The Important History Bit:
Kenilworth Castle was built on land granted by Henry I to royal chamberlain Geoffrey de Clinton in around 1120, in order to keep the Earl of Warwick in check. Clinton then sold off a great swathe of his lands but kept the southern part to create the wonderful castle and park. Henry II then pinched it, King John enlarged it, after which Henry III gave it to his sister who happened to be married to Simon de Montfort. Bad idea. De Montfort promptly challenged Henry, unsuccessfully as it turned out, and the castle was given to Henry’s son.
There then followed a lot of royal shenanigins culminating in Elizabeth I giving the castle as a gift to her childhood friend Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in 1563. Rumours abound about the relationship between Elizabeth and Dudley, but it is safe to say that during her early reign, he was as close to a royal consort as it was possible to be.
Dudley went all out to impress his queen. He carried out a major refurbishment of the castle, created landscaped parkland, and, most importantly for us, created the wonderful garden that has so recently been restored.
The Garden: For more than 400 years, the magnificent garden was lost to the world until a letter was discovered, written in 1575 by a servant, Robert Langham, which described in astonishing detail, the layout and minutiae of the garden. Magnificent carved arbours; a bejewelled aviary; planting abundant in colour, perfume and fruits and an 18-foot-high fountain carved from dazzling Carrara marble are just some of the glories that make Kenilworth Castle’s latest addition the most complete picture of an Elizabethan garden anywhere in the world.
The re-creation of the garden in 2009 marked the end of a £3 million investment project by English Heritage including the refurbishment of Leicester’s gatehouse and stables.
A visit to Kenilworth is a terrific day out because there is genuinely something for everyone. The gardens are breathtaking and an inspiration for even the most humble gardener. The castle itself is crying out to be explored and clambered over, with staircases leading to the top of the towers for gorgeous views over the Warwickshire countryside. There are plenty of places to picnic, but happily there is an excellent tea room serving teas and lunches and a large gift shop supplying everything from heritage gift items to battle armour for your budding warriors. I have been four times and I plan to go again. Soon.
Opening times: 1st April to 30th September 10.00 – 18.00
Location: Castle Green, Off Castle Road, Kenilworth, Warwickshire – CV8 1NE