As everybody knows, William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, and died there in 1616.

Without such a catalyst it is highly unlikely that an attractive but unremarkable Warwickshire market town would have become a tourist honeypot attracting four million visitors a year.

Stratford makes the most of its good fortune, and it's probably due to the Shakespeare connection that it has managed to preserve so many Medieval, Tudor and Georgian buildings. Top of the list for most visitors are the Shakespeare properties, five Tudor houses with Shakespeare family connections, but there are many other lovely buildings to admire.

Public gardens and parkland adjoining Waterside, around the junction of the Stratford Canal with the River Avon, provide another popular focus for visitors.

With an abundance of densely planted flower beds, and dozens of narrowboats crammed into the canal basin, this is easily the most colourful place in Stratford.

There's always something going on, with jugglers, mime artists and other performers helping to generate what is almost a carnival atmosphere throughout the summer.

There is also a much quieter side to Stratford, with the River Avon and the Stratford Canal combining to provide the key to a quick escape into the countryside.

Shottery Brook links the two so that an enjoyable circular walk can be made which, for almost its entire length, follows one or other of these three very different watercourses.

Just a few minutes from Waterside, woods and meadows take over as you follow the Avon Valley Footpath downstream before leaving the river to follow Shottery Brook.

This is the ideal way to arrive at Shottery, a charming village now swallowed up by Stratford but still retaining some character of its own.

There are thatched, timber-framed cottages close to Shottery Brook and on Cottage Lane there are some modest but delightful brick cottages with colourful gardens.

However, few visitors even notice them because the main draw is Ann Hathaway's Cottage, a picturesque thatched farmhouse which was Ann's home until she married Shakespeare in 1582.

It's beautifully set in a traditional English country garden with an orchard. Inside, it's furnished as it would have been in Ann's day, mostly with pieces which actually belonged to the Hathaways, because it remained in the family until 1892, when the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust purchased it. Even if you don't want to join the queues to go inside it's still worth a visit just to admire the chocolate-box exterior.

There are other places to enjoy in Shottery too, including the Shakespeare Tree Garden, a little further down the lane.

It contains trees, shrubs and other plants mentioned by Shakespeare and is a pleasant place to relax for a while.

On the other side of Cottage Lane is a wooded stretch of Shottery Brook where a short walk has been laid out, and there is a popular tea room here, with garden seating.

The towpath of Stratford Canal provides the ideal return to town.

Completed in 1816, the canal prospered for a time, but soon began to suffer from competition and in 1856 the canal company sold out to the Great Western Railway.

Decline and decay followed, but in the 1960s the southern section was acquired and restored by the National Trust. The Trust later handed it over to British Waterways, which is better able to maintain it.

Cross the brick tramway bridge near Cox's Yard and walk downstream on the east bank of the Avon, passing the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Holy Trinity Church and the Colin P Witter Lock before the town is left behind.

Continue through woodland and meadows and eventually you'll see a former railway bridge spanning the river.

A little further on a stile gives access to the former railway (now a cycleway) and you should turn right to cross the bridge.

A few metres further on descend to the right to a riverside picnic area and walk under the bridge to join a footpath which passes a corner of the racecourse then crosses a meadow to meet the Avon again at the far side.

Cross Shottery Brook at a footbridge and fork right by a Severn Trent pumping station.

Turn right along a street, then right again at a T-junction.

Cross Evesham Road to join a footpath opposite, beside Shottery Brook.

Turn right by a nursery then make three left turns as you follow the signs to Ann Hathaway's Cottage on Cottage Lane.

Opposite the cottage a gate gives access to a path by the brook.

Follow it until directed back to Cottage Lane then turn right and shortly right again, just after The Tryst House, on a footpath.

Reaching a road, turn left then cross the A422 to rejoin Shottery Brook.

It doesn't matter which side of the brook you walk at first, but after crossing a road you should make sure you keep to the left of it.

When you reach the Stratford Canal turn left until bridge 63 allows you to cross over to join the towpath.

Turn right to return to the canal basin at Waterside.


This walk has been carefully checked and the directions are believed to be correct at the time of publication.

No responsibility is accepted by either the author or publisher for errors or omissions, or for any loss or injury, however caused.

Start: Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon; GR 204548.

Length: 6 miles/9.6km.

Maps: OS Landranger 151, OS Explorer 205.

Terrain: level throughout; mainly grassland and towpaths.

Stiles: 5.

Parking: Bridgefoot car park near Waterside.

Public transport: Central Trains operates daily from Worcester to Stratford but it's a long journey via Birmingham - far better to go by train or bus to Evesham and change to Stagecoach 28, Mondays to Saturdays; on Sundays and bank holidays the excellent Woodstones Coaches 166 runs direct to Stratford from Worcester; County Busline 08457 125436.

Refreshments: wide choice in Stratford; pubs, tea shops and restaurant at Shottery.