"Why visit Coventry?" Top 5 Page for this destination Coventry by leics
Coventry Travel Guide: 203 reviews and 427 photos
With apologies to all natives of Coventry, I must admit I have no answer to that title question, other than to see Coventry Cathedral.
Although I've lived in the English Midlands for most of my life, and rarely more than 50 miles from Coventry, I'd never visited. There was simply no reason for me to do so. The Medieval Coventry Cathedral was pretty much destroyed in Second World War bombing (along with much of the city centre), the replacement cathedral is modern and thus not my kind of thing. And I knew that post-war Coventry had not been blessed with..ummm....particularly thoughtful town planning.
So quite why I decided to visit Coventry on a grim, grey, windy and very chilly late April Saturday I have no real idea. I think it was probably because I was desperately seeking a wedding frock (not for my own wedding!) and felt the need to widen my shopping options.
I took the one-carriage train from nearby Nuneaton, simply because it was easy for me and cheaper than driving/parking. I walked from the station into the city centre (largely unimpressed, I have to admit) and wandered around just a little before taking myself to the cathedrals old and new.
There is so little remaining of Coventry's old cathedral that, unexpectedly, I found it lacked atmosphere. Perhaps it was the gloom of the day...perhaps it is the way it overlooks the modern campus of Coventry university. But somehow it seemed rather empty spiritually as well as literally.
There was more to interest me in the new cathedral than I had expected, though I flinched mightily at the 8GBP entrance fee (and, to be honest, rather resented paying it for a modern building). The stained glass is absolutely wonderful, especially the Baptistry Window (by John Piper) and the glass etchings on the entrance facing the old cathedral (by John Hutton) equally lovely. But I was rather unimpressed by Graham Sutherland's tapestry, despite its massive size.
I appreciate that the modern building is architecturally very special, and am not surprised that it is said to be 'Britains favourite 20th-century building'. If you are interested in modern architectural styles, and especially if you are interested in modern stained glass, then Coventry Cathedral would be well worth a visit.
I found more of my personal architectural interests in nearby Holy Trinity church, with some parts dating from the 1300s and a few Medieval misericords remaining in the choir stalls, including the Green Man (see photo below), which pleased me.
Onward through the interlinked modern concrete town squares, some of which I found rather claustrophobic...tall buildings crammed around smallish, draughty spaces (the wind seem to be funnelled through the gaps) with a plethora of pound shops, betting shops and suchlike.
I followed a sign to 'Medieval Spon Street' thinking 'A Medieval street in Cov? Surely not?' I was right, in a way; it's not a real Medieval street but a street created in the 1970s by moving Medieval buildings from elsewhere in the city and rebuilding them. I am very, very glad the buildings were saved and rebuilt here...that was imo *exactly* the right thing to do. It's just a shame that a) the street is so wide (which greatly detracts from any sense of age and b) parking is allowed (ditto) and c) several of the buildings are now of the kebab shop/burger bar type.
But there we go...at least the buildings are preserved.
Wandering onward eventually brought me to Cov's indoor market, another claustrophic spot (it's the low-ish roof, I think, and the crammed stalls within...everything from fabrics to fish, from veggies to nightwear to handbags and shoes). But at least I was able to have something decent to eat...a batch (soft roll) with faggots (spiced meatballs, a Midlands speciality), thick gravy and mushy peas (dried peas boiled until they soften to a mush). Absolutely delicious and real comfort food on what had turned out to be a bitterly cold day.
Coventry has an excellent and free transport museum but I have no interest in transport. So by then I'd had enough...I'd seen the cathedrals, I'd explored the centre of the city, I found no frock but had an excellent faggot batch; time to take the windy walk back to the station and catch the one-carriage train back to Nuneaton.
That all took about 3 hours. At least 5 people on my return train were people who had travelled with me on my inward train. So perhaps 3 hours is all that Coventry warrants, unless you want to see the transport museum as well?
- Pros:Cathedrals old and new
- Cons:Concrete and uninspired post-war town planning.
- In a nutshell:Just for the cathedrals, perhaps?
I decided it was cheaper to take the train from Nuneaton (3.50GBP parking, 4.50GBP return fare) than pay for petrol and... more travel advice
Coventry's new St Michael's cathedral, adjoining the ruins of the old and completed in 1962, is a very impressive piece... more travel advice
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