We travelled to Kenilworth in September when the restrictions were lifted. We stayed for a couple of midweek nights at the Abbey Fields Hotel. The hotel had a good system for ensuring that social distancing was achievable. There was only one entrance and exit, plus markers on the floor to indicate the direction to walk. As this was an old building, it was very handy as it helped us find our room in this rambling hotel. It was probably not so good for those who found stairs difficult.
As the name suggests, the hotel was just over the road from Abbey Fields – a 68-acre green space. It forms the heart of Kenilworth and is rich in history. St Nicholas church is believed to have been founded in the 12th century then expanded during the 19th century Gothic revival. Unfortunately the building was closed when we were there.
Within the green fields are the ruins of the Abbey of St Mary the Virgin – an Augustinian Priory. There is a 14th century barn used as a local history museum, which was also closed. The path leads past part of the wall of the Abbey Chapter House to the Tantara Archway. Finham Brook winds through the Fields to the lake where there were several different species of wildfowl.
Just down the road from our hotel was Kenilworth Castle, the inner court of which contains ruined buildings dating from the 12th century. The Tudor gatehouse and Leicester’s building remain intact. Within the grounds there are formal Elizabethan gardens.
Nearby is an area called Little Virginia – a row of fifteen charming thatched-roof 17th century cottages. Apparently the hamlet got its name from being the first place in England that was planted with potatoes brought back by Sir Walter Raleigh. Just over the road from the cottages is a row of small shops. We went into the cafe aptly named Time for Tea – for tea and home-made scones naturally. It was a weekday afternoon, and we were the only customers, so we felt quite safe.
There are plenty of places to eat and drink in Kenilworth. We had our breakfasts and one of our evening meals in the hotel. The Abbey Field hotel belongs to the Chef and Brewer chain so the quality and variety is good for the price.
We had a couple of real ales in the Ale Rooms & Gin Bar, which is an establishment opposite the Clock Tower in the main shopping street. There were six hand pulls of real ales from local breweries. It was quiet, being the afternoon, and we walked back to the hotel via the parkland.
Next door to the hotel was the Old Bakery pub. It was nice enough but more popular. We had been used to feeling safer in quiet establishments, so we only stayed for one pint. The pub we went to on two occasions was the one over the road, as it was more spacious but still friendly. It is the oldest pub in the town. Apparently back in 1563 it was called The Two Virgins (that many?), then in 1777 it joined with the establishment next door to be named The Virgins & Castle.
It was great to be away from home for a couple of days and Kenilworth was the ideal location as a base for exploring that part of the country.