Warwickshire signals Shakespeare to most tourists. Stratford-upon-Avon is definitely his territory, and there are five specific locations authentic to Shakespeare on offer. The half-timbered house where he was born in 1564 gives information on the life of the times and has a Shakespeare Exhibition. Hall’s Croft is a 16th century house with furniture and paintings, an exhibition on medicine, and a large garden. Hall was married to Susanna, Shakespeare’s daughter.
Nash’s House and New Place was owned by Thomas Nash, husband of Elizabeth, Shakespeare’s granddaughter. There are displays on Stratford’s history and furniture dating from the times. Two gardens are also on view. Anne Hathaway’s cottage was the childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife. Mary Arden’s house and Museum includes the home of Shakespeare’s mother, farm buildings, rare breeds of farm animals, and a falconry display.
Probably the second best known of Warwickshire’s attractions is Warwick Castle in the town of Warwick. The castle dates back to William the Conqueror (only a mound has survived the ravage of the years). In 1264 the present castle was begun. There are curtain walls, a dungeon, and a tour of an Edwardian weekend house party presenting tableaus using models created by Madame Tussaud’s waxworks. Other castle attractions include a ghost tower, a Kingmaker attraction, a great hall, and state rooms. There’s also a mill and engine house, the latest word for generating electricity in 1900. The grounds and gardens were landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown.
Another attraction in the town of Warwick is Lord Leycester Hospital, a group of 14th century half-timbered buildings used for almshouses. They are still in use. A regimental museum is in place and there’s an historic garden. Other town museums are the Market Hall Museum with displays of local archaeology, natural history, and geology and St John’s House Museum.
Kenilworth is the largest castle ruin in England and has Shakespeare connections. It’s worth a good half day on its own. There’s an exhibition, interactive castle model, café, recreated Tudor garden, AV tour, and John of Gaunt’s Hall in addition to the extensive ruins.
Warwickshire is home to a number of interesting historic houses. Near Kenilworth castle is Stoneleigh Abbey. It was founded during Henry II’s reign and fell, after the dissolution of the monasteries, into the hands of the Duke of Suffolk. On view are 18th century Baroque rooms with original pieces of furniture, a medieval gatehouse, and Gothic revival Regency stables. The house figured in two of Jane Austen’s books, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey. There’s parkland to enjoy as well.
Arbury Hall is a Tudor/Elizabethan house redone in the 18th century in the early Gothic revival style. It’s of special interest to lovers of oriental and Chelsea porcelain, Chippendale furniture, and portraits by Lely and Reynolds. Lawns, lakes, gardens, and woodland walks add to the attractions.
Coughton Court’s gatehouse dates from the 1500s, as does the rest of the house. The house is connected to the Gunpowder Plot. An exhibition gives the details. Compton Verney is a Grade 1 mansion house designed by Robert Adam sitting in 120 acres of parkland landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown. It is now an art gallery.
Baddesley Clinton is a medieval moated house preserved almost intact since 1633. There are gardens and walks here as well. Just two miles away is Packwood House. A 17th century yew garden is clipped to represent the Sermon on the Mount. The house interior was designed in the 1920s to resemble Jacobean and Elizabethan styles. French and Flemish tapestries and furniture add interest to the luxuriously furnished rooms.
Ragley Hall, near Alcester was designed in 1680, and is considered to be one of England’s most attractive Palladian houses. The great hall is noted for its plasterwork. Gardens were designed by ‘Capability’ Brown. There’s a carriage collection and historical equestrian equipment. In the town of Alcester is a museum on Roman Alcester. There are a number of historic buildings in the town that include the church of St Nicholas with a 14th century tower.
Upton House, built at the end of the 17th century, was remodeled to display the collections of the owner in the 1920s. These include Chelsea figures, decorated Sevres porcelain, and 17th century Brussels tapestries. In the garden is the national collection of asters.
Charlecote Park, built in 1558 and much altered, has been owned by the De Lacey family for over 750 years. There’s a video on Victorian life followed by a view of the kitchen, brewhouse, coach house and bedrooms. Farnborough Hall is mid 18th century with plasterwork of note and a terrace walk. photo Farnborough Hall
The town of Polesworth was a medieval center of religious learning. Here is an abbey church and two-storey medieval abbey gateway. There are a number of half-timbered houses and a mid 17th century tithe barn. Polesworth was the first of Warwickshire’s towns to have electric light. There’s a Heritage Centre at the site of a former colliery. Rugby, birthplace of English football, has a museum with all the details, and a town art gallery and museum.
For something entirely different, visit Ryton Organic Gardens, the UK’s national organic gardening centre. The Vegetable Kingdom is an interactive visitor centre that tells the story of the island’s vegetables. In addition to the gardens and displays, you can lunch in the organic restaurant and buy garden supplies in the shop.
Warwickshire has eight country parks for families to enjoy a day out.
For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.
Anne Hathaway Cottage
Cottage Lane, Shottery, one mile from Stratford-upon-Avon
Tel. 0 1789 292 100
Arbury Hall (HHA)
Two miles from Nuneaton
Tel. 024 7638 2804
Baddesley Clinton (NT)
Rising Lane, Baddesley Clinton, Knowle (by Packwood House)
Tel. 0 1564 783 294
Wolverley, Kiddermaster, Worcestershire
Tel. 0 1562 852 444
Web: Bodenham Arboretum
Charlecote Park (NT)
One mile from Wellesbourn near Stratford-upon-Avon
Tel. 0 1789 470277
Compton Verney Art Gallery
Tel. 0 1926 645 500
Coughton Court and Gardens(HHA)
Two miles north of Alcester
Tel. 0 1789 400 777
For photos and more information see our article Coughton Court
Web: Coughton Court
Coventry Transport Museum
Millennium Place, Hales St, Coventry
Tel. 024 7623 4270
Web: Transport Museum
Farnborough Hall (NT)
Tel. 0 1295 690 002
Old Town, Stratford-upon-Avon
Tel. 0 1789 292 107
Kenilworth Castle (EH)
Kenilworth, on the edge of the town
Tel. 0 1926 852 078
For photos and more information see our article Kenilworth Castle
Lord Leycester Hospital
Warwick town centre
Tel. 0 1926 491 422
Market Hall Museum
Market Place, Warwick
Tel. 0 1926 412 500
Mary Arden’s Farm
Station Rd, Wilmcote, Stratford-upon-Avon
Tel. 0 1789 293 455
Nash’s House New Place
Chapel St, Stratford-upon-Avon
Tel. 0 1789 292 325
Packwood House (NT)
Two miles east of Hockley Heath at Lapworth, Solihull (by Baddesley Clinton House)
Tel. 0 1564 783 294
Ragley Hall (HHA)
One mile south-west of Alcester
Tel. 0 1789 762 090
Web: Ragley Hall
Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum
St John's House, Warwick
Tel. 0 1926 491 653
Rugby Art Gallery and Museum
Little Elborow St, Rugby
Tel. 0 1788 533 201
Rugby Football Museum
506 St Matthews St, Rugby
Tel. 01788 567777
Ryton Organic Gardens
Ryton, five miles south-east of Coventry
Tel. 024 7630 3517
Web: Ryton Organic Gardens
Shakespeare Birthplace Exhibition and Visitor Centre
Henley St, Stratford-upon-Avon
Tel. 0 1789 204 016
Two miles east of Kenilworth
Tel. 0 1926 858 535
Web: Stoneleigh Abbey
Coughton Court, two miles north of Alcester
Tel. 0 1789 762 435 (visitor information)
Web: Coughton Court
Upton House (NT)
Seven miles from Banbury
Tel. 0 1295 670 266
Warwick Castle (HHA)
Tel. 0 871 265 2000 (information line)
Web: Warwick Castle
Warwickshire’s Museums Time Trail tells about the county’s archaeological discoveries.
Warwickshire Tourist Information Centres
The Library, 11 Smalley Place
Tel. 0 1926 748 900
Leamington Spa TIC
The Royal Pump Rooms, The Parade, Leamington Spa
Tel. 0 1926 742 762
Nuneaton Library, Church St, Nuneaton
Tel. 0 2476 384 027
4 Lawrence Sheriff St, Rugby
Tel. 0 1788 534 970
Bridgefoot St, Stratford-upon-Avon
Tel. 0 1789 293 127
The Court House, Jury St, Warwick
Tel. 0 1926 492 212
Photo of Warwick town and castle courtesy of Calverton Cam
Photo of Farnborough Hall courtesy Risto Hurmalainen
Photos of Shakespeare statue and Shakespeare Theatre courtesy Visit Britain
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