One of my favourite Towns and one of my favourite places that I’ve been too. The wonderful Warwickshire town of Stratford-Upon-Avon. Of course when you think of Stratford you instantly think of William Shakespeare, as the town was the place of his birth. It’s simply a charming place.
Whether it’s arriving in the car via the Fosse Way from Leicester or arriving on the train as soon as I enter Stratford I have a strange feeling of happiness come over me. I have probably visited Stratford as many times as London, and that says a lot!
For arriving by train, I’d catch the Stratford bound service at Birmingham Moor Street (or sometimes Snow Hill) which takes around 50 minutes to get to Stratford, passing through some lovely scenery as we go. Once at the station, I’d walk down Alcester Road, before crossing on to Greenhill Street and then I’m in the town centre.
Coming by car, we usually park in Saxon Close or one of the roads around there before walking in to the town centre. Coming this way allows much a much grand entrance into the town, as you have two choices of crossing the River Avon, across Clopton Bridge or by the Tramway Bridge. Both offer lovely views down the Avon. Once crossed these you are in the town centre.
As pretty much being the town of Shakespeare, there’s lots of things dedicated to the worlds greatest playwright. Home to the Shakespeare’s birthplace, and there are 5 locations you can visit that are connected to the Bard. Starting with Shakespeare’s birthplace itself, which is fascinating, and you can step where the bard was born all those years ago. There’s New place, which has recently been renovated and also Hall’s Croft, which was the birthplace of Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna. The two further locations are just outside the town, with Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Mary Arden’s Farm. I’d highly recommend a visit to these if you’re in the town.
One of the main reasons I visit Stratford so often is for The Royal Shakespeare Company which is homed here. I’ve seen numerous productions of plays at the RSC, across it’s 3 sites since 2011, The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, The Swan Theatre and the formerly Courtyard Theatre, now re-opened under it’s former title The Other place. There is nothing more special than seeing Shakespeare done and done incredibly by the RSC in Stratford.
As well as seeing numerous brilliant theatrical productions the RSC put on they also have wonderful free exhibitions which are always worth popping in to see. The RSC shop has certainly taken a few pennies away from across the years. I’ve also been lucky enough to go on a couple of backstage tours of the theatre which are a great thing to do as a fan of theatre, you get a great insight to the hard work that goes on to create such superb theatre. One of the highlights off stage at the RSC is The Tower. Which you pay a couple of pounds to take a lift up to the top and that gives you great views across the town and the wider areas.
Away from the RSC, Stratford does have some lovely shops and restaurants. The Dirty Duck being a favourite of mine. Always good to pop in there for a drink, especially if we have extra time before a show or whatever. The Bella Italia in Stratford is first rate as is the decor in the pizza express. If you’re looking for fish and chips, Barnabys on the corner of Sheep Street and Waterside is excellent.
Throughout the year Stratford hosts some brilliant events which I’ve been too. Shakespeare’s birthday, 23rd April, is a great day to visit. We attended last year as it was the big celebration of 400 years since Shakespeare died. They did a parade through the streets, as well as having a market on. There was even a Royal visit to Stratford that day with Prince Charles and Camilla in attendance. The RSC hosted Shakespeare live with a host of acting royalty including Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Judi Dench and Dame Helen Mirren. We didn’t have ticket for this but we did stick around for the fireworks afterwards. Starting with the lighting of a giant Shakespeare head and followed by the most incredible firework display. It was probably one of the best days I’ve had in Stratford. Just click this link to watch The Shakespeare 400 fireworks display.
Another fantastic yearly event held in Stratford is the River Festival, held on the first weekend of July. This features numerous boats mooring on the banks of the Avon and stools of food and crafts being sold. There is also live performances on the Bandstand throughout the weekend. The Saturday ends with an illuminated boat parade and followed by a firework display. It’s always a great event to attend, and last year was sadly the first year since the event started that we’ve missed it!
Stratford is one of those places I can just wander around, whether if it’s by the river or by through the main town streets, it really is just the most charming town. I truly love going there and I highly recommend that you visit as it’s one of my favourite places in the world.