Daffodils, newborn lambs, longer days, bluebells, Cadbury Creme Eggs: the arrival of spring reminds us of the simple pleasures of the natural world (what? Cacao is natural).
As splashes of colour return to the landscape and the town gears up for another busy year, there’s no better time to consider the best 5 reasons to make a spring visit to Stratford-upon-Avon.
5 reasons to visit Stratford-upon-Avon in spring
Reason to visit Stratford in spring no 1: busy calendar
It’s the Bard’s birthday in April and, as you can imagine, it’s a big deal here in Stratford. Born in 1564, William Shakespeare would be celebrating his 454th birthday this year. While the cake and the candles are sadly metaphorical, the town lights ’em up and blows ’em out with a traditional parade and a day of fun on the weekend closest to his supposed birthday (sigh. Just like many things about Shakespeare, we don’t know for sure what date he was born but April 23 is a well-educated guess). In 2018, that puts the party on Saturday April 21.
The next day, Sunday April 22, the Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival begins. Always a popular event, this celebration of the written word runs for eight days. In 2018, big-name speakers include Jeremy Vine, Ruth Jones and Greg Wise. There’s a fantastic set of events for families too and tickets should be booked in advance.
Also in April, Magic Alley ups broomsticks from its base in Henley Street and reopens in Bell Court.
On the early May Bank Holiday weekend, the Stratford Festival of Motoring revs into town. More than 300 cars turn heads on both Sunday May 6 and Monday May 7.
RSC productions in spring in Stratford’s theatres include Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, and The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster.
Reason to visit Stratford in spring no 2: it’s cheaper
Spring is a wonderful time of year to be in Stratford-upon-Avon. We always manage to give our picnic blankets their first airing in spring as April and May can provide some unexpectedly glorious summer-like days. The weather aside, there are cracking deals available on accommodation, if you’re visiting, and plenty of dining offers at the cafes and restaurants in Stratford-upon-Avon.
During a very non-scientific search on a travel-comparison website, I discovered that you can stay from a Thursday to a Saturday in late April, in a three-star hotel in central Stratford, for £101 (or upgrade to a four-star Stratford hotel for £188). Stay in the same hotels, also Thu-Sat, in late July and the three-star room costs £193, the four-star £278. So you could save £90, give or take the cost of a small Easter egg, just by visiting in spring.
The exceptions to these general rules are the dates around Easter and the May Bank Holidays and their associated breaks from school. The Easter break for schools in Stratford runs from Friday March 30 to Monday April 16, the first May Bank Holiday is Monday 7, and the May half-term break, which includes the second May Bank Holiday, runs from Friday May 25 to Monday June 4.
Reason to visit Stratford in spring no 3: it’s blooming
Nature’s most colourful season, springtime visits are a photographer’s dream. The trees are still a little bare, but you can fill your lens with a blanket of daffodils, tulips and crocuses under delicate canopies of blossom.
Stratford-upon-Avon Rotary Club planted 4,000 crocus bulbs in Bancroft Gardens, throwing a purple blanket on the ground every spring. Part of the organisation’s campaign to eradicate polio, the scene is both pretty and inspirational.
Other gardens coming into bloom include those at the Shakespeare Birthplace properties: Shakespeare’s Birthplace, New Place, Mary Arden’s Farm, Hall’s Croft and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.
Reason to visit Stratford in spring no 4: fewer tourists
Apart from spikes at Easter, on the May Bank Holidays and for Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations (Saturday April 21 in 2018), spring is a quieter time to visit Stratford-upon-Avon than summer. That means fewer selfie sticks to duck under on Henley Street and much shorter queues for ice cream when the sun shines.
Reason to visit Stratford in spring no 5: Easter is fun
There are Easter egg trails to follow, bonnets to make, and all kinds of shops selling fudge, ice cream and sweets to munch your way around at the sweetest time of the year in Stratford.
There’s an Easter egg hunt and bonnet making at The Old Slaughterhouse, in The Yard off Sheep Street, on Friday March 30 and Saturday March 31.
At the Shakespeare properties, the Birthplace is hosting a treasure hunt, New Place is focussing on family trees, there are bonnets and crowns to be made at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, and a whirligig workshop at Mary Arden’s Farm, which has reopened after winter.
The RSC is running a heap of Easter activities, from drop-in craft and storytelling sessions for youngsters to workshops for older children.
While there are no National Trust properties in Stratford-upon-Avon, both Charlecote Park (5 miles; 12-minute drive) and Coughton Court in Alcester (10 miles; 20-minute drive) are yet again teaming up with Cadbury for their ever-popular egg hunts.
For the real story of Easter, visit Holy Trinity Church, on the banks of the Avon in Old Town, where William Shakespeare is buried alongside his family. The church is open from 11.30am-5pm on Easter Sunday.
Finally, don’t let the kids get away with stuffing their faces with chocolate and skipping school. A visit to Shakespeare’s Schoolroom in Church Street will soon sort them out.
Why do you love Stratford-upon-Avon in spring? Post your comment below.
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Information correct at date of publication