Stratford-upon-Avon is set in the beautiful Warwickshire countryside, on the banks of the river Avon. It is 22 miles southeast of Birmingham, 8 miles southwest of Warwick, and northwest of the Cotswolds which makes it an ideal location from which to explore. Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, is steeped in culture and history and welcomes four million visitors a year from all over the world.
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children. Shakespeare began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49, where he died three years later.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace is one of the most visited houses in Stratford upon Avon, adjacent to the Shakespeare Centre where you will find collections and exhibitions about the Bard. The ground floor of the Birthplace is accessible, although the floor is uneven in parts and there is a visual display of the upper floor. The garden of the house is accessible to wheelchair users where you will also find toilet facilities.
At Anne Hathaway’s Cottage you can explore the romantic surroundings of this quintessential thatched country cottage where the young Shakespeare wooed his wife to be at her childhood home. You can meander through the award winning country cottage garden which overflows with blooms, shrubs and traditional vegetables. Be inspired by Shakespeare’s sonnets in the growing Willow Cabin and discover the Shakespeare Tree and Sculpture Garden and Elizabethan-style yew maze. And don’t forget Mary Arden’s Farm, Nash’s House and New Place and Hall’s Croft – all part of the ‘Shakespeare’ experience!
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre are situated on Waterside, alongside the River Avon in a Grade II listed building retaining many of the art deco features of the 1932 Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. They re-opened in November 2010 after a four-year redevelopment which cost £112.8 million. The philosophy of the Royal Shakespeare Company is to make everything they do accessible to all, they offer captioned and audio described performances along with touch tours helping to enhance your experience within the theatre.
You can enjoy a meal in the Rooftop Restaurant or enjoy light refreshments in the Riverside Cafe, take a Theatre Tour, book a ticket to go up the Tower for stunning views of Shakespeare’s home town or visit the free exhibition spaces.
Why not visit Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare was baptize, served as a lay rector and is buried. It is a Grade I Listed Building which holds records of the baptism (April 26th 1564: Gulielimus, filius Johannes Shakespeare) and his burial (25th April 1616: Will Shakespeare, Gent). It can be fairly safely assumed that he worshiped here as a boy and young man, and again after he retired to his home town. Holy Trinity Church is accessed via a ramp, available on request.
Stratford-upon-Avon is flat therefore you shouldn’t have a problem negotiating the town in a wheelchair. Due to the age of the listed properties in this historical town some are not totally wheelchair accessible, but you will find a good mix of shops and eating places who can accommodate you. Some ‘accessible accommodation’ is available but only the Premier Inn’s (yes there are two!) and Travelodge will meet your all needs including a choice of wet rooms and adjoining rooms.
There is an accessible pleasure boat upon which you can take a 45 minute cruise along the Avon taking in the wonderful flora and fauna this region has to offer, or you could pay a visit to the Butterfly Farm and see the rare breeds of butterfly as they dance around you. There is also a scenic riverside pathway that meanders through the Theatre Gardens. You could take the opportunity to join the hustle and bustle of the regular Farmers and Friday markets and purchase some of the wonderful local produce on offer. For those with limited mobility there is an open air bus tour, with commentary of Stratford-upon-Avon as you travel through the town and surrounding areas taking in all the Historic Houses.
If you are feeling active and would like a swim then Stratford upon Avon boasts a fabulous leisure centre and would be the ideal place for a dip as a hoist is available to enable ease of access into the pool.
Should you be planning a trip to the UK and in particular Stratford upon Avon, I would recommend that you visit www.accessiblestratforduponavon.co.uk for further information. Elizabeth Dixon, a friend and Disability Advisor for Stratford upon Avon has knowledgeably compiled a guide to the town which is full of information that will assist you when planning your visit.