Now may be “the winter of our discontent” according to Shakespeare's Richard III, but I'm just back from a day trip to the town of Leicester where the remains of the real Richard III were found earlier this year buried in what used to be a monastery and is now a car park.
Only about a hundred miles away of London or Manchester with historic and scenic destinations such as Stratford-upon-Avon, Nottingham and Oxford even closer than that (this area of Britain is what's referred to as the Midlands, afterall), Leicester and its surrounding countryside offer an excellent base for exploring the heart to England – whether you're a history buff on the trail of a fallen king, a rambler making your way across vast swathes of green or a foodie in search of cosy pubs, world famous curries or traditional cheeses.
Here are some of the Ricardian highlights from my recent visit to lovely Leicester.
Richard: Leicester’s Search for a King
Guildhall, Guildhall Lane, Leicester, LE1 5FQ
With the discovery of the 15th century monarch's skeleton have come much higher visitor numbers to Leicester than ever before. From what I could tell, everybody involved is handling the increased demand quite well and with remarkable charm. Case in point would be the friendly reception from the folks at Leicester’s Guildhall.
A fascinating and historic attraction in its own right, before the Richard III find the hall was more likely to see 30,000 visitors a year. Since only February when the Richard III discovery was announced, the hall has seen more than 140,000 people coming to view it’s current exhibition, Richard: Leicester’s Search for a King. Not only about the recent discovery of Richard’s skeleton but also the science and practicalities behind the archaeology and more, it’s fun and information.
7 Peacock Lane, Leicester, LE1 5PZ
Next to Guildhall is the magnificent Leicester Cathedral. A great example of English gothic architecture in its full glory, the the cathedral is home to a memorial to the king, and there's talk of Richard's remains being reinterred here, but a decision on what to do with his skeleton won't be decided until later this year.
Coming Soon: Richard III Visitor Centre
Planned for spring 2014, a “former Leicester Grammar School building at St Martin's Place will be transformed to house a breathtaking new exhibition, entitled Richard III: Dynasty, Death and Discovery,” in close proximity to Guildhall and the cathedral offering visitors a view into the “dramatic story of the king's life, brutal death at Bosworth Field in 1485, and the fascinating story” of his rediscovery.
Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and Country Park
Sutton Cheney, Near Market Bosworth, Nuneaton CV13 0AD
Just a short drive from town is the Bosworth Battlefield where Richard met his end and Henry VII became monarch ushering in Britain’s Tudor era. A tour of the field and museum helps to bring the the story of battle and the War of the Roses to life. The museum features hands-on exhibits for all-ages with lots of opportunities for educational “wow” moments if you go with little ones.
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