English Heritage

Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden

Featuring a glittering garden and now with a view to woo, groups can discover a royal love story at this romantic site.

Kenilworth Castle - QEI

Leicester’s Building where Queen Elizabeth I stayed for 19 days in 1575. © English Heritage

In a beautiful setting, Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden is one of the foremost attractions in Warwickshire. It is certainly amongst the most romantic castles in the land, with its lovely sandstone walls, tower and turrets standing testament to its medieval and Tudor glory days, when it was understandably a royal favourite. In July 1575, Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester, the favourite courtier of Queen Elizabeth I, entertained her right royally at Kenilworth Castle.

He built a towering gatehouse to welcome her arrival, created an amazing garden for her pleasure and showcased lavish entertainments for her amusement at a reputed cost of £1,000 a day – a small fortune 500 years ago. Today, thanks to the introduction of a series of viewing platforms within the now ruined, four-storey tower known as Leicester’s Building, Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden, is offering group visitors the same ‘heady’ panoramas enjoyed by Queen Elizabeth I when she visited the castle. For the first time in 350 years, groups can stand where Elizabeth once stood, and enjoy the exclusive views she once enjoyed of the countryside surrounding Kenilworth Castle from her bedroom windows.

Queen Elizabeth I enjoys the views from Leicester's Building.

Queen Elizabeth I enjoys the views from Leicester’s Building.

Groups can get a double dose of Dudley’s flamboyance in the beautifully recreated garden – the most complete impression of an Elizabethan garden anywhere in the world – that features great arbours, a terrace, fountain, obelisks and a 30-foot long aviary, complete with birds. Originally decorated with diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires and garnished with gold, the ornate architectural features of the aviary have been skilfully carved by craftsmen and painted to present a ‘bejewelled’ appearance. There’s now so much to see and do at Kenilworth Castle, that a group visit should last at least two hours in order to take in everything on offer, including:

The remains of the Castle Keep, State Apartments and John of Gaunt’s Great Hall;

Leicester’s Gatehouse housing a permanent exhibition on the top floor themed around the relationship between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and tells the story of the spectacular festivities that took place when she visited the castle in 1575. The remaining floors contain suites furnished as they were in the 1930s;

The Tudor Stables, where groups can tour a second permanent exhibition tracing the 900-year history of the castle, from the 12th century to the 1930s;

● A complementary audio tour in English, French and German brings the site of Kenilworth Castle to life. Two 45 minute tours are available for groups.

Elizabethan Tour

A Kenilworth Castle team member leads groups through the Norman Keep and into the recreated Elizabethan Garden, just as Queen Elizabeth I would have entered. The guide explains the inspiration behind this unique project, including the recreation of the 16th century fountain, aviary and four obelisks. This tour also sheds light on the love story between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, and her spectacular 19-day visit to Kenilworth Castle.

Castle Ruin Tour

This takes groups into the castle ruins, where they will learn more about the history and the development of the castle from a medieval fortress to a Tudor palace, starting at the 12th century Norman Keep and finishing with the story of the slighting of the castle in 1650.

BOTH TOURS REQUIRE A MINIMUM OF 12 AND A MAXIMUM OF 30 PEOPLE.

CATERING & COACH PARKING: Groups can book a lunch or cream tea in advance in the Kenilworth Castle Tea Room, where refreshments will be waiting for you once your tour has finished. Call 01926 852577 to book. Free parking is available for six coaches, located 300 metres from the entrance.

DIRECTIONS: Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden (CV8 1NG) is on the B4103 in Kenilworth, accessible from the A46 and M40. For opening times and prices or to pre-book group visits and tours visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/ kenilworth, call 01926 857482 or email kenilworth. castle@english-heritage.org.uk.

15% DISCOUNT: Available for groups of 11 or more paying visitors. A tour leader and a coach driver are admitted free.