[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e call campus ‘the Bubble’ because, other than a few hazy memories of inebriated stumblings around the streets of Leamington and Coventry in the dark, we rarely leave campus in our first year.
But that’s why we’re here: to tell you what you can do on and off campus, whether you have lots of money (the start of term), or no money (the end of term).
Transport links are good from campus. When I got the train home in first year, I used to just turn up at the any bus stop and within a few minutes a bus would turn up going to Cov.
If you’re going to Coventry train station or the town centre, jump on an 11, 12 or 16. The 16 also goes to Stratford-upon-Avon.
For the lovely Leamington, the Stagecoach U1 is a dedicated service for us, and during term time this bus comes up to every 10 minutes. Try to take the correct change when catching the bus as the drivers often don’t give change.
Once you’ve worked out how to get to Leamington or Coventry, the world is your oyster. Trains run from both towns to London and from there, anywhere!
Once Freshers’ is in full swing you probably won’t need me to tell you where to go out, but here’s a brief summary.
In Coventry, Warwick students normally go to Kasbah, but there are loads of other pubs, bars and clubs if you feel like getting off the beaten track.
In Leamington, it’s all about Neon and Smack, though no one knows why. Saints bar is also worth a try, along with Altoria, Moo Bar and Zephyr Lounge.
And then there is Kelsey’s: our beloved bar in South Leam. This gem is very close to the station and you’re sure to be introduced to it very early on. Unassuming on the outside and the inside, a night at Kelsey’s somehow always ends up being better than anywhere else. Try their Eliminator, but don’t ask what’s in it!
Heading further afield, Gatecrasher in Birmingham is a great night out. It’s a lot more expensive than local nights out due to transport costs, but you should give it a go at least once.
Being trapped within the bubble isn’t too bad a fate. With all of the societies on campus, it sounds cliched but there will be something for you.
You could get a gym membership, take up running (there are some beautiful spots around campus that you need to do some exploring to find), or check out the schedule for the Arts Centre. Having the Arts Centre on campus is such a privilege for us, and I still regret not making enough of it during my first year.
What to do off campus
When you told your friends and family that you had the good fortune of going to Warwick for three (or more!) years, they probably conjured up romanticised images of Warwick Castle and twee little Warwickshire villages. Now that you’ve arrived in the ‘bubble’ you’ve probably noticed that the University is neither in Warwickshire (unless you live in Sherbourne or Lakeside that is) and certainly isn’t flanked by a famous medieval castle! However, whilst you may in fact be living in Coventry surrounded by fields, think of it this way, Warwick is your perfect base to explore the midlands and there certainly is a lot going on!
To begin your Warwick based travels, every first year student needs to visit the local Spa town, Leamington Spa which is where the majority of students choose to live in their second and third years. Leamington is a great afternoon out with a regency style parade, which, as one of my friends said, even makes the McDonald’s look posh. With all the major high street shops, great restaurants and the Jephson Gardens; Leamington may not be exotic, but it is a lovely town and well worth the visit!
Kenilworth castle might not have the reputation of Warwick castle, but it is much cheaper to visit and you can have just as much fun exploring
Of course, if you are feeling more adventurous, your first few weeks provide an excellent opportunity to make a flat trip to Warwick castle! The castle is great fun to look around, whilst also offering a variety of medieval themed displays and shows as well as a a slightly scary dungeon style experience (at an extra cost).
Kenilworth also has an impressive castle which hosts a range of events through the year including Halloween ghost tours and bonfire night. It might not have the reputation of Warwick castle, but it is much cheaper to visit and you can have just as much fun exploring. The benefit of visiting Kenilworth is that you can easily walk to the town in about an hour from campus. The walk itself takes you through stunning Warwickshire countryside and provides the perfect activity for a Sunday afternoon. Also, Kenilworth has a wide variety of restaurants and pubs for a well deserved rest after your walk from campus or exploring the castle.
If you’re a fan of literature, the theatre or just like quaint little English towns, I would highly recommend a visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon, which is accessible in an hour by the number X16 bus from campus. As you may know, Stratford is the birthplace of Shakespeare and the town honours its literary hero with various historical sites, shops and the fantastic RSC theatre. The theatre has an excellent reputation for producing high quality shows and has an excellent autumn series this year including Love’s Labour’s Lost. Even if Shakespeare isn’t your thing, Stratford still has plenty to offer with a range of traditional shops and cafés as well as the opportunity to hire a pedal or a row boat for a trip down the river Avon (perhaps best to wait until the summer for that one!)
Finally, for the shoppers amongst you, Bicester Outlet Village is easily accessible from Leamington Spa Station. Bicester provides a good range of popular brands including Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Coach and Links of London at discounted prices.
Whatever you choose to do, just have fun and enjoy these opportunities to explore the local area whilst getting to know your new flatmates.
The Foodie’s Tour
The best way to learn more about the local area and experience the delights of Leamington, Kenilworth, and Stratford is a good old-fashioned food tour.
A trip to Coventry is no trip at all without Cosmos, the all-you-can-eat curry that will resonate in your student experience for years to come (hopefully just sentimentally).
Stratford has more restaurants than I could ever list, many themed deliciously around Shakespeare and selling excellent ales. Kenilworth puts in more than its tuppence worth with several phenomenal restaurants and pubs – the Clarendon Arms, selling reasonably priced and absolutely amazing comfort pub grub, or, for somewhere a little more upmarket (one to bring the parents perhaps), Harringtons on the Hill. There’s even a Loch Fyne, a great place for a date if you’re handy with voucher codes.
Most often visited by student foodies is Leamington, which not only boasts all the best chains (IT HAS A WAGAMAMA’S), but also some amazing family-run independent restaurants. The brilliant Italian family who run several joints in the town boast the likes of Corleone’s, the panini hotspot, and these are just a few of many amazing independent Italian restaurants.
Leaf Bar is great for their piano evening, complete with delicious tapas platters and wine, and the very fancy among you may like to try out Wilde’s wine bar up the parade.
Alternatively, you could go really mad and go WHERE NO MAN HAS EVER GONE BEFORE – i.e. to Actual Warwick. I only visited by accident during Jailbreak hitchhiking, wandering along the main road while my best friend shouted loudly “can you believe we’re in actual WARWICK? No-one goes to WARWICK.”
Go on, I dare you.