The birthplace of the Victorian writer George Eliot, Nuneaton is the largest town in Warwickshire and only a brief drive from Birmingham, Coventry and Leicester.
Eliot was born on the Arbury Estate, which opens for public tours on Bank Holiday weekends, and appears in detail in Scenes from Clerical Life.
There’s a superb exhibition for George Eliot at the town museum, which is also a great resource for children, with lots to keep young minds engaged.
Mining and quarrying were Nuneaton’s backbone until the 20th century, and Mount Judd, an abrupt 158-metre spoil tip to the north is unmissable proof.
For convenient days out, you can make trips to the new Triumph visitor centre in Hinckley and the site of the epochal Battle of Bosworth field.
1. Arbury Hall
The Newdigate family has resided at the Nuneaton’s Arbury Hall for more than four centuries.
The hall is on the site of the dissolved Augustinian Arbury Priory, and has a blend of Elizabethan and 18th-century Gothic Revival architecture, all in 300 acres of idyllic parkland.
In 1819 one of the great writers of the Victorian period, George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) was born on one of the estate’s farms to the land agent of the estate.
For people who love her work, a visit to Arbury Hall is obligatory, as this is the Cheverel Manor described in Mr.
Gilfil’s Love Story, in Scenes of Clerical Life.
Opening times are limited to pre-arranged private tours in the summer, or open days on Bank Holiday Sundays and Mondays between April and August.
The Gothic Revival interiors are exceptional for their filigree tracery, stuccowork and fan-vaulted ceilings, and are unmistakeably the same from Eliot’s work.
2. Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery
The flower garden in Riversley Park is the pretty location for Nuneaton’s local museum, which opened in a red brick Historicist building in 1917. If Arbury Hall piqued your interest, the main attraction will be the gallery dedicated to George Eliot, her career and her early life in Nuneaton.
The Writing Room here is for budding young storytellers and has a George Eliot board game, while elsewhere there are colouring-in areas, a puppet theatre, playable musical instruments and brass rubbings to keep kids enthused.
The art gallery warrants a visit for works by the military painter James Princep Beadle and the Flemish Golden Age artist Roelandt Savery.
3. Triumph Motorcycles Visitor Experience
Hinckley, just on the other side of the A5 from Nuneaton, is the home of the UK’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer.
Triumph is a treasured British marque, founded in 1902 by the German immigrant, Siegfried Bettmann from Nuremberg.
The original company went into receivership in 1983, but Triumph continued making motorcycles under new owners at a new site in Hinckley.
In February 2018 Prince William opened a Factory Visitor Experience at the headquarters.
On the factory tour you’ll be given the rare chance to go behind the scenes at Triumph and witness its precision engineering firsthand, learning privileged insights as you go.
There’s also an exhibition, recalling landmark’s in the company’s history, showing off iconic Triumph motorcycles from the past 120 years and going into detail on the state-of-the-art technology present in all Triumphs assembled today.
After your tour you can soak up the atmosphere at the sleek 1902 Café, which has artisan coffee and free Wi-Fi.
4. Hartshill Hayes Country Park
You can escape to the north Warwickshire countryside at this park, in more than 130 acres of woodland and open fields on a hilltop.
Hartshill Hayes Country Park is blessed with dreamy views of the Anker Valley, and you can just sit and contemplate the landscape from a bench.
There’s a playground for youngsters and a cafe open during the school holidays.
If you visit on a quieter day there’s a good chance of sighting deer in the woodland, while the forest floor is carpeted with bluebells in springtime.
All trails are clearly signposted and laid with gravel or tarmac for pushchair and wheelchair users.
5. Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre
One of the turning points in English history took place in the countryside a few miles north of Nuneaton in 1485. The Battle of Bosworth Field was the last big battle in the Wars of Roses, which had raged for 30 years between the Houses of York and Lancaster.
Here Henry Tudor (Henry VII) of the House of York defeated King Richard III, who was killed in battle, ending the Plantagenet Dynasty that had ruled since the 12th century and ushering in the Tudor period.
The award-winning Heritage Centre opened at the purported site of the battle in 1974, recounting the Wars of the Roses and the events of 22 August 1485, using lots of visual aids and interactivity.
One grisly exhibit shows how long a soldier could expect to survive in the battle depending on his armour and weapons.
There’s a cafe in a reconstructed oak tithe barn, while the grounds are well looked after and have labelled trails disappearing off into woodland.
6. Nuneaton Heritage Centre
You can get to grips with Nuneaton’s local history at this small but worthwhile attraction in an old Victorian school building.
The Heritage Centre has preserved some of the former school’s fittings, like wooden desks and the headmistress’s parlour, which has an inglenook fireplace.
The centre is loaded with mementos and artefacts from days one by in Nuneaton, many of which have been donated by residents.
Before the local Stanley Brickworks was demolished the museum also got hold of an assortment of castings and moulds from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as tools from Nuneaton’s mining and quarrying industries.
The Second World War, when Nuneaton suffered extensive bombing, is also covered in detail.
7. Mount Judd
If you didn’t know better you would be excused for wondering if the 158-metre bump in the landscape north of Nuneaton was a volcanic caldera.
Mount Judd is actually a spoil tip created from waste stone from the Judkins Quarry, which processed granite.
Now coated with vegetation, the spoil tip took shape in the middle of the 20th century and because of its steeply graded slopes is a peculiar landmark seen for miles around.
This is England’s 3,306th tallest peak, known by some as the “Nuneaton Nipple”. Those precipitous slopes keep Mount Judd fenced off for safety, but that doesn’t deter young people battling up the peak as a rite of passage.
8. Riversley Park
From the entrance to the Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery there’s a restorative view over the formal flower beds, topiaries and war memorials in Riversley Park.
To the east is the River Anker, traced by a path, and you can bring bird-friendly feed like oats for the many ducks and swans.
Children will also adore the well looked-after play area with a sandpit.
To the north you can get to the George Eliot Memorial Gardens, laid out for the author in 1952, while to the south is the Pingles Leisure Centre.
9. Anker Wood
Out of Nuneaton on the road to Atherstone, the Dobbies Garden Centre has a visitor attraction attached for smaller children.
Previously known as Plantasia, Anker Wood features a treetop trail and a peaceful orchard growing pears, damsons, plums and traditional apple varieties.
Mazeworld has six different mazes to solve, each using region-specific plants and objects as barriers (e.g. reeds for Africa, hedges for England, eucalyptus for Australia). Little ones will also be able to meet tame domestic animals like Shetland ponies, Anglo-Nubian goats, guinea pigs and alpacas, while the attraction also keeps old spot pigs and kune kune pigs.
Added to this is a Roman-themed soft play area, and a cafe should you need a pick-me-up.
10. Sutton Cheney
South of the Battle of Bosworth Field Heritage Centre is the Sutton Cheney Wharf, on the Ashby Canal, which dates to the turn of the 19th century.
The wharf has a cafe with an inviting terrace right by the water.
You can use this as a stepping stone for the Bosworth Battlefield Circular Trail, or may prefer to idle on the picnic benches in this picturesque setting.
Sutton Cheney, the village, is a short way up Wharf Lane from here and has a 14th-century church, St James, where Richard III is believed to have attended mass before the battle.
Before the railways Sutton Cheney was a stop for horse-drawn coaches, and two coaching inns, Hercules Revived and The Royal Arms, remain from this time.
These are easily identified by the large arches leading onto former stables.
11. Hawkesbury Junction
An atmospheric piece of early industrial infrastructure, Hawkesbury Junction is where the northern end of the Oxford Canal meets the Coventry Canal.
The junction was completed in 1803 after decades of legal wrangling between the Oxford and Coventry canal companies over their right to charge tolls.
There’s a grand iron footbridge over the junction, and a disused engine house on the west bank of the Coventry Canal, built in 1821. The Greyhound Inn, much-loved for its pub grub, has tables on the wharf.
You could lose all track of time watching the narrowboats attempting the tricky turn from one canal to the next without clipping the sides.
12. Abbey Theatre
The only theatre venue in Nuneaton, the Abbey Theatre is a receiving house, staging just over 50 live performances a year.
The auditorium seats 250 in plush, comfortable seats where you can watch local and touring musicians, dance companies, plays, musicals, children’s shows, a Christmas pantomime, as well as improv and stand-up comedy.
The regular Funhouse Comedy Night, showcases four comedians from around the country, while the Abbey Theatre has recently started screening films, from classics like A Streetcar Named Desire to children’s favourites like a Frozen sing-along.
13. Ropewalk Shopping Centre
All of your shopping needs will be covered by the big shopping centre in the heart of the town.
Ropewalk used to be the Queen’s Arcade, which by the 2000s was showing its age.
The new shopping centre arrived in 2005 and is set over two floors with a rather impressive glass roof over the main walkway.
All the brands you could need for a short but busy shopping trip are here, like H&M, Accessorize, TK-Maxx, Topshop, Next, The Body Shop, Schuh, River Island and HMV, all complemented by branches of Subway and Costa.
The upper end opens onto Queens Road, which has more High Street shops and is taken over by a flourishing street market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
14. Hoar Park Craft Village
Out in the North Warwickshire countryside there’s a lovely courtyard of 17th-century barns that have been turned into a craft shops and studios.
Browse here for antiques, luxury confectionery, jewellery, horse-riding accessories, cute hand-crafted gifts, knitwear and paintings, as well as farm-fresh produce from eggs to meat, fruit, vegetables and home-baked cakes.
You’ll have no trouble convincing kids to join you as there’s a children’s farm keeping sheep, kune kune pigs, ducks, chickens and deer.
The stars of the show are the cheeky pygmy goats, as well as the guinea pigs and rabbits that can be picked up and petted.
15. Bosworth Water Park
A day out for the summer, Bosworth Water Park is a 50-acre leisure park with all sorts of activities in store.
First and foremost these are watersports like dinghy sailing, rowing, canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding.
All the equipment you need is available to hire, and, whether you want to just get started or are working towards RYA sailing certificates, you can sign up for a wide choice of courses.
If you’re visiting with smaller children you could simply rent a pedal boat for an hour or two, play the 12-hole pirate themed crazy golf course or bring them to the sandy beach that opened at the lake in 2015 and is trimmed with grassy areas.
Bosworth Water Park is also a campsite and caravan park, with a cafe, shop and even pools for carp fishing.