At the beginning of every year, I always say that I must explore more of my own country. Typically I do stick to it a teeny bit, but always end up in the same place right in the middle of the summer! (Hello West Wittering, I am looking at you!) This year however, my partner and I have (unintentionally) ditched camping and favoured AirB&B rooms instead, out of season. I knew this year would be different when I visited Arundel in February. I’m not sure why, but I knew 2019 would be full of small towns, castles, independent shops, cute cafes and much much more. So the weekend just gone, I popped Stratford Upon Avon on my radar and did it disappoint despite the rain? Of course it didn’t!
Stratford Upon Avon is known typically as William Shakespeare’s home, as he was born and raised here, as well as being buried here. This, naturally brings in a lot of tourists anyway…But of course, there is much much more to this little town.
Steeped in history, Stratford was originally founded by the Saxon’s around the 7th Century AD but was incredibly rural and only built up to a small town in the 12th Century (around 1000 people). The population of this small town surprisingly increased in the late 1500’s, despite The Plague knocking on everyone’s door. The River Avon also runs through here, which you’ve also no doubt heard of. So was it really a good idea of me to go on a ghost tour knowing all of this? Probably not (more on that later)
This was our first stop of the day and one that I’d discovered on the drive. The shop name alone was enough for me to get me speed walking through the streets (after a brief wander around). This little treasure is not only a weird and wonderful shop, selling all things magical (and Timelord) but also has a mini escape game (for around £11-£13), and a mini cafe where you can buy Butterbeer. Decorated with pumpkins, mini hot air balloons, ships and everything in between, I spent a good chunk of time here just browsing. I never left with anything the first time, but I went back on the Sunday to grab a few Harry Potter themed postcards. This shop also is a good destination if you wanted to buy a few gifts. Honestly, I’ve never come across a shop like it.
If you need another Harry Potter fix, there is also a shop called Alohomora in town. This is where you can grab your Hogwarts cloaks, notepads and any film merchandise.
Next stop, food! By this point I was really cold and honestly just wanted some good old winter pub grub. It took us a long time to find somewhere to eat if I am honest. We did originally head to a pub related to Shakespeare, but we stood by several “please wait to be seated” signs, had several staff smile at us and not come over to us too. We must of stood there waiting like lemons for 15 minutes before deciding to call it quits and find somewhere else. Which is where The Rose and Crown come in!
The Rose and Crown was built in 1596 and was a hostel once upon a time! Described as a Tardis (bigger on the inside) I was super happy to stumble across this gem. I opted for Pie and Mash (£12.29) and my boyfriend jumped at anything which had chicken wings in it. (Sharing platter £13.99) Both meals were really tasty and this pub was super cosy!
My boyfriend being sad at the salad content in his burger (his other burger was full!)
Built on land which once stood a barn with incredibly dark history, the ghost tour was held with lantern light only for £7.50 each. We had stumbled across the Tudor Museum earlier on in the day, but had missed all the day time viewings. The museum is located across the road from the Rose and Crown pub, so when we saw a “Ghost Hunt tonight!” sign outside, we were hesitant at first, but took the plunge in to the darkness (quite literally). I’m not going to lie, I am a such a chicken when it comes to ghosts. Confidently, I can say that I did not experience anything while in there. I was just trying to focus so hard on the history and not being scared! haha.
I did have a good time and thought it was good value for money. So much dark history to learn! From soldiers accusing a young boy of being a spy (who is still buried in there!) to a man who idolised Jack The Ripper. We also may or may not have gone back to the AirBNB after this and slept with the lights on all night (definitely my doing!). I believe the Tudor museum is self guided during the day, but they do guided ghost tours almost every night if you want to learn a bit more.
The rain was finally cleared up and the sun was shining. This day’s agenda was to explore everything we possibly could. Our AirBNB was located a short 15 minute walk away and thankfully our host let us keep the car parked there for the rest of the day!
After heading to the town again and finally seeing it in sunlight, we soon discovered William Shakespeare’s birth house! I believe this is a museum, but we didn’t go in. We just admired it from the outside. We only discovered it was a museum because we could see people in period costume walking around by the windows. Despite being spooked by last nights antics, we definitely could tell they were real! Alohomora, the Harry Potter shop is also located opposite, as well as lots of quirky independent businesses! There were quite a few tourists around, but it wasn’t difficult to get empty photos like this in peak time either.
I literally couldn’t see a thing when taking these photos
After searching for cafes for where we could get breakfast, I found this amazing gem the night before! for a £5pp deposit entry fee (food and drink separate) this was so so worth it. I have two cats at home but I am definitely a cat lady. On arrival, you are quickly briefed through the 3 rules and seated. There are two floors here, but the cats are mostly based on the top floor (where you enter) as this is where all their beds/toys/human slaves are mostly seated. We sat down, ordered some bacon and maple pancakes (£7) and the second my order was taken, that was it. It was time to play with the cats! You get around 1 hour and a half seating time. Walk in’s get a lot less (around 30 minutes), because pre-booked take priority.
The food was actually really tasty and I never witnessed the cats try and steal from any of the plates. There was a rule that you cannot touch the cats if they were sleeping, which is fine really! I quickly made friends with Puck and spent my entire cafe experience with him. I loved it! My boyfriend asked me when I left if I was happy and he just took one look at me and was like “that answers my question!” haha!
This is puck!
The rest of the day was spent walking around, dipping in and out of shops, admiring the river and grabbing some food from the market taking place near by. We left around 2pm as we really didn’t want to take advantage of the lady lending us her driveway for the day!
I had an incredible time and I know I’ll be back! I feel like I should of gone to the theatre, but maybe next time!
Have you ever been to Stratford Upon Avon? Have I popped it on your radar? Let me know!
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