Little rowing boats moored up on the River Avon, with the Holy Trinity church in the background, in Stratford-upon-Avon

Bards & Boating, Stratford-upon-Avon, England

In Counties, En-Route, Trip-Types, UK Travel, Warwickshire by JanisLeave a Comment

“To go, or not to go": that is the question?

As part of our mini road which included Oxford and visiting the Cotswolds, we arrived at our final destination of Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire.
A pleasure boat approaching a bridge, in front of a Ferris wheel, on the River Avon, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Along the River Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon is located on the banks of the River Avon and around 100 miles (160km) north-west of London.

You don’t need to be a huge fan of William Shakespeare to visit here, as it is such a beautiful town in its own right, and full of so much history.

However, if you are a fan, it certainly helps.

Quick Links

Discovering Stratford-upon-Avon

Go for a stroll
The best way to explore Stratford-upon-Avon is most certainly on foot, it is incredibly easy to stroll around and a really friendly town.
The half-timbered Library and Registry Office in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire under be deep blue sky

The Library and Registry Office

You’ll need your camera to hand continually, as it is so picturesque. Half-timbered buildings, quaint shops, the River Avon and some beautiful statues.

Take me to the River

The River Avon that is!
Gary and I instantly headed to the river, wherever we are I always seem to be drawn to water. The day visitors were just starting to arrive, and the River Avon was beginning to limber up for the sunny day ahead.
Little rowing boats moored up on the River Avon, with the Holy Trinity church in the background, in Stratford-upon-Avon
The River Avon

Canal boats, rowing boats, pleasure trips you name it, the choice was yours. There is even a little chain ferry to take you across the river for 50p, which is the first ferry from 1937.

A young man operating the passenger chain ferry across the River Avon
The chain ferry
On a summer’s day, the river and Bancroft Gardens is a bustling part of the town, lots going on for all the family. You can sit and watch the world go by on a deck chair or take to the skies on the “Big Wheel’.
A white Ferris Wheel set against the blue sky in Stratford-upon-Avon
The Ferris wheel

Gower’s memorial

What you must see in Bancroft Gardens is the Shakespeare Memorial by Lord Ronald Gower. Surrounding William Shakespeare is four eye-catching bronze statues that depict the literary characters of Falstaff, Hamlet, Lady Macbeth & Prince Hal.
A bronze statue to Shakespeare's Flagstaff, seated with a tankard in hand, in the Bancroft Gardens in Stratford-upon-Avon
The Flastaff statue
A bronze statue to a seated Hamlet, about to deliver the 'Alas, poor Yorick!' speech, in the Bancroft Gardens of Stratford-upon-Avon
The statue to Hamlet
A bronze statue to Lady Macbeth in the Bancroft Gardens of Stratford-upon-Avon
The statue to Lady Macbeth
A bronze statue to Shakespeare's Prince Hal, holding his crown aloft, in the Bancroft Gardens in Stratford-upon-Avon
Statue to Prince Hal

What you must see in Bancroft Gardens is the Shakespeare Memorial by Lord Ronald Gower. Surrounding William Shakespeare is four eye-catching bronze statues that depict the literary characters of Falstaff, Hamlet, Lady Macbeth & Prince Hal.

Tempted to?

Discover the beautiful town of Stratford-upon-Avon for yourself & tour the picturesque English countryside around the Cotswolds. You can do it all on a road trip, Rental Cars searches multiple well-known car hire brands and discovers the deals that suit you the best.

William Shakespeare

The man himself
William Shakespeare, the famous playwright, was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, and evidence of his life here weaves its way through so many of the ancient streets and lanes.
Shakespeare's house in the centre of Stratford upon Avon. The beige coloured half-timbered Tudor home stands now was a museum to the playwright's legacy.
Shakespeare's Birthplace
Shakespeare birthplace and his childhood home is a fantastically restored 16th-century half-timbered building along Henley Street. Now a Grade I listed property and a museum dedicated to Shakespeare; however, it was in this house that he grew up in with his siblings and also where he shared the first five years of his married life to Anne Hathaway.
A row of timber-framed Almshouses, Shakespeares Schoolroom & Guildhall on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon

The Guildhall, Shakespeare's Schoolroom & Almshouses

Shakespeare is believed to have been educated at King Edward VI Grammar School in town, which is along Church Street from the ages of seven to fourteen years. There are records that the school was established as early as the 13th-century. Adjacent to the school and the Guildhall is the Guild Chapel.
The wrought-iron and gold-trimmed sign attached to Shakespeare's Schoolroom & Guildhall on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon
The sign outside the Guildhall & Shakespeares Schoolroom

William Shakespeare's Life

The family years
Shakespeare and his family owned a few properties around the town, New Place, where Shakespeare lived later in his life and died in 1616, is now an attractive garden. A later owner of the property had it demolished in 1759.
The 16th/17th-century timber-framed Nash's House in Chapel Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire,
Nashs House

Standing next to where New Place was, is Nash’s House, built around 1600 and home of Thomas Nash who was the first husband of William’s granddaughter Elizabeth.
 
Both Nash’s House and the site of New Place were acquired in 1876 by Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust.

The 16th/17th-century timber-framed Hall's Croft owned by William Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna & her husband in Old Town, Stratford-upon-Avon
Halls Croft
Another building in town associated with Shakespeare is Hall’s Croft, which was owned by William’s daughter and her husband Dr John Hall, a physician. Located along Old Town, this is another wonderfully kept example of Jacobean House, it was built in 1613.
The thatched, half-timbered, Anne Hathaway's Cottage. The childhood home of William Shakespeare's wife.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Anne Hathaway's Cottage is slightly out of town in a village called Shottery. Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare’s wife, and she lived in the cottage from birth in 1556 until they married in 1582. The cottage is lovely and is over 500 years old, the planting is incredible and so in keeping.

Joint Ticket

If you wish to visit more than one of the sites owned by Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust (there are five), you should check their website. As not only is it cheaper to buy a ‘Full Story’ ticket it is also discounted online.

William Shakespeare's Resting Place

Holy Trinity Church
Shakespeare’s life ended where it started really, in Holy Trinity Church. William was baptised on 26th April 1564 and is buried in the same church after his death on 23rd April 1616 aged 52, next to his wife.
A blue framed plaque in front of the grave of William Shakespeare inside the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon
The grave of William Shakespeare
A bust of William Shakespeare inside the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon
A monument to Shakespeare
When you have a wander around you’ll see a funerary monument dedicated to William Shakespeare.

The Royal Shakespeare Company

At home in Stratford-upon-Avon

The Royal Shakespeare Company as you would expect is based in Stratford-upon-Avon. It has regular performances in London and often tours the UK, so if you’re unable to pick up a production here, then keep a lookout locally.

The RSC has three theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon, the main one is the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and sits pride of place along the River Avon. This theatre was opened on Shakespeare’s birthday on the 23rd April 1932, in 2007 it was closed for a multimillion-pound refurbishment & reopened in 2010.

A wide-beam cnalboat navigating on the River Avon between other boats in front of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on a beautiful sunny summers day.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
Nestled at the end of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is the Swan Theatre, occupying what was once the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre and also continually holds performances.
The round, brick-built, Victorian-Gothic style Swan Theatre attached to the main Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon
The Swan Theatre
Just a short stroll from here is The Other Place, as 200-seat studio theatre, this also had a recent refurbishment and opened on 21st March 2016, in time for the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death.
The informal looking Other Place Theatre just a short stroll from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon

The Other Place Theatre

A Royal Shakespeare Company performance

Wherefore art thou?
For once, forgetting to pre-plan worked out, our luck was in, not only did we pay a ‘Standby’ price of £25 for a stalls ticket of £62.50, the performance was of Romeo & Juliet.
The cover to our program from the RSC's production of Romeo & Juliet at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon
Our Romeo and Juliet programme

It was a modern take on one of William Shakespeare’s most famous productions, and it was absolutely fantastic.

The cast was incredible, full of energy and transported you into their world. The cast member Charlotte Josephine played an amazing role as Mercutio.

Historic Stratford-upon-Avon

Sheep Street

One of Stratford-upon-Avon’s most historic streets is Sheep Street, many of the buildings along here are from 15th & 16th-century.

Sheep Street, aptly named as this was where sheep were brought from the nearby Cotswolds for trading. We’ve come across a few Sheep Streets on this road trip.

The Golden Bee pub, decorated with hanging baskets, in a timber-framed building on Sheep Street in Stratford-upon-Avon
The Golden Bee
Shrieve’s House is one of the oldest still lived in houses in the town, during the 16th century it was an Inn and which was run by William Rogers. It is believed he was the inspiration for Shakespeare’s character Falstaff.
The 16th-century timber-framed Shrieve's house on Sheep Street in Stratford-upon-Avon
Shrieve's house

Signs of William Shakespeare everywhere

Quirky Statues
Just up from Shakespeare’s Birthplace on Henley Street is a jolly Jester from Shakespeare's play “As you like it”.
A statue to Jester Touchstone from Shakespeare’s play ‘As you like it'
The Jester
Three figures decorating a lampost in Stratford-upon-Avon. Bottom from Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer night's Dream', Topol from Fiddler on the roof and the owl from 'The owl and the pussycat'
The Interesting Lampost
Keep an eye out for the lamp post along ‘Waterside’, the little sculptors sitting on top are of “Bottom” the Ass from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and “Topol” from “Fiddler on the Roof”.

How to get there

You can catch a train from London Marylebone to Stratford-upon-Avon via Royal Leamington Spa, which takes around 2 hours.

The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal

Go with the flow

If you fancy a bit more of a sedate way to tour the local countryside, there’s always a canal boat. We’ve made a few canal boat trips, and they are great fun for young and old.

The waterway and locks that lead into the canal basin at the River Avon are the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal.

A canal boat navigating between two locks on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal.

A canal boat navigating the locks

Lock gates on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal.
The Canal Locks
The canal was built between 1793 and 1816, it starts at Birmingham 25.5 miles (41.0 km) north of Stratford-upon-Avon and winds through the countryside. Surely there’s no better way to arrive in town than mooring up for the evening and enjoying a waterside pub.
Canal boats moored up in the canal basin in Stratford-upon-Avon
Moored canal boats

Have You?

Visited Stratford-upon-Avon, did you get a chance to hire a boat, we’d love to know if you enjoyed the town too?  Leave us a comment below to tell us of your adventures.

The best of Stratford-upon-Avon

Mixing with the locals
We’d read that the Garrick Inn was reputedly to be the oldest pub in town, so for research purposes, of course, we had to check it out.
The rustic looking pub sign for the Garrick Inn on the High Street in Stratford-upon-Avon
The sign outside the Garrick Inn

It’s full of wooden beams, nooks and crannies and a great little snug bar at the front.

It’s been an inn since 1718 in its current Elizabethan style, however, the building dates back a couple of centuries further and is known to have been an Inn during the medieval period.

The timber-framed exterior of the historic Garrick Inn, Stratford-upon-Avon
The Garrick Inn
We got chatting to some fascinating, friendly locals, who despite knowing we were just passing through, welcomed us into their local haunt with open arms. One of them gave us a great restaurant recommendation.

Would you like a little more?

We have created a little YouTube video of Stratford-upon-Avon - why not check it out?

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Eating in Stratford-upon-Avon

Where we ate
Well, this follows on nicely from above, as we headed down Sheep Street and called into the Vintner Restaurant. Another incredible building, constructed in 1490 & restored in 1910, it is still privately owned after 500 years.
The exterior of the Vintner Restaurant on Sheep Street in Stratford-upon-Avon
The Vintner Restaurant, Stratford-upon-Avon
Our meal here was lovely, the ingredients are locally sourced and a mixture of different cooking styles.
A main dish of chicken in lime with a mango & curry sauce at the Vintners Restaurant on Sheep Street in Stratford-upon-Avon
A main dish - Chicken in Lime with a Mango & Curry Sauce

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Inspired to visit Stratford-upon-Avon?

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Comments

  1. I visited Stratford-upon-Avon years ago and had forgotten how gorgeous it was – we will have to go there again next time we are back in the UK. A fabulous post with great photos. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks very much, we really enjoyed it. It is a beautiful town, so much history & it was made all the better that we got to see the performance of Romeo & Juliet.

  2. Oh yes! The answer is most definitely to go! I’ve visited Stratford-upon-Avon as a young teen, but would love to go back and explore more, see some of these Tudor, time-framed villages!! Pinned! #FarawayFiles

    1. It was some years ago that I had previously visited, so, it was really great rediscovering it again. It’s a lovely size town and a relaxed atmosphere along the riverside.

  3. What a wonderful look at Stratford upon Avon. Those half timbered houses and thatched roofs are so beautiful and I can never resist a town with canals and longboats. Shakespeare had a charmed life!

    1. It was a real pleasure strolling around, I had forgotten how lovely it was. I’m so pleased we took the chance of grabbing a RSC performance, it was fantastic & a modern twist on Romeo & Juliet.

  4. I have been wanting to visit Stratford upon Avon, and your post has pointed to what I should keep an eye out for. Looks like a great place to visit, and I am a fan of Shakespeare. Can’t believe I haven’t made it there yet! Thanks for all the great background and photos. Pinning for later. Cheers! #FarawayFiles

    1. Thanks Beth, we really loved it & the sunshine made it all the better. The quirky little statues all around the town add a bit of fun.You must try and catch an RSC performance while you’re there it was fantastic. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

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