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Top 5 Day Trips from Birmingham: From the Home of Shakespeare to the Home of Chocolate

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The embodiment of rejuvenation, England (and the United Kingdom)’s second largest city is perfectly placed right in the middle of England, making it the perfect base for exploring the Midlands. Historically the country’s industrial powerhouse, 21st century Birmingham is brimming with modern glamorous developments – and so much has grown around it, allowing for some amazing day trips from Birmingham.

Swanky hotels overlook historic canals, striking malls stand next to dilapidated warehouses. Birmingham is a city of juxtapositions, and the towns and countryside which surround it are full of even more surprises. Our top 5 day trips from Birmingham allow you to explore a part of the country often overlooked.

1. Stratford-upon-Avon

Whilst most visitors come to Stratford to pay homage to the town’s most famous son, William Shakespeare, it’s well worth a visit even if history and plays aren’t your thing. Stratford is simply beautiful, there’s no other way to describe it. It is the absolute must do day trip from Birmingham.

The name Stratford-upon-Avon (often shortened to just Stratford) refers to the River Avon which runs through the town. Stratford means a street with a ford (a shallow river crossing). Interestingly, Avon comes from the Celtic word afon which was the Celtic word for a river; so if you take the name literally, it means ‘street across the river river’.

The riverside is a great place for a stroll to get acquainted with the town. It gets busy in summer, but whenever you visit, the riverside parks are a must see. On a warm day, a boat trip along the Avon is a serene experience.

Another excellent way to get your bearings is to take an open-top bus tour. Buses run every 30 minutes during the day and take an hour to pass by most of Stratford’s top attractions. With an unlimited ticket, you can hop off and on as much as you like, which is a good idea if you want to see Mary Arden’s Farm or Anne Hathaway’s Cottage which are a couple of miles out of town.

William Shakespeare

The acclaimed poet and playwright William Shakespeare was born in Stratford in 1564 and spent much of his life in the town. He moved briefly to London, but even then regularly returned to his hometown. He died in Stratford in 1616, having penned some 39 plays and 154 sonnets.

During your day trip to Stratford, you’ll be able to see some of the most important places in Shakespeare’s life. The best place to start is his birthplace, which handily is right in the center of town. His birthplace and childhood home is a grand Tudor building and is now a museum which preserves the house amazingly well. Book in advance – especially during the summer months.

Next, head a couple of miles out to Shottery and visit Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. William married Anne when he was 18 in 1582, and they remained married until his death. She grew up in the cottage in Shottery and whilst the couple never lived together in the cottage, it is thought that Shakespeare visited regularly before they married. Booking is recommended for the Cottage as well.

Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Shakespeare (née Arden) grew up on a farm just outside Stratford. Today, it’s managed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust who run it as a typical Tudor farm. It’s open during school holidays and for special events only, so check their website before planning a visit.

The final stop on your Shakespeare pilgrimage should be Shakespeare’s New Place. Standing on the site of his former house, which he built after returning from London and lived in for 19 years until his death, the New Place tells the story of his later life. It’s best to book online to avoid the queues.

Tickets and tours

If you plan to visit the Birthplace, New Place and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, it’s best to buy a Shakespeare’s Story ticket. These offer significant savings compared to buying separate tickets for each place.

An excellent way to see some of the other Shakespeare sights within the town center is to take a walking tour. These allow you to discover Holy Trinity Church, where the bard is buried, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Grammar School.

Where to eat and drink in Stratford

There’s no shortage of places to grab lunch. Stratford has everything from McDonald’s to fine dining restaurants. Loxleys Restaurant & Wine Bar does an excellent (and very good value), lunch menu. Their ‘posh sandwiches’ are amazing, and if you fancy something heartier, their burgers are sure to fill you up. Another top bistro is The Opposition, known locally as ‘The Oppo’.

Make sure to leave time to nip into the Garrick Inn for a drink. It’s Stratford’s oldest pub and is housed in a gorgeous Tudor-beamed building. It was opened in 1596 and has been an inn since 1712, although an even older inn is thought to have occupied the site in Medieval times.

Getting to Stratford-upon-Avon

Trains to Stratford run three times per hour from Birmingham Moor Street and Birmingham Snow Hill. The journey takes around an hour and it’s worth booking in advance for the best fares. There are two stations in Stratford, so make sure you get off at Stratford-upon-Avon, because the other station (Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway) is quite a distance from the town center.

2. Warwick Castle

William the Conqueror ordered the building of Warwick Castle in 1068 following the Norman Conquest of England. At that time, the structure was a simple wooden affair, but during Henry VIII’s reign, it developed into the impressive stone structure we see today.

Warwick Castle was an important stronghold during the Hundred Years’ War and remained so until 1604 when King James I gifted the castle to Fulke Greville, the Earl of Warwick, who turned it into a country house. It remained in Greville family until 1978 when they sold it to the owners of Madame Tussauds who opened it to the public.

Warwick is now one of the most visited castles in all of England and has no shortage of things to see and do.

Aside from the fortress itself, the castle hosts daily archery shows, jousting displays as part of their re-enactments of the War of the Roses (summer only) and birds of prey displays.

What else to see in Warwick

Warwick has far more than just a castle, and although you could easily spend all day there, it’s well worth making time for a wander around the town. There are some excellent museums which include The Fusilier Museum which is a must for anyone interested in military history. Lord Leycester Hospital is another top spot, housed in a 700-year old timber building.

Warwick is also home to some great restaurants, and whilst the castle has plenty of on site eateries, you’ll get far better food for less if you head into town.

Il Piccolino’s is the local favorite for Italian food, dishing up woodfired pizza and delicious parmigiana. If you’re craving curry, head to Warwick Spice, an excellent Indian and my go-to whenever I’m in Warwick. For a more traditional pub lunch, The Rose & Crown is the place to go.

Getting to Warwick

The quickest and easiest way to reach Warwick for a day trip from Birmingham is by train. Trains leave every half-hour from Birmingham Moor Street and take less than 30 minutes. Book online for the best deals. Just like Stratford, Warwick has two stations; head for Warwick, not Warwick Parkway, from where it’s just a 15-minute walk through town to the castle.

3. Cadbury World

A fun0filled family day out, Cadbury World is a great and super-easy day trip from Birmingham no matter your age. The iconic Cadbury’s Chocolate was born in Birmingham in 1824, with their Bournville factory opening in 1878. It is here that the vast majority of their chocolate is made to this day.

Cadbury World first opened in 1990, offering visitors an insight into how chocolate is made, the history of cocoa and of the Cadbury company.

Highlights include a ‘Chocolate Ride’, a new 4D Chocolate Adventure which gives the impression you’re diving into liquid chocolate. There’s a recreation of Bull Street, the Victorian street in Birmingham where John Cadbury opened his first shop, selling tea and hot chocolate, and an Aztec Jungle area which shows the origins of the cocoa bean.

There’s plenty of free chocolate as you make your way round, but if that’s not enough, there is a massive shop at the end. The chocolate here is far cheaper than on the high street, and there’s plenty of Cadbury World exclusives to get your teeth into.

Getting to Cadbury World

Cadbury World is in Bournville, the model village built by the Cadbury family to house their workers, just over five miles from central Birmingham. The best way to get there is to take a train from Birmingham New Street to Bournville, from where it’s a 15-minute walk. Trains run several times per hour and take less than 15 minutes.

Alternatively, you can take the bus. Cadbury World is served by National Express bus 11A and timetables and ticket information can be found on their website.

4. Ironbridge Gorge

Said to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the small village of Ironbridge is one of the Midlands’s top tourist destinations and a must0do day trip from Birmingham. As industry grew in the late 18th century, a large iron bridge was built across a deep gorge, then known as Severn Gorge, taking its name from the river which carved it.

The Iron Bridge

So iconic was the bridge, the gorge eventually adopted the name Ironbridge Gorge and, in turn, gave birth to the village of Ironbridge. Built in 1779 and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Iron Bridge is a sight to behold.

Start your walk across the bridge at the Tollhouse, where, in the bridge’s early days, anyone wishing to cross had to pay a toll. Luckily for us, the Tollhouse is now an information centre, and the bridge is free to walk across.

Once you’ve crossed, you’ll find yourself at the Museum of the Gorge. Having recently undergone extensive redevelopment, it’s now an excellent place to learn a little about the history of the bridge and the industry which once boomed here.

Of course, seeing and crossing the stunning bridge should be high on your list for today’s visit, but there’s an awful lot more to see in Ironbridge too.

Along the Gorge

Jackfield

Walk east along the gorge from the Iron Bridge, passing the ruins of Bedlam Furnaces which stood here long before the Industrial Revolution brought mass manufacturing to the region. After around a mile, you’ll see a modern bridge which crosses the river. Known as the ‘Original Free Bridge’ it was built to offer an alternative to paying the toll to cross the Iron Bridge.

Just past the bridge, you’ll come into the village of Jackfield, home to the Jackfield Tile Museum. Situated in a working tile factory, you can explore a massive collection of tiles. Highlights include the original Edwardian station signs from Covent Garden tube station and tiles designed by icons such as Salvador Dali and William Morris.

Coalport

Continuing east, the village of Coalport is another must-see as you make your way along the gorge. Coalport has a long history of porcelain and pottery production; in fact, Coalport Porcelain is still very much alive, although it isn’t produced on the original site anymore.

Visit Coalport China Museum to discover the art of pottery and admire their amazing collection, including china that was made for Queen Victoria.

Local tip: Guided walking tours run from Coalport China Museum to the Tar Tunnel.

This 1,0000yard tunnel runs deep into the hillside and gives a fascinating insight into the conditions for workers during the Industrial Revolution. Tour times vary by season, so book in advance and plan your day around it – it’s well worth it!

Carry on through the village to Coalport Bridge; it’s similar in style to the Iron Bridge, albeit somewhat less grand. Just across the bridge, The Woodbridge Inn is the perfect place for a pub lunch with river views.

Getting to Ironbridge Gorge

The best way to explore the gorge is to rent a car in Birmingham and drive yourself, meaning you can visit as many of these sites as possible, and more if you want. However, visiting by public transport is an option too. Take a train from Birmingham New Street to Telford Central; trains run every half-hour and take around 40 minutes to complete the journey.

From Telford take a bus to Ironbridge. Select Bus 96 runs every two hours from Telford Bus Station to the Museum of the Gorge, but for more frequent connections, take Arriva bus 8/8A to Ironbridge village (5 minutes walk to the gorge).

5. Worcester

Straddling the banks of the River Severn, the quaint cathedral city of Worcester sits surrounded by the beauty of the Worcestershire Marches. If you’re looking for a history-filled day trip away from the hustle and bustle of Birmingham, Worcester should be high on your list.

Its impressive cathedral is the final resting place of King John, the 13th-century king of England who signed the Magna Carta. Until Henry VIII passed the Dissolution of the Monasteries act, Worcester Cathedral was home to an important priory which held one of the most significant monastic libraries in the country.

The cathedral is particularly famous among musicians, with many of Edward Elgar’s pieces being first performed here. Visit for Evensong (5:30 pm Monday to Saturday and 4pm on Sundays) to get a true feel for the Cathedral.

Take a stroll along the river through beautifully landscaped parks. If you’re craving coffee, head to Café Afloat, a converted canal boat moored in Diglis Marina.

In the afternoon, visit the Museum of Royal Worcester which tells the story of one of England’s most famous potteries. The museum is home to the largest collection of Royal Worcester porcelain in the world.

Spend the rest of your day exploring the cobbled streets and stocking up on antiquities from the countless independent shops which line them. If you’re feeling peckish, head for one of Worcester’s many top restaurants. Browns The Quay is an excellent bistro with river views, or take a seat in The Old Rectifying House’s sublime courtyard.

Getting to Worcester

There are several trains every hour between Birmingham and Worcester, with trains running from all three of Birmingham’s stations. The fastest trains leave from New Street, taking just under 45 minutes, whilst there are more frequent, albeit slightly slower services from Moor Street and Snow Hill (1 hour, 5 minutes). Worcester has two stations; Worcester Foregate Street is slightly closer to the city center.


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