Category Archives: Warwickshire

Kenilworth

199-365 Kenilworth Castle by johngarghan, used under creative commons. Click pic for link.

199-365 Kenilworth Castle by johngarghan, used under creative commons. Click pic for link.

We’re not a couple for big holidays, but just recently our life has taken a turn for the glamorous. Job interviews and subsequent relocation mean that we’ve been exploring some of the finest budget hotels in the greater Midlands area, including the fancy likes of Bicester and Northampton. It’s always a good excuse for a trip away though, CST-style, and staying in Coventry Travelodge takes some beating in the glamour stakes. We were only sad to have forgotten our 2-for-1 Toby Carvery breakfast vouchers.

This time, we eschewed the vast flyovers and concrete road-mazes of central Coventry and headed out on the road towards Leamington Spa and Warwick after having had a quick drive around the pretty fancy University of Warwick. This route brings you into the ridiculously scenic country town that is Kenilworth. It may be surrounded by the medieval big hitter at Warwick, the Regency smartness of Leamington, the ashphalt maze of Coventry and the hulking West Midlands conurbation just the other side of the M42; but Kenilworth retains a bucolic air of calmness and relaxation, all watched over by a wonderfully ruinous castle. Arriving onto The Square in search of breakfast, a gloriously sunny day lay stretching ahead of us, and we ate our scrambled eggs on toast very cheerfully in a café aptly named Escape.

There seems to be a correllation between the sort of wealth of residents and the proximity of a railway station. Kenilworth has none, excluding many commuters; but the town exudes a comfortable wealth and community that’s evident in its charity shops and the bustling, friendly vibes of the high street. Up at the Square end, Oxfam bears evidence of this with its wealth of genuinely interesting artefacts. There are silver-topped walking canes; an excellent and interesting book selection; several substantial sets of Denby stoneware; and best of all some ancient cameras complete with some sort of concertina-type mechanism.

Close by is Cats Protection: less fancy, but very good for a rummage. We came away with a £2.50 leather suitcase and very nearly a pile of caravan-friendly melamine cruets, dishes and the like. There’s a cheerful selection of vinyls and books, and some fairly constant singing staff. Head down Warwick Road and you’ll find plenty more: RSPCA, AgeUK, Acorns Hospice, Myton Hospice, Cancer Research and Headway all offering a variety of goodies. There’s also a Scope tucked around the corner in the new pedestrianised development

It’s rare that I’ll suggest this, but with a town centre crammed with no less than nine charity shops, you still haven’t seen the best of Kenilworth. Get your comfy shoes on and take a hike up the hill: there’s another, more select High Street; street after street of the most beautiful, rambly old houses, many overlooking Abbey Fields; and best of all, the massive Kenilworth Castle in all its crumbly, red sandstone glory. While it’s only a little town really, there’s plenty to explore, and it’s just about worthy of a rare five out of five.

Find: Kenilworth @ Google Maps
Get there:
Like at Stow, the railway is a luxury you don’t get in Kenilworth. Plenty of buses though.
Consume with: There’s a number of good looking eateries – we broke our fast at Escape, and The Almanack also looked nice.
Visit: The castle, obviously.
Overall rating: five vintage cameras

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Filed under 5/5, Warwickshire

Royal Leamington Spa

from magdzia_ss photostream

from magdzia_s’s photostream

For a tourist, a day of horizontal rain and unseasonable cold do not make a good start for a day out in Leamington. Much head-nodding appreciation of the town’s Georgian architecture, pump rooms, parks and attractive stretch of river are duly foregone, then, in favour of a heads-down, hoods-up stomp around the town centre.

The delights of Leamington appear to be many: on the one hand, most of the ugly shops (your mobile phone shops, your Top Shops) are all tucked away in the shopping centre, leaving the main streets for some homeware stores, the odd designer outlet, some classy-looking coffee shops and, to my delight, some excellent charity shops. The old faithful are here (two Oxfams; Imperial Cancer Research) plus an odd local shop (Myton Hospices), and there’s an excellent mixed bag of things here.

Now, this being a first post, it’s as well to set out my stall: my main interests tend to be the books and records section. Despite my record player costing £17 off of eBay, it’s a pile of junk, in essence, although it looks very nice. This rarely stops me buying something I want, however, so I have a significant stash awaiting the day that I can afford a USB record player.

CDs of course have their place, as do the shelves of tat (if I see another rice bowl I might just… buy it), and I’ll always have shufty at the stripy shirts and jackets. My regular companion is mostly interested in frocks, or so it seems.

So: Leamington. The big draw is an excellent Oxfam bookshop. We spied vinyl versions of Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love & Hate here, as well as UB40’s Signing Off, replete with actual UB40 form styled front cover. In books, I had to put down a Neil Gaiman (Neverwhere) otherwise I may have bought an entire shelf-full from the American Authors section – many Updikes, Mailers and Fitzgeralds.

Elsewhere, we found baskets of wool, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, a purple frock worth having,and a random Nick Hornby (The Complete Polysyllabic Spree – I don’t know if I’m alone in that my favourite Hornby is 31 Songs, entirely non-fictional. If this is like that but with books, then I should be chuffed). Overall, a damp but very much productive afternoon.

Find: Royal Leamington Spa on Google Maps
Transport: Leamington Spa Rail Station on Chiltern Railways
Consume with: double macchiato, Caffe Nero, Regent Street
Visit: Royal Pump Rooms
Overall rating: four Daniel Bedingfields

1 Daniel Bedingfield point

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Filed under 4/5, Warwickshire