If you've followed along on my Instagram, you know that one of our favorite places to visit is Kenilworth Castle - a castle experience that is nothing like Warwick Castle in any way, shape, or form. While the castle at Warwick does a fantastic job of bringing the past into the present, Kenilworth transports you back to a place and time long, long ago in such a way that you can nearly feel the history as you step on its ancient stones and gaze at the centuries-old building ruins. Maybe I should have stated that fact: Kenilworth Castle is mostly ruins now, but they are exquisite and romantic in their ruggedness.
After visiting Warwick Castle, my lovely friend Leah (Instagram friend turned real-life friend who lives a hop, skip, and jump away from Birmingham) suggested that we visit Kenilworth Castle. Let's just say that I'm really glad that she suggested it - and that we took her advice!
Kenilworth is absolutely rich in history, its original structures dating all the way back to the 1120s. I never really realized to what extent castle additions and renovations took place until moving here, but that stuff typically spans centuries as various residents and monarchs flowed in and out of its walls. That being said, there were additions and renovations that happened at Kenilworth all the way through the 1600s - again, the United States wasn't even close to becoming a country yet and this place already had centuries of history behind it. Looking at "old" architecture back home will never be the same for me after living in England. Not a chance.
While Kenilworth boasted many famous English figures and monarchs, it is most famous today for being a focal point of the romance between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (you can read about it here). Dudley went through quite a bit of effort to make Kenilworth worthy of her presence and woo her into marriage, and you can literally walk where she walked and see the remains of her personal chambers. It really is incredible, and even these gobs of photos won't do the experience justice.
Because there is so much history to tell about this place, I'm not even going to begin to try. This video by English Heritage is a fantastic start, though, so give it a watch! (For the record, we purchased a family pass for English Heritage on this trip to Kenilworth and - while a bit pricey - it has proved to be totally worth it because we can get into Kenilworth for free whenever we so choose. And no, I don't get any sort of kickbacks for mentioning them. Just the magazine and booklet that come with our membership... like everyone else. Heh.)
Alright, now to our trip to Kenilworth.
A visit to this magnificent castle from Birmingham without a car requires a quick train ride, then a bus ride. Depending on where you alight the train (that's one word I never used to use...), you'll have a different route and length of bus ride. If we take the train from Birmingham and get off at Coventry, that means a shorter train ride but a longer bus ride; if we get off the train at Leamington Spa, we have a longer train ride and a shorter bus ride. The latter route is more expensive, so we tend to go to Coventry first.
After our train and bus rides, we were greeted with a lovely park filled with trees embracing the beginning of autumn. They were far more beautiful than these pictures even begin to show. Patrick and I made our way down and up the winding small-town road and eventually arrived at Kenilworth Castle. When you come up to the castle grounds, it is easy to see that this place was once a formidable and impressive place. We were both awe-struck as we walked down the long road that led up to the curtain wall and watch towers; it took us no time at all for us to fall in love with everything Kenilworth has to offer as we gasped and gazed at the incredible details, history oozing out of every crack and every stone.
I'll let these pictures speak for themselves. Don't hesitate to ask questions if you have them - this place is filled with grand topics of discussion. I'd be typing forever if I wrote out narratives for each photo! Just be sure to look for the captions. And watch the video.
|There used to be a moat all around this curtain wall at one point.|
|The building on the right is the original Norman structure, the lower level dating from the 12th century.|
|Stable house - it is now part museum, part cafe.|
|The sun came out for just a little bit. Kenilworth looks totally different in the sun, but just as incredible!|
|The Elizabethan Gardens|
|This picture was Patrick's idea. Pretty good idea if you ask me. :)|
|My husband is so dang cute.|
|Where we stopped and ate lunch. Those are some large slices of bread... ahem.|
|Looking into the great hall. There would have been a floor separating the lower and upper levels (look for the fireplaces).|
The tree above was on the road leading up to the castle grounds, ginormous and fully embracing autumn's approach. I couldn't help but stop and get a quick picture of it.
After exploring the castle and soaking up as much of the information provided by the free audio guide as we could, we had a bit of time to kill and decided to embark on our first real walk in the English countryside via public walking paths. We took a long way around the castle grounds and were totally content with just wandering around the countryside, especially when the sun decided to grace us with its presence. I think I took just as many photos as we walked around in the middle of nowhere as I did while wandering through the castle ruins! But thats for another post altogether.
Okay, okay... I couldn't help but give you a sneak peek. The castle is just as fantastic from far away as it us up close and personal. What a walk we had!