This edition of England by Rail is technically England by Tube by Rail by Bus 1 by Bus 2 by Rail by Bus 3 by Rail. A landslide on the train tracks north of London transformed the two hour train trip to Stratford-upon-Avon into a comedy of detours lasting twice as long each direction. It was a Valentine’s Day adventure!
It was also a humbling reminder to be flexible and go with the flow in travel, and life in general. The logistics of travel are often frustrating, exhausting, and sometimes undignified, yet always worth the trouble. As I stood shivering on the platform awaiting my delayed train I reminded myself that it was about the journey too, not just the destination. Bonus, I can now say I’ve visited a town named Royal Leamington Spa if it ever comes up in trivia.
After making the most of my journey I arrived around lunchtime to my destination for the day, Stratford-upon-Avon AKA Shakespeare’s hometown. Shakespeare was born and educated here, and this is where he returned to settle down and start a family after accumulating his wealth in London.
There are several sites paying homage to Stratford-upon-Avon’s hometown hero in the town center and a short car ride away. I stuck to the sites in town for my visit which satisfied my Shakespeare quest. The main attraction is Shakespeare’s childhood home.
You can also see one of the Bard’s plays come to life at the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre.
In addition to the intriguing Shakespeare history, the town is just downright cute. Dare I say…quaint?
The highlight of my day was my fish & chips lunch at the Keys and Kitchen followed by a two hour walking tour with the award-winning Stratford Town Walks. Our tour guide Helen regaled us with stories of Stratford’s history and Shakespeare’s connection to the town. During the tour we explored the entire town on foot and left no Shakespeare stone unturned. We saw everything from his place of birth to his grave at Holy Trinity Church.
After a few hours in the town learning about the Bard’s impact on English language, I left with a much deeper respect than I ever acquired in English lit. The man was a genius and provided the English language with more in 52 years than centuries of writing since. Brush up on your Shakespeare quotes to appreciate his greatness.
Know Before You Go:
- Stratford Town Walks runs daily at 11am, plus a 2pm tour on weekends. At time of this post it was £6 per person. So good, definitely do this!
- If booking train tickets don’t confuse Stratford (site of 2012 Olympic Park in London) with Stratford-upon-Avon (you want this one).
- Book a play at the Royal Shakespeare Company in advance.
- Buy combination tickets at the Tourist Info Center for the various Shakespeare sights.
- If driving, Rick Steves recommends combining Stratford-upon-Avon with Warwick Castle and/or Coventry. Rick is always right.
- Stratford-upon-Avon is also near the Cotswolds if you’re visiting and want to add a side trip.
- Try cream tea with scones if you like caffeine & sugar. If you don’t, let’s re-evaluate our relationship. Several places around town offer it plus you’ll get discounts after the walking tour using your ticket voucher.