Car-free adventures aroundStratford-upon-AvonWarwickshire
Famous as Shakespeare’s home town and stuffed with bard-themed attractions, Stratford-upon-Avon also makes a great base for exploring the wider delights of Warwickshire.
1. Explore by minibus, boat, bike or on foot
With the Avon flowing right past the riverside Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon is a great place for boat trips as well as dramatic encounters. It’s also a useful jumping off point for exploring the nearby Cotswolds. Follow Good Journey’s directions.
- The countryside of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is as iconically English as Shakespeare’s plays: follow narrow lanes through woods and rolling hills, past views and villages. Stratford-based Go Cotswolds Tours can meet you from the railway station for a day trip through classic cottages, country pubs and hidden gems.
- Back in Stratford, you can hire a rowing boat from Avon Boating for a self-guided tour of the river, take a short canal trip that includes going through a lock or simply ride Britain’s last chain ferry over the Avon behind the theatre. More information about this and other boat-related activities here
- Or hire a bike and cycle the Stratford Greenway for five miles of traffic-free path.
- Stratford is packed with places to visit that can shed more light on England’s greatest playwright. There are statues and gardens, museums and memorials. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has brought to life several bard-related buildings, including the house and gardens at spacious New Place, where he lived his last 19 years. Two people can buy tickets for the price of one when you arrive by train with a voucher.
- Visit Shakespeare’s half-timbered childhood home (with a 2-for-1 voucher) or walk out into the countryside to thatched Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (find the voucher here). The cottage is a pleasant stroll from the town with pubs and cafes near the route. For a longer hike through the Warwickshire countryside, read on.
2. Walk the Monarch's Way
One of several long-distance footpaths running through or near Stratford-upon-Avon is the 625-mile Monarch’s Way, which retraces the route of King Charles II as he fled Cromwellian forces after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Eleven miles of the route, heading north out of Stratford-upon-Avon, brings you to the village Wootton Wawen with regular trains and buses back into town.
- This section starts by crossing the Welcombe Hills and passes the Farm, a popular shop and café with fields of baby goats and highland cows, colourful plots of spring veg and a Gloucestershire old spot pig. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust organises guided walks over the Welcombe Hills.
- The last stretch of the route follows a canal-side towpath over an aqueduct and passes St Peter’s church in Wootton Wawen with its Saxon core, bearded Jacobean knight, and carved stone faces.
- Bus X20 leaves hourly from outside the church and gets back to Stratford in about half an hour. Or you can turn left at the half-timbered Bull’s Head nearby to take the train instead from Wootton Wawen station.
3. Visit Warwick Castle
Trains and buses link Stratford-upon-Avon with the county town of Warwick, where the centuries-old castle rises above the rooftops, blossoming parks and picturesque river.
- Bus X18 sets off from the coach park at the end of Stratford’s pedestrianised Henley Street (near the statue of a Shakespearean fool) and it stops just outside the castle walls about 40 minutes later.
- Inside the castle gates, there’s a mind-boggling menu of things to do: a Horrible Histories maze or a walk-through Royal Weekend, featuring uncanny waxwork Victorians like Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick (who inspired the song Daisy, Daisy). There are views from the top of the Conqueror’s Fortress, the original motte where Warwick’s first wooden keep was built in 1068, or flying displays from the castle’s resident owls, kites and eagles, and jewel-bright peacocks picking their way among flowers and topiary near the conservatory.
- And onsite cafes too for when you get peckish. You could easily spend all day – or all week! – at Warwick Castle.
- Follow Good Journey’s directions.