English Midlands Destination Guide

Filed under Destination Guides, travel

Words: Alison Plummer

Central England is the meeting place of many regions with Birmingham at its heart, surrounded by counties, towns and natural attractions, each destinations in their own right. Multi-cultural Birmingham has a young demographic with a high percentage of its population under 30, reflected in the urban arts and dining/bar culture, modern architecture and excellent shopping. There’s much more to Birmingham than first meets the eye – many museums document the industrial past, Dudley Castle and Jacobean Aston Hall are both said to be haunted while writer J.R.R. Tolkien used atmospheric Sarehole Mill as inspiration for ‘the Shire’.  

A statue of Queen Victoria stands before the Council House (1879) on Victoria Square in Birmingham, England. (David Stanley)

Warwickshire is home to Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick Castle, Ragley Hall, Baddesley Clinton and Coughton Court, where the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was hatched. Rural Worcestershire borders Herefordshire – the composer Elgar lived here, inspired by the magnificent Malvern Hills.

Staffordshire features the potteries of Stoke-on-Trent; Shropshire lies on the Welsh border boasting lovely countryside, the Iron Gorge, the culinary capital of Ludlow and medieval Shrewsbury. Heading north, the moorland, hills and dales of the Peak District include areas of Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire; Chester, founded as a Roman fortress in the 1st Century AD, is one of Britain’s best-preserved walled cities.

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The Midlands and surrounds have it all from the buzz of Birmingham’s city life and vibrant Gay Pride scene to world-class motor museums and beautiful countryside for walks and bike rides. Add art and culture spiced with romance and the depth of history that makes England so intriguing and you’ll find much to love about the heart of England.

Vroom vroom

The British Motor Museum at Gaydon houses a superb collection of classic, vintage and veteran cars while the National Motorcycle Museum at Solihull wows with 1000 bikes on display. Book a factory tour of Malvern’s Morgan Motor Company to see their iconic cars being made.

Catch a performance 

See big-name productions, comedy, drama, dance at the Birmingham Hippodrome and film, comedy and other performance at the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC). In Stratford check the Shakespeare theatres for drama and performance and the Stratford ArtsHouse for music, dance, comedy and more. 

Romantic castles
For battlements and a Great Hall, medieval Warwick Castle delivers with extras including a Horrible Histories Maze. Ruined Kenilworth Castle romances with its remains and Elizabethan garden, visit Beeston Castle remains in Cheshire   or slip over the Shropshire border into Wales to visit impressive Chirk Castle.

Sniff the roses

Rose-lovers from all over the world come to visit David Austin Roses, near Wolverhampton, where gorgeous rose gardens have been created with more than 700 varieties flowering from the end of May until late autumn. An extensive plant centre and a gift shop complete the experience.

Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter is a lively, historic conservation area including the Birmingham Assay Office, jewellery businesses and retailers. Bars and restaurants include Lasan for award-winning Indian cuisine and Jools Holland’s Jam House in St Paul’s Square (the last Georgian Square in Birmingham) for live music. 

All about Shakespeare

Stratford-upon-Avon’s ancient ‘black and white’ houses and preserved buildings reflect the life and times of William Shakespeare and his family. Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Hall’s Croft and New Place are in town, while Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Mary Arden’s Farm are the country houses.

Take a hike

Rural areas are criss-crossed by trails including sections of the Pennine Way, the Malvern Hills Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail along Welsh border country and the Shropshire Way. The Arden Way is a 42km circular walk from Henley-in Arden, Warwickshire, through the Forest of Arden. 

Think chocolate

‘Cadbury World’ is the famous chocolate factory in historic Bournville, a few miles from Birmingham. See how chocolate is made, experience the 4D cinema (diving into a bowl of liquid Cadbury Dairy Milk, riding the Crunchie Rollercoaster!) and explore the fascinating local area. 

Barge right in

Gas Street Basin is at the heart of Birmingham’s historic network of canals, now an inner city venue with eateries, bars and barge tours. Lock gates control canal levels – the Hatton Flight near Warwick is a row of 21. Find fascinating industrial heritage at Ironbridge Gorge, Telford, Shropshire.

In the grand manor

So many to see! Lyme Park, Dunham Massey, Tatton Hall in Cheshire; Chatsworth House, Derbyshire (think Pride & Prejudice) with landscaping by ‘Capability’ Brown; ‘Arts & Crafts’ Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton, moated Baddesley Clinton and Charlecote Park, Warwickshire; Croft Castle and Attingham Park, Shropshire. 


The centre of England includes a cluster of distinctive counties, towns and cities radiating from central Birmingham and including signature destinations such as Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire and the towns of the Staffordshire Potteries, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, with neighbouring Cheshire and Derbyshire on the doorstep.


The UK’s second city (after London) Birmingham is defined by its social and industrial history and is a multicultural hotspot with a dynamic arts, dining and nightlife scene. Readily accessible with its own international airport and major rail links, the superb infrastructure makes Birmingham an excellent choice for conferences with the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and International Convention Centre (ICC). Purely for pleasure, hotels in great locations make it easy to explore and cherry pick the best of the city and surrounding countryside.

Shakespeare Country

England’s treasured bard has his stamp on Warwickshire, known as Shakespeare’s County with the focus on Stratford-upon-Avon with all the Shakespeare houses to visit. Boating on the River Avon, seeing a play at the Royal Shakespeare or Swan theatres and taking a theatre tour behind the scenes are all ways to soak up the Shakespeare vibe. Nearby is the National Trust’s Charlecote Park, home to the Lucy family since Tudor times. Stratford is full of atmospheric pubs, bars, restaurants and range of shops geared to locals and global visitors alike.


Beautiful Shropshire may be a little off the better known tourist trails but it is actually a wonderful secret much loved by those in the know. Traditional market towns are a delight to explore such as foodie Ludlow, Church Stretton, Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Wroxeter and Whitchurch while the atmospheric border castles tell their own stories. There are many gardens to visit such as the and seriously beautiful walks through this county’s rolling hills including Offa’s Dyke, the Long Mynd, Wenlock Edge and the Shropshire Way.


Stoke-on-Trent is the capital of ceramics with factory tours, a ceramics trail and factory shops and outlets selling everything from the finest bone china to chunky pottery – think Portmeirion, Emma Bridgewater, Moorcroft, Wedgwood, Reiko Kaneko, Royal Stafford and many more. The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery has the world’s largest collection of Staffordshire ceramics as well as gold items on display from the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest discovery of Anglo-Saxon gold found to date.


To the far northwest lies Cheshire with the beautiful Chester as its capital, gorgeous gardens to visit and the Cheshire Peak District. Cheshire dips its toes in the water at the River Dee and the Mersey leading to the Irish Sea and in its extensive canal systems. The Anderton Boat Lift on the River Weaver is a must-see, built to lift 50ft cargo boats from the river to the Trent & Mersey Canal.  Historic houses to visit include Tatton Park, Adlington Hall and Arley Hall.


Birmingham has it all from fine dining to tiny bars and a mix of flavours including the signature Indian cuisine. Bakeries and cafes serving breakfast/brunch are favourites. Farm shops make interesting stops in the countryside while every town has a ‘special’ restaurant or two – visit the culinary capital of Ludlow, Shropshire, if you can.

Adams, Birmingham


Contemporary British fine dining with three course, tasting and lunch menus. A feast for the senses, sparkling combinations of flavours make this a local favourite experience that’s also good value. Bold flavours, subtle notes – owner/chef Adam Stokes makes even the most simple-sounding dishes special. 

Draper’s Hall Restaurant, Shrewsbury http://drapershallrestaurant.co.uk/restaurant/

Brasserie and a la carte menus at Draper’s feature all those mouthwatering combinations that take fine ingredients into other realms, starring locally sourced produce. Choose grown-up comfort food or push the boundaries – English at its most English with clever twists and garden produce.

Indian Flavours, Midlands

The Midlands is famous for Indian food from Birmingham’s upmarket Lasan and the Maharaja to an area dubbed the ‘Balti Triangle’ with over 100 restaurants serving Balti dishes (think stir-fried, served in a signature Balti bowl). Also find Hussains in Stratford-upon-Avon, Jimmy Pickles in Pershore. 

Joseph Benjamin, Chester http://www.josephbenjamin.co.uk

Whether it’s breakfast, morning coffee, a lunchtime sandwich or full lunch or dinner, this great place specialises in unpretentious seasonal modern British/European food beneath Chester’s historic city walls. You can also enjoy wine and tapas at Porta right next door to the Joseph Benjamin bar/restaurant. 

Leverton & Halls Deli, Bournville http://levertonandhalls.com

This independent café/deli serves fresh local and organic produce. Open for breakfast, brunch and lunch, find vegetarian options, poached eggs on rye with black pudding, Spanish potato omelette, mushrooms on rye with garlic and melted blue cheese, chorizo salad and more.

Peel & Stone Bakers, Birmingham http://www.peelandstone.co.uk/

This small bakery specialises in slow-baked breads and pastries. Changing daily lunch menus offer options such as sandwiches, pulled pork buns, soup. Find them at Arch 33 under Birmingham’s Snowshill Station and 374 Harborne Street, Birmingham, which also has a craft beer bar.

Simpsons, Birmingham http://www.simpsonsrestaurant.co.uk/

Contemporary fine dining and emphasis on great produce make Simpsons 

a gourmet experience for foodies in Edgbaston, Birmingham. Seasonal menus include a la carte, three-course set lunch menu, tasting menu and a vegetarian tasting menu. Senior chefs also run a day cookery school.

Sushi Passion, Birmingham http://sushipassion.eu/menu/

Considered by insider sushi fans to be the best of its kind in Birmingham, compact Sushi Passion is in the Great Western Arcade serving Japanese sushi, sashimi, fusion, vegetarian and sweet options. The lovely Victorian shopping arcade also has plenty of independent shops to discover.

The Bell Inn, Welford-on-Avon, Warwickshire www.thebellwelford.co.uk

Shakespeare is said to have frequented this 17th century pub, named best Dining Pub in Warwickshire in 2016. Think traditional pub food – steaks, gammon, mixed grills lasagne, salads, baked boxed Camembert with red onion marmalade, deli choices and sandwiches. Gluten-free menu also available. 

1851 Peckforton Castle, Cheshire

Specialising in modern British and French food, 1851 is a Cheshire icon with many accolades. Open for dinner (and Sunday lunch), five-course menus feature British ingredients such as Goosnargh duck from Lancashire, Cornish fish, Cumbrian lamb and beef, Scottish langoustine – you get the picture.

Waterside Brasserie, Stratford-upon-Avon http://www.theardenhotelstratford.com

Opposite the Royal Shakespeare Theatres, the ‘smart casual’ Waterside delivers seasonal brasserie food for lunch and dinner and also has a snacks and classics menu for more casual dining. Pre-theatre dinners can be booked with the option of returning post-performance for dessert/coffee. 


Vibrant Birmingham has trendy bars and pubs with a great emphasis on craft beer and great coffee in stylish cafes. In town for some culture, Stratford-upon-Avon has some great bars, while north west of the centre of England find rural pubs and bars in Shrewsbury and the city of Chester.

Bars in Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon 

Try the Rooftop Restaurant Cocktail Bar in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre complex, the Champagne Bar at the Arden Hotel or the bar at Church Street Townhouse. Stratford’s many pubs include the One Elm and the historic Garrick Inn, dating back to the 1400s.

Burlington Bar, Burlington Arcade, New Street, Birmingham http://www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk

In the heart of Birmingham, part of the historic Macdonald Burlington Hotel,

this is an escape from the bustle of the city for afternoon tea, something from the bar lounge menu or a quiet drink. Think leather armchairs, cocktails and a range of malt whiskies. 

Two Towers Brewery, 93 Bath Street, Birmingham


Find this craft brewery at the Gun Makers Arms in the Gun Quarter. Chamberlain Pale Ale, Complete Muppetry, Jewellery Porter, Vulcanised are some of the brews, ranging from crisp pale ales to chocolate/nutty porters. Two Towers’ Electric Ale was first created for Birmingham’s Electric Cinema.

Cherry Reds Café Bar, Birmingham http://www.cherryreds.com

Craft sodas, draught local and Belgian beers, bottled beers from around the world, ciders, cocktails, wine, hot chocolate, juices, tea, coffee, iced coffee and tea. All this in a retro setting with a dining menu including all-day breakfast, brunch, vegetarian and vegan options, burgers, main plates.

Purecraft Bar & Kitchen, http://www.purecraftbars.com 

Six cask and sixteen craft ales on tap are clues to the success of these modern industrial city bars in Nottingham and Birmingham. Enjoy bar snacks, small/large plates, sandwiches and deli boards – try the signature Purecrafted Scotch egg with Purity Beer ketchup and baked malt custard with honeycomb.

The Church, Birmingham www.churchjq.co.uk

This is a trendy pub with a difference, inspired by the New Orleans’ French Quarter with great interiors, roof garden and serving Southern-style cocktails (yes, there’s a mint julep), wines and spirits. The food menu fits the bill with jambalaya, gumbo, soul food fried chicken

The Pheasant Inn, Higher Burwardsley, Cheshire 


In the Peckforton Hills with great views of the Cheshire countryside, this is a place to drop in for a drink – the bar stocks real ales – or dine here for lunch or dinner if you are out and about exploring or walking in the area. 

Saint Kitchen, St Paul’s Square, Birmingham 


Contemporary coffee shop serving some of the best coffee in town made with single origin Extract Coffee, and great hot chocolate. Breakfast/brunch are served all day and the lunch menu has quinoa salads with, say, citrus infused smoked salmon, flatbreads with chipotle glazed pulled pork. 

Taste of Shrewsbury, 70 Mardol, Shrewsbury

Enjoy tea, coffee and juices at this popular eatery known to be vegetarian and vegan friendly with gluten-free options. Taste specialises in home-made sandwiches and soups made with the freshest ingredients, home-made pies, home-baked cakes, biscuits, brownies, scones with jam and cream.

Yorks Bakery Cafés, Birmingham


Yorks Café and Coffee Roasters on Stephenson Street near Grand Central serves coffee, breakfast and brunch. Yorks Espresso Bar on Coolmore Row has a toast menu with jams and nut butters or toppings such as avocado and feta or peanut butter, wildflower honey and banana.


From major shopping centres and independents in Birmingham to England’s oldest shopping façade in Chester, shopping including arts and crafts, lifestyle, fashion and antiques, collectables.

Antiques Shops

Find antiques and collectables in town and country settings – Craycombe, Fladbury in Worcestershire’s Vale of Evesham; Barn Antiques Centre, Long Marston, Warwickshire; Corner Farm Antiques, Weston Heath, Shropshire; Applegates Antiques Centre, Chester are a few. Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire has over 30 antique and second-hand bookshops.

Custard Factory, Birmingham 


Riverside factories have been recreated into event spaces, independent shops and businesses, galleries, pop ups and the Mockingbird Theatre.  Changing menu of outlets with craft beers at Clink Beer, vintage and over 70 British designers at the Sara Preisler Gallery.

Cheese Shops

You’ll feel a picnic coming on when you visit specialist cheese shops such as Paxton & Whitfield in Stratford-upon-Avon; Mousetrap Cheese in Ludlow, Leominster and Hereford. Taste local – Shropshire Cheese Company’s Shropshire Blue; Cheshire Cheese Company’s Traditional Cheshire, Old Hag Wincle Ale and Mustard Cheddar.

Farm Shops & Delis 

Stock up and enjoy the best local fresh produce at farm shops and their cafes. Some to visit are Hillers, near Ragley Hall, Warwickshire; The Hollies Farm Shop, Little Budworth, Cheshire; Ludlow Food Centre, Ludlow; Llynclys Hall Farm Shop Oswestry; Battlefield 1403 and Appleyards, Shrewsbury. 

Grand Central, Mailbox & The Bullring, Birmingham 

Major city complexes are: Grand Central Shopping Centre with independents, department stores including John Lewis and high-street names. Swish Mailbox has upscale shopping such as Paul Smith and the cool Harvey Nichols concept store while the Bullring at Birmingham’s heart houses 160 stores including Selfridges. 

Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham


True to its name, this is a gem of a precinct with interesting heritage architecture, packed with jewellery retailers and workshops. Select traditional or contemporary pieces from existing displays or commission a bespoke designer item. Also find galleries, fashion, gift shops, restaurants, cafes and bars.

Robert Welch, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire 


Find timeless, functional stainless steel cutlery, cookware, casseroles, candlesticks, the signature 50s Campden toast rack and much more at Robert Welch, Chipping Campden, near Stratford-upon-Avon. Welsh set up shop in 1955 and pieces are held in London’s V&A and New York’s MoMA. (More stockists online.)

Smithsonia, Piccadilly Arcade, Birmingham


This proudly independent, family-run giftshop and gallery is a delight, stocked with all kinds of collectables including silver, jewellery and glass objects, many made here in the UK. Carved and ceramic animal objects, vases, prints including Roald Dahl BFG Collector Prints – there’s something for everyone here.

The Rows, Chester


Intriguing half-timbered galleries with independent shops and cafes arranged on two levels along streets including Watergate and Bridge, Rufus Court and Godstall Lane. The Rows are unique, England’s oldest shopping façade with 13th century buildings such as the Three Old Arches in Bridge Street. 

The Silver Pear, 68-69 Broad Street, Ludlow


Independent designer home shop full of desirables and leading brands including Alessi, Sophie Conran, Le Creuset, Orla Kiely. This treasure house selects the best practical items such as accessories, throws, vases, candles, wash and make-up bags, beauty lines and gifts.


Ride A Bike


Explore the English countryside straight from your hotel in rural areas or join a section of Britain’s National Cycle Network. The West Midlands section linking Oxford to Derby via Birmingham includes the 8km Stratford Greenway. Sections from Birmingham include a ride to Lichfield.

Drive A Classic Car

Travel the country highways and byways in suitable style in a classic sports car; think Jaguar, Austin Healy, MG, Jensen, Porsche, Chevrolet or a Morgan direct from Morgan at Malvern. There are classic car hire companies around England – Warwickshire is one base for them.

Out There, Outdoors


Experience rock climbing, caving, hill walking, navigation courses and mountaineering in the Peak District with Pure Outdoor Ltd who also specialise in private guiding and courses for those who want to maximise their time. Choose from the experiences on offer or plan your own adventures. 

Oulton Park Race Circuit


Hit the racetrack for thrilling RallyMaster drives in Oulton Park at Little Budworth, Cheshire. Described as ‘the closest you’ll ever get to rally driving without a competition licence’, alongside a professional rally driver. The Track/Race Academy also offers intensive one-on-one drive courses.


What a way to view the English (and Welsh) countryside with its patchwork of fields, farms, towns, hills, woodland, rivers, distant mountains and even the sea from the Cheshire/Welsh borders. Companies operate all around the Midlands with a wide variety of launch sites and destinations.

Severn Valley Railway


Run by volunteers, the Severn Valley railway is a full-size standard-gauge line running between Bridgnorth in Shropshire and Kidderminster in Worcestershire. Passenger trains are mostly run by steam and the line includes Highley, which is home to the Engine House with a visitor and education centre.

What Goes Around …

The scenery is often as good as the game on English courses, wherever you stay. Cheshire is home to 80 courses and Shropshire’s Macdonald Hill Valley Hotel has one on the UK’s top ten courses. Around Stratford, play the Stratford-on-Avon Golf Club among others. 

Land Rover Experiences


This iconic company loves to entice people behind the wheel and offer experience drives at centres around the country. Peckforton Castle has all the latest models to try out as you explore the castle grounds – Defender, Range Rover, Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Evoque and Freelander. 

Walk This Way

England has hundreds of miles of walking trails. Explore the National Trust-owned Alderley Edge, walking from the Cheshire Plain to the Peak District; walk the Long Mynd in Shropshire; take a short stroll through Brown Moss Nature Reserve at Whitchurch, often a bird-watcher’s delight. 

Take Two Rivers

The River Severn (the longest in Britain) and the River Avon dominate the Midlands with great fishing, kayaking, river trips and more. Local specialist operators can arrange your trips –  for anglers, salmon, trout and mixed coarse fishing are the norm, depending on the area and the season.


The centre of England is bursting with museums dedicated to the industrial heritage, glass, jewellery, lace and lock-making, current and future science, cars, bikes, planes and much more. Birmingham’s exhibition and performance spaces suit its status as England’s second city offering everything from classical to contemporary cutting edge. Find culture and heritage in the country, too.

Compton Verney, Warwickshire


Acclaimed independent art gallery in a beautiful house in sweeping ‘Capability’ Brown grounds near Stratford. Eclectic mix of temporary exhibitions plus permanent collections of Chinese art, masterpieces from the Golden Age of Neapolitan art, British Folk Art, portraits and an Enid Marx–Margaret Lambert collection.

Electric Cinema, Birmingham

In the Southside district of Birmingham, the UK’s oldest working cinema is an oasis complete with sofas, a bar and waiter service. Two digital screens show everything from the latest mainstream to films to classics, foreign and independents. Bottled beers include Electric’s own house brand. 

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham


Contemporary art gallery whose ethos is the accessibility of art. Local and international artists are featured in mediums across the spectrum including sculpture, painting, film, photography, sound and installation. The setting is stunning as Ikon is in a neo-gothic building – and entry is free.

Ironbridge Gorge Museums,Telford, Shropshire


Ironbridge Gorge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with ten museums and attractions for engineering enthusiasts. Beside the River Severn, the museums document the creation here of the first iron bridge, iron wheels and iron rails, plus the first steam railway locomotive. 

MAC Birmingham


The Midlands Arts Centre has it all – film, comedy, theatre, exhibitions, music, dance and family events. MAC is housed in its the multi-purpose buildings at Cannon Hill Park and works with local and regional communities. The first floor gallery is a showcase for visual arts.

Royal Shakespeare Theatres, Stratford-upon-Avon


Not one but several performance spaces feature at the RSC including the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres, The Other Place studio theatre and the Swan Wing. See a play and also take a theatre tour to appreciate the scope of this legendary icon.

Stoke-on-Trent Museums, Staffordshire


The fascinating Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in the city houses collections of Staffordshire ceramics, decorative arts and gold items from the Staffordshire Hoard. The Gladstone Pottery Museum is an insight into the working of a Victorian pottery factory and the people who worked there.

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham

This Art Deco building was opened by Queen Mary in 1939 and is designed around a central music auditorium, surrounded by lecture halls and libraries for the Departments of Music and History of Art. See fine art exhibitions, collections and book for musical performances.

The REP, Birmingham


Find this historic repertory theatre company in sleek surroundings, refurbished together with the Birmingham Library and now a contemporary city landmark. Stages a wide range of productions throughout the year and new plays at the smaller, intimate venue, The DOOR at the REP. 

The Staffordshire Hoard


The largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found, the Hoard was discovered near Lichfield in 2009 with over 3,500 items, perhaps from the 7th or 8th centuries. See displays at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Tamworth Castle, Lichfield Cathedral, Stoke-on-Trent Potteries Museum.

The Lion Salt Works


Close to the Anderton Boat Lift, the Lion Salt Works at Marston is one of the West Chester Museums, tracing local salt making back 2000 years. Others in the collection are the Weaver Hall Museum & Workhouse, Stretton Watermill and the Grosvenor Museum.




Find visual arts, theatre, music, comedy at this annual event established by Birmingham LGBT, bringing together artists, work, and culture from across the UK. SHOUT sets out to inspire discussion and promote queer arts and culture, celebrating diversity and pushing boundaries. 

18-20 November

Deepbridge Chester Arts Fair

Deepbridge Chester Arts Fair

Cheshire has a lively interest in art and collectors come to the fair to buy art from more than 50 galleries and artists including painting, photography, ceramics, glassware and sculpture. If you miss the fair, visit some of the many individual galleries in the area.

17 November-29 December (except Christmas Day)

Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market & Craft Fair

Held at Victoria Square, New Street & Centenary Square, 10am -9pm, these markets are the largest authentic German markets of their kind outside Germany and Austria. Some 180 stalls sell decorations, handmade toys, gifts, jewellery, German food and, naturally, warming spiced Glühwein!

April 2017

Stratford Literary Festival


Home to the packed program of the Stratford Literary Festival, the modern, multi-purpose Stratford ArtsHouse offers a program of music, dance, drama, comedy and the arts throughout the year from jazz to guest speakers and big name musicians. Check the website to appreciate the scope.

April-June 2017

Asparagus Festival, Vale Of Evesham

While festivities take place in and around Evesham with an asparagus auction at the historic Fleece pub, Bretforton, it also means that April, May and June are the months to find some of the tastiest asparagus grown, on sale and on menus throughout the Midlands.

13-14 May 2017

Ludlow Spring Food Festival 


The Ludlow food scene is so vibrant that they have two festivals in spring and autumn. Spring 2017 will see 50 or more brewers discussing their craft and showcase more than 60 artisan producers on-site including bakers, butchers, cheese-makers and many more specialists.

24-25 July 2017

Shrewsbury Food Festival


Promising 200 stalls, top chefs, drink and craft exhibitors and cookery demonstrations, this summer celebration of local and neighbouring producers is another Shropshire extravaganza. Find Gun Dog Gin, wines from Halfpenny Green Vineyards, ciders, craft beers, honey, organics – and a kids’ kitchen with activity program.

August 2017

Battle Proms at Ragley Hall


Classical music, cavalry displays, cannon fire and a firework finale are some of the ingredients of this picnic concert (also held at other stately home venues including Highclere Castle in Hampshire). Creative use of 193 Napoleonic cannon in Beethoven’s Battle Symphony and 1812 Overture. 

October 2017

The Birmingham Literature Festival,


Held every autumn with its base at the Library of Birmingham, this brings together prominent writers, performers, historians, illustrators and orators hosting interviews, performances, debates and workshops at venues in central Birmingham. World literature, dialects and all kinds of topics are on the table.

October 2017

Birmingham Comedy Festival


Annual event held over ten days and featuring a mix of big names with new and emerging talent. Birmingham has a rich comedy scene and welcomes around 70 performers at different venues at a festival, which has become one of the largest independents in Britain.

October 2017

Great Run Birmingham International Marathon

This 26.2-mile event is the first of three in a new Great Run British Marathon Series, organised by The Great Run Company in partnership with Birmingham City Council who stage the world’s biggest half marathon the Great North Run, the Great Manchester Run and the Great South Run. Aims to help raise the standard of marathon running in the UK.

24 Hours in Stratford-upon-Avon

It really is all about Shakespeare so seeing the highlights from his birthplace to his grave shapes the day. There are five Shakespeare houses as well as the separate Shakespeare Schoolroom & Guildhall. Seeing just the town houses is an option but Anne Hathaway’s Cottage at Shottery is delightful. Stay longer to see everything if you can. www.shakespeare.org.uk


9am – Walking shoes on to begin at Shakespeare’s Birthplace on Henley Street, where screened presentations put you in the picture and you can see Shakespeare’s First Folio and the series of rooms in the house as they would have been in the bard’s day. The gift shop has all things Shakespeare!

Coffee break

Henley Street is lined with cafes from Box Brownie to patisseries and larger places with outdoor seating if it is fine. Coffee shops, tearooms, bakeries, restaurants and a real mix of shops line Henley Street. Tip: The MAD Museum on Henley Street stocks gifts for inquisitive children/grandchildren.

11.00am – Head for the newly re-opened New Place on the corner of High Street and Chapel Lane, once the site of Shakespeare’s last home now reinvented with an exhibition centre, the Great Garden and commissioned artworks. 

12.00 noon – Visit the atmospheric Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall on Church Street, open to the public for the first time and a chance for visitors to see how Shakespeare’s early life would have been shaped in the classroom. The Guild Chapel dates back to the 13th century and is famous for it medieval wall paintings. (This is not part of the Shakespeare Trust so you pay a separate entry fee.) 


Make it a light lunch at the Hathaway Tea Rooms, a local Sheep Street eatery or Hall’s Croft Café in the Jacobean manor house of Susanna, Shakespeare’s eldest daughter. 

1.30pm – Visit Hall’s Croft to view the house itself with its beautiful garden with roses in summer and the kind of medicinal herbs used by Susanna’s husband, Dr John Hall. Polished wood and flowers are signatures of this haven. 

2.30 – 3.00pm – Walk to Holy Trinity Church to view Shakespeare’s Grave. 

3.00pm – Walk, drive or catch the bus to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and gardens at Shottery, the 500-year-old thatched childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife. OR take a tour of the Royal Shakespeare theatres. 

OR walk by the River Avon. 

OR look around the shops.


See a performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatres (book ahead) or check out what’s on at the Stratford ArtsHouse. 

OR just enjoy dinner at your hotel or at The Church Street Townhouse, the Waterside Brasserie, Hussains, a Sheep Street eatery such as Lamb’s or the Opposition Bistro or a pub such as The Bell at Welford-on-Avon. 

Tip: Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is especially photogenic in the morning if it is sunny, so maybe that is a choice for next day, followed by a visit to Mary Arden’s Farm. The hop on and off city sightseeing bus is an option for travelling between the main attractions including Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Mary Arden’s Farm.

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