Spotlight on Kenilworth Castle
Follow in the footsteps of medieval royalty and discover almost 900 years of history. Kenilworth Castle survived a full-scale siege in 1266 - the longest on English soil - and later became a favoured home for Lancastrian kings.
Visit the ruins of the private rooms of Queen Elizabeth I, who stayed on numerous occasions during the 16th century, and admire a recreation of one of England's finest Elizabethan gardens.
Why we love Kenilworth Castle
'Kenilworth is one of my favourite ruins. It's beautiful, romantic and vast. I love Leicester's Gatehouse, built by Robert Dudley, and especially the grand fireplace with the initials R D. I highly recommend a visit to Kenilworth Castle.' Belinda Murada, visitor to Kenilworth Castle via Facebook
'As soon as I step into the grounds of Kenilworth Castle I can just feel history encased in the walls. Each part of the castle has a story to tell, from medieval sieges and power struggles to the great story between Elizabeth I and Dudley. The castle looks stunning at all times of the year, but when the sun is shining and the light is just right, the red colour of the castle ruins against the cobalt blue of the sky is simply magical to behold.' Katie Barrie, Kenilworth Castle Marketing Manager
'It is a privilege to live near and be able to visit our historic castle and its Elizabethan garden. Everyone in Kenilworth is very proud of it and are happy to welcome visitors to enjoy something we have all the time.' Councillor Michael Coker (also Chair of the English Heritage Liaison Committee)
Take a closer look: Elizabeth I at Kenilworth
Elizabeth I gave Kenilworth Castle to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in 1563. Dudley made substantial additions to impress his queen. These included a gatehouse, beautiful formal gardens and a four-storey tower block, known as Leicester's Building.
Dudley was the queen's favourite and she visited Kenilworth four times - in 1566, 1568, 1572 and 1575. The latter was the longest stay at a courtier's residence during any royal tour. Elizabeth's visits to the castle sparked rumours about a love affair with Dudley. Some think that the extravagant celebrations put on in 1575 represented a final attempt by Dudley to win the hand of the queen. He wasn't successful, but the story inspired Sir Walter Scott to write his novel, Kenilworth, in the 19th century.
Outside you can stroll through the Elizabethan gardens, designed for the queen's pleasure. In recent years we've reconstructed the garden as it would have looked during Elizabeth's visits — the first recreation of an Elizabethan garden on such a scale.
What makes Kenilworth Special?
King John, John of Gaunt and Henry V have all left their mark on Kenilworth Castle and a visit today will take you through centuries of history.
As you weave through the ruins, look out for the earliest remains of the castle. It's easy to see why the imposing great tower, built by the royal chamberlain Geoffrey de Clinton in the 12th century, was at the heart of the castle's defence.
Explore the ruins of John of Gaunt's 14th century great hall, a grand room that was once the centrepiece of the castle. Between 1373 and 1380, John of Gaunt adapted the castle to his tastes and needs.
In 1649 the castle, like many others across England, was deliberately damaged by Parliamentary forces. After the Civil War it was abandoned, and by the 1660s one observer wrote that it was in ruins and 'utterly demolished'. But today you can still get a sense of what life was like in the castle in its heyday.
Take the free audio tour to discover more stories from Kenilworth's past.Discover the history of Kenilworth Castle
Three things to look out for
- Viewing platform: A newly installed series of stairs and platforms within the ruined shell take visitors 18 metres high, right up into the queen's private chambers. Take in the views of the rest of the castle, walk through the remains of the queen's former bedroom and see the long gallery reserved for her closest confidants.
- Medieval stables: Built in 1553, the grand stable is a remarkable survival from the Tudor period. Today it's home to a museum and café, so take a seat and enjoy a cup of tea and a light lunch.
- Mortimer's Tower: As you walk through the main medieval entrance to the castle, look out for the two D-shaped towers. These were built as part of King John's ring of stone defences for the outer bailey between 1210 and 1215.