Leicestershire boats the historic site of the Battle of Bosworth, with the city’s iconic Cathedral soon to become the final resting place of King Richard III. Groups visiting will discover a number of exploration sites to commemorate the late monarch, who has been buried in the city grounds for approximately 500 years. Short breaks tailored to suit the destination’s unique heritage provide a comfortable stay at a top hotel in the area with entry to the contemporary Richard III Visitor Centre. For more information call the designated Group Visits Co-Ordinator on 0116 299 4444.

Bosworth Battle Leicester

Bosworth Battlefield boasts national significance

Donington Le Heath Manor House dates back to the late 13th century and was once inhabited by one of the men involved with the infamous Gunpowder Plot. Opened as a museum in 1974, the building currently demonstrates designs from the Medieval, Tudor and Stuart era. Captivating garden scenery surrounds the house, recreated to match a 17th century style with an ornamental maze and orchard. A car park is located on-site with adequate room for coaches and allocated disabled space. The museum is open to school groups every Monday and Tuesday throughout the year. From Wednesday to Sunday, the museum is free to enter between 1100hrs and 1600hrs, with the exception of a small charge for family events.

Groups are educated through interactive displays, a collection of temporary exhibitions and primary visits to the bed base that King Richard III was rumoured to have slept on before his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Although disabled access is limited to the lower floor, a virtual tour is available to view the remainder. The site is renowned for its monthly schedule of events including re-enactments, crafts and various other hands-on activities. Local theatre companies perform at the venue occasionally, with intimate concerts hosted in the barn during some evenings. Upcoming is the Chapter House Theatre Company’s rendition of Wuthering Heights which is to be performed in August. 

Leicester Food Festival 2014

Sherwin’s Cheese in the new food hall

Leicester Market is considered a valuable asset to its vibrant tourism industry, with the opening of its new food hall cementing its long running reputation as one of the best markets in the country. Other accolades include twice being voted Britain’s Favourite Market, as well as holding the title of Europe’s largest covered market. The 700-year-old attraction saw a new food hall open on Friday May 23 amidst thousands of eager shoppers looking to get a taste. Light and airy, the attraction aims to showcase the high quality of goods on offer, with food ranging from fresh exotic meats and fish to artisan cheeses and other delicatessen produce. The £3.5 million structure boasts a timber ceiling with beams that span the width of the hall, said to be on par with the prestigious Harrods Food Hall in London. Also to be mentioned is Leicester’s Winter Food Festival taking place on Sunday November 16 from 1100hrs to 1700hrs. The events is currently in its sixth year, showcasing top quality food and drink as well as live cooking demonstrations, music and entertainment. It’s no doubt a great way for groups to get into the festive spirit, with a variety of local Christmas crafts sold.

ON TOUR: RICHARD III & OLD LEICESTER

Leicester is known to beckon the avid shopper but when viewed from a historical perspective, it promotes a close affiliation with King Richard III who spent his last remaining days in the city before his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. This was to be the final battle of the War of the Roses, with the white rose of York and the last of the Plantagenets fallen to the red rose of Lancaster, namely Henry Tudor. Victory via conquest on August 22 not only saw the last English king to die in battle but also spelled the end of the medieval period.

Richard III Tour Leicester Guildhall

Leicester’s historic Guildhall

On our visit, Virginia Wright would be our acclaimed blue badge tour guide, with her bubbly nature and keen interest in the subject at hand. Virginia works independently, offering privatised guided tours to pre-booked groups within cathedral hours. Previously, tours would have been held annually on August 22. Following the discovery of King Richard’s bones in September 2012, this date was later extended to weekends. I had little trouble finding the designated meeting spot, despite the fact it was my first time in the city. Stepping just outside the stained structure of the Guildhall on St. Martins West, the location stands mere inches from the dominant setting of Leicester Cathedral. The tour proved more popular than originally anticipated. One of the visitors was with a silver-slicked Canadian chap who spoke fluent Italian. The international demand for heritage tours in the area has undoubtedly grown in scale since the discovery of Richard III bones in late 2012.

Richard III Tour Leicester Bow Bridge

Bow Bridge plays a crucial role in the tour

The initial investigation had been launched on August 25, 2012 by the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society, to mark the 527th anniversary of his burial. We were lucky enough to have bypassed the location where he was discovered, with dramatic renovations being made to turn the site into an open plan Visitor Centre, linking to the soon-to-be revamped Cathedral Gardens. A white rose tribute stands clear on the commemorative plate, cemented into the Cathedral’s intimate interior, adjacent to the vibrant Chapel. We were unable to view the statue in Castle Gardens due to intensive restoration work being made in anticipation of the upcoming reinterment. Erected by the Richard III Society in 1980, the bronzed model to depicts Richard raising his crown. Surrounding the statue is a fleet of white roses. The location is open for tours on select days.

The final leg of the tour held particular significance as we embarked across Bow Bridge. It was on this site that Richard III last rode his horse upon arrival into Leicester. Following his defeat, his limp and lifeless body was hung on horseback with wrists tied, as Henry Tudor proceeded to claim the throne. Colourful inscriptions see Richard’s crest displayed on the right and Henry’s crest on the left. Overall, the tour proved highly interesting and informative; focusing intently on discovery instead of regurgitating what has been published in the history books. Though the Tudor reign no doubt appeared to dissolve most elements of truth surrounding the late king, I could still almost vividly visualise the characteristics of the old Leicester village. There is no definitive date as yet, but the re-interment ceremony to be hosted in spring 2015 promises to be a big event. Will your group be visiting? To contact Virginia Wright for a tour email pvwright@hotmail.co.uk

DID YOU KNOW?

For those who admire a more historical setting, Bosworth Battlefield near Sutton Cheney is the famed location of the Battle of Bosworth. The battlefield features a wealth of history, national significance and a strong international interest – the site of the death of King Richard III and the birth of the Tudor dynasty via Henry VII. Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre is a thriving tourist resort, aiming to educate visitors on the discovery of the location. Discounted rates are available for groups starting at just £6 per person for parties of 10 or more. Guided tours must be booked in advance. Call 01455 290429 or visit www.bosworthbattlefield.com

One stop away from Leicester railway station, Melton Mowbray merits as the UK’s Rural Capital of Food. The city is steeped in rural tradition; famous for such fine food and drink as the Melton Mowbray pork pie and a range of locally brewed ales. Groups could choose to visit later in the year as the city plays host to the largest food festival in the region. Markets are erected throughout the year with the upcoming Melton Victorian Market offering traditional craft and marching bands. Make a date in your diary to see the Christmas lights illuminate on December 5. For more details visit www.victorian- fayre.co.uk