Ruff Guide to… Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon is synonymous with William Shakespeare. Every year, literature lovers from around the world travel to see the birthplace of the Bard, making the Warwickshire town one of the most visited places in the UK. It has centuries of history to discover and plenty of stories just waiting to be told – and you can enjoy it all with your dog by your side. Whether you’re keen to see some of Shakespeare’s old haunts or take a peaceful stroll alongside the River Avon, here are some dog-friendly suggestions for things to see and do…

Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon
Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Dog-friendly Stratford-upon-Avon: the must-sees

You can’t visit Stratford without paying homage to William Shakespeare, its most famous son. The world-renowned playwright was born in the town, in 1564 – and died there too, 52 years later. Today, you can visit not only his birthplace but Anne Hathaway’s Cottage – the family home of his wife-to-be – and New Place, which the Bard bought in 1597. All three properties are maintained by a charity called the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. While dogs are not allowed inside the houses, they are welcome in the gardens. You can explore all three sites with a Shakespeare’s Story ticket, which costs £26.95 per adult.

Shakespeare fans can also visit his former schoolroom. Not only will you be able to learn all about Tudor school life from the Bard’s former teacher, Master Thomas Jenkins, but you will be able to sit in the very room where Shakespeare was inspired to write his first works. You will even be able to try writing with a quill – and dress up in authentic Tudor clothes. Unlike the properties run by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, dogs on lead are allowed inside Shakespeare’s Schoolroom – and the attraction is well-stocked with treats and water bowls. Adult tickets cost £12.50.

Boats on the River Avon in Stratford
Take to the water with Avon Boating

If you’re keen to see Stratford from a different perspective, why not take to the water? Avon Boating hires out a range of vessels, from rowing boats and motor boats to punts, and dogs are welcome aboard all of them for free. Prices start from £8 an hour. River cruises also operate from Bancroft Gardens, next to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, from mid-March until October. The tours, which travel along the River Avon, take approximately 30 minutes and are also dog-friendly. Adult tickets cost £8.

History lovers will also enjoy a visit to Tudor World, on Sheep Street. This interactive museum is housed in a 16th Century building and helps you understand what life was really like during the time of King Henry VIII. While you can explore the attraction on your own – experiencing Tudor feasts, taking part in witch trials and going in the stocks – you can also join a guided tour led by Shakespeare himself. Well-behaved dogs are welcome inside the museum and there is no extra charge. Adult tickets cost £7.

Statue of William Shakespeare
Statue of William Shakespeare

To really make the most of your visit, sign up for a Stratford Town Walk. These informative two-hour tours take place every day of the year – even Christmas Day – and will take you to all the key sites linked to the Bard, and more. You will also get to hear a number of fascinating facts about Stratford and stories of fire, flood and plague. Dogs are welcome to join their owners on the tour and if you’re feeling particularly brave, you can sign up for one of the Ghost Walks, which take place every Saturday. Tours cost £10 per adult.

And five miles outside Stratford, you’ll find Charlecote Park – a stunning Victorian home set in a landscaped deer park. Charlecote, which is maintained by the National Trust, has been in the Lucy family for more than 900 years. Although dogs are not allowed inside the main house, they are still welcome to visit – as long as they are on lead, and stick to designated routes in the grounds. There is a specially marked dog walk with routes ranging from 20 minutes to one hour. Pets are also welcome inside the shop and Wood Yard Cafe. Adult tickets cost £11.

Stratford Big Wheel
The Stratford Big Wheel

Dog-friendly Stratford-upon-Avon: the best walks

An easy 1.25-mile walk along the banks of the River Avon will allow you to take in both the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried. It also passes through the grassy Recreation Ground next to the Stratford Big Wheel, which allows small and medium dogs to enjoy far-reaching views over the town for £1. Adult tickets cost £8. There’s always the option to jump on the pedestrian chain ferry over to the other side of town, too. The short journey costs just £1 per adult. Dogs travel for free.

For a bit of off-lead action, take your dog to Welcombe Hills and Clopton Park. This 60-hectare reserve, close to the centre of town, has a heady mix of grassland and woods and is a great place to enjoy some peace and quiet. The site used to be a deer park where in 1592, the daughter of a wealthy landowner – whose family gave the park its name – drowned in a nearby well. The tragic event is thought to have inspired a storyline in Shakepeare’s play Hamlet, which he was writing at the time. Today, the park is maintained by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.

Bobby's carriage cafe on the Stratford-upon-Avon Greenway
Refuel at Bobby’s carriage cafe on the Stratford-upon-Avon Greenway © Bobby’s

Regular readers of this blog will know we love trails that follow old railway tracks – and the Stratford Greenway is an excellent example. This five-mile pathway runs along what was the Honeybourne Line, which connected Stratford and Long Marston until 1976. There are railway carriage cafes at either end of the trail where you can refuel before or after your walk. We loved retro Bobby’s – a cute cafe, deli and wine bar that comes complete with a wood burner. It also hosts regular events, such as steak nights and gin tasting.

Another excellent five-mile walk is the circular loop from Clifford Chambers to Preston on Stour, just south of Stratford. This quiet route passes through a mix of open fields, forest and country lanes – perfect if you have a reactive dog as you won’t encounter many other walkers. Clifford Chambers is also home to River Meadow Dog Walking – a seven-acre fenced field that backs on to the River Stour. At the time of writing, you could hire the whole field for an hour for just £8 per dog.

Coffee and cacti at the Plantarium, Stratford
The Plantarium Cafe serves excellent coffee, cakes and light lunches © Plantarium Cafe

Dog-friendly Stratford-upon-Avon: the best pubs and cafes

Veggies and vegans should make a beeline for Plantarium Cafe, in The Minories, which serves only plant-based food. Dogs can expect a warm welcome too, with treats on the counter and a range of beds for them to relax on. Pets will also love visiting Boston Tea Party, on Henley Street, which is regularly voted the best cafe in Stratford. The family-run chain, which has cafes across the country, dishes up a mean breakfast – and serves it all day. No37 Cafe, on Sheep Street, is another great brunch spot and dogs are welcome inside and out.

Pets are also guaranteed lots of fuss at HR Coffee Bar, on Windsor Street, where all food is made to order from locally sourced ingredients. And if you’ve got a sweet tooth, be sure to head to Hobsons Patisseries on Henley Street. Dogs are welcome inside the tearoom, where the cakes are to die for. The scones are served with almost ridiculous amounts of cream! The Pantry in Bridgefoot is also an excellent place to go for coffee and cake. It has a really cool country kitchen vibe.

One of the pies on offer at The Dirty Duck, Stratford-upon-Avon
One of the delicious pies on offer at The Dirty Duck, Stratford-upon-Avon

If you fancy something a little stronger than coffee, head to The Dirty Duck on Waterside. This pub, formerly known as The Black Swan, is just over the road from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. As a result, it has been an actors’ favourite for decades. Photos of thespians past and present adorn the walls, many of which have been signed. Look out for Sir Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton and Dame Judi Dench while you enjoy a drink or bite to eat. I can particularly recommend the pub’s pies.

Another great dog-friendly pub is The Stratford Alehouse on Greenhill Street. There’s a big jar of treats on the bar and always a good selection of real ale, cider and wine. The Garrick on the High Street – said to be the oldest pub in Stratford – also welcomes dogs, as does The Bear in Swan’s Nest. Handily, this freehouse is attached to the Swan’s Nest Hotel. Keep reading to find out more if you’re looking to stay over. The One Elm in Guild Street is also a good place to enjoy some Mediterranean-style eats.

Chesterfields and paintings in reception area at the Swan's Nest Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon
The grand reception area at the Swan’s Nest Hotel

Dog-friendly Stratford-upon-Avon: where to stay

Dogs are warmly welcomed at the Swan’s Nest Hotel, right on the riverfront. Stay here and you will not only be close to all the main sights, but your dog will also get a cute goody bag to take home with them. Ours was packed with treats, balls and vouchers from local pet store, the Cosy Chic Pet Boutique. The hotel, which dates back to the 17th Century, also has its own onsite pub and French bistro.

Karma Salford Hall, a short drive from Stratford, is also a great place to stay with dogs. Each visiting pooch will receive their own Very Important Pet welcome pack. The luxurious country house was once owned by King Henry VIII and whether your room is in the main building or the Tudor Court, just opposite, you’ll be in for a treat. Be sure to book a table in the restaurant during your stay – the hotel is renowned for its fine dining.

Ernie takes in a street performance of Macbeth
Ernie takes in a street performance of Macbeth

How do I get to Stratford-upon-Avon?

It’s easy to get to Stratford-upon-Avon by road, rail and air. The town is approximately a two-hour drive from London, via the M40. It can also be accessed from the north via the same road. Trains also take around two hours from London, with direct services leaving Euston and Marylebone stations. Both West Midlands Railway and Chiltern Railways serve the town. National Express coach services also call at Stratford-upon-Avon and if you’re planning to fly in, Birmingham Airport is the closest.

Where can I find out more?

Check out the official tourism website at Visit Stratford-upon-Avon. You can also find lots of local information and visitor guides here. For more information about things to see and do with your dog in Warwickshire, take a look at the Dog-Friendly Warwickshire website.

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