Travel Diaries: Following ancient footsteps up to spectacular views at Kenilworth Castle

When the sky is a near-cloudless blue, we feel the urge to climb and see rolling green fields stretching out for miles. It does not always have to be a mountain … an ancient tower will do just fine.

Kenilworth has undertaken a huge renovation since our last visit a few years before. A vast tower that we once stood below and peered up at, as the floors and staircases had centuries ago collapsed … is again fully climbable once more.

You can now gaze out of the deep arching windows in the even thicker walls, at the wide rural landscape of Warwickshire. I had my baby daughter in her carrier and she was fascinated by the cold stone walls, reaching out with her tiny fingers to touch them.

The moss and lichen in the windowsills looked like a miniature version of the hills beyond.

A second set of stairs, this time wooden and so beautifully weathered that it felt like they had long been part of the castle, took us upwards again for a view so clear the you can almost rebuild the panoramic before you with your imagination. The vast walls of local red sandstone represent Sir Robert Dudley’s now-permanent love letter to Elizabeth I, who stayed here for nineteen days of festivities in 1575.

The scene below is a family favourite … my children’s ancestors grew up in one of the cottages to the right of the picture and many of our family still live in Kenilworth today. The castle featured heavily in my mother-in-law’s childhood here, from summer events to candlelit carols at Christmas.

We explored to the grassy slopes beyond. This is the perfect place for our two autistic sons, usually completely reliant on reigns, to have freedom to roam – the castle outer walls keep them safe from wandering too far.

The Gatehouse was all prepared for Halloween … they had done such a fantastic job – one of our sons crept around every corner.

A family friend painted Kenilworth for my in-laws and my husband recalls the painting hanging on the dining room wall all through his childhood – and he was delighted to completely frame the castle in the photograph below, just as he remembers it.

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Travel Diaries: Lincolnshire Tour – The Cathedral at dusk

Lincoln Cathedral at dusk

On the occasions when our adventures are city-based, our family of six  pack our rucksacks just as if we were about to hike across fields or mountains and we treat the landscape exactly the same.  We walk and explore, and try and find the hidden corners that breathe character into the bricks and mortar.

Dusk was already beginning to fall, as we crossed cobbled streets that led towards the Cathedral.  It’s a very peaceful time of the day, workers have gone home, and revellers are yet to arrive for the evening and the city feels very still.

We made our way through an old stone archway to the cathedral square just beyond.

When you look at our children exploring the courtyard below, you can see the sheer scale of Lincoln Cathedral, which for hundreds of years (1311-1549) was the tallest building in the world.

Standing under the main entrance, we look upwards to see layer upon layer of carved stone above the doorway and we get the children to run their hands over the door and imagine the countless number pilgrims who have crossed this threshold over the centuries.

Our youngest boys enjoy spotting all of the carved creatures in the pillars…

… and then we spend time just quietly walking around the entranceway, looking at the details.  We are the only people here.

As we walk around the outside of the building, there is an ancient wall to our right with a set of wrought iron gates, leading to a little courtyard and the ruins of the medieval Bishop’s Palace – we’ll return again in the daytime to explore further.

Onwards, and it’s starting to get dark.  The first lights flicker on under the eaves, and a choir begins to practise, the song floating along the air.

To the other side of the Cathedral, at Priory Gate, there’s a wide green and rows of terraced houses…

… and a small path winds under a stone arch and into a little public garden.  Its here that we eat a small packed supper together and watch the street lamps slowly light up along the road.

As we continue our circuit of the cathedral, darkness falls and the floodlights come on.

The air feels heavy, and there are swirling storm clouds above us.  We retrace our steps back to the cobbled street and turn back, to see the spires dramatically illuminated against an inky sky.

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