Stratford-on-avon: Shakespeare Country
Stratford-upon-Avon, as the name suggests, is a town on the River Avon in south Warwickshire. “Stratford” is used in reference to the local town, whilst “upon-Avon” is added to include the whole district. Having Anglo-Saxon origins, and growing up as a market town in medieval times, the town now has a population of more than 23,676. Stratford-upon-Avon, lined with Elizabethan streets, hidden alleyways and dotted with places of interest, is most famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and receives millions of visitors every year from all over the world.
The closest airport, Birmingham Airport, which serves flights to all UK, European and international destinations, is about 35 minutes drive from Stratford-upon-Avon. The town is also within easy access from junction 15 of the M40 motorway, and has good rail links from Birmingham’s Snow Hill station, and from London (about seven direct trains a day from Marylebone). As for public transport, local bus services are available, including open-top tourist buses that run daily with tour guides providing commentary on the various sites along the way.
Bridge Street is Stratford-upon-Avon’s central street, housing almost all the branches of most of the large chain stores. High Street and Wood Street also have some large department stores, as well as fashionable individual shops. Along with Bridge Street, Sheep Street has some of the best eateries, inns, and other dining venues in town. These two streets are also home to the most-visited traditional pubs in Stratford-upon-Avon, offering real ales, carveries and a select menu at a reasonable cost.
The most popular tourist attractions in Stratford-upon-Avon include Shakespeare Properties, which includes Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Nash’s House, Hall’s Croft, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, and Mary Arden’s House; Priory Gallery, housing works of contemporary British artists, and specialising in oils, watercolours and bronze; Ragley Hall, displaying a fine collection of furniture, porcelain, paintings and silk wall-coverings disabled dating back to 1680; Butterfly Farm, Europe’s largest butterfly farm; Royal Shakespeare Theatre, built in 1926, featuring the Swan Theatre, based on the theatre-design of Shakespeare’s time; and Falstaff’s Experience, a museum that features a unique look at the history of the region and the country.
The many guest houses and Bed and Breakfasts are situated mainly in and around the town centre, and they offer the greatest selection of accommodation. There are also numerous luxurious hotels in the centre, and most of them are within easy access from the Midlands motorway network. The charming villages near the town centre also house reasonably priced accommodation for those who want to escape from the noise.
Stratford-upon-Avon is also hosts to some popular events and festivals in Warwickshire, such as Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebration, which is held on the Saturday closest to the date of April 23; Poetry Festival, held at the Shakespeare Centre and the Shakespeare Institute in July and August; International Flute Festival, a world renowned flute festival featuring professional and student flautists of all levels; English Music Festival, a ten-day autumn music extravaganza, featuring world class concerts – classical, jazz and brass bands etc; and the Big Sheep Show, involving contests and demonstrations in leather-making, sheep shearing, and barrel making, as well as sheep races and sheep dog trials.