30 Muddy-approved attractions in Warwickshire
From the big-beast tourist destinations to our cool insider alternatives, read on for our pick of 30+ unmissable attractions in Warwickshire.
Visiting Shakespeare country for the first time, staycaying, new to the area or day tripping? Here’s our insider Muddy guide to best visitor attractions in-and around-Warwickshire and 2021’s UK City of Culture, Coventry, including lots of in-the-know intel to steer you away from the tourist crowds so you can staycay like a local.
Headliner: Warwick Castle
This spectacular castle is a Muddy favourite and very good at luring us back with its historical spectacles, winter ice-rink and spooky Halloween Castle, as well as the overnight glamping in the Knight’s Village or tower suites. Day time fun also includes the regular birds of prey demos, the mighty trebuchet, archery and ramparts.
In-the-know Intel: Kenilworth Castle
A few miles up the road is 900-year-old Kenilworth Castle, with its right royal links with Queen Elizabeth I and immaculate Elizabethan Gardens which underwent a £70k six month restoration project in 2019, including a new Tudor bowling garden and children’s trail. The one-acre walled garden was originally created as a love letter to the Tudor queen by Robert Dudley.
You can also book a stay in another stunning local castle restored by the Landmark Trust and a Winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture 2013 – Astley Castle, Nuneaton.
Headliner: Mary Arden’s Farm, Wilmcote, near Stratford-upon-Avon
Ever fancy learning how to herd a gaggle of geese? This is the place to come! Experience the sights, sounds and smells of a working Tudor farm at the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother. There’s normally a daily activities board and a seasonal calendar of events like Woolly Week, May Day and Midsummer celebrations. Watch basket weaving, leather work, wild food foraging, woodworking and bee keeping workshops and falconry demonstrations, explore the farmyard, playground and historic buildings. Currently closed until spring 2021.
In-the-know Intel: Hatton Country World near Warwick
Just are a few of the kids’ attractions are… 450 animals of 60 breeds set in 100 acres of Warwickshire countryside including 40 birds of prey and 150 Guinea Pigs; pick your own potatoes, sweetcorn and pumpkins; tractor rides; adventure playground & indoor Superslide mania; an escape room, laser combat and seasonal school holiday events programme.
For grown-ups in the family there’s Hatton Shopping Village including antiques, an ‘al fresco garden boutique’ and up to 20 indie shops. A new camping and caravan site has also opened. Hatton Country World is linked to the nearby Hatton Arms and Grand Union Canal – with its famous ‘stairway to heaven, the UK’s longest flight of locks – by an easy 1.5m circular walk.
Headliner Avon Boating, Stratford-upon-Avon
What Warwickshire lacks in beaches, it makes up for in rivers and canals – we have some of the prettiest stretches. Avon Boating hires punts, motorboats, rowing boats, two electric self-drive launches and book river cruises. You can get ‘fed and watered’ on a 40-minute cruise with a traditional pub lunch or add a cream tea to your cruise. Shakespeare Distillery has also teamed up to run 60-minute gin tasting cruises along the Avon (currently postponed due to Covid-19). Now you’re talking.
In-the-know Intel: Hire a narrowboat, paddle board or dragon-style pedalo
Fancy a leisurely cruise on a barge under your own steam to Warwick Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham or Oxford? For narrowboat hire on the Grand Union, Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford Canals, there’s Kate Boats in Warwick, Clifton Cruisers near Rugby, Napton Narrowboats, near Southam and Anglo Welsh Waterways in Wootton Wawen near Henley-in-Arden.
Alternatively, for a day out go paddle boarding as a family, canoeing or kayaking on the River Leam in Leamington Spa’s lovely Jephson Garden. Leam Boat Centre runs coaching courses, river trips and boat hire. Warwick Boat Hire in St Nicholas Park is good for boat rides up to Warwick Castle in swan & dragon style pedalos, electric motorboats, traditional row boats, canoes and kayaks.
Headliners: The Dining Room, Mallory Court Country House Hotel & Spa, Leamington Spa, Tailor’s, Warwick, The Woodman @Hotel Indigo, Stratford & Cheal’s of Henley, Henley-in-Arden
Try a six-course tasting menu at Leamington Spa-based Mallory Court Hotel’s Edwardian restaurant The Dining Room, which holds 3 AA Rosettes and is managed by inventive Liverpool-born Head Chef Paul Evans. Evans uses local suppliers, but predominantly organically grown from the hotel’s own kitchen garden.
Dan Cavell and Mark Fry’s fine dining restaurant Tailor’s in neighbouring Warwick was a Best Restaurant runner up in the 2018 Observer Food Awards, which described their set menus as ‘terrific value’. Over in Stratford, The Woodman in the Grade II listed Hotel Indigo has a field to fork philosophy under Executive Chef Mike Robinson cooking on wood, charcoal and flame; while award-winning Cheal’s of Henley has a new menu, new décor and continues to celebrate modern British fine dining.
In-the-know Intel: A growing constellation of Michelin stars
Warwickshire and the West Midlands have nine Michelin stars. So where do we start? In Stratford-upon-Avon, don’t miss Paul Foster’s one star, Salt. A few miles away in a small village near Shipston-on-Stour is The Royal Oak, Whatcote, an atmospheric restaurant in an historic pub where Oliver Cromwell supposedly stayed before the Battle of Edgehill in 1642, cited for its wild foraged ingredients and unfussy style.
The Cross at Kenilworth is run by ‘the godfather of modern Birmingham food’ Andreas Antona and executive chef Adam Bennett in a 19th century inn. One of their specialities is Hazelnut praline soufflé, blood orange ice cream and caramelised white chocolate sauce! Peels at Hampton Manor also has one Michelin star, set within a family-owned, Victorian Gothic-style manor house in Hampton-in-Arden built for Sir Robert Peel’s son. All very different, all worth a visit.
TOP CULTURAL HOTSPOTS
Headliner: The Royal Shakespeare Theatres, Stratford-upon-Avon
Visits to The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the Swan and The Other Place are a must for anyone who loves live theatre, but like most theatres across the UK they are sadly closed until 2021. A Keep Your RSC campaign has been launched to ensure the company can re-open as soon as possible.
In August and September the company’s free outdoor pop-up performances, RSC Shakespeare Snapshots, have proved so popular they were extended until the end of September! On Sept 17 comedian Mark Steel’s also popped by to record an outdoor stand-up show about Stratford in The Dell for his BBC Radio 4 show. Current online events include Talking Shakespeare and home learning resources.
Former Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta Dancers took up his appointment as Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet in January 2020. Birmingham Hippodrome is not due to re-open before February 2021 but the ballet company is looking at the possibility of how it can perform an anniversary adapted version of The Nutcracker this November/December. 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Birmingham Royal Ballet moving to Birmingham from Sadler’s Wells in London.
2021 is Coventry’s year as the UK City of Culture and these three very different, innovative theatres and art centres form a crucial part of the city’s cultural life. Keir Starmer recently praised the outreach work done by Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre and how city communities pulled together through lockdown via its vibrant virtual programme including Emma Rice’s Romantics Anonymous. it is one of the largest regional producing theatres in Britain.
Warwick Arts Centre, based on the University of Warwick campus, is closed until early 2021, when it is set to re-open after a £33m refurb with new 3 HD digital cinema auditorium, a large ground floor art gallery and spacious new-look foyer.
Award-winning Theatre Absolute in Coventry’s City Arcade was founded in 1992 by husband-and-wife team Chris O’Connell and Julia Negus. The couple set up the UK’s first Shop Front theatre in a former chippie and commission relevant work by artists’ (actors, playwrights, street-dancers) – many local – addressing contemporary life and issues.
Headliner: Elan Spa, Mallory Court Country House Hotel & Spa, just outside Leamington Spa
Awarded 5 bubbles from the Good Spa Guide, Elan Spa is tucked among the trees in well-kept gardens overlooking the tranquil Warwickshire countryside. State-of-the art facilities include seven treatment rooms, including a VIP suite for couples, nail boutique, fitness suite, indoor hydrotherapy swimming pool, steam room, sauna, salt sauna and an outdoor vitality pool. An added bonus is that it’s teen-friendly, if you want to treat one! The spa, restaurant and bedrooms are in a self-contained building. Mallory Court Country House Hotel & Spa was awarded 4 AA Red Stars in 2018.
In-the-know intel: Destination Spa, Ardencote, Claverdon, near Warwick & Billesley Manor, near Stratford-upon-Avon
Another 5-star bubble rating with The Good Spa Guide is at four-star Warwickshire hotel Ardencote‘s revamped Destination Spa. It definitely hits the spot with its indoor and outdoor pools, aromatherapy steam room, Tyrolean Kilo Sauna, Himalayan sauna, foot spas, monsoon shower and outdoor hot tub, plus relaxation & tranquillity lounges. Lunch is served in the hotel’s one rosette brasserie. Limited Massages Manicures & Pedicures are currently available and there are seven manicure/pedicure stations. For the latest Covid-19 information see here.
Following an extensive £5.6m makeover historic Billesley Manor Hotel and Spa – where Shakespeare is believed to have written the comedy, As You Like It – has just reopened. The Health Club and Spa facilities include a modern gym, yoga hut, sauna, steam room, 25m indoor swimming pool, and outside tennis courts. Treatments range from holistic massages to Decléor facials. Also enjoy afternoon teas, dinner, private dining and walks around the Victorian topiary garden.
HEADLINERS: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust – 5 Shakespeare’s family homes
Stratford-upon-Avon is synonymous with Shakespeare. The Trust cares for the five Shakespeare beautiful family homes and gardens: Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s New Place, Hall’s Croft, Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Mary Arden’s Farm. Regrettably four of these properties will remain closed until at least spring 2021.
But Shakespeare’s Birthplace is now open, with new safety measures in place. Here you can experience Shakespeare’s humble beginnings as a boy, discover his global influence, wander through the garden and see rare are artefacts from the world’s largest public Shakespeare museum, library and archives including a 400-year-old Folio of his complete works. Timed entry tickets must be booked in advance.
Charlecote Park, 4 miles east of Stratford-upon-Avon
A grand Victorian Grade II country house originally owned by the Lucy family, surrounded by a landscaped deer park, on the banks of the River Avon near Wellesbourne. The house inspired the set design of the RSC’s 2014 production Love’s Labour’s Won (Much Ado About Nothing) directed by Christopher Luscombe. The Parkland is open at Charlecote Park, but you will need to book in advance.
Sir Basil Spence’s post-war cathedral – a modernist masterpiece and major tourist attraction – stands aside the ruins of St Michael’s Cathedral, destroyed during The Blitz and opposite Coventry University. Many high profile events now take place in the ruins from summer pop-up cinema screenings to a street food event with award-winning Digbeth Dining Club and live music.
In-the-know intel: Rugby School tour, Rugby
See many examples of William Butterfield’s stunning Victorian gothic architecture on this guided walking tour around historic Rugby School, an independent boarding school founded in 1567 and the birthplace of rugby football. Highlights include: ‘The Close’ where the game began, The Old Quad where Tom Brown played, School Museum, Chapel and walk in the footsteps of Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll.
The museum houses fascinating artifacts, including the first written rules of Rugby Football and examples of early balls and caps. Former pupils include wartime prime minister Neville Chamberlain and author Salman Rushdie. Girls were first admitted in 1992 and wear long grey skirts down to the ground. Drop in tours run for 1hr 30 mins most Saturdays at 2pm. Tours are temporarily postponed due to Covid-19.
Headliner: Snowdome, Tamworth, on the Warwickshire/Staffs border
From ski & snowboarding lessons to tobogganing, adrenalin tubing and ice-skating, this real-snow indoor slope – the UK’s first – appeals to all ages, beginners and advanced. Every Christmas there’s a Winter Wonderland which returns, Covid secure, for a 16th year this November.
In-the-know intel: The Wave, Coventry
The UK’s newest indoor waterpark. Coventry’s £36m is home to the UK’s biggest wave pool, churning 20 million litres of water every day, six high-octane slides, a beach café, and lazy river. Other features include a toddler splash zone, spa and health & fitness facilities.
Headliner: Go Ape, Coombe Abbey, Coventry
Aaaaarraaaagh! Tarzan incoming. Time to get high on life at Go Ape – a forest adventure for all ages in 500 acres of beautiful parkland that will test your balance, bravery and dignity. There’s a 1hr Junior Tree Top Adventure (suitable for kids 1m+) with wobbly bridges, intricate crossings and a zip wire finale… Fancy something more challenging, tackle the 2-3hr Tree Top Challenge (ages 13+ and 1.4m+ tall), that takes you 30m off the ground to endure high speed zips, swings and crossings that’ll make your knees knock. The Plummet is a 12m free fall on ropes. Adrenaline junkies will love it! The latest new activity this autumn is erm, an hour of stress-busting axe-throwing.
In-the-know intel: Jump In, Warwick & Umberslade Adventure, Hockley Heath, nr Packwood House
With dedicated sessions catering for all age groups, Jump In is the perfect spot for wearing out energetic children. Besides trampolines there are areas for toddlers and a soft play area, while bigger kids can punch the giant airbag, go on the twist ladder and blitz the dodgeball and basketball courts. And yes, there’s a café for you to sit sedately while the madness unfolds around you! Set in 80 acres of woodland between 13 majestic oak trees, Umberslade Adventure is reopening its low ropes and commando courses in the October half-term following lockdown. You can also have a go at wakeboarding in Warwickshire at Spot on Wake, where there’s also an inflatable aquapark and new open-water swimming.
Headliner: Packwood House
Packwood House is renowned for its vibrant kitchen garden where vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers mingle in bountiful profusion. ‘Mingled’ flower borders in the garden of this restored Tudor house provide a masterclass in garden design and the artistry. These range from the double borders near the house to the spectacular terrace borders with a riot of rich, hot colours.
100 huge clipped topiary trees adorn the yew garden, making a unique and dramatic centrepiece. Surrounding this is a series of other beautiful gardens in a mix of styles, with billowing borders full of colour, enclosed by climber-clad walls. There’s also a wildflower meadow and orchard.
The house is open Fri-Tue, limited access. The parkland & gardens (excluding the yew and kitchen garden) café and shop are now open (normal opening times apply). Pre-booking is needed.
In-the-know intel: Hill Close Gardens, Warwick
Beautiful and quirky rare survivals of Victorian detached gardens in Warwick once used by local residents who lived above their business and wanted to escape from the crowded town centre.
Headliner Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park
A stylish national art gallery housed in a Robert Adam mansion in rural Warwickshire, Compton Verney is set in 120 acres of Grade II listed classical parkland, designed by eminent 18th century landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown with an ornamental lake and restored chapel. Julie Finch, former chief executive of the Cheltenham Trust, took over as the new director last April from Professor Steven Parissien. The gallery’s latest critically-acclaimed exhibition features Renaissance master Cranach: Artist and Innovator and runs until Sun Jan 3 2021.
In-the-know intel: The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry
This city centre contemporary art gallery sits between Coventry University and Coventry Cathedral. Reimagined in 2008 after a £20 million makeover, the striking glass Glulam gridshell roof was inspired by the roof structure of Sir Basil Spence’s Cathedral opposite. It houses galleries, the city museum, archives, a history centre, community arts studios, a temporary exhibition centre, a cafe and the museum shop. You can also book special tours of the Medieval Undercroft.
The Herbert has a reputation for being child-friendly with interactive family exhibitions, an excellent Ofsted-rated learning programme and hands-on workshops – back in 2010 it won The Guardian’s national family-friendly museum awards. Recent additions have included Night at the Museum and Herbert Lates, after-parties with live music, drink & draw, street artists and DJ sets.
Birmingham has several cool art galleries including Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (Opening Oct 7) the modern internationally-acclaimed Ikon Gallery (now reopened), and The RBSA in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter (open, Tue-Sat, free), The Barber Institute of Fine Arts (currently closed), houses one of the country’s finest collections of art for free in a Grade II Art Deco building on the University of Birmingham campus and Grand Union, is a gallery and artists’ studio in Digbeth (opening by appointment Sept 11 – Oct 31).