Friday, 12 June 2015


Kenilworth Castle

We met our friends Sally and Malcolm for this walk which I found on the AA website, usually a reliable resource. It starts outside the castle and heads off to the west. The views of the castle were the main attraction.

The castle, described by Pevsner as "undoubtedly one of the grandest" ruinous castles in England, was founded in 1120 and the Norman keep (on the right above) was built about 50 years later. It was later owned by John of Gaunt who built the Great Hall (on the left) in the 14th century. Further extensions were made by Elizabeth I's favourite, Robert Dudley and the fortifications were dismantled after the Civil War.

The start of the walk is Castle Green and the initial instruction is to go through the handgate to the left of the castle; there is no map. It took us a while to work out that in fact you should follow the path round to the right! We went left, which brought us round to the visitor entrance (the view above) and continued on a circumnavigation of the castle which brought us to the "beautiful, pink thatched cottage" which was the first key landmark.

We headed northwest and enjoyed this impressive view of the castle. Unfortunately, it was into the sun and beginning to become hazy.

We followed Chase Lane westwards for a mile and half, harassed several times by a mail delivery van, and turned left at the end of Chase Wood. As we walked along the next track we could just see the steeple of Honiley church. According to Pevsner, the tower is "exceptionally bold and exceptionally Baroque", dating from 1723. So it was probably as well we did not make the detour to see it (Baroque is one of my least favourite architectural styles).

After a stretch of field-edge path, we emerged into a marshy area within which there was a rectangular mound surrounded by a ditch. A bit like an iron age hill fort, but without the usual hill. The map described it as Pleasance Mound and we speculated for some while about what it might be.

A helpful sign board explained that the ditch contained a moat and this surrounded a stone wall with four round corner towers which enclosed a pleasure garden, banqueting hall and chapel. This "Pleasance" was built by Henry IV around 1414 and was connected to the castle by a canal. It was dismantled by Henry VIII.

As we got closer to the castle there was an even better view, although it was even duller than before.

On our return to Castle Green we climbed a grassy mound and could see something of the recently re-created garden which Robert Dudley had built for Queen Elizabeth.

We were all moved to criticism: we felt that the sculpture, bowers and obelisques were out of scale and that the pink orangery and posts were in the wrong shade to tone with the red sandstone of the castle buildings.

Conditions: mild, becoming cloudier and duller as time passed.

Distance: 4.5 miles.

Map: Explorer 221 (Coventry and Warwick).

Rating: three and a half stars. The views were great (better on a nice day), but the walk itself was pretty ordinary.

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