Wilkes Walks is based in Berkhamsted alongside our first walking holiday called The Charming Chilterns. Our hotel there is the classic coaching Inn called The Kings Arms, now one of the family of Oakman Inns Pubs, Restaurants and hotels. Earlier this year Oakman asked us to write a series of promotional touristic itineraries for a long weekend at some of their hotels. Warwick is the fourth in a series based from their accommodation there, called The Globe.
This is also an example of the experiences on offer on some of the Wilkes Walks tours:
ARRIVAL DAY – Friday – Arrival and Orientation
Warwick looks and feels like it has a story to tell, and in this it does not disappoint. This historic English market town sits overlooking Shakespeare’s Avon River, and is the county town of Warwickshire. It is connected to the railway and has a Canal to discover. Civilisations have settled here since Neolithic times. The Romans were here, then the Anglo-Saxons, William the Conqueror later founded a mott and bailey castle in 1068, built as a base from which to control the advances into the Midlands as he forged north. The town later became walled and two strong gates still exist: the Eastgate and the Westgate. The 18th century saw building commence on our hotel, The Globe. Originally constructed as a Coaching House, it also spent some time as a theatre and during this time the town also saw a new bridge built across the Avon.
On arrival, a good introduction to the town is an easy stroll using the town map. This lists some of the top sites and visitor attractions. The first of these is a grand 17th century building, the old Market Hall, which now houses the town’s Museum, just around the corner from our hotel. The walk also passes: the Collegiate Church of St. Marys founded in 1123, which dominates the skyline of Warwick; the wide-open spaces of St. Nicolas Park, next to the Avon; the emblematic Lord Leycester Hospital, dating from the 14th Century – a well-preserved building that escaped the great fire in 1694; The Hill Close Gardens, which are the only group of restored detached gardens in the country, with a unique and important Victorian history to discover; and, of course, you will see the medieval Castle which commands the hill above the river – one of the most impressive and intact castles in Britain. If you have more time on arrival, then why not sign up for a guided walking tour of the town? You always learn more when accompanied by an expert. Alternatively, if messing about on boats is your idea of heaven, then St. Nicolas Park is within walking distance of The Globe and ‘boating’ in different forms, and for all ages, is most definitely an option here. In the park, there is also a play area, a café, mini golf, and seasonal fun park too!
DAY TWO – Saturday – The Castle and town or Royal Leamington Spa
Warwick’s Medieval Castle is by far the biggest and most imposing of the stone buildings in town, it perches on a 50ft high precipice dropping sheer into the River Avon, and is one of the great sights of England. Going back as far as 915, Warwick Castle has played an important part in English history. There is a lot of ground to cover here, so wear comfortable shoes and go prepared for the day. Some of the demonstrations which may be on offer include: a firing from the world’s largest trebuchet (a catapult); a jousting competition; and aerobatic falconry. An historic guided tour of the castle is included in the entry price. A great place to visit for all the family, the castle could easily keep you busy for the whole day, or at least a large part of it.
Still in the centre of Warwick, how about a day at the races instead of the Castle? Horse racing in Warwick has been part of the itinerary since the first stand was built in 1808. There are many race meetings throughout the year and, if your break coincides with one of these then you could be in for a treat. Next to the golfclub, in open country, the racecourse is only 5 minutes’ walk from the centre of town.
Discovering the neighbouring town of Royal Leamington Spa, a place of health-giving waters, exercise and fresh air is another option. Warwick is just next door so after breakfasting you could drive, get the bus, train, or even walk the 3.5 miles from one town to another. In the early 1800s, ‘Taking the Waters’ was considered the heart of a healthy lifestyle, and the height of fashion in polite society. Like Bath, Cheltenham, and Tunbridge Wells, Royal Leamington Spa exploited the growing demand for health-giving water, and the first bath house appeared in 1784. More soon followed, as Leamington gradually developed. Today the town’s legacies are elegant Regency buildings, wonderful open gardens and parklands, and relaxed promenading. In 1813, works began on the old, former Pump Rooms and Baths which now house the town’s Tourist Information and Library, its Museum and Art Gallery, not to mention a café, making this a good place to start your visit. Opposite the Pump Rooms are the Jephson Gardens, named after the physician Henry Jephson. Here, next to the river Leam, you will find sculptures, memorials, and exotic, mature trees, as well as the beautiful Aviary which is now a café.
DAY THREE – Sunday – Kenilworth/ Packwood/ Charlecote or Stratford
Head off to the English Heritage property and grounds at Kenilworth Castle, just seven miles from Warwick. Some 900 years old, the castle, now in ruins, was one of Henry VIII’s favourites. Built from local sandstone, it stands on a rocky knoll, and was one of the strongest castles in the land. It has an interesting history. One of the longest sieges in Britain took place there in 1266, and Queen Elizabeth I visited Kenilworth four times. There is also a 10km walk east, offering a panoramic view of the castle with lots of local nature to enjoy. There are also two very interesting National Trust properties close by. Packwood House, which is a timber-framed Tudor Manor House and gardens, is only ten miles drive from Warwick. The grounds here are spectacular, and the topiary is the highlight of the garden. Alternatively visit Charlecote Park which overlooks the river Avon, where you can visit the Victorian House which has been in the Lucy family for 900 years, and picnic, play, or wander through the parklands.
Drive ten miles further downriver by car and you’ll be in Stratford upon Avon, where there is much to discover and delight. If driving, consider parking just outside town and walking the short distance into town, taking in the atmosphere of the street art, stunning old-world architecture, and the Sunday Street Market. Of course, this is William Shakespeare’s Birthplace, and it is possible to visit the house in which he spent his early years. Another option for Shakespeare pilgrims is Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, a charming 500-year-old thatched, picturesque building. Halls Croft is where Shakespeare’s daughter and husband (a Physician) lived, and there are many interesting objects on show here including furniture, medical artifacts, and kitchen equipment of that time. Guided walks of the town are always available, and this is a great way to learn and discover. Apart from Shakespeare-related attractions, there is also the Mechanical Art & Design Museum, which is on the same street as Shakespeare’s birthplace, and the Tudor World Museum. If you fancy something different, then how about learning to bake or improve your pasta? Spend a few hours having a cooking or baking experience at The Dough House. Alternatively, the Stratford Butterfly Farm is the largest of its kind in the UK.