50 Walks in Warwickshire & West Midlands

Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare's town

Try this sample walk from the latest edition of 50 Walks in Warwickshire & West Midlands.

About 50 Walks in Warwickshire & West Midlands

Walking is one of Britain's favourite leisure activities, and this guide to Warwickshire & West Midlands features 50 mapped walks from 2 to 10 miles, to suit all abilities.

The book features all the practical detail you need, including:

  • fascinating background reading on the history and wildlife of the area,
  • clear OS-based mapping for ease of use,
  • every route has been colour coded according to difficulty,
  • annotations for local points of interest and places to stop for refreshments,
  • summary of distance, time, gradient, level of difficulty, type of surface and access, landscape, dog friendliness, parking and public toilets.

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Sample walk: Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare's town
  • Distance: 2.5 miles (4km)
  • Minimum Time: 1hr 30min
  • Ascent: Negligible
  • Gradient: 0
  • Difficulty: 1
  • Paths: Riverside paths and street pavements
  • Landscape: Historic streets
  • Suggested Map: OS Explorer 205 Stratford-upon-Avon & Evesham
  • Start Grid Reference: SP205547
  • Dog Friendliness: On lead along streets
  • Parking: Recreation Ground pay-and-display car park
  • Public Toilet: At car park and top of Henley Street
Background reading

This gentle walk along the banks of the River Avon takes you past the weir and Holy Trinity Church, before a stroll through the town to see some of the famous buildings in Shakespeare’s Stratford.

The medieval 14-arched Clopton Bridge forms a splendid gateway to the town. The Town Hall is a fine Palladian building, and Harvard House in the High Street dates from 1596. The latter takes its name from the owner’s daughter, Katherine Rogers, who married Robert Harvard of Southwark in London in 1605. Their son John went on to bequeath Harvard University in the USA, and the university now owns Harvard House. The Falcon Hotel was probably one of Shakespeare’s regular drinking places and opposite is the ancient guildhall and an attractive row of timbered almshouses.

But it is because of William Shakespeare that visitors flock in their millions to Stratford-upon-Avon. Born here, in Henley Street, in 1564, he was baptised in Holy Trinity Church, and attended King Edward VI’s Grammar School in Church Street. He married Anne Hathaway in 1582 and they had three children: Susannah, Hamnet and Judith. However, a country market town was no place for a playwright and poet, so some time in the mid-1580s he headed for London.

By 1592 William Shakespeare was the talk of the town, counting Queen Elizabeth and her court among his plays’ many admirers. His poetry was first published around this time, and he began to accumulate serious wealth. By 1597 he was able to buy New Place, then one of Stratford’s grandest properties. The early 1600s saw his theatre company gain a royal title (the King’s Men), and the Bard went on to write many of his best-known tragedies, including Othello, King Lear and Macbeth.

Shakespeare began to spend less and less time in the giddy London theatre-world, and more time at home in Stratford. His son Hamnet had died, aged 11, in 1596, but the boy’s sister Susannah had survived and married Dr John Hall in 1607. The couple lived in Hall’s Croft, in the old part of the town, until after her father’s death. Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616 and was buried at Holy Trinity. You can see his tomb, and that of his wife Anne Hathaway, who died in 1623. It bears the inscription:

'Good friend for Jesus sake forebeare 
To dig the dust encloased heare! 
Bleste be the man that spares the stones 
And curst be he that moves the bones.'

  1. From the car park, walk along the banks of the River Avon opposite the famous Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Pass the weir, and continue to reach a footbridge over the river, just in front of the A4390 road bridge.
  2. Go right over the footbridge and bear right past the flats that replaced the old watermill, into Mill Lane. Continue up Mill Lane and go through the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, walking around the church to see the river view. Leave the churchyard through the main gate into Old Town and follow the pavement. Just before reaching the turn into Southern Lane, go right into RSC Gardens and walk up to the Brass Rubbing Centre. Continue past the ferry and stroll through the attractive Theatre Gardens by the side of the Avon, exiting into Waterside and passing by the frontage of the old theatre building.
  3. Go left up Chapel Lane. At the top of the lane is the Guild Chapel to Shakespeare's Grammar School, with New Place Gardens to the right.
  4. Go right along Chapel Street, passing The Shakespeare and the Town Hall into High Street. Harvard House is on the left, near the black-and-white Garrick Inn. At the end of High Street, bear left around the traffic island into Henley Street and walk along the pedestrianised area that takes you past Shakespeare's Birthplace and the museum. At the top of Henley Street, bear right and then left into Birmingham Road. Go left up to the traffic lights and cross the road at the pedestrian crossing.
  5. Head right up Clopton Road for 100yds (91m), then descend to the tow path of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal at bridge No. 66. Follow this, going southeast. Cross the canal at bridge No. 68 and continue along the tow path into Bancroft Gardens by the canal basin, where you will see an array of narrowboats and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Cross the old Tram Bridge to return to the car park on the right.

Extending the walk: Once over the footbridge at Point 2, walk ahead up the tarmac footpath away from the river that follows the line of the A4390, then arcs right and then left. Cross over Meadowbank Road (by Avon Meadow Close), and after a short stretch of path continue through Old Town Mews, an estate road, to the roundabout on the A4390. By its side, cross the road with care, then proceed along the pavement into residential Wetherby Way. Follow the tarmac path to the right of No. 2, soon passing the cemetery hedge, and continue on a footpath through common land at the back of houses. This follows the track bed of a former railway line. At the end of the common you will come to the Luddington Road, with Stratford Racecourse entrance to the left (Point A).
Go sharp right along Luddington Road up to the B439 Evesham road. Cross and walk along the signed footpath opposite, by the side of Shottery Brook. Footpaths and a pavement will take you along Hogarth Road, then follow another footpath to the driveway to Brookfield Nurseries. Go right up the driveway into Shottery. At the main road, go left past Shottery St Andrew Primary School and The Bell, then left down Cottage Lane and walk up to the picturesque Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (Point B). Continue past the cottage and in about 300yds (274m), go right on a tarmac footpath, passing several thatched cottages. You will emerge on the pavement in Church Lane, where you go left up to the A422 Alcester Road.

Cross the A422 and continue up a footpath opposite, to the right of Bridge House, which meanders along the side of Shottery Brook. At the end of a grassed area, bear left and go up to a residential road. Go right, then left to join a footpath alongside the Shottery Brook. Cross a road and continue ahead, to follow the left bank of the brook for 120yds (110m). Go right over a footbridge behind some swings onto the pavement of a road of industrial buildings. Follow the pavement alongside the road for some 350yds (320m), then turn left into Timothy Bridge Road (Point C). Cross the canal bridge and descend right to the tow path which leads back into Stratford-upon-Avon. You will pass by a number of moored narrowboats and rejoin the main walk by the Clopton road bridge, No. 65 (Point 5).

While you're there

Spare time to visit some of the fantastic Shakespeare properties and indulge in the wonderful medieval atmosphere that permeates this beautiful town.

Where to eat and drink

This short route passes The Black Swan pub in Southern Lane (known locally as 'The Dirty Duck') which is frequented by actors from the theatre. The half-timbered Garrick Inn in High Street is popular with the local rugby club. The Bell in nearby Shottery has long been used by local walking groups.

What to look out for

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the swans virtually disappeared from the River Avon due to poisoning by lead fishing weights. Today they have returned, and together with ducks add considerable interest to the many photo opportunities available. In the canal basin, narrow boats assemble to form a colourful foreground for photographs of the Gower Memorial, which depicts Shakespeare and characters from the Bard's famous plays.

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