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Discovering the Delights of Warwickshire's Lesser-Known Canal Town: Atherstone

submitted on 10 May 2023 by uklistings.org

A Hidden Gem in the Heart of England

When it comes to exploring the picturesque landscape of Warwickshire, England, many travelers flock to the postcard-perfect Stratford-Upon-Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare, or the historical Warwick Castle. However, there is a charming little town that often flies under the radar but is worth a visit for its delightful canal and quaint atmosphere Atherstone. Located roughly halfway between Birmingham and Leicester, Atherstone may not have Shakespearean roots or a grand castle, but it does boast some fascinating history and hidden gems of its own. From its bustling market square to its pivotal role in the development of the English canal network, Atherstone is the perfect destination for those who want to explore a less-trodden path in Warwickshire.

A Stroll Along the Coventry Canal

Atherstone's most compelling attraction is undoubtedly the 5.5-mile stretch of the Coventry Canal that passes through the town. The canal was a critical trade route in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and its towpath now provides a tranquil and picturesque walk for visitors. Begin your canal-side adventure at the pretty Atherstone Locks, a flight of 11 locks that raise the waterway by a total of 81 feet. As you ascend the path alongside the locks, you'll be treated to delightful views of the surrounding countryside and the charming boats that still navigate the canal. Once you've reached the top of the locks, continue your stroll along the towpath, accompanied by the gentle sound of trickling water and the occasional quack of a passing duck. Be sure to stop at the historic Merevale Bridge, which dates back to 1786, and take in the vibrant hues of the narrowboats moored along the canal.

A Glimpse Into Atherstone's Rich History

Though Atherstone may not have the fame of its more illustrious neighbors, the town is steeped in fascinating history that is well worth exploring. Start your historical journey with a visit to the 12th-century Church of St Mary, which features a stunning stained-glass window dedicated to the memory of the town's fallen World War I soldiers. Afterward, make your way to the market square, which has been the heart of Atherstone for centuries. Here, you'll find an intriguing mix of architectural styles, from medieval timber-framed buildings to elegant Georgian facades. Be sure to stop by the Market House, a distinctive red-brick building erected in 1724, which now serves as the town's library. For a taste of Atherstone's industrial history, pay a visit to the Hatting Museum, housed in the former Council House. This small but informative museum delves into the town's once-thriving hat-making industry, which produced headwear for the likes of Winston Churchill and Laurel and Hardy!

Atherstone's Quirky Festivals and Traditions

No visit to Atherstone would be complete without experiencing one of the town's unique festivals or traditions. If you happen to be in the area on Shrove Tuesday, don't miss the annual Atherstone Ball Game, a chaotic and entertaining spectacle that dates back to the 12th century. Involving hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators, the Atherstone Ball Game is a delightfully bizarre event in which a giant leather ball is "played" through the town's streets. The aim of the game is to hold onto the ball when the final whistle blows, and the winner is rewarded with a traditional hat a nod to the town's hat-making heritage. If you visit Atherstone in December, you'll be treated to the enchanting spectacle of the town's annual Dickens Night. This festive celebration sees the market square transformed into a Victorian-era wonderland, complete with costumed characters, lantern-lit stalls, and even a carousel. It's the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit and discover a unique side of this charming Warwickshire town.

Tips for Visiting Atherstone

Ready to explore the delights of Atherstone for yourself? Here are some handy tips to make the most of your visit:
  • Getting to Atherstone is easy, with trains from Birmingham New Street and London Euston stopping at the town's station.
  • Though Atherstone is a small town, there are several accommodation options available. For a truly unique stay, consider booking a room at the historic Chapel House, a lovingly restored Georgian building that was once a coaching inn.
  • If you're planning to explore the wider Warwickshire area, consider hiring a car or bicycle to make the most of the region's beautiful countryside.
  • For a memorable meal in Atherstone, head to the Red Lion, a traditional pub that serves delicious homemade fare and boasts a cozy open fire in the winter months.
So, next time you find yourself in Warwickshire, consider venturing off the beaten path and discovering the hidden delights of Atherstone you won't be disappointed!



 







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