The historic town of Warwick, just over an hour from London by car or train is a great place to visit. There is much to see and do and, it’s my home town so follow me and let me show you around.
Just before you arrive down the old Banbury Road, take a left turn into Bridge End, cross the river bridge and slow down to take in the view of Warwick castle. This has to be one of the finest views in the country of one of the world’s greatest medieval castles.
St Nicholas Park on your right has plenty of parking spaces and is a good spot to leave the car for the day.
Cross over into Mill Street, one of the few streets in Warwick that survived the Great Fire of 1694. It was once described as “The prettiest street in England”, and retains a number of medieval houses. At the very bottom is The Mill Garden, originally built as a bridge keeper’s cottage. In 1938 it was acquired by Arthur Measures and he created the gorgeous gardens. This is a truly stunning location, with the River Avon and the Castle forming its boundaries; it is hard to imagine that this was once the busiest part of the town.
The ruined bridge in front of you was built in the 14th Century and once had 11 spans; this was the main entrance across the river from Bridge End. The road up into the town passed straight through the garden and what is now the castle wall.
The gardens are now looked after by Mr Measures’ daughter Julia, and are open to the public from April till the end of October. They’re well worth the visit – one of Warwick’s hidden gems.
Retrace your steps back up Mill Street and pause to admire The Malt House, converted from its original use into a house in the 1920s; the Earl of Warwick lived there for a short while.
Turn left at the top of the street and head up towards East gate, built in the 15th century it is now a holiday cottage. Traffic only stopped driving through the gate just over 50 years ago and you can see some pretty severe scratches on the arch where one or two underestimated the height of their vehicles.
In front of it is a fine Victorian Pillar Box still in daily use, you’ll find an identical one at the other end of town in front of Westgate.
Turn up into The Butts, and after a few yards turn into a lane called the Tink-a-Tank which takes you up to the town centre. It is a dark passageway with seven feet high walls and leads into St Mary’s Churchyard where you’ll find The College Gardens, owned by St Mary’s Church. There are fine views from here, access is via a metal gate in the wall and it is a quiet little refuge, admission is free.
Back through the Churchyard you come out in Church Street opposite the Zetland Arms, a pub with a lovely walled garden with a view of St Mary’s church. Afterwards carry on down to the high street and cross into Castle Lane. Here you can admire the frontage of The Dispensary that in times past offered free medicines to the poor. More recently it was uses by BBC TV as the setting for the TV series Dangerfield, about a country GP practice.
Opposite is another free garden worth a visit, that of The Pageant House. It makes for a relaxing place to sit and picnic (and there are public loos).
Castle Lane continues all the way to Westgate and is a mix of old and new property. Turn from Westgate into the High Street to discover two more gardens. One at the back of the Friends Meeting House and another at the back of the Unitarian Chapel. Both are free to enter and both are very peaceful.
Where the High Street meets Jury Street, once the town’s main crossroads, turn left into Church Street and walk up to the impressive St Mary’s Church that dominates the town centre. Much of it was destroyed in the great fire but Beauchamp Chapel was largely untouched and contains the magnificent tombs of the Earls of Beauchamp. You could spend several hours here as there is much to see including many memorial plaques from The Royal Warwickshire Regiment. There are also bread shelves where centuries ago, bread was left for the poor of the town.
If you feel like a spot of lunch you’re really spoilt here, as there are 80 places to eat and drink within the town centre.
Pick up the trail at Northgate Street which runs from the church to the magnificent Northgate House owned now by the council. Inside are two Victorian courtrooms and underground cells, built in 1680 and used until 1797. They are only 21 feet across and held up to 40 prisoners, chained to the stone pillars that are still there.
Back out into the fresh air, head round the corner and in Barrack Street, set in the wall of what was Warwick Gaol, is one of the old wooden cell doors.
When you go to Warwick, you don’t really need to follow a set route as there is something to see around every corner.