Not only is Warwickshire the birthplace of the world’s greatest playwright, it’s also home to medieval castles, glorious parkland and quaint villages galore. Warwickshire as a county was first recorded in the year 1001, meaning today, it holds over one thousand years of rich, diverse history. What better place to start exploring than in some of Warwickshire’s best museums?
This stunning medieval castle sits on an original build by William the Conqueror in 1068. The seat of the Earls of Warwick for centuries, the castle has been at the forefront of almost 1,000 years of English history. Visitors can explore original battlements, towers, dungeons, as well as the Great Hall. This is a full day out, with interactive exhibitions, walk-through experiences, and daily shows which change with the seasons. The live action dungeon tours are particularly popular, giving an insight into the castle’s sometimes dark history. Make sure you buy your tickets online in advance, as this gives you a significant discount.
This is, after all, ‘Shakespeare’s County’, so it only follows that when in Warwickshire, you should visit the 16th-century house where the world’s most recognisable playwright was born and raised. Purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1847, you can not only literally follow in Shakespeare’s footsteps, but also view rare artefacts, hear tales of his life told by costumed guides, and enjoy live theatre. Prices are reduced when you buy a ‘full story’ ticket that also includes access to four other Shakespeare-related museums around Stratford-upon-Avon.
Another Shakespeare must-see, of a different kind. This is the site of the house where Shakespeare lived from 1597 until his death in 1616. A new all-outdoor garden exhibition now stands here. Specially commissioned artworks guide visitors through his family life, giving the chance to create a personal connection to the man behind the fame. This is included with Shakespeare’s Birthplace in the price of a ‘full story’ ticket – the perfect museum outing for any Shakespeare fan.
The MAD Museum is the UK’s only mechanical art and design space, pulling in thousands of families each week for a fun-filled day out. Kids (and big kids!) can find out what makes them tick as they take part in the hundreds of interactive displays throughout the course of the museum, all related to science, art, technology, mathematics and design. Based in the heart of the town, kids will just love finding out how mechanics work!
This manor house has a history dating back to the Saxon population that once inhabited Compton Verney. The house you see today dates to the Georgian era and is situated in 120 acres of stunning parkland. With world-class, award-winning art collections, Compton Verney Gallery holds both permanent and temporary exhibitions. There is also an ‘Art in the Park’ collection, featuring the work of contemporary artists, dotted around the beautiful grounds which makes visiting Compton Verney the perfect compromise between a cultural museum outing and a day in the sun.
Holding the world’s largest collection of historic British cars, this museum is a car enthusiast’s dream. Lectures and workshops are regularly held, on topics such as how to maintain your classic car, or how to produce a car study in watercolour. Even if cars aren’t your thing, there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained, with free tours and interactive family activities such as the Easter weekend treasure hunt. There’s so much to see, you’re sure to want a repeat visit – luckily, if you book online with Gift Aid, your one-day ticket will last all year.
This historic group of medieval buildings date largely from the 14th century and are centred around the original Norman gateway into the city of Warwick. The original chapel here was built in 1126, making this a site of nine hundred years of historic significance. In 1571, Elizabeth I’s favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, turned the buildings into a retirement hospital for aged or disabled soldiers and their families. Today, pre-booked guided tours are given by uniformed Resident Brothers of the Hospital who are all retired ex-servicemen.
This collection of local art and history is housed in the beautiful Royal Pump Rooms, which opened in 1814 to accommodate the growing numbers of wealthy visitors who came to Leamington to ‘take the waters’ for their health. Leamington’s evolution from rural village to fashionable spa town is documented in the ‘Local History Gallery’, now located where the former Turkish Baths once stood. Perfect for a family day out, there is a similar, interactive exhibition of local history designed specifically for children. The museum also offers free admission.
Nearing 900 years of history, St John’s House is a Jacobean mansion located in Warwick. After being used as a school, a private residence, and administrative offices for the War Department, the House was bought by the Warwickshire County Council and turned into a museum for the public in 1960. With the ground floor reserved for school children, the first floor of the House is now the Royal Warwickshire Regiment of Fusiliers Museum, which is free to enter and is run by enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers.
Located in the 17th-century Market Hall, a landmark in the heart of the city of Warwick, this museum tells the history of the county to the present day. Recently refurbished, the museum hosts a programme of events and activities that changes throughout the year. General admission and guided tours are free.