With trains taking less than 2 hours from London and a wealth of heritage sites, cosy English pubs and hearty meals all within walking distance of each other, Stratford-upon-Avon is the ideal weekend away.
The quickest (and funnest) way to see Stratford-upon-Avon is through its namesake, the river. Tour boats leave every half hour or so, but if you’re anything like us (poor) and the weather is fine, then test your rowing skills in one of the boats for £ 6.00 per person, per hour.
Make sure you don’t get too distracted by all the sites, or you might capsize, or worse, get attacked by the hordes of swans – they’re ruthless!
All that rowing offered us an ideal opportunity to wet the whistle at the riverside Cox’s Yard pub and restaurant. If you were unlucky enough to not score tickets to a performance at the Royal Shakespeare Company, then Cox Yard’s Attic Theatre frequently shows Shakespeare performances too.
Stratford-upon-Avon was made for afternoon strolls, and we meandered around its narrow streets, where the black-and-white Tudor buildings teetered over us. Eventually our feet took us to Hall’s Croft, the one-time home of Susanna Shakespeare, one of William Shakespeare’s daughters.
Even for modern times it’s size is impressive, and for the Tudor residents of Stratford-upon-Avon it was one of the largest and finest properties in the entire town. Amongst the various period decorations and furniture are quirky features that highlight everyday life at the property, such as a disgruntled letter from a patient of the physician Dr Hall, Susanna’s husband, complaining he took too long to see him. It’s moments like those that make you realise that despite time and the onward march of modernity, some things never change.
With only a short while before the Royal Shakespeare Company’s play was due to start, we took everyone’s suggestion and head to Lamb’s Restaurant. Housed in a 16th-century Tudor house, it offers a good pre-theatre menu and, to be honest, a pretty tempting dinner menu as well! Make sure you book ahead, as queues start before the restaurant even opens!
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s reputation precedes itself, and with good reason. Their performances are relatable to a variety of people and contain just as much drama, meaning and emotion as they did in Shakespeare’s time. Moreover, they are adept at reinventing Shakespeare’s work to suit modern-day settings, and while some might worry about the complexity of Shakespearean English, the actors are skilled at conveying the overall meaning to audiences. Tickets can also be inexpensive and for young people their RSC Key programme offers tickets for as little as £5. In essence, what I’m trying to say is make sure you catch a performance while you are in Stratford-upon-Avon.