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Travel: City of Culture Coventry well worth its title

Beautiful Bayley Lane, in Coventry. Photo by Neil Catley
Beautiful Bayley Lane, in Coventry. Photo by Neil Catley

The last time I was sent to Coventry no one spoke to me for six months. This time I couldn’t stop people from speaking to me and telling me just what a fabulous little city it is.

Happily I can vouch for this after a 48-hour whistle-stop visit to the UK’s current City of Culture, which runs until May 2022 and promises to be the party of all parties.

Joined by husband Kenny and children Ruaridh, 14, and Flossie, 11, we were overjoyed to be back travelling and best of all, enjoying a stay in a hotel for the first time in 17 months.

The Telegraph Hotel is newly opened and housed in the former offices of the city’s daily newspaper.

Chic and elegant, the hotel has 88 uniquely styled bedrooms, along with the Forme and Chase all-day conservatory restaurant, 1950s cocktail bar and lounge, all decorated to give a nod back to the heyday of newspapers.

The stylish Telegraph Hotel in Coventry.

Many of the newspaper office’s original features, such as the main doors which still proudly welcome you to The Telegraph and the old post pigeon holes, are still there, and the décor has a cool ’50s look about it with locally based designers employed to kit the hotel out with classic furniture and vintage photographs of the once bustling newsrooms.

The rooms are spacious and airy with all mod cons, and for a treat you can stay in the Lord Iliffe Suite which comes with its own hot tub, lounge area and terrace.

Meals are excellent, with the breakfasts individually cooked and catering for all fads, from poached egg on smashed avocado buttered toast to the more traditional full English.

At night the restaurant comes alive with local dishes cooked with a modern twist and a lovely glass roof adds to the holiday ambience.

One of the spacious rooms at the Telegraph Hotel.

A rooftop bar overlooks the new-look Belgrade Square and its popular 850-seater theatre, and this well-placed hotel means you can ditch the car and walk around and appreciate the architecture, which is a mixture of old and new as the city was heavily bombed during the Second World War.

The most catastrophic raid took place on November 14 1940 and left such devastation that Nazi propagandists coined a new word, coventrieren, meaning to raze a city to the ground.

The former scattered settlement had by the 14th Century become the fourth most powerful city in England and some of the buildings survived the bombing, with one of the best areas to walk around being Spon Street, where the medieval structures have been restored and are used by local shopkeepers.

Many medieval streets still remain in the city. Photo by Martyn Smith.

All the main attractions are in walking distance of the hotel and you can see the fruits of the investment the City of Culture has brought, with new traffic-free areas and pavement fountains, which the children had great fun running through.

Slap bang in the heart of the shopping area is the iconic statute to Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked, covered only by her long hair, in the 13th Century through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxations her husband Leofric had imposed on his tenants.

Around the corner and you are removed from modern life and back in time as you walk along the medieval streets, and looking upwards guarantees a great view of the three spires of Holy Trinity, Christ Church and St Michael’s, which stand out proudly on the skyline alongside the original cathedral, which was destroyed during the war. The new version, consecrated in 1962, is famous for its stunning stained glass.

The impressive stained glass in the modern cathedral.

Nearby is the excellent Herbert Art Gallery and Museum which has a fabulous interactive display of everything which has made Coventry famous over the years, from textiles and watch making to car manufacturing and music.

Coventry is known as the city which gave Two Tone music to the world, fusing Jamaican ska with elements of punk. The Herbert has a brilliant exhibition on bands like The Specials, Madness and The Selector who brought the city alive with their tunes.

On the outskirts of the city is the Coventry Music Museum where historians Pete and Julie Chambers have displayed their impressive collection of Two Tone music memorabilia, and there is a composing studio on hand for you to have a go with a selection of instruments.

Two Tone memorabilia at the exhibition in The Herbert Art Gallery. Photo by Garry Jones Photography.

Coventry is best known for its production of cars and the transport museum pays homage to the industry with the largest publicly owned collection of British vehicles worldwide and some impressive bicycles too.

The Year of Culture which was delayed due to the pandemic will be followed by the city hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games, and plenty of events have been lined up to make the most of being under the spotlight.

One of the highlights will be plenty of live music from a blast from the past with Terry Hall, of The Specials, to a performance from modern sensation Ed Sheeran, and both will no doubt have Coventry jumping.

Coventry Transport Museum has the largest publicly owned collection of British vehicles in the world.


The Telegraph Hotel:
Coventry Cathedral:
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum:
Coventry Transport Museum:
Coventry Music Museum:
Year of Culture What’s On: