48 hours in Rugby - the birthplace of a global game
The Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan in September, and as the sporting world counts down, now is the perfect time to plan a visit to Rugby – the sport’s namesake and birthplace. Situated in the West Midlands, the town gave birth to the sport in 1823 when William Webb Ellis, a pupil at Rugby School in the midst of a football match, picked up the ball and ran with it to create a new global game.
Today, visitors to the town flock to see the statue of William Webb Ellis (who also gave his name to the game’s World Cup trophy) striding purposefully with ball in hand, outside the school where he created the game. The birthplace of the Gilbert rugby ball and the rugby uniform and cap, which were created at Rugby School, the town is also home to the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
Perfect for sporting enthusiasts, this traditional British Midlands market town offers much more than rugby, with some great real ale, local pubs, cafes, eateries and heritage beyond the game. There are also fantastic boutique shops and some beautiful Midlands countryside and canals surrounding the town. Celebrate the Rugby World Cup, discover the history and heritage of the game and explore some fascinating British culture with these tops tips for a two-day Rugby itinerary.
Time to check in
Check in at the historic Brownsover Hall Hotel, a Victorian gothic mansion. It was within the rooms of this fascinating heritage hotel that Sir Frank Whittle carried out work to invent the jet engine. Today, the hotel offers plenty of original features and the timeless elegance of the 19th century. Alternatively, head to The Rugby Hotel, a former 18th-century Georgian coaching house situated in the centre of town, right next to Rugby School and some of the town’s best bars and restaurants.
If you prefer B&B accommodation there are plenty of options in some of the lovely villages and hamlets around the town, such as Lawford Hill Farm, a wonderful, luxury bed and breakfast house within a traditional farmhouse. Alternatively, why not take to the water? Rugby is surrounded by the Midlands canal network and slowly cruising the waterways on a canal narrowboat might be the perfect option for visitors looking for a unique place to stay – check out Willow Wren's canal boats for accommodation with a difference.
10:00 Explore rugby history and highlights
Rugby fans can get inspired on a visit to the World Rugby Hall of Fame. If it’s a weekend, head to the Rugby Visitor Centre in the same building to pick up a Rugby Weekend Pass. The pass is a four-day, single ticket providing entry to the World Rugby Hall of Fame and Rugby School, combined with other unique rugby experiences. Above the Visitor Centre is the World Rugby Hall of Fame. Spend an enthralling hour or more on an inspirational journey through time using the latest HD touch-screen technology and discover the game’s history, from its humble origins to its global present.
11:30 Jump on to a sporting tour
Take a sporting heritage tour with one of Rugby’s wonderful Town Guides. Learn more about the history of the game and how it developed before finishing with a visit to the Webb Ellis Rugby Football Museum, where the original Webb Ellis trophy is on display among an array of fascinating rugby memorabilia. Guests on the sporting heritage tour can even learn how to stitch and make their own ‘Rugbeian’ mini leather rugby ball.
13:00 Savour a walk in the park
Take a stroll down to Rugby’s award-winning Caldecott Park and enjoy lunch at the old Tool Shed Cafe, for great local food surrounded by beautiful grounds.
14:00 Take a tour of Rugby School
Rugby School still operates as one of the Britain’s most exclusive public schools. It opens its doors on a Saturday afternoon to visitors who want to learn more about the history of the school. But it’s not just about the game of rugby – founded in 1567, the school has a real old-world charm alongside some spectacular architecture, stained glassed windows and fascinating ex pupils who have stamped their name on the town, Great Britain and the world.
15:00 Discover local art history
Head to Rugby Art Gallery & Museum to check out the art gallery’s latest exhibition and the museum’s social history and archaeology collection. Browse the collections, then head down to Maia Café for some coffee and cake.
19:00 Experience fine local dining
Enjoy cocktails and award-winning boutique dinning at Café Vin Cinq. The restaurant specialises in freshly prepared dishes, using locally supplied and seasonal ingredients.
10:00 Head to the shops
Spend some time exploring Rugby’s boutique shops. With a fantastic selection of independent retailers providing unique products and excellent customer service, the town is perfect for shopaholics.
11:30 Enjoy a taste of local spirit
Dip into Rugby's Real Ale Trail. In addition to sport, Rugby is known for pubs that sell great British cask ale. Within the town centre alone, 17 pubs of great character and heritage sell a range of real ale, with many also offering delicious local bar food. Voted Britain’s Best Pub to Watch Rugby by the Melrose Sevens Championship for two years in a row, The Merchants Inn is famous in the town and beyond, while The Seven Stars is another local pub with some great rugby memorabilia and a perfect pint.
Get close to nature
Ideal for lovers of the great outdoors, the scenic Draycote water reservoir offers activities including cycling, walking, fishing, watersports and bird watching, to name but a few.
Take to the water
Spend the day on a canal narrowboat. Perfect for parties of family or friends, bring a picnic and explore the beautiful North Oxford Canal with Rose Narrowboats.
19:00 Indulge in award-winning culture
Take in some award-winning local theatre. Rugby Theatre sets the standards for amateur theatre across the Midlands. Visiting performers include opera, children’s shows and celebrity speakers as well as some fantastic theatre productions. Alternatively, Rugby School’s newly opened Macready Theatre presents some impressive professional stage shows.
How to get there:
Rugby is in the Midlands, one hour from London by train or two hours by car.
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