Spotlight on Warwickshire, England: An Under-rated Gem

Spotlight on Warwickshire, England: An Under-rated Gem

The lush county of Warwickshire is nestled at the very heart of England, only an hour by train from London and just minutes away from the bustling city of Birmingham. Medieval castles, historic towns, famous theaters and lush, breathtaking landscapes are only some of the stimulating attractions that his area has to offer curious travelers. If you are after an off-the-beaten path destination in the UK, read on to discover what we love about this region!

Warwick

Warwick is the county capital of Warwickshire, most famous for its charming medieval castle situated on a bend of the River Avon. Having stood in the city for over 1,100 years, Warwick Castle survived countless attacks and a terrible fire in 1871, and is one of the UK’s most well-preserved castles dating from the Middle Ages.

The current castle was developed from an original commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1068 and rebuilt in stone during the reign of King Henry II. Offering activities for every age, the castle gives visitors exceptional insight into the everyday life of its past inhabitants.

What to Do Around the Area:

If you are planning to visit the castle, we strongly recommend that you take some time to wander around Warwick’s small but gorgeous town center. In particular, if you’d like to try a traditional English cream tea, make sure to stop atThe Brethren’s Kitchen, a vintage tearoom which has been serving food to Kings and Queens, Tudor nobles and Victorian literary figures for over 500 years.

The food here is homemade with products from the Master’s Garden. Both the garden and tearoom are located on Warwick High Street, within the Lord Leycester Hospital, a historic group of timber-framed buildings dating from the late 14th Century: a fine example of Britain’s Medieval courtyard architecture which is well worth a visit.

Kenilworth

Warwick’s is not the only castle open to visitors in Warwickshire: the county is rich in fascinating historical sites, such as Kenilworth Castle and its Elizabethan Gardens. This castle has played a fascinating central role in England’s affairs for 900 years: for example, it was the subject of the longest siege in English history, at Kenilworth, in 1266.

Since it was partially destroyed in 1649, only two buildings remain habitable today. For the first time in 350 years, it is now possible to explore the entire height of the tower that Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, commissioned in order to attract the interest of Queen Elizabeth I, hoping to convince her to marry him (Spoiler alert: he did not succeed).

The tower, built especially for her, had a private staircase, luxurious rooms and glass windows . A newly installed series of stairs and platforms within the ruins take visitors 18 meters high, in order to enjoy the spectacular view from the Queen’s bedroom. If you’re feeling peckish after a long walk within the ruins, we advise you to go for a meal at The Queen and Castle, a fabulous village pub located in the shadows of the castle.

Royal Leamington Spa

Royal Leamington Spa’s Christmas Market on the Parade. Photo: Anna Maria Colivicchi / All Rights Reserved

This small town, located on the confluence of the rivers Leam and Avon, grew and prospered thanks to the natural spa springs that were discovered and commercialized here during the 19th century. In 2017, the charming little town was awarded the title of ‘happiest place in the UK’: in our book, this alone makes it well worth a visit.

The main high street, the Parade, offers numerous fine examples of Regency architecture and is lined with busy shops and cafes. We particularly recommend trying the handmade bagels at The Steam House, which are cut, roasted and filled to order. For a real taste of Britain, pop to Bandstand Tea Rooms where you can find the best home backed scones in town.

At the end of the Parade, the Royal Pump Rooms host classical music concerts and arts exhibitions year-round. Across the road from the Pump Rooms, the Jephson Gardens are the perfect place for a walk around the curated flower beds, or to sprawl out for a picnic on the grass during the warmer months.

Coventry

Coventry, situated 18 km north from Warwick, was completely destroyed by Nazi bombings during the Second World War. The city’s Cathedral, in particular, was damaged during a blitz on the 14th of November 1940. Instead of rebuilding the Cathedral, the architect of the new church, Sir Basil Spence, decided to keep the ruins intact as a memorial of that night. As a (touching) result, what remains of the old Cathedral stands as a tribute to peace and represents a unique space for prayers and reflection. This is a site that may deeply move you.

Stratford-upon-Avon

Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Anna Maria Colivicchi / All rights Reserved

Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Anna Maria Colivicchi / All rights Reserved

Stratford is the most famous town in Warwickshire, being the home to the poet William Shakespeare, who was born here in 1564. If you haven’t already visited Shakespeare’s Birthplace, his New Place and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, we strongly recommend doing so, since these historical sites represent some of the best-known and fascinating in England.

Theatre fan? Or just curious to see one of the Bard’s famed works in the town where he lived and worked? The Royal Shakespeare Company, based in Stratford, is one of the biggest theatre venues in the UK, staging different adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays and shows by other writers of the 15th century.

If you’re looking for something different to do in Stratford, head to the lovely Butterfly Farm, where you can enjoy the pleasure of discovering hundreds of colorful butterflies flying in an exotic environment of tropical blossom with splashing waterfalls and fish-filled pools. If you’re a book lover and you’re always on the look for a good second-hand and vintage bookshop, visit the Chaucer Head Bookshop, where you will find rare and antiquarian books covering a wide range of subjects.

Chaucer Head Bookshop in Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Anna Maria Colivicchi / All Rights Reserved

Chaucer Head Bookshop. Photo: Anna Maria Colivicchi / All Rights Reserved

Compton Verney House

Compton Verney House, Stratford-upon-Avon

Just nine miles from Stratford, Compton Verney House offers 120 acres of gorgeous parkland, a lake and an award-winning art gallery that hosts several stunning exhibitions every year. Richard Verney and his brother John, together with the Earl of Warwick Richard Beauchamp, acquired the estate in 1435 and built the manor-house in 1442.

This elegant house passed through different owners and through periods of splendor and decadence. During the Second World War it was requisitioned by the army and used as experimental station for smoke-screen camouflage. By the 1980s Compton Verney had fallen into semi-ruin, but in 1993, the Peter Moores Foundation acquired it, restored it to its astonishing original splendor.

Long Compton’s Rollright Stones

This mysterious complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age megalithic monuments is situated near the village of Long Compton, on the border between Warwickshire and Oxfordshire. The three monuments have surprisingly inspiring names: The Whispering Knights, The King’s Men and The King Stone, respectively.

Read related: The Most Breathtaking Megalithic Sites on the Planet 

The oldest of these monuments was built between 3,800-3,500 BC. According to some legends, they are the petrified remains of a monarch and his courtiers, who were cursed by a witch and turned into stone.

 

About the Author

Anna Maria Colivicchi is an Italian writer who is interested in travel, art and food. She lived in Rome and in the UK, which is her home away from home. You can follow her on Instagram to see more of her stories and photos. 

Anna Maria Colivicchi

Spotlight on Beaucaire, France: A Gem Near Nimes & Avignon

Spotlight on Beaucaire, France: A Gem Near Nimes & Avignon

At The Loftus Guides we seek to inspire you with suggested destinations that are unique and off-the-beaten-track: places that many travelers overlook, but shouldn’t. While we do aim to provide you with plenty of inspiring lists to peruse, we also want to bring you some local flavor, showcasing places around the world that deserve a closer look. This week, we train a spotlight on the charming town of Beaucaire, France. 

Beaucaire is nestled in the department of Gard right beside the Rhone River, which forms a natural boundary between Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. The massive floodgates at the water’s edge are proof that flooding has at times been a real threat to this low-lying part of the region. The surrounding landscapes are lush and green, and the town is bathed in that extraordinary Southern French light that so many of us know and love. 

The Light of Beaucaire, southern France

An Easy Trip From Nîmes, Arles or Avignon

Beaucaire lies at the centre of a triangle formed by the important Southern cities of Nimes, Arles and Avignon. Only 30 to 40 minutes away by train or car, it makes an easy and lovely trip from all of these places. It also lies in close reach of the ancient Roman town of Orange, the village of Uzès, the UNESCO-listed Roman aqueduct known as the Pont du Gard, and numerous other iconic destinations in the South of France. 

Read related: A Visit to France’s Lascaux Caves and Their Paleolithic Wonders

Starting to understand just how well-situated this little town is? Now let’s take a look at why it’s special in its own right.

Top Things to See & Do in Beaucaire

Although it’s not especially touristy, Beaucaire has so much to offer, from picturesque strolls to canal-side cafes, restaurants serving delicious local gastronomy and quaint little shops. Do turn down the town’s many small alleys and streets: you never know what you’ll find!

Take a Walk by the Canal

Port and boats in Beaucaire

The canal adds much to the charm of this little town, with its lush waterside trees, decorated houseboats and opportunities for boat tours. Visiting around Christmas-time? The boats are all decked out with lights, and there’s a festive Christmas market to explore as well. 

Visit a Local Market

Beaucaire is very much a market town. There’s a colorful food market that springs up each Thursday and Sunday morning on the Place Georges Clemenceau. Here, you’ll find everything from delicious local cheeses and produce to fresh bread, olives and flowers. 

For clothing, household items and textiles, take a whirl at the Cours Gambetta market along the canal, held on Thursday and Sunday morning.

Read related: These Are the World’s 11 Most Enticing Food Markets

During the summer, don’t miss the Beaux Quais de Vendredi, an evening market held along the banks of the Canal in Beaucaire each Friday night through July and August. Arts and craft stands, live musical performances and other festivities take over the canal strip, adding plenty of summery ambience.

Market Day in Tarascon

A lively market in nearby Tarascon. Image: Michelle Loftus/All rights reserved

For a bonus, follow the bridge over the river to the adjacent town of Tarascon which has its own share of treasures to discover, including a vibrant, large open-air market and numerous cafes. 

Visit Two Castles (Overlooking One River)

Beaucaire Castle/Michelle Loftus/All rights reserved

Beaucaire Castle/Michelle Loftus/All rights reserved

Beaucaire and Tarascon each have an impressive castle and ramparts facing one another on their respective sides of the Rhone river. The walk and climb up the hill to Beaucaire’s medieval castle is a treat, with the view becoming more and more impressive as you climb. Free to visit, this impressive site gives you a glimpse of its past grandeur.

Chateau de Tarascon/Wolfgang Staudt/Creative Commons 2.0

Chateau de Tarascon/Wolfgang Staudt/Creative Commons 2.0

The Tarascon castle across the river is extremely well-preserved and is considered one of the grandest examples of a medieval fortress in France. It was built starting in the 15th century by the Dukes of Anjou.  

The Chateau often hosts events such as concerts and performances; ask at the tourist office for current details.

Enjoy Music & Dancing on a Hidden Square

Dancing at Place de la Republique, Beaucaire

Dancing at Place de la Republique/Michelle Loftus/All rights reserved

Find the Place de la République, which the locals call la vieille place (the old square). This is a term which might come up frequently when you’re asking for directions, so don’t be confused by it!

The charming square is surrounded by restaurants and café terraces. On certain evenings there’s free entertainment by local musicians, offering the perfect opportunity for an evening of free dancing.

Taste Locally Made Olives and Olive Oil

Olives and olive oil are a local delicacy, and we recommend you spend some time tasting some of these gourmet specialties. You can notably visit a local olive oil mill at Huiles Robert. Take a tour of the facility and taste the delicious oils! The shop here has many options for gifts to bring back home.

Read related: Where to See Gorgeous Lavender Fields in France

Address: 105 Allée Sergius Respectus, 30300 Beaucaire

Telephone: +33 (0)4 66 74 40 46

See the Abbaye Saint-Roman

Saint-Roman Abbey Beaucaire View

Situated right on the edge of town, this Abbey is a truly exceptional site. Carved into the caves and hillside by hermit monks from as early as the 5th century, it’s absolutely worth the uphill walk. The views alone are spectacular.

Address: Abbaye de Saint-Roman, 4294, route de Saint-Gilles, 30300 Beaucaire

Telephone: +33 (0)7 81 56 44 51

Visit the Pont du Gard Aqueduct 

Pont du Gard Aqueduct, France

The famous Pont du Gard aqueduct is nearby, so if time allows we recommend you see it firsthand. Enjoy this tour de force of Roman architecture and its mythical setting, as well as the onsite museum. For a fabulous evening outing, witness the spectacular son et lumière (a light and music show) that brings the site to life in the summertime.

 

See an Exhibit or Light Show at an Old Quarry

Chateau des Baumes and View

 Also just under half an hour from Beaucaire, take in the superb exhibits and light shows at the old quarry known as the Carrières des lumières. Then enjoy breathtaking views from the Chateau des Baux, a vast ruined castle situated high in the hills at the village of Les-Baux-de-Provence and billed as one of the finest sites in historic France.
Click here to see a full events calendar for the Carrière des lumières.

Accommodations We Recommend in Beaucaire 

Our general recommendation at TLG is almost always to book local holiday rentals and lodgings. Rent a flat, a house, a studio or even a furnished houseboat: in today’s world, this is possible just about anywhere you might choose to travel. 

What better way to experience a destination locally? You’ll be able to bring home local fare from the market, eat on your own schedule, pack a picnic for a day-long outing– all the while treating yourself to a morning or afternoon pause café, to use the French term. I don’t know about you, but I prefer not to eat out at every meal. 

Visit one of our favourite sites to find the perfect place to stay in Beaucaire. You can also find accommodation reviews and recommendations at sites such as Booking.com and TripAdvisor.

If you do choose to stay in a hotel, be aware that in Beaucaire and in Tarascon most of these offer basic comforts (remember that French 3-star hotels are about equivalent to 2-star counterparts in North America). You can expect good service, but grand luxury isn’t usually on offer here. This may be another good reason to consider self-catering accommodations, at the end of the day!

Where To Eat in Beaucaire?

Restaurant Menu Beaucaire

Beaucaire, like most towns in France, boasts plenty of restaurants serving high-quality fare. We recommend that you simply take a canal-side stroll to make your choice. Daily menus are displayed on traditional chalkboards outside of each establishment.  You can ask the servers to help you translate if you don’t quite understand the options.

In addition to the typically-offered menu— consisting of three and sometimes more courses– there is usually also a daily ‘set menu’ that is more affordable. You can also order a la carte, of course. 

For specific restaurant reviews and suggestions in and around Beaucaire, we recommend that you visit this page. 

 

For More Info: Visit the Tourist Office

In our opinion, the local tourist office should always be one of your first stops– no matter your destination. There’s no better way to find out about local events and activities such as market days, art tours, current exhibitions, concerts and performances, to name just a few.

Interested in a canal cruise with lunch? They’ll have a recommendation. Want to visit an olive oil mill? They’ll set you on the right course.

Getting There: The Beaucaire Tourist Office is located at 8, rue Victor Hugo. You can also visit the official website here for more information ahead of your trip. 

Please leave your comments below if you have any questions about your plans to visit Beaucaire: we’re here to help. Especially since some of the above resources are available in French, you can feel free to get in touch with any questions you may have about your trip.

You can also use our contact form and connect with us on Facebook.

Bon voyage!