Remember to check latest travel timetables and opening times of attractions before you set out.
1. Best hop on, hop off heritage
Explore countryside and heritage by open-top sightseeing bus with commentary on a Heart of Warwickshire tour, starting from Stratford-upon-Avon. You notice so much more from an elevated vantage point! Hop off to visit fascinating venues en route, like the award-winning gallery at Georgian Compton Verney – there’s half-price entry with your tour ticket. Or maybe you will make the most of 2-for-1 entry at the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon. Heart of Warwickshire tours run daily to 4 September and Sat/Sun to 25 September.
2. Best summer Sunday in steam
Sit back and relax to the rhythmic puff and chuff of the Shakespeare Express steam train that runs each Sunday between Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham. Watch scenic countryside, farms and villages glide by, and maybe indulge in a traditional English breakfast, three-course roast lunch or high tea in a stylish Pullman car. It’s an hour’s journey each way and you can join the train at Stratford, Henley-in-Arden, Tyseley, or Birmingham Moor Street/Snow Hill. Services run until 11 September.
3. Best away day for lazy leisure
Escape Birmingham or Stratford-upon-Avon along the Shakespeare Line for a leisurely day in Henley-in-Arden. The rail journey is great for your conscience too – from Birmingham, CO2 emissions per passenger are around just 1.5kg compared with 7kg if you travel by large car. Admire Henley’s famous mile-long High Street with its enchanting 12th to 18th-century architecture, and browse the shops and heritage centre (open to end October). How about some fine dining in the award-winning Bluebell inn, or tea and ice cream in the 16th-century ice cream parlour? Or both!
4. Best time walk – from Saxon to Shakespeare
Another day, catch a Shakespeare Line train from Birmingham to Wootton Wawen and turn back the clock with a visit to the fascinating Saxon Sanctuary exhibition at St Peter’s, the oldest church in Warwickshire. After a village coffee shop stop, walk 4-plus miles along the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal, past England’s longest aqueduct, to Wilmcote and Mary Arden’s where Shakespeare’s mother grew up (open to October). Return by train, a journey that – enjoy the feel-good glow – keeps your carbon footprint to about a fifth of travelling by car.
5. Best cruise with picnic or pub
Hire a traditional launch from Avon Boating in Stratford-upon-Avon and spend a day cruising with family and friends. Head downstream along beautiful stretches of peaceful river, towards Luddington, Welford-on-Avon and even to Bidford-on-Avon. Take your time and share a picnic afloat, or moor up and visit a pub, for example at Welford or Bidford. The Nelson 18 launch accommodates up to six people and can be hired until November.
6. Best bus ride – with Tudor treat
Travel by public transport to Charlecote Park and be treated to half-price admission. Bus numbers X18 / 18A (Coventry and Royal Leamington Spa to Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon) pass right by the door, on a route rated by The Daily Telegraph as one of the top 20 bus rides in the UK. Explore the Tudor-origin house and capture some relaxing me-time walking in the woodland or across the ‘Capability’ Brown inspired parkland with picturesque views across the River Avon. Check Charlecote Park website for specific opening times.
7. Best train and trek
Set course for Lapworth on the Birmingham to Stratford-upon-Avon rail line, then stretch your legs on an easygoing 7-mile circular rural ramble. The route takes you from lively boating bustle on the junction of the Grand Union and Stratford-upon-Avon canals at Lapworth, past flora and fauna-rich Hay Wood, Tudor Packwood House and medieval Baddesley Clinton. Stop for a rewarding drink or snack at one of the country pubs along or near the route.
8. Best narrow (boat) escapes
Treat yourself and partner or friend to a skippered day trip on a narrowboat. Swan Canal Cruises will take you from Stratford-upon-Avon through locks and along canal and river. Non-skippered hire is possible too, but why not sit back and be pampered? (Available to November.) Or hire a day-boat – up to 10 of you can fit aboard – from Anglo Welsh at Wootton Wawen and potter along to Wilmcote. Bring a picnic or stop somewhere for lunch. (Available all year, but shorter day hire in winter.)
9. Best outing by pedal power
Head off for a day touring by bike – your own or hire one – from Stratford-upon-Avon to pretty villages and country attractions. This 27-mile jaunt includes gentle canal towpath stretches and picturesque Aston Cantlow, where Shakespeare’s parents married in the church and reputedly celebrated in The King’s Head. Elizabethan Coughton Court is another highlight – discover its links with the Gunpowder Plotters. A short cut also makes this outing a 20-mile route.
10. Best for nature fans
Catch the bus to Polesworth and wind down for a few hours at Pooley Country Park, a landscape beautifully recycled from old mine workings into a 154-acre leisure destination. Follow waymarked walks (there is an MP3 downloadable walk from the website) and stroll through diverse habitats: one third of the park is designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. The visitor centre and tea room has an interesting display of mining memorabilia, along with an audio/visual about the mining heritage. Polesworth can be reached by bus from many locations, including service numbers 765, 785, 786 from Nuneaton, Tamworth and Lichfield.
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