Seeking a cozy stop along the way, a place worthy of a couple of days to meander and explore a small town or village in the mid-northern part of England. The older I get the more I relish English, Irish and Scottish literature, so we stop at every local bookshop along our way. Taverns for local fare and libations, local architecture grand and meek, parks, ponds, brooks and gardens and street musicians, chapels, cloisters and abbeys, please. B&B’s arranged directly through the host is where we rest and dream along our way. We spotted Alnewick. At closer look, while the castle appears to offer a special experience, it may be overrun by Harry Potter devotees.
Leamington Spa is en route. It has Regency architecture, the Pump Rooms, a C19 bath house and the Jephson Garden with a glass house. Enough to keep you occupied for a couple of days.
Lincoln has all you desire, sans the Harry Potterisation.
2 train routes will get you from Edinburgh to Stratford-upon-Avon = an easterly route via Newcastle and York or a westerly route via Carlisle and Preston. You will need to get to Birmingham (New Street - in the centre of the city - which is worth a walk around). From Birmingham, you take a train down the branch line to Stratford-upon-Avon. You may well find that it is cheaper to buy a separate ticket for the bit from Birmingham to Stratford-upon-Avon rather than have it lumped in with the longer distance ticket.
On the easterly route - consider York - Lincoln is not on this route. On the westerly route, consider making a detour to Chester by changing at Warrington or Crewe.https://www.traintickets.com/?/ or https://v3.trainsplit.com/ will tell you the timings and if splits reduce the fares.
Note that checking fares at the moment might not work properly due to strikes on certain days. For long distance trains, advance tickets for specific trains can work out cheaper. These are normally loaded around 10 weeks ahead.
Lincoln has plenty to offer, but getting from there from Edinburgh will involve 2 or 3 trains and the Stratford upon Avon leg is 4 or 5 trains depending on when you travel.
Alnwick is ok for a half or one day visit. The train station there is now a book shop and cafe, so Alnmouth, 4 miles away is the nearest station - there is a bus about hourly. It is overrun with Harry Potter fans and day coach trips full of pensioners visiting the Water Gardens. I don’t know when you plan to visit, but I went in the autumn (fall) and the water had been switched off for the winter, so there wasn’t much to see.
I was last in Alnwick in early June 2021 and was surprised at how badly affected the town had been affected by Covid, as there were numerous vacant shops despite the town being busy - we struggled to find a car space. We couldn’t get a table in the bookshop cafe as there were queues. It’s not a large town and can be walked round in less than 20 minutes.
Not sure where James is getting his information from
There are 2 train lines from Birmingham to Stratford upon Avon direct and neither go anywhere near Leamington Spa
They both leave from Birmingham Snow Hill or Moor Street. Moor Street being closer to New Street and only a 5 minute walk through the Bull Ring Shopping Centre
If you are travelling down the West Coast route from Edinburgh you can avoid the walk between the Birmingham stations by changing at Wolverhampton and again at Smethwick Galton Bridge where you can pick up the Stratford trains. This is the route i used when last travelling from Edinburgh.
Jennifer does seem a dismissive of Alnwick (and I object to being lumped in the description of 'coach trips full of pensioners visiting the Water Gardens.'!!)
I spent four nights in Alnwickat the White Swan Hotel, admittedly pre covid and loved the town. The castle is splendid and well worth going round. I was amazed by the gardens - there is more to them than the water feature. I visited in April when leaves were still to come out and perhaps there wasn't a lot to see in the gardens - but what you were very aware of was the major engineering works that had taken place to form them. I spent several hours enjoying them and the guided tour of the poisoin garden was an eye opener as it included so many common garden plants...
As well as the castle, the church is large and worth visiting . There are also the ruins of Hulne Priory about 3 miles NW of Alnwick and reached by walking along the river . Have a look here for different walks around the estate.
Being realistic, many places are still suffering the after effects of the covid lockdown with closed shops. It's not just Alnwick
"Lincoln has plenty to offer, but getting from there from Edinburgh will involve 2 or 3 trains"
One change, with options of changing at Donny, Retford or Newark.
Amongst many other things Lincolnd offers such as the Manga Carta, The Cathedral, The Catherdral Quarter and Castle Bomber Command Memorial et al. It also it has the only extant Middle Age high bridge which is now largely occupied by Stokes wonderful coffee shop.
Depending on day and time Stratford can be reached in 3 changes from Lincoln.
Many thanks ‘rogerbrown’ for the correction. I always thought that the line went direct from Birmingham Moor Street to Stratford-upon-Avon.
I have now updated my original post to correct the error.
Thank you to all for these tips, especially intel about railway routes. I can see us getting off the train to shake our legs with a walk to the closest tavern, might even bump into a bookshop and perhaps a street musician along the way. Then back on the train and away we go. Hoping the world is well on its way to getting back on it’s feet by 2024. Traveling in the Fall, we will miss the gardens in bloom. We will base our calendar on the theater season including The Royal Shakespeare Theater, Shakespeare’s Globe, perhaps the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and the London Philharmonic.
I always thought that the line went direct from Birmingham Moor Street to Stratford-upon-Avon.
There are two variants -(Snow Hill) Moor Street, Tyseley (where the line divides), local stations to Shirley, local stations straight to Stratford-upon-Avon; or Snow Hill, Moor Street, Tyseley (often not stop), Acocks Green, Solihull, Widney Manor, Dorridge, Lapworth and then turn right at Hatton North Curve off the main line into Stratford-upon Avon after 2 request stops.
If on the second option the train had not turned onto the Hatton North Curve it would have called at Hatton, Warwick Parkway, Warwick and Leamington Spa.
It is also possible to get to Stratford-upon-Avon from Leamington and Warwick via Hatton, Hatton South Curve and the 2 request stops. But that would really be going out of the way and backtracking if coming from the north.
Decades of fun working those lines had I.
I often miss the job. Even if I had to be up at stupid o'clock to go to work. It was (almost always) good fun.
Just checked out the route Edinburgh to York to Stratford-upon-Avon. Makes good sense, and by the looks of it York would be a rich adventure! About to explore the possibilities. Once again, thank you one and all!
https://www.visityork.org is the official tourism website for York. The National Railway Museum is well worth a look and is just on the west side of the station. York deserves at least an overnight stay. The Minster is massive. (York is also on the direct line from London (Kings Cross) to Edinburgh),
I looked at the National Rail website for my train information and plugged in a travel date of next week, hence I suggested Leamington. York is lovely, but can’t be described as a small town or village, which is what the OP wanted.
I have been to Alnwick numerous times and it had declined on my last visit post Covid (as many places have). It was invaded with coach parties and had a different character after 4pm when they had all departed. It reminded me of cruise ports. Maybe I was just unlucky with the day I visited.