Image: Sophie Flint Vázquez/The Boar

A student’s guide to Kenilworth

If you know anything about me, you know I love Kenilworth. I love living there, I love the town, I love everything about it. However, I often feel it flies under people’s radar and is simply a place you pass on the way to campus or go to for a nice meal when your parents come to visit you. Despite what people may think, Kenilworth has several things worth seeing.

What’s more, the castle serves as a perfect place to see the sunset

First and foremost is Kenilworth Castle. The main reason people visit Kenilworth Castle is its rich history. First built during the Norman Conquest, Kenilworth Castle was later expanded and developed during the Tudor period. It was also the location of the Kenilworth conquest of 1266 (the longest siege in English medieval history), and served as a base of operations for the House of Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses. Nowadays, it is an English Heritage site and the perfect place for a day out. It is open for visits, but another great option is walking around the castle. Against the backdrop of rolling green fields, the walk takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Given the castle’s arrow slits and openings, it is also possible to see inside without paying the entrance fee. What’s more, the castle serves as a perfect place to see the sunset. 

If you make your way from Kenilworth Castle down into the town centre, you will walk through the scenic Abbey Fields. The 68-acre park features the twelfth-century St. Nicholas Church. The park is also host to a cafe, a museum, a children’s play area, and a river – home to the annual Boxing Day duck race, a charity event which involves throwing hundreds of rubber ducks into the river and seeing which one will reach the finish line first (an event my rubber duck inexplicably won in 2011).  

Making your way down into the town centre, the next attraction worth visiting is Coffee on the Corner. A local independent coffee shop, Coffee on the Corner serves everything from homemade cakes and pastries, to fun innovative drinks, to light lunches and snacks. Although I tend to go for their regular iced latte, there is nothing I have tried from there and not loved. The service is top-notch, the atmosphere is cosy and welcoming, and it is right in the centre of town. And with Costa just opposite, the choice is a no-brainer.

The area is transformed into a blue-tinted fairytale-like dreamscape. The wood is also stunning during the autumn, as russet-toned leaves convert it into a gilded paradise

There is also a site of interest for all literature lovers. Renowned 19th-century author Sir Walter Scott wrote his novel Kenilworth while staying at the King’s Arms and Castle Hotel (now the Zizzi). The historical novel follows the buildup to the arrival of Queen Elizabeth to Kenilworth Castle in 1575. As a result, the building sports a commemorative plaque. Granted, Sir Walter Scott’s novels, which feature rampant antisemitism, sexism, racism, and more, have not aged well. But with the author being one of the 19th century’s most influential authors, and arguably the world’s first celebrity, the plaque is still an important part of history worth visiting. What’s more, local second-hand bookshop, The Treehouse Bookshop, often stocks antique and vintage copies of Scott’s books for no more than a couple of pounds.  

A bit further out of town and just north of Kenilworth is Crackley Wood, a nature reserve. Visiting in May will ensure you experience the wood at its best, when the entire forest floor is blanketed in bluebells. The area is transformed into a blue-tinted fairytale-like dreamscape. The wood is also stunning during the autumn, as russet-toned leaves convert it into a gilded paradise. Crackley Wood is one of the few remnants of the Forest of Arden, the setting for Shakespeare’s As You Like It. While the play’s whimsical cast of characters may not pay you a visit when you find yourself strolling through the woods, it is clear why the Bard chose this to be the setting for one of his greatest comedies.  

Kenilworth may not boast Leamington’s nightlife and restaurants, or Coventry’s shops, but the small town still has plenty to offer. And with the town centre being just 15 minutes by bus from the university campus, why not make the most of post-exam-season relaxation and pay the historic town a visit? 

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