Last Updated on
Once a royal castle, and a favourite residence of Lancastrian kings. But Kenilworth is associated by the majority of people with the Elizabethan era, when it was owned by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the queen's favourite. Though the castle is mostly ruined now, some rooms can still be seen, together with period fittings and furnishings. The site is enormous and impressive, and now includes an Elizabethan garden.
Lichfield Cathedral is the only 3-spired medieval cathedral in England; its spires have long been known as 'the Ladies of the Vale'. Founded by Chad in the 7th century (and dedicated to him and St Mary) the present Gothic building largely took shape between the 12th and 14th centuries. It was particularly badly damaged during the Civil War - canon balls destroyed parts and wrecked others - but subsequently restored. Lichfield Cathedral is the repository for the 8th century Chad Gospels and also home to the Lichfield Angel, a piece of Anglo-Saxon carving discovered during building work. Among the many other treasures to be seen is the marble memorial 'Sleeping Children', which is particularly evocative.
The National Memorial Arboretum is a centre of remembrance for the fallen - members of the armed forces, civilian services and ordinary people. It is set in 150 acres of reclaimed gravel pits between the rivers Trent and Tarne. There is an astonishing variety of memorials - 320 of them at the last count - to every conceivable group you can imagine - surrounded by 30,000 trees. It is both impressive and humbling.
The NMA is managed by the Royal British Legion.
One of two RAF museums in Britain (the other one is in Hendon, north London), RAF Cosford displays 70+ aircraft, including the world's oldest Spitfire, with exhibits shown in three historic hangers. On site is the National Cold War Exhibition, which tells the story of this uncertain period in our history and where you can see all three of Britain's V-Bombers - the Vulcan, Victor and Valiant.
The Shugborough Estate in Staffordshire has been the seat of the Earls of Lichfield (family name Anson) since 1831 – the 6th Earl still has apartments there. Arguably, Shugborough’s most famous son was the 5th Earl, the internationally renowned photographer Patrick Lichfield, who died in 2005. His private apartments can be visited as part of a tour of the house. The mansion is set in 900 acres of idyllic parkland, there's a historic farm with rare breeds - and the garden is a peach. If you're a conspiracy lover, Shugborough is also famous for alleged associations with the Holy Grail. The property has been owned by the National Trust since the 1960s but leased to and managed by Staffordshire County Council. In 2016, the Council handed the property back to the National Trust, who decided to close it until March 2017 to enable upgrading works to take place.
St Andrew's, Wroxeter, dates from before the Norman Conquest, though, like all medieval churches, it has been added to and developed over the years. It contains re-used Roman stonework, including columns used as gateposts to the churchyard and the base of a column used as a font. It has Saxon features in the walls. It also has a set of astonishing Tudor tombs, with scarily life-like effigies. If you're minded to, you can also stay overnight in the church. Use the link to Churches Conservation Trust.
Originally a 12th century chapel for the adjacent castle, the church was severely damaged during the Civil War and the nave was rebuilt in 1654 during the Commonwealth. It contains a large number of boxed pews, two of which have canopies, and several texts, including the Lord's Prayer, painted on the church wall. There's a charming war memorial in the churchyard.
St Michael's Baddesley Clinton is a short walk from Baddesley Clinton Manor House, through woods packed with snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells. The church was originally dedicated to St James, but changed - probably in the 19th century. The present building dates from 1305, but it is generally thought that a church stood on or near the site before Domesday (though the latter makes no mention of one). Do not miss the beautiful east window, the interesting rustic oak screen - or the simple grave marker for Nicholas Broome, just inside the south door (under the mat!). Once lord of the manor, he murdered a priest and built the tower of the church as a penance.
A perfect medieval fortified manor house, little changed since it was built in the 13th century, including original timbers. A wonderful timber-framed gatehouse was added in the 17th century. The castle stands next to the parish church of St John the Baptist and, as English Heritage says, it's unforgettably picturesque.
A small museum dedicated to Violette Szabo GC, British SOE agent during the Second World War, who worked against the Nazis in occupied France until her capture by the Gestapo. She was shot in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in 1945, aged 23. Violette's story was told in the 1958 film, Carve Her Name With Pride. The museum is in the grounds of a small house where Violette stayed several times and was established by her aunt, Rosemary Rigby MBE. The museum also covers the work of SOE, the Special Operations Executive, in general as well as the stories of other agents.