It may not be people’s first thought for a day trip, but if by the end of your degree you have not visited Stratford you are sorely missing out. My personal trip to Stratford was basically a spontaneous mistake, in that I just sat on an early morning bus and let it take me wherever it was going. I somehow cheesed the journey there with my bus pass, as I didn’t realise this specific X17 changed to the 15 when it got to Warwick and therefore continued to Stratford. Though the return ticket was pricey, it was well worth it.
When you get to Stratford you are struck by the realisation that the West Midlands has such lovely places in close proximity to all the places students have ruined – Leamington, Coventry, Birmingham, etc. There is plenty for you to do when you’re there, they even have their own Dirty Duck pub! If you happen to go on a Sunday as I did, you may even get their lovely market, although think twice before buying the food if those stalls are there, there’s quite the Stratford premium.
Depending on the time and day there will likely be plenty of rowers from the boat club on the river
The river Avon and everything along it is certainly a highlight for those who like the scenery. I recommend walking over to the south side of the river and following the footpath along. On this side, you not only have the Big Wheel and the rowing club but also a butterfly farm. As you walk past the recreation ground you will run into a bridge to cross back a way down the path past the Lucy’s Mill Weir, ignore this and take the path further down. Walk as far as you can and along the way you will reach a lock and a rather steep bridge to get over to a small island in the middle of the river. It is a lovely little place, just be mindful of midges. The views in the sun are fantastic. As you walk back up you will probably notice a selection of canal or riverboats floating around. Depending on the time and day there will likely be plenty of rowers from the boat club on the river.
Going to Stratford, you can’t exactly miss the giant Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) building. For anyone who likes Shakespeare or wants to visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace then you should check it out. Outside the RSC Theatre are Bancroft Gardens, a nice space to just sit around, or if the market is there you will likely have plenty of street performers around alongside the stalls. I recall there being a person dressed and painted entirely in white and various singers and musicians in different places, and likely plenty more dotted around for you to find.
Birds will likely be all along the waterfront either being fed or demanding to be fed
This waterfront area of the River Avon is lovely, a lot of care has clearly been made to make the paths, bridges, and lock integrate into the area. There is even a protected island here where the swans, geese, ducks, and a multitude of other birds like to live. Although, these birds will likely be all along the waterfront either being fed or demanding to be fed. The pigeons, being pigeons, also won’t be passing up the opportunity to steal the food people feed to the swans, geese, and ducks.
I also recommend just wandering around the town, either to look at the shops, the pubs, and restaurants or to take in the architecture of the town. It’s a quaint and beautiful place. The RSC Theatre building may look a little out of place and the fact the back half looks like an old church building can be jarring, but as the only major thing on the waterfront, it somehow works.
While I did not get to see any of the pubs as it was a Sunday morning, a bit too early for that, there are plenty to choose from and make your way around. There were some interesting looking second-hand bookshops that I am certainly going to return to Stratford to have a nose around. It is likely I will be coming back with a lot less money and a rather heavy bag.
Probably my favourite parts of the River Avon are all the features, the locks, and weirs which make for some great views and photographs. When I go back there it likely won’t be on a Sunday and not alone as I will drag someone else with me to show them why Stratford is so great. You could make a whole day, or life, out of the RSC itself, but what I liked most was everything else about Stratford and the River Avon. Stratford may be posh and pricey, but it would be a massive lie to call it boring. You can find all sorts to fill your time within Stratford, which is useful when the busses back to Leamington, at least on a Sunday, aren’t exactly frequent!