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Kenilworth Castle

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  • Kenilworth Castle in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, is a medieval castle owned by English Heritage.
  • The place of sieges, royal festivals, and the English Civil War, Kenilworth Castle is a monument to English history.
  • Explore the Elizabethan Garden, as well as Elizabeth's private rooms, and the headboard for one of her beds.
  • See the Great Hall developed by John of Gaunt, or the heart of the castle, the Castle Keep.

Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden is one of the best places to visit in Warwickshire. As a symbol of English history, it's great for all families to explore, with several events that happen throughout the year for you to enjoy. Discover the love story of Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, as Robert designed the castle to impress her. Hear about the six-month siege, or get dressed up at an interactive exhibition. Why not explore Warwick Castle afterwards, the home of Roger de Beaumont, who features at the very start of the Kenilworth Castle story? Enjoy learning about Henry V, owner of Kenilworth Castle, from Shakespeare's play? Anne Hathaway's Cottage was the childhood home of Shakespeare's wife.

Kenilworth Castle was first built in the early 1120s, founded by Geoffrey de Clinton, Lord Chamberlain and Treasurer to Henry I, the fourth son of William the Conqueror. Geoffrey de Clinton had a rival named Roger de Beaumont who lived in Warwick Castle, so Henry I also made him Sherrif of Warwickshire. He built most of the Norman keep at the Castle. There were delays to much more building during a period called the Anarchy, a period of troubles between the Beaumonths and Geoffrey's son, Geoffrey II, who ended up marrying Agnes de Beaumont, Roger's daughter. Henry II eventually became King, but this was a time of major conflict when his son led an uprising against him. After Geoffrey II de Clinton died, the crown took control of Kenilworth Castle. In the 13th century, King John expanded the castle to make it more formidable and prevent a siege. He added an outer circuit of stone walls and a dam. The Castle was used in several negotiations, but King John was eventually able to pass the castle onto King Henry III, his son. Henry III granted the castle to Simon de Montfort, the 6th Earl of Leicester. However, Simon de Montfort rose against Henry III in the Second Barons' War. King Henry III was forced to give his son over the Earl of Leicester after his defeats, and Edward was taken back to Kenilworth Castle, but eventually returned to his father before defeating the Earl of Leicester at the Battle of Evesham. In January 1266, Simon de Montfort the Younger promised he would hand Kenilworth Castle over to the king. When this did not happen, King Henry III laid siege to Kenilworth Castle. The Siege of Kenilworth Castle is considered the longest in English medieval history, as it continued for six months. When the siege was won, Kenilworth was given to Edmund Crouchback. After the castle passed down the line, it eventually came into the possession of John of Gaunt, the son of Edward III, married to Blanche Lancaster. He made the castle into a palace, building lavish rooms for family and guests. John of Gaunt became the second richest man in England thanks to Kenilworth Castle as well as the combined riches of himself and his wife. John of Gaunt gave the castle to Henry IV, his son, returning Kenilworth to the royal household. Henry V also occasionally used Kenilworth but preferred to be in the Pleasance, a building he created nearby. He also built a retreat at the far end of the lake to hide in when fearing the burden of kingship, and he was potentially even mocked by the French after he was sent a basket of tennis balls to Kenilworth, suggesting he was better at relaxing than war. Henry V joined the battle of Agincourt, and the interaction inspired Shakespeare to write it into 'Henry V', his historical play. Continuing to pass through royal hands, it became the property of Queen Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth restored the property to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Robert Dudley had a large impact on Kenilworth Castle, as he wanted to continue turning it into a palace to honour Queen Elizabeth, as he wished to marry her. In 1575, Robert Dudley entertained the Queen for 19 days of festivities. The story of Queen Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley, and Robert's wife Amy Robsart, inspired the novel 'Kenilworth' by Walter Scott. After the castle was left in ruins by parliamentary forces in 1650 after the English Civil War, it was this novel by Walter Scott which made Kenilworth Castle famous. Kenilworth Castle was saved by Sir John Siddeley who bought the castle in the 1930s and opened it to the public. English Heritage has managed the property since 1984, and the castle is owned by the town of Kenilworth, a huge stamp on Warwickshire history.

Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden from the air.

Want to see the stunning Tower Views? Explore the full height of the towers built by Robert Dudley to court Queen Elizabeth I, as well as discover the queen's private rooms, built to see the view. The staircase takes you up 18 metres into the tower to these private rooms. With her own private staircase, you can also see the long gallery where Elizabeth would be able to meet her friends in private. The light from the windows gives the rooms an elegant light, and the impressive scenes outside the window will make you feel like royalty.

Back on the ground, you can explore the Elizabethan Garden, also built specifically for the queen. The garden has been recreated using an eye-witness description from 1575. Peaceful, tranquil, and surrounded by beautiful sounds and smells, this is one of the best places to visit within the castle, no matter the time of year. Although the flowers are beautiful, when the garden was originally built, the focus was meant to be on statues and decorations. Approaching through the loggia will give you the best views over the garden. In the centre is the marble fountain, and you can also discover the ornate aviary and the emblem of Robert Dudley, a bear and staff. Can you spot more birds and bears throughout the Kenilworth Castle gardens? You also might be able to spot the Pleasance, a banqueting hall north-west of the castle, meant to look like a miniature version. It was built by Henry V but was dismantled by Henry VIII.

Leicester's Gatehouse, named after Robert Dudley, who was also known as Robert Leicester, is the home of an exhibition all about his relationship to the queen, filled with never before seen pieces. The gatehouse was the entrance to the castle but was reformatted into a private house in 1650. It has been restyled into how it looked in the 1930s when the last caretaker left. See the Elizabethan bedroom, with a 1590 tester bed. The drawing-room was used in the 20th century and is opposite the Siddeley Room, where children can draw Kenilworth Castle on a postcard; the best are displayed in the Stables Exhibition. The grand alabaster fireplace in the Oak Room was once in Elizabeth's private quarters. It has the motto 'Droit en Loyal' on it, Dudley's family motto, and means Just and Loyal in Latin. It was originally painted red, blue and gold. There's also a wooden carving above the fireplace, originally a bed headboard which may have belonged to Queen Elizabeth.

The heart of the castle is the Castle Keep, which has lasted 500 years. Built just after the Norman Conquest, it has a Norman design to keep the Castle strong. Three stories high with walls 14 feet wide, its use was defence and power and is quite a sight to behold. It was strengthened by King John before being converted by Robert Dudley for entertaining.

A Castle and Its People is an exhibition at Kenilworth Castle inside the Tudor stables. The displays are interactive, so it's great family fun. You can learn how the castle has changed over 900 years, and dress up in clothes from across time. You can discover what Kenilworth Castle looked like at its prime before the civil war, before exploring the trebuchet balls.

The castle's Great Hall was developed by John of Gaunt, using cutting-edge 14th-century design. It was used to show Kenilworth was a place of power and respect, and medieval monarchs and Tudor kings were just some of the visitors. It would have been made up of several different rooms, and a grand staircase would have taken you to them, though this is now lost. Windsor Castle influenced the design. You can take a long walk around the wall surrounding the castle and its buildings too.

Feeling hungry after your day out at Kenilworth Castle? The Kenilworth Castle tea room is located in the Tudor stables. You can enjoy the interactive exhibition on Kenilworth Castle history while you enjoy your hot and cold drinks, soup, cakes, or a light lunch. Rather bring your own picnic? There is outside seating as well as large grassed areas so you can pick the perfect spot. Fancy a spot of shopping to remember your day? The Kenilworth Castle Shop is home to gifts and souvenirs at all different price points. Whether you feel like a sword and some armour, or a just a book to relay some Kenilworth Castle facts to your friends, there's something inside for everyone.

Kenilworth Castle events happen all year round. At Halloween, you might find events such as Spooky Kenilworth Castle, where families can follow the trail around the buildings and hear spooky stories about the history of the castle as well as Kenilworth town. You can even meet Wytchfinders, tasked with finding witches who practised dark magic. For older teens, there are also ghost tours around the Castle. A Kenilworth Castle Christmas Adventure happens every year, where you and your family can discover fun facts about the castle, hunting for clues and QR codes on every wall. You can also enjoy a hot chocolate or mulled wine while you're exploring. You also won't want to miss the Kenilworth Castle Fireworks displays that happen throughout the year.

Want to explore more of Kenilworth? The town has plenty of places to eat and stay while you enjoy the picturesque market town. The Queen and Castle is a comfortable pub with classic dishes. Harrington's on the Hill serves tasty British classics, along with Deli on the Hill serving cafe dishes. Le Raj Spice has Bangladeshi and Indian dishes to enjoy. Pomeroys Bistro is the home of tasty European bites. You can also find several chain restaurants in the town if you'd prefer something you know. To stay near the Castle, there are plenty of spots. The Abbeyfields Hotel dates back to the 1500s and is full of elegant rooms to take you back in time. The Old Bakery has nice modern rooms but is also the home of a 400-year-old bar! To feel particularly lavish, you might like the Mercure Warwick Honiley Court Hotel, which has warm rooms and a restaurant.

What to know before you go

  • The Kenilworth Castle opening times are from 10am to 5pm.
  • Unisex toilets can be found at Leicester's Gatehouse and include baby changing facilities. Accessible toilets are also at Leicester's Gatehouse.
  • There is limited buggy access to Leicester's Gatehouse.
  • Dogs on leads are allowed.
  • The Kitchen area and Great Hall have level access, but spiral staircases mainly reach the upper floors. The Elizabethan Garden is accessible and has compacted gravel paths and smooth grass. Leicester's Gatehouse and exhibition has access to all of its floors via a lift.

Getting there

  • Kenilworth Castle is just off the A46. When coming from Kenilworth, there is clear signposted directions.
  • Parking is free for English Heritage members. There is non-English Heritage managed parking in Kenilworth. The Castle also supplies a free shuttle bus from Kenilworth town centre, leaving every 10-15 minutes from 10am to 5.30pm from the Kenilworth Clock Tower stop.
  • By bus, Johnsons of Henley 539 passes the castle site. You can also use Travel West Midlands 11 & 11X and Stagecoach U12 as they all serve Kenilworth from the surrounding area.
  • Kenilworth Station is one mile from the Castle. It's a 4-minute drive or a 21-minute walk.
  • Walking access is available for Kenilworth Castle, as is bicycle access.

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