We’ve been National Trust members for many years now and always enjoy our days out with them. This year though, we decided to take out an English Heritage membership as well. We’ve already explored Goodrich Castle and Witley Court, which are our two closest English Heritage properties. So this time, we headed a little further afield to dog-friendly Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, West Midlands.
About Kenilworth Castle
Originally built in the 1120s, Kenilworth Castle came into Royal hands in the 1170s when Henry II used it as a Garrison and subsequently bought it in 1180. After many years of Royal service, Elizabeth I granted Kenilworth to Robert Dudley. It was acquired again by royalty and changed hands numerous times before eventually falling into disrepair, but much of the structure is still standing and welcomes visitors. You can read more about the history of Kenilworth Castle on their website.
These days, it is maintained by English Heritage. The beautiful formal garden developed by Robert Dudley to impress Queen Elizabeth I was recreated in 2009. A Tudor stable block has become the tearoom and visitors can experience the full height of the tower. The gatehouse and castle keep are equally fascinating and you can see the remains of the Great Hall.
Outside of the castle walls, visitors can walk around and take in the size and grandeur of the structure. We also spent a good twenty minutes sliding down the hill, great fun when the grass is dry!
To get an idea of what life was like in the castle, visitors can get hands-on with an interactive exhibition about the castle and its people. Children can dress up in period costume – I’m not sure whether this was more for their learning or our entertainment, but it served both purposes.
Another exhibition currently taking place is all about speed and power in motoring and aviation. It celebrates Sir John Siddeley, a pioneer of British motoring who purchased Kenilworth Castle in 1937.
What’s on at Kenilworth Castle
Numerous family friendly events take place at Kenilworth Castle during the school holidays. When we visited, a Norman Castle event was underway. Shows taught visitors about soldiers of the day, what they wore and how they fought.
Empress Matilda explained how she battled for control of England and visitors were treated to authentic encampments. Skills used at the time were on display, including basket weaving and calligraphy. Junior sword battles and jousting kept children entertained and an incredibly well trained horse and its rider demonstrated horseback combat involving a sword and a cabbage.
Throughout the Summer, Medieval Mayhem ensues each day with the exception of major event days. It’s all very interactive and perfect for teaching children about history on the sly when they think they’re just playing.
What you need to know about Kenilworth Castle
Kenilworth Castle is dog friendly, with dogs welcome on leads throughout the site, with the exception of the food area of the tearoom. There are seats outside the tearoom with umbrellas to keep you dry, but other than that the only shelter available when watching the outdoor shows is under the trees. Many activities do take place in and around tents but you will need to bring wet weather gear if there’s rain forecast.
Food is available from the tearoom, including children’s lunchboxes and children’s hot meals. We took a picnic to cut costs and ate on the lawn whilst watching a show. Kenilworth Castle is family friendly with baby changing, high chairs and hot water to warm food and bottles. There’s a children’s audio tour, children’s cutlery and access for pushchairs to most parts of the site.
The car park costs £2, refunded to members in reception except for bank holidays and special events. You can also park in Kenilworth town centre and use a free shuttle bus, from outside the Holiday Inn. Family entry is £29.40, but with an annual family membership for English Heritage costing only £99, it’s worth upgrading to this if you’re going to visit more than three English Heritage properties in a year.