Over the first May Bank holiday weekend we visited Stratford Upon Avon, a medieval market town in England’s West Midlands that is famous for all things Shakespeare!
It’s was easy for us to get from London to Stratford Upon Avon as we just needed to catch a few trains. We bought our tickets months in advance so we were able to secure cheap tickets over what would normally be an expensive weekend to travel in!
We had to change at Leamington Spa. It was a little stressful as our train from London was late, meaning that we had to run to the connecting train. Despite our running, the staff barked at us to hurry up!
Our accommodation in Stratford Upon Avon
Our cute B&B was a short walk from the train station, and very convenient to the town centre.
Each morning we were able to choose from several delicious breakfast options including a full English, salmon and scrambled eggs on toast, cereals, and seasoned porridge. Breakfast was served in a lovely dining room, and our hosts were always chirpy and keen for a chat. Especially since, coincidentally, they were fellow kiwis!
Exploring the town centre
After dropping off our bags at our B&B, we had brunch at Boston Tea Party. Yum! They had reasonable coffee, too!
One thing we enjoy doing shortly after arriving at a new place is a walking tour. We find it helps to get our bearings and learn a bit about the culture and history of the area. The tour which we went on was good, and we recommend it. We liked that our guide was a good storyteller and even threw in the odd golden nugget of local knowledge such as how Shakespeare’s head was apparently stolen from his grave.
A Royal Shakespeare Theatre play
You can’t visit Stratford Upon Avon without seeing a Royal Shakespeare Company play. As we’d been to several Shakespearean plays at The Globe in London, we decided that we wanted to see a different style of play. We chose a play called The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich, which was written by a female playwright in the 1600’s.
The theatre is semi-circular, like The Globe. However, it is fully enclosed and therefore resistant to the elements! We liked that we didn’t have to stand for a change, too! Granted, our seats had very little leg room.
The play had a good mix of humour, gossip, scandal, and mischief. The moral of the story seemed to be “marry wisely”.
We enjoyed the play, even if it was hard to follow at times because of the old fashioned language and fast-paced scenes. It was a little long, and Kimmie wished she had drunken some coffee in advance as she was feeling very tired by the end!
Lapping up the river
Who doesn’t love a picnic by a river on a hot sunny day? We made the most of the weather and had some drinks on the lawn in front of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It’s so great that we can do this in the UK, as back home we wouldn’t be allowed to due to the liquor bans in public spaces.
We really enjoyed strolling alongside the river, where we saw lots of locals walking their dogs. Seriously, so many dogs!
On our way back, we decided to try out the funny-looking hand-powered ferry, which didn’t exactly break the bank at 50p per person. The ride took about 5 minutes, and is operated by a man who hand cranks the ferry himself. About 20 people can fit in each time, and our sailing was full. We even had a canine passenger!
Kimmie also wanted to enjoy the river in a row boat. It was first in first served due to the stunning weather, therefore becoming a bit of a bun fight. But, we managed to secure a boat before they were all hired out. The boats are only hired for 30 minutes at a time, which is a bit restricting but we felt it was enough time to check out both sides of the river. Kimmie offered to row, but obviously Jase wanted the workout.
There were several obstacles to navigate around, including other boats and swans. Kimmie did a good job at steering until near then end where the boat veered into the side of a bridge…
Why not take a little Shakespeare home?
As you can imagine, there are many Shakespeare-style knickknacks to take home. Some fairly classic, others a bit more funky and alternative.
So what did Jase choose? A themed rubber duck. Yes, that’s right, and he named it “Shakesduck”.
While in Stratford Upon Avon, we decided to visit nearby Warwick Castle, which is fairly pristine looking for a castle. The original structure was built by William the Conqueror in 1068, so it has quite a lot of history behind it. We learnt about some of the history at one of the history tours, but to be honest the historian spouted around so many names and dates it was quite hard to keep up, let alone retain the information.
The mighty trebuchet
Jase was very excited to see the trebuchet in action, as were the majority of the mostly under 15 year old audience. To be fair to Jase, it is pretty amazing that they constructed a working trebuchet from scratch.
The staff created a big lead up to the firing of the trebuchet, with the speaker hyping up the crowd for about 20 minutes. It was probably just as well really, because otherwise the show would have been over in a mere few minutes!
War of the Roses jousting tournament
It just so happened that there was a jousting tournament on at Warwick Castle when we visited. The jousting wasn’t proper jousting with knights thrusting giant pointy poles at each other (just as well as there were lots of children in the audience). Instead, the knights on horseback partook in challenges requiring speed and accuracy. For instance, threading a lance through hoops and using a lance to hit scarecrow-like targets.
What was particularity pleasing was that there was a female knight!
Flight of the eagles
The birds we saw at this show were amazing – a sight to behold! They were so large and yet so graceful. Some even glided a meter or two above our heads. I particularly enjoyed seeing a bald eagle in flight, as they are so iconic of America.
Exploring the castle and grounds
We felt fairly energetic when we explored the grounds and walls of the castle. We walked around the gardens and green spaces and also made our way up and down the walls, spiral staircases, and around the castle’s interior.
Other bits and bobs
Warwick Castle is a great place for kids. We saw kids having a great time learning archery, pretending to be knights with swords, and prancing around as princesses with crowns.
Kimmie also enjoyed ordering a turkey leg since it reminded her of doing so in Florida, but, after a while she got a bit sick of eating the rich meat of the turkey leg. Those things are huge!
Stratford Upon Avon is a nice relaxing place to spend a weekend. We had beautiful weather which always helps!
We would recommend a visit – even if you’re not a Shakespeare fanatic! In fact, while we were there a big car show was on. There were lots of cars lining the streets and being proudly displayed by their owners, including this one!
Jase and Kimmie