Sunday was cold. For a change though, at least for England in January, the sun was shining. Never one to miss out on an opportunity to drag my husband and daughter off to some stately home or ruined castle, the English Heritage guidebook was dusted off after being given a break over the holiday season and we were bundled up and in the car within an hour or so. Kenilworth Castle is an easy 40 minute drive from our house and is one of our favourite places from the summer so it seemed a good choice.
Kenilworth began life as a Norman Keep in the time of Henry I (1120 or so) and became a royal castle under Henry II. Over time, it was built up into an island stronghold able to protect Henry III (though it is no longer surrounded by a mere or lake). With each monarch, it changed. This can be seen in the Tudor Stables (which now house a rather tasty tea room) and the Elizabethan Gatehouse. The Gatehouse was built by Robert Dudley as a place for Elizabeth I when she visited. Walking around, it’s interesting to see the changes and imagine what it was like during so many key periods in my country’s history. Not that we are the only one who have ever done that…
When we’d been there last summer (a couple of times) we’d taken a picnic as there is plenty of space for lazing on the grass. On one visit we’d been lucky enough to catch a demonstration of Elizabethan dancing and music, which our daughter loved. There weren’t any demonstrations on Sunday and lolling on the grass wasn’t an option but we still had fun climbing the battlements and visiting the house before walking around the walls and splashing in the mud and puddles – thankfully we’d taken our wellies…
After a couple of hours, and a stop at the coffee shop for a cream tea (because it wouldn’t be a trip to a historical site without a pot of tea and a scone), the sky started to come in dark and the chill in the air turned bitter, meaning it was time to go home.
If it hadn’t, we might have risked the 30 minute round trip to Pleasance, site of an island retreat built by Henry V, or 10 minute walk to Kenilworth Priory, the remains of an Augustinian monestry founded in 1124. About the same distance away is a great park for kids (with the added attraction of an ice-cream shop) – all good for summer visits, when no doubt we’ll be back!
Note: For some reason, I managed to not take a photo of the walk up to the castle. The one used is courtesy of Angela Tuff [CC BY-SA 2.0],
Continuing my master plan of making our way around all English Heritage’s sites…
Earlier this summer, we visited one of our favourite English Heritage sites, Witley Court & Gardens in Worcestershire (page 222 of the handbook), which is about 40 minutes from where we live and an easy drive.
Witley Court is a 19th century mansion that was one of England’s grandest homes before it burned down in 1937, leaving a rather impressive if eerie shell.
Note: This photo is by Robek (Own work) via creative commons as mine didn’t turn out – all the rest are mine
The house is surrounded by landscaped gardens which include a still working fountain showing Perseus and Andromeda that is “fired” several times a day.
Around the house are woodland walks where you can see all types of trees, shrubs, and flowers, a lovely little waterfall and a lake which, in nice weather, is so peaceful you forget where you are.Read More »
Aside from reading, one of the ways I love to spend my time is pottering around stately homes and ruins, imagining what life would have been like way back when and generally trying to soak up a sense of place and time. To make sure I get my fill, a few years ago we joined English Heritage and since then, I’ve been on a mission to visit every one of their sites – we manage about one a month so I should be able to get there (I’m not that old).
With our holidays starting, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time with my nose in the English Heritage handbook planning day trips. Whilst a handbook isn’t necessarily a book, I thought posting about the places we visit (or have visited) might be a nice way to share a different slice of my life…and encourage me to keep on with my mission.
First up is Brodsworth Hall and Gardens just outside Doncaster, South Yorkshire (page 251 of the guide). We’ve visited there a few times, most recently at the start of the summer, on a slightly grey day, and really enjoyed it.
Brodsworth Hall is a Victorian country house built in the Italianate style. It has barely changed since it was built the 1860s. When English Heritage took over the property in the late 80s, they decided to conserve rather than restore the furnishings, showing the house as it was, not what it had been. I wasn’t able to take photos inside the house, but it is fascinating.
When we were there last, you had to book on a tour – when we went last year we had been able to walk around ourselves. As we’d been before, we decided to not worry about booking a tour and spent the afternoon in the gardens, which have been restored and were full of colour.
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