Coventry is not the first place in England that I would naturally think of as a place to visit. Yet we have come to appreciate after 6 years of full-time travel that every place has a uniqueness to offer anyone who has a dose of curiosity. So in this short City Guide we share with you the highlights that we found during a recent half-day visit. You never know, Coventry might well end up being on your ‘Travel To Do List’. Let’s see if we can persuade you.
Coventry is perhaps famous for two things;
- The idiom of ‘Sending you to Coventry’ suggesting that we are deliberately ostracising you, which really doesn’t sell the notion of visiting any time soon.
- The infamous bombing of the city on 14 November 1940 that whilst it may have destroyed its Cathedral did not dent its spirit.
Officially mapped in the West Midlands, Coventry is nestled in the heart of industrial Britain and as such leaves the city with a reputation that seems not worthy of a tourist visit. These days that industry has morphed from clock and watches to bicycles, motor and aircraft manufacturing. Yet as England’s 20th largest city, when you open its Pandora Box you might be surprised with what it has to offer.
1. City of Culture 2021/22
In 2017, Coventry was awarded City of Culture for 2021 due to its diversity, youthful vibe thanks to its 3 universities and central location. Postponed from 2021 because of Covid, Coventry has been celebrating its City of Culture status that has firmly put it on the UK map. Even Radio 1 are doing a Roadshow up there. The kudos of having this accolade does Coventry’s reputation the world of good and encourages us to see it through new eyes.
2. The Reel Store
Triggered as part of the cultural celebrations, the old Telegraph Newspaper offices have been converted into a state of the art immersive, digital gallery allowing visitors to be entertained by an AI experience. The Reel Store is expected to be a permanent exhibition and on 13 May opened its doors with this unique art presentation – and we were one of the first to experience this incredible event. The current exhibition is a collaboration between Rafik Anadol and NASA, using a collection of 2 million pictures from space and calibrated into this unique immersive experience. For £10 per person you will be thrown into a 20 minute display of movement, colour and sound that will transport you to a totally different world. Check out our video below.
3. Medieval Coventry
Coventry has a long history going back centuries and had, once upon a time the best preserved Medieval quarter of any city in England. Although Spon Lane’s offerings, where you will see magnificent examples of buildings dating back to the Middle Ages, didn’t in fact originate here. They have been relocated from around the city and brought together in one place. As you walk down the lane you see the fusion of Tudor designs and timbers at home alongside modern premises and businesses. Yet the paradox is that they are kept alive by this symbiotic arrangement. It is well worth searching out this area of the city, which is within walking distance of the train station.
Check out our gallery below.
4. War-time Coventry
Of course Coventry is perhaps best known for its World War 2 history, where on the fateful night of 14/15 November 1940, the Nazi’s blitzed the city, thought to be a target because of their ammunition factories. Coventry had no warning of the impending doom for their city and so they were at the mercy of the German’s bombs. Razed to the ground, Coventry was seen as one of Germany’s most successful battles; killing more than 600 people, bombing over a third of the factories and ammunition centres and reducing Coventry’s industrial reputation quite literally to rubble. To see Coventry’s strength in redefining itself is a testament to its spirit. Today the modern feel is shaded by unnaturally open city spaces that have clearly been shaped by that fateful night. It feels like an emotional journey to come here amidst the modern office buildings and tower blocks although their facades hide a pain from the past and a spirit of forgiveness.
5. Coventry Cathedral, Old and New
One very noticeable victim of the bombing was the city’s grand Cathedral. Defiled by bombing, the building was almost completely destroyed much to the horror of the locals. And yet the very next morning, it was not anger that fuelled survivors to rush to the razed church body, it was forgiveness. It stands today as it did on 14th November 1940 with its heart ripped out and yet when you walk through the church gates into its seemingly empty belly, its soul is very much in tact. A skeleton that stands for forgiveness and fortitude. The tower, which avoided destruction can be climbed for an aerial view of the city, which they hope to reopen in summer 2022.
Then in direct contrast, the new Cathedral which adjoins the old has a totally different feel to it. Tall, hollow it felt to me and very soulless, although with a stained glass window that is its crowning glory and well worth seeing.
6. Coventry’s Parks and Canal
Whilst on this visit we didn’t get a chance to visit, Coventry has a surprising number of parkland areas for walking, cycling or play if you have kids to entertain. In fact there are around 16 parks in total. If my intuition was to serve me well, I suspect that some of the parks are as a consequence of the bombing and using the demolished sites in a more positive way. I could find nothing to confirm my instincts, although it feels right. The Coventry Canal, the basin of which you will find to the north of the city is a 38 mile stretch of canal that eventually feeds into the Trent and Mersey at Lichfield. It is navigable by boat, Paddle Board or cycle – on the tow path of course (she says having steered her electric bike into the Llangollen Canal in Wales).
How to get there
Coventry is dead centre in England and in the heart of the motorway network so whichever direction you come from, getting here is pretty easy. South east of Birmingham and directly north of Leamington-Spa, you can easily hop onto the M6, M1 or M40 to reach this understated city. Alternatively you have a great rail network that links Coventry north and south, so reaching this unusual hub is relatively easy. There are plenty of car parks in the city as you’ll see in the map below. For a day’s parking we paid £6.
Where to stay
If you are travelling with your camper or motorhome, then there are no campsites in Coventry. Although you don’t need to go far to find a range of sites from which you can hop onto a train. We’ve included a map from Search for Sites of just some of the options. Leamington Spa in Warwickshire in particular would make a really nice base enabling you to explore more than just Coventry, which is just an added bonus.
For hotels, check out the map below just to show you how many hotel options there are open to you and choose a booking platform to assess prices across the city.
Where to eat
As with every city in the world, there are all sorts of eateries to choose from, from your branded restaurants to local bistros with food represented from every corner of the world. As a diverse city with multi-ethnicities and not forgetting that it is catering for its University population, Coventry has every food style you can imagine. We ate at Wagamamas as Myles had never been there, so we thought we’d try it. If you would like something that is slightly out of the city and combine it with a place to stay overnight to boot, then why not try The Old Mill in Baginton which is directly south of the city just a 10 minute drive. It is a quintessential English pub and definitely worth checking out and has an enormous car park if you happen to take the motorhome in with you.
So what do you think? Coventry – is it worth a visit? Certainly before our day’s visit I can honestly say that I would never have considered it on my must visit list. Although having been, I think it definitely needs promoting for a day’s visit. Much like an onion, when you strip away the ugly outer layers that perhaps shapes its national reputation, a sweet centre is revealed. We hope that you might give Coventry a chance and let us know what you think.
Why not Pin this?
Similar Posts which might interest you….