Freelance journalist in Birmingham and the West Midlands with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
Published August 9th 2020
Best pubs, restaurants & hotel in Shakespeare's country
Drift off into another world of riverside jaunts, one of the best pubs in England and Tudor buildings where Shakespeare once roamed. Here is everything you need to know about a staycation to charming Stratford-upon-Avon.
With pretty cobbled streets, black and white authentic Tudor buildings and independent shops galore, there's something calming about the historic city where Shakespeare was born.
Easily reached in the heart of the country, Stratford-upon-Avon is roughly 1h 30mins from London, Bristol or Manchester and only 45 minutes from Birmingham, off the M40.
Where to stay
If you want to feel the character of historic Stratford, Hotel Indigo, in Chapel Street, is amidst the oldest part of the market town. It's just steps away from Shakespeare's Schoolroom, the High Street of shops and famous Sheep Street, lined with restaurants.
Chapel Street in the historic centre of Stratford-upon-Avon
Hotel Indigo is one of the newest hotels in Stratford-upon-Avon that encompasses three time periods in its buildings. Choose from the character of Tudor and Georgian rooms or opt for cool modernity of the Contemporary rooms.
A new one-way system has been introduced following lockdown, along with extensive cleaning measures that include free hand sanitiser in every room. All the staff wear masks and gloves, but haven't lost any of their friendliness or impeccable service with their faces covered.
Extra pillows and throws have been removed from rooms and you'll find fresh milk in the fridge for your tea. The breakfast buffet has also had to go for the foreseeable future to make way for table service that allows guests to keep their distance.
A Georgian Room at Hotel Indigo in Stratford-upon-Avon
Hotel Indigo's decor verges more on urban chic than chintz with vibrant modern nods to Shakespeare across this hip boutique hotel. One of the 93 rooms has all the clocks set to 4.23 - to signify April 23, the date Shakespeare was born and died.
There's also a lot of historic charm too as it is based at the site of one of Stratford's oldest pub, where the bard is likely to have downed a pint or two. The Oak Room even features wood panelling that is believed to have been from Shakespeare's home along with 500-year-old beams and leaded windows.
Oak panelling in Hotel Indigo is believed to be from Shakespeare's house
While the snug is a cosy library with Hotel Indigo's Clues to the Neighbourhood, offering suggestions on where to go and what to do across Stratford-upon-Avon in a fun way.
What to do
Clues to the Neighbourhood point to many local attractions including the calm River Avon, which runs through this medieval market town. Naturally drawing people to its banks, this is where you find the famous Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) theatres.
Although theatres haven't yet reopened after the lockdown, Stratford is one of the few places where outdoor theatre activities have started up again with family entertainment from the RSC from Fridays to Sundays throughout August at The Dell.
There's plenty to keep you busy from the Butterfly Farm to boat rides along the river. Rent your own boat or hop on to a sightseeing adventure, tugging past swans, rowers and narrowboats along this beautiful stretch of water.
In terms of Stratford-upon-Avon's most famous son, you won't go far without coming across some bard related activity. One must-see is Shakespeare's Birthplace Trust.
Where to eat
Sheep Street boasts a wealth of restaurants and some of the best for fine dining are Lambs and Loxleys. For a pub that also does good grub, head to the Dirty Duck in Waterside, where theatre actors would famously head for drinks after a performance.
The Woodsman restaurant is a real gem of Stratford-upon-Avon
I would definitely order the The Woodman's Dirty Mash on the side for creamy mash potato with that extra oompf.
Desserts are just as delightful. The likes of blackcurrant souffle with dark chocolate sorbet, peach melba cheesecake or a honey parfait with lavender shortbread. You will be licking your lips with joy.
For a three-course meal, you are looking at around £37 before you add drinks, but the quality of food is worthy of that price.
One of England's best pubs
Just on the outskirts of Stratford-upon-Avon is a charming country pub that has gained recognition as one of the best in the country.
The Howard Arms has been named one of the best pubs in England
The Howard Arms at Ilmington was named the best pub in the Midlands and has been shortlisted to the final three for the national England title by Visit England.
Tucked away among a picturesque village with sheep grazing in vibrant green fields nearby, The Howard Arms is the essence of Shakespeare's Warwickshire.
Inside is a cosy stone-brick enclave with log fires and ye olde world English charm to sit back with a pint of scrumpy or ale. Outside, the country garden is an inviting well-thought out space to dine, particularly post-lockdown.
Manager Pawel Sobiszek has added a one-way system around the pub and more tables to dine in the garden, so it feels very safe.
Inside the charming Howard Arms pub near Stratford-upon-Avon
There's plenty of options on cask ales, wines and summer drinks like Pimms plus an eclectic locally-sourced menu. There's a range of light or larger options, so it's ideal for a lunch stop-off for gourmet sandwiches, from £8 each, or dinner with several courses.
Choose from a goats cheese salad to fishcakes or Cotswold lamb. Plus there are spoon-licking desserts like traditional favourites of Eton mess and sticky toffee pudding. A three-course meal would come in at around £28.
There are also luxury rooms for bed and breakfast if you want to make a night of it.
Hotel Indigo - 4 Chapel St, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6HA -
Rooms start from £80. Book through the Hotel Indigo website or call 01789 279953.
The Woodsman - No.4 Chapel Street, Stratford-Upon-Avon, CV37 6HA - reservation is essential through its website or by calling 01789 331535.
The Howard Arms - Lower Green, Ilmington, Shipston-on-Stour, CV36 4LT - reservation is recommended for dining and essential to stay in a room for bed and breakfast from £120. Visit The Howards Arms website or call 01608 682226