This month I marked English Tourism Week with a visit to Kenilworth Castle. English Tourism Week is an annual celebration of English Tourism, which aims to raise the profile of the industry and celebrate the value and quality of tourism in England. As the Cabinet minister with responsibility for tourism, I know how important it is to many Parliamentary constituencies and it is a particular pleasure to have in my own a fantastic attraction like Kenilworth Castle.
Many of you will have visited Kenilworth Castle, which is run by the English Heritage Trust. The medieval castle is best known as the home of Robert Dudley, a childhood friend and favourite of Elizabeth I. In 1563, Elizabeth I granted Kenilworth to him and she visited four times during ‘progresses’ through her realm. Her visit in the summer of 1575 was the longest she made to any courtier during her reign, and Dudley’s embellishments to the castle and its setting were no doubt intended to impress her.
Kenilworth Castle is now one of the largest visitor attractions in the West Midlands, and English Heritage estimates that 116,000 people visited in 2018-19. Significantly, more than 14,000 children came to Kenilworth on educational visits in that period - benefiting from recently updated online resources for teachers - and their popular ‘hands on with history’ activities attract families throughout the summer holidays. Engaging young people is seen as a key factor in inspiring the next generation to care for our sites in years to come.
This year, English Heritage are investing in Kenilworth Castle’s Elizabethan Garden, with significant re-planting and a new family trail to allow visitors to better enjoy and understand it. Once this is completed in the summer, the castle will be holding 19 days of celebration to reflect the 19 days that Queen Elizabeth I visited the castle in July 1575. English Heritage is also investing in a new volunteer coordinator at the castle, to recruit and manage volunteers who will undertake a range of duties including tours of the Elizabethan Garden, and talks on the dressing of Elizabeth I. This will complement an already busy events programme, which includes re-enactment battles, pageants and jousting. The Castle has also been re-created in the popular computer game of Minecraft, commissioned by English Heritage as part of their #LoveCastles campaign.
I am grateful to Shakespeare’s England (a not-for-profit membership organisation and a public private sector partnership supported by the region’s key tourism businesses and local authorities) for arranging for me to re-visit this impressive attraction that we are lucky to have on our doorstep. I congratulate English Heritage on their ongoing successful management of the site and all those involved in the promotion of local tourism.