DH and I do like a castle – I may have mentioned it before. We hadn’t fully decided which one to visit over the weekend. I have to admit I love Warwick Castle but recently it has been super expensive and a bit theme park like. So we decided to try Kenilworth as neither of us had visited this one before.
I’m so glad we made this decision – it was an awesome place. Firstly, the buildings are made of very red coloured stone which looked so fabulous rising up against the brilliant blue skies. It was busy but not overwhelming and it wasn’t too expensive at £9 each (although we did get swayed by the superior selling techniques of the English Heritage gentleman and ended up buying a membership!)
Kenilworth dates from the 1120’s and bore witness to one of the very few full scale mediaeval sieges in this country. Supporters of the defeated (and dead) Simon de Montfort holed up here to defend the castle against King Henry III after the battle of Evesham in 1265. They managed to withstand heavy assaults on the castle but finally had to surrender in 1266 due to disease and lack of supplies.
Further into Kenilworth’s history saw the estate given to Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester and favourite of Elizabeth I. Now this is one of my personal favourite periods in history and so to actually stand in the grounds where they would have stood was pretty exciting! English Heritage are currently installing viewing platforms in the building that he built especially for her 1575 visit (she had visited 3 times before this). Once these platforms are complete you will be able to look through window spaces that no one has looked through for 300 years – how mind blowing is that?
In a further building are the remaining fittings that Dudley had installed, albeit elsewhere in the building, so you can look at a marble fireplace and carved wooden panel that both he and Elizabeth would actually have seen and touched. It’s these links to the past that really make history so moving.
All around the site there is carved graffiti too. I took a few photographs and we marvelled at how old some of it was. But then as we were tutting at the “Gaz woz ‘ere 2012” and “Gemma luvs Mark” we wondered if past 1800’s visitors did the same over “Mr Cooke’s” efforts or “Joe Hart – 1840” and when does carved graffiti move from vandalism to historic interest? Possibly when the quality went downhill which I assume was probably when ‘stonecarver’ became a somewhat undervalued profession. Gaz clearly spent nowhere near as much time and care over his offering as Mr Cooke although in fairness he was probably trying to carve into 800 year old stone with a crappy nail file nicked off his girlfriend :)
|This isn't one of mine, honest!|
If you are ever in the area I would highly recommend a visit to Kenilworth Castle – I would also highly recommend a visit to the gift shop where they are known to do tastings of the fine alcoholic beverages that they sell – but that’s a whole ‘nother story!