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krisek Warwick - A travel report by Krys
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Warwick,  United Kingdom - flag United Kingdom
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krisek's travel reports

A little town with great castle. Warwick.

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England has many of those little places with great castles. Yet Warwick is among the most famous ones. The castle overshadows the town. And it does it with style!

Warwick Castle - seen from the Guy's Tower
Warwick Castle - seen from the Guy's Tower
Warwick is a small town in the middle of England. There is nothing particularly special about the town itself. It is dominated by one of England's greatest castles. The stronghold was built by king William the Conqueror in 1068, right on a bend of River Avon. Almost every average Briton has heard about the castle. Although, I do not consider myself an average Briton, I had heard about it, too. I even lived near Warwick Road in west London, although it had very little to do with the direction.

Anyway, I did want to go and check the castle one day. And it took over a decade for me to finally achieve this objective! And it was part of a business trip!

Oh well, as it turned out, it was not that I had been missing much. For Warwick is really a small place. And somewhat unexciting. Weather was a mish-mash of drizzle and sunny spells, which was not necessarily helping. But there was nothing happening in the town anyway. One can walk from one end of the town to the other in some 15 minutes... So, jolly good job that there is a castle. It can be seen in a distance from a couple of miles from the train line. Looming mysteriously, standing on a small hill. It almost looks dreamy.

I got off at the very petite station called 'Warwick' and having remembered the map of the town, put on the discovery mode. It took me only about 7 minutes to reach one of the gates of the castle's compound. The rustic looking gate stood by a roundabout connecting the road leading to the Avon River, and also to Mill Street.

The castle was truly stunning! It definitely stimulated my imagination. It had not always looked like this. For a very long time, it had been a ruin and only after being acquired by a rich family, it was restored. It was not cheap to visit it - £17.50, but fortunately, it was a joy to visit. The main courtyard had medieval tents hiding shops and 'dungeons' play grounds. The main quarters had great expositions (I liked Queen Elizabeth I saddle). Towers offered superb views!

Favourite spots:
Mill Street
Mill Street
The white and black Tudor houses lining Mill Street were my favourite part of Warwick. Houses that have stood several centuries fascinate me. Uh, I guess I should explain that the Tudor houses are called like that, as they were erected in the times of the Tudor royal dynasty of England. A rather short dynasty originating from Wales, and ended with Queen Elizabeth I.

Some of those, surprising grand and comfortable houses, still looked great, although the facades were leaning slightly towards the street. One of them was even for sale! I peeked inside the wooden floor lounge looked fantastic indeed. Although I am not quite sure what the lifespan of a Tudor house is exactly. If I had nothing to do in life but just travel and write travel reports, I would not mind living in a historic house like that with a view to the castle. And the castle was rising right at the end of the street, indeed. But there was no entrance that way. I had to turn back to the roundabout.

What's really great:
Side entrance to Warwick Castle, from Mill Street.
Side entrance to Warwick Castle, from Mill Street.
The entrance to the castle from Mill Street through a gate leading to a passage lined by giant, dump, green rocks, overgrown with ivy and lichen (as pictured here) had this mysterious and almost creepy ambiance about it. It was really great! About half way down the dark alley, there was a very old iron lantern, which looked like it was taken from a film set, as it must have been on its last legs. It at least contributed to the medieval fell of the place.

It takes only about a minute or two to walk all the way from the gate at the roundabout to the iron gate at the edge of the castle's gardens. Which, incidentally was locked, and one had to climb a weird wooden bridge (over a passage to kids' playground) to get to the castle main gate. Well, not the castle's main gate, perhaps, but the museum's main gate. That's where the ticket office was.

Warwick Castle seen from Avon River.
Warwick Castle seen from Avon River.
Apart from the very obvious - the castle, there is very, very little to Warwick itself. I tried to discover as much about Warwick as possible, but I seem to have failed rather badly. It is a picturesque little place with pockets of fascinating Tudor architecture, and a couple of handsome churches, but that was it.

So, the best sight of the castle (best, it seemed, to a photographer) was from the small bridge over the Avon River, just yards away from the tennis courts and the rowing club. And the best time of the day to take photos from there is morning, otherwise the sun glares almost directly into the lens.

Now, the best sight of Warwick is from the castle's towers. One of the views extends to my favourite Mill Street. The other, towards the market square and the town's centre. Actually, the views extend well beyond Warwick, to the green fields a few miles around.

One of the hotels along the main road
One of the hotels along the main road
The Lord of Leycester hotel on Jury Street, an upscale spot, not by London standards, by any means, but still charging £100 an average for a room. A double room would come at about £80.

Warwick Arms Hotel also on Jury Street looked very solid and very civilised. Their tariffs were: Single Room £77.50; Compact Single £70; Double for Single Occupancy £85; Double Room £99; Compact Double or Twin Room £89; Family Room for 3 - £105 and Family Room for 4 - £110. All including full English breakfast and sweets. Uh, and the hotel gives 25% off the castle's ticket - which is worth about £4.

The Tiled Wig Bed & Breakfast at the Market was a cheaper and less plush option.

Castle's main courtyard.
Castle's main courtyard.
I would not hold my breath, trying to find out a place to boogie in Warwick. The town does not make headlines in this department. Not even on the third page. It really seemed to me to be rather conservative place, and maybe that was because of the austerity and the dominating character of the castle and the gorgeous old wooden houses everywhere.

There were not even that many pubs and clubs that I could spot while wandering about. There was definitely more action going on in Leamington Spa, a town adjacent to Warwick. Just a couple of miles east.

Tudor houses along the main road
Tudor houses along the main road
Warwick is small, but it has a couple of great parks right along the Avon River. On both banks, actually. One runs from a very old cemetery, just across the famous roundabout, all the way to the river, which is, incidentally, rather narrow in Warwick. The other one starts on the other side of the river (if I were to guess, it would be the southern bank), and extends ... hmm... rather far, as did not see where it ended. Both appeared popular!

At the far end of Jury street, there was a cluster of fascinating brown Tudor houses, one of which hosted a fabulous tea house. Very original and the interior could not be more historical! Warwick had a couple of other tea houses, which were greatly located. One was based in a small old house at Castle lane.

The Tuckery - main window
The Tuckery - main window
Jesters Brasserie on Jury Street, Catalan on Jury Street, Prezzo on the corner of Castle and Jury Streets, Rumours Bar & Restaurant on Market Place, and Totally Thai on 17 Market Place, all looked great, but apart from Prezzo, which was closing down at about 3pm, all of them were already closed.

I would most definitely go for Thai, but it was closed between 2:30pm and 6pm. So, I popped into The Tuckery, a very busy place serving traditional roast lunch all day. Its menu also advertised all day grill breakfast (£3.45 - £7.95), but I decided to go for the chef's special shepherd's pie, served with roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy - all for £4.45. The service was polite and very efficient. It is apparently the longest standing cafe in Warwick. I'd recommend it, although I am guessing that dishes were pre-cooked. Otherwise the service would not be that swift!

Other recommendations:
Mill Street seen from the top of the castle
Mill Street seen from the top of the castle
Warwick lies a few miles south of Birmingham and about 1.5 hours north-west from London by train. There are two train lines available from London, and the Chiltern Railway operating out of London Marylebone station is a great one! It is resilient and more reliable when compared with other operators. It seems to have no problem running in snowy weather while other trains fail. And its £18.50 super off-peak return ticket is a great value indeed. It is valid for trains leaving London from 11am, arriving London from 2 pm. It is comfortable, and most trains run with new carriages, with tables and sockets to charge mobile phones and laptops.

The Warwick train station is really small, and there are no taxis waiting. I have not checked Warwick Parkway station, further west, but Leamington Spa station is larger and there is a taxi stand there. The size of Warwick would not necessarily require taking a taxi anywhere, but those with mobility difficulties should be aware of the lack of facilities.

Published on Monday March 22th, 2010

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Tue, Mar 23 2010 - 11:34 AM rating by pesu

Great detailed report 'as usual' from you, the castle is stunning and I love the pic of the houses in Mill Street.

Tue, Mar 23 2010 - 03:16 AM rating by jacko1

My wife was born near here and agrees with me that this is a 5star report.

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