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Stroll along the Grand Union Canal and visit magnificent Warwick Castle.
Distance 5 miles (8km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 33ft (10m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Canal and riverside paths, street pavements, 2 stiles
Landscape Canalside and historic town
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 221 Coventry & Warwick
Start/finish SP 277647
Dog friendliness Off lead along tow path, otherwise under control
Parking Racecourse car park
Public toilets None on routeWrite a review of this walk
© The Automobile Association 2008. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 Walk to the end of the racecourse car park and go left towards the golf clubhouse.
2 Go right and take the wide green track between the golf course and the driving range. In about 300yds (274m), cross over the racetrack and go over a stile on to a footpath by a small factory complex. Continue ahead and, at the corner of common land, go right over another stile on to a lane and descend to the road. Go left along the pavement beneath the railway bridge, then left again over a final stile on to grassland by the Saltisford Canal. Follow this grassy area to the tow path, passing a large narrowboat mooring area and climb the steps up to the canal bridge on to the pavement beside a road. Go right, along the pavement and in 50yds (46m) you will come to a canal bridge over the Grand Union Canal and the busy A425.
3 Cross the road with care. Go left over the canal bridge and descend to take the tow path into Warwick, about 1½ miles (2.4km) away, passing by a lock gate with the Cape of Good Hope pub opposite and then going along the back of residential properties. Shortly after passing by a Tesco store and just before reaching the aqueduct over the River Avon, go left down steps to join the 'Waterside Walk'.
4 Proceed right under the aqueduct and follow the river bank footpath. At Castle Bridge, climb steps on to the pavement of the A425 (Banbury) road and cross with care.
5 Stroll on to the bridge for the classic view of Warwick Castle, then turn around and follow the pavement towards Warwick town.
6 In 220yds (201m) go left and meander down picturesque Mill Street for the second classic view of the castle. Return to the main road and go left through the main entrance gate to Warwick Castle grounds. Bear right and leave the grounds via a wall gate into Castle Street. Stroll up Castle Street passing by Oken's House until you reach the tourist information centre on the corner of the High Street. St Mary's Church is ahead if you wish to visit. Turn left here and walk along High Street, going beneath the archway of the Lord Leycester Hotel. Go right into Bowling Green Street and, in 50yds (46m), turn left down Friars Street to reach Warwick Racecourse.
This easy walk offers the opportunity to visit one of the most famous castles in England. Starting from the car park at Warwick Racecourse, a stroll along the tow path of the Grand Union Canal to the River Avon brings you to Castle Bridge. This is always considered to be the classic view of Warwick's magnificent castle.
Built in the 14th century, Warwick Castle sits imperiously above the River Avon near the centre of the town. It is the ancestral home of the Earls of Warwick, of which Richard Beauchamp (1428-71) was probably the most famous. He lived through the reign of three kings and was present at the burning of Joan of Arc, before later dying in Rouen. In 1461, he replaced Henry VI with Edward, Duke of York and made himself virtual ruler of England until 1464. When he fell out with Edward he fled to France in 1470 and formed an alliance with Margaret of Anjou, wife of the deposed Henry VI. That same year Warwick invaded England, defeated Edward IV and restored Henry VI to the throne. For this feat he became known as 'Warwick the Kingmaker'. The Beauchamp family held the earldom for some 400 years, before it eventually passed to the Dudley family.
You can spend a whole day at Warwick Castle, there is so much to see: the Bailey, Guy's Tower (128ft/39m high), Caesar's Tower (147ft/45m high), the Gatehouse, the Clock Tower and the Old Bridge over the River Avon are all truly superb. Inside you can enjoy the tapestry of the gardens of Versailles, Cromwell's helmet, Queen Anne's travelling trunk and Marie Antoinettes's clock. Outside, wonderful gardens laid out by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown in the 18th century will beckon. The 'Warwick Vase', discovered in the grounds of Hadrian's Villa at Trivoli, can be found in a greenhouse in the garden.
Tear yourself away from the castle to continue the walk, through the county town of 'Shakespeare Country'. It displays a fascinating blend of Georgian and Tudor architecture. In Castle Street you pass the timbered home of Thomas Oken - now housing a doll museum (PWhat to Look For). St Mary's Church is up the road opposite. You can climb its great 174ft (53m) tower for a fantastic view of the town and the surrounding countryside. Inside the church is the 15th-century Beauchamp Chapel where the body of Richard Beauchamp lies. Near by in St Mary's is the tomb of Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Leicester - it is said to have been made by the same craftspeople who modelled Shakespeare's bust at Stratford.
Before heading back to the racecourse you'll pass Lord Leycester's Hospital, at the West Gate of Warwick. This was originally the Guild House of St George which was transformed into the Almshouse in 1571 by Robert Dudley. Now it is probably the most famous of the medieval buildings in this fine town.
There are several good eating places in the town of Warwick. Along the walk route the Cape of Good Hope by the side of the Grand Union Canal is a popular pub with walkers - children and dogs are welcomed on the canalside. It has a patio overlooking the canal and serves bar snacks and good ale.
No trip to Warwick is complete without a visit to fantastic Warwick Castle, but do walk carefully as you enter the eerie Ghost Tower for you may not be alone. It was here, in 1628, that the castle's then owner, Sir Fulke Greville, was fatally stabbed by a manservant because he did not bequeath sufficient funds to him in his will. Entry to the castle isn't cheap - the castle is run on commercial lines by the Tussauds Group - but its reasonable out of high season. It's open 10-6 April to September, 10-5 October to March.
As you walk up Castle Street you pass a very pretty timber-framed 15th-century house. This is Thomas Oken's House. Oken was a silk and luxury goods merchant who was a famous Warwick benefactor. He founded an almshouse for poor women, endowed a schoolmaster and provided money for bonfires for the young. Master of the Guild at the time of the 1545 town charter, he died, childless, in 1573.