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THREE GIANTS IN SHAKESPEARE’S ENGLAND

Peter Jones

is a travel writer for

YOUR HOLIDAY TV

Click for Peter's Bio

As a small boy growing up in Warwick in the late 1950s I used to play (they call it hanging around these days) with my friends in the grounds of Warwick Castle. It was in those days still owned and lived in by the Earl of Warwick who allowed ratepayers and their families free and unlimited access. Just a bike ride away was the near derelict and abandoned Compton Verney House. Here we ran riot not just in the ground but also the house, pausing only to watch the mighty V Bombers of the RAF taking off overhead from the adjacent base of RAF Gaydon.

 

As a nuclear bomber station, security was tight, though not too tight for a bunch of boys from Warwick. We  spent many summer afternoons lying at the end of the runway within touching distance of Valiants and the occasional visiting Vulcans and Victors. I find it somewhat ironic that the nuclear warheads were stored in some secrecy closer to Compton Verney than RAF Gaydon.Fifty years later Compton Verney is the home of Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park.  RAF Gaydon is home to Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin and the site of The British Motor Museum. Warwick Castle is widely recognised as one of the finest, if not the finest, medieval castles in the world.

 

Individually these three very different attractions are acknowledged as some of the finest places to visit in this country. I indeed they are three giants in Shakespeare’s country, and all within 9 miles of the Bards home of Stratford upon Avon and each worthy of a day’s visit.

 

But we will start at home with Warwick Castle. No longer in the hands of the Earls ‘of Warwick it is part of the mighty Merlin Entertainment Group. They’ve spared no expense into transforming the Castle into a major visitors’ attraction without detracting from its medieval origins. If you are visiting for the first time, try and enter Warwick from The Banbury Road and pause as you cross the Avon bridge. This will enable you to in one of the finest views in England -  the castle perched above the Warwickshire Avon.

There are two entrances into the castle from the town, either off Castle Hill or through the town gate. There is ample car parking near both or if approaching off junction 15 of the M40, brown signs take you straight to the main castle car park and entrance.

I must be honest now, Warwick Castle is not cheap to visit but it is worth every penny. Keep an eye on their website for special deals and save money by buying your tickets in advance. You can also save your Tesco club card points and exchange for tickets. If you plan on being a regular visitor there’s a  fantastic value annual pass you can buy.

 

Warwick Castle is open every day of the year except Christmas day and even though it’s a cliché there really is something for everyone. Not to be missed is the interior. magnificent state rooms and the huge Great Hall overflowing with historic artefacts are magnificent. The somewhat scary dungeons impress and there is a fully working and awesome trebuchet.

There are regular shows and displays that will appeal to all. Add to this plenty of variety in eating options, and Warwick Castle is a great venue for a day of family fun. And, it’s still a great place for a little boy from Warwick pretending to be a knight in Shining Armour.

Warwick Castle, my old playground! www.warwick-castle.com

 

Just eight miles south of Warwick adjacent to Junction 12 of the M40 is the British Motor Museum. winner of a Gold award in the Visit England Awards for 2016. Very much a family friendly museum it reveals the history of the British Motor Industry. There are hands on interactive zones, playgrounds and picnic areas plus the aptly named Junction 12 Café with a delicious range of hot and cold meals. Open every day 10am – 5pm, except for the period from December 24th to January 1st. The entrance cost is just £14 for an adult or £9 for a child aged 5-16yrs, but and it’s a big but, if you apply gift aid to your ticket it gives you unlimited admission for 12 months - fantastic value.

 

Amongst the vast variety of cars I was very much taken by the Austin Healeys on display, built in Warwick by my dad! Equally impressive is the display of Jaguars built in nearby Coventry. Admission to the museum includes entrance to the adjacent Collections Centre, cars that were previously in the reserve collections of both the British Motor Heritage and Jaguar Trusts. Here you can how the cars are stored and watch restorations in progress in the workshops below.

 

The British Motor Museum, not just for petrol heads but something for the whole family, a great day out and great value. www.britishmotormuseum.com

 

Now it would be very wrong to say I have saved the best till last but this is, my favourite.  Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park has for some years been a bit of a secret but is now recognised as one of the world’s major art galleries and possibly the finest example of Landscape genius Lancelot “Capability” Browns work.

 

Open from Tuesday to Sundays each week and Bank Holiday Mondays from 10.30 am till 6pm (Collections, Exhibitions and Compton Kitchen from 11am – 5pm). Prices a very generous £8.50 for adults with reduced prices for children and concessions. As with Warwick Castle and The British Motor Museum there are some terrifically priced annual tickets. The current Exhibition is titled Creating the Countryside... Thomas Gainsborough to today. It  runs until June 18th, and displays works by Gainsborough, Stubbs and Constable as well as contemporary pieces by Grayson Perry, Matt Collishaw and Anna Fox. My sense of humour was tickled by the exhibits

 

Peter Jones

 

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