What it's like
Warwickshire lies at the very heart of England and is associated with many of those who helped shape our nation, such as Simon de Montfort (‘Father of the English Parliament’) and Richard Neville (‘Warwick the Kingmaker’). More famous than these, of course, is William Shakespeare, the man who really put Warwickshire on the map.
The landscape itself is devoid of drama, but is at least green and leafy, its greatest asset its sheer Englishness. It is mainly rural and mostly confined to the Midland plain. The most notable feature of the plain is the River Avon, to the north-west of which is a landscape of scattered settlements, deeply-cut lanes and the gentlest of hills - this was Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden. Even today, dense hedgerows, small copses and statuesque oak trees recall the landscape that he knew. South of the Avon is a region called the Feldon, long renowned as fertile farmland, its prosperity reflected in the fine buildings which grace places such as Shipston and Brailes. Beyond the Feldon, the land rises gently to the Cotswolds, Warwickshire’s share of which is small, but quietly beautiful.
If the landscape lacks drama, the architecture makes up for it. Few English castles can compare with flamboyant Warwick, or the gloriously evocative ruins of Kenilworth. The neighbouring towns of Warwick and Leamington have now essentially merged into one, but the centre of each remains distinctive: Warwick a beguiling mix of timber, stone and brick; Leamington all Regency splendour and wonderful gardens. The market town of Stratford, meanwhile, makes the most of its river and canal, its Shakespearean houses just the icing on the cake.
- Henley-in-Arden Walk off the railway station platform straight on to the Heart of England Way to explore some of the finest parts of the former Forest of Arden around this attractive market town.
- Edgehill In 1642 one of the bloodiest but most inconclusive battles of the English Civil War was fought at Edgehill. The battlefield (MOD property) is out of bounds but there are lovely walks above it along the tree-clad ridges of Edgehill and Sun Rising Hill.
- Long Compton and the Rollrights Explore ancient ridgeway routes on the Warwickshire/Oxfordshire border to enjoy panoramic views and visit the Rollright Stones, three mysterious prehistoric monuments: the Whispering Knights, the King Stone and the King’s Men.
Must see and do
- Visit Kenilworth Castle Most tourists head for Warwick Castle but Kenilworth Castle is probably more rewarding for discerning visitors and is also a good starting point for walks.
- Hunt for mice at Ilmington This is arguably Warwickshire’s loveliest village and the church contains 1930s woodwork by Robert Thompson of Kilburn, whose signature of a carved mouse appears 11 times - can you find them all? Ebrington Hill, the county top, is nearby.
- Take a boat out on the River Avon at Stratford Well, everybody else seems to, so why not? Just watch out for the swans. If dry land is more your thing the riverside is still fun, with its crowds of jugglers, mime artists and other performers.
Destination County : Warwickshire