone who fancies taking a trip down the river.
Lunt Roman Fort
This ancient Roman fort is located near Coventry in Warwickshire and it was discovered in the 1930s. The excavations revealed that this was an army camp that had been occupied by the Roman Legion around 60 AD.
Changes over the years with the camp meant that subsequent occupations by the Romans involved smaller garrisons. During these times many of the buildings were demolished to make way for a horse training ring.
The horse training ring at Lunt is the only known example of its kind in Britain. The fort has been reconstructed for visitors and is open to the public.
As you can see Warwickshire is much more than Shakespeare’s Country, it is full of English history from the neolithic to the Romans to Queen Elizabeth and more. It should be on everyone’s bucket list to visit this amazing County in England.