We discovered a new favourite castle this summer! Somewhere that has plenty to explore and had much more than I was expecting. That castle is Kenilworth castle which is in Warwickshire. It’s not too far away from the much bigger and more ‘touristy’ Warwick castle which we also visited the day after.
A Little Bit About the History of Kenilworth Castle
Kenilworth castle was given to the town of Kenilworth itself in 1958 and has been managed by English Heritage since 1984. Around 10 years ago the gardens were restored to the cost of around £2 million. There has been some criticism surrounding this but I am very glad that they did it. The gardens are stunning and I have never seen anything like it before at what is essentially a ruined castle.
The castle was constructed from Norman through to Roman times. It saw many expansions and additions throughout history. There are a number of ruins which can be explored today and one complete more modern castle (the gatehouse) with rooms. Kenilworth has a long history of connections to royalty and other famous names. Most notable are the castles connections to Queen Elizabeth I who is commemorated and mentioned quite a few times around the castle and grounds. The gardens were originally created for her by Robert, Earl of Leicester.
Arrival at Kenilworth Castle
If you want to park at the castle please be aware that it has a pay and display car park. The car park isn’t massive but it easily accommodated all the cars on what seemed to be a busy day. All day parking is charged at £2.00 which can be refunded when you arrive at reception to pay or to show your membership charge. We, however, chose to not ask for a refund as the car park machine stated that the money taken would go towards English Heritage. The entrance to Kenilworth is just a short walk from the car park.
Things to See and Do at Kenilworth Castle – Our Visit in a Review
We were handed a map and leaflet for ourselves plus a child-friendly map for Jamie. Which he loved and carried around with him whenever he could. The kid’s map is a lovely touch and they have a few ‘challenges’ on it for them to complete. This includes drawings and spotting various things around the grounds.
The Tudor Stable is where we started our day out with an early lunch. The main cafe for the site is housed in here and there are tables inside and out. The room itself is lovely with a big and very tall vaulted ceiling. The horses that once lived here were very lucky!
The kids sandwich bag had a lovely ‘personalised’ touch with various things for the kids to do and play with. My Mum and I both enjoyed a sandwich. Also in the stable, there is a small exhibition with some dress up items for the kids and a few interactive displays.
There isn’t much to the Chapel ruins. It is, however, a spot well used for special events. During our visit, they were running Knight workshops for kids which were fun and interactive. Sadly my little one wasn’t up for joining in but kids could shoot arrows, figure out wall defences and more.
Leicester’s Building is the first ruined part of the castle that we explored. This has been recently repaired with staircases and platforms installed so that you can now climb to the top of the 350-year-old building. You can appreciate not only the views but its staggering height which was quite an achievement back in those days. You can stand at floor level in Queen Elizabeth the 1st’s private rooms and imagine life back then. There are some very modern, almost gravity-defying, staircases to walk up to get to the top.
State Apartments and Great Hall
This hall is also ruined but you can imagine its once great grandeur with big tall windows where medieval monarchs and Tudor Kings were once entertained. There are some very impressive views of the other buildings as you explore each part of Kenilworth castle. It’s also worth taking a walk around the outside of the walls where you can truly appreciate its great size.
Kitchens and Castle Keep
There isn’t much to the kitchens anymore, however, there is a wall with staircases and platforms to the far end of the kitchens which command some spectacular views over the Elizabethan Garden and across Warwickshire. They essentially lead nowhere but up and down but they are well worth it for the climb.
Across the courtyard in the picture above is the Castle Keep. There are quite a few things for children to find in here including 14feet deep walls. We couldn’t believe that this was true but we did indeed find 14feet deep walls. There’s not much to explore in the Castle Keep compared to the rest of the site however it is worth a wander around inside.
As mentioned above the Elizabethan Gardens were created especially for Queen Elizabeth the 1st. They have been recently renovated and are stunning. We were very impressed. There’s some lovely statues, flowers, plants and herbs which you can rub to smell. There’s even an aviary with canaries and other small birds. The centrepiece is the fountain entirely made out of marble which was a big favourite for my son as he realised that he could get a little wet by standing by it.
Leicester’s Gatehouse is the still intact part of Kenilworth Castle. This is where they house their exhibitions which are focused on Leicester and Queen Elizabeth I. There are also a few reconstructed rooms that you can look around which is how it looked in 1930 when the final person to live there, the caretaker, moved out.
Our only criticism of the site is the lack of toilets. There’s just two across the whole site for women which simply isn’t enough and can be quite a hike depending on where you are when decisions are made to visit the loo! It was, however, a great day out and I would love to return.
It is free to visit Kenilworth Castle if you have an English heritage annual pass. For further information on English heritage membership and what you are entitled to please read my post about membership. Including further days out inspiration.
Kenilworth Castle is open nearly all year round. For opening days, times and current admission prices please follow this link. Currently, an adult admission ticket is priced at £11.30 without gift aid. A child aged 5-17 years is £6.80, children under 5 are free. A family ticket is £29.40.
Disclaimer: We were provided with a press pass by Shakespeare’s England for entry to Kenilworth castle for the purpose of my review. All words, opinions and photos are entirely my own and must not be reproduced without prior consent from myself.
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