The birthplace of England's favourite playwright and poet
et’s not ignore the elephant in the room: any visit to Stratford will inevitably be about celebrating the life and work of everyone’s favourite bard, William Shakespeare. You can retrace the playwright’s life from cradle to grave, visiting the historic buildings that the young playwriting tyro also frequented. Unsurprisingly, Stratford also has excellent theatres, making it an ideal place to witness those famous words being brought to life.
History and Heritage
Having such a famous son has meant that Stratford’s historic buildings have survived better than most. Just walking around this place is like taking a Tardis back through time. Enter the places associated with Shakespeare, and you’ll instantly feel the past come to life. Beyond Stratford you’ll find the farm where Mary Arden , Shakespeare’s mum, grew up and where these days you can experience what life was like on a 16th century farm.
Arts and Culture
It should be made illegal to visit Stratford and not see a play – a performance at the newly redeveloped RSC Theatre or the 1000-seater Courtyard Theatre should complete any Shakespeare pilgrimage. To ensure some variety in your cultural calendar, check out Compton Verney’s impressive collection of art from around the world.
Food and Drink
To avoid a mid-performance belly rumble sample the fresh fish on offer at Bernadettes . After the theatre, head to The Dirty Duck for a pint and to rub shoulders with the RSC actors. They’ll be the ones talking very loudly – although you can forget about trying to make them say ‘Macbeth’. Follow that with some bubbly at the Arden Hotel Champagne Bar and you’ll be in the mood to strut your funky stuff at Bureau.
Must See Attractions
You should plan your Shakespeare pilgrimage as carefully as a one of those sonnets he specialised in – there’s his birthplace , Mary Arden’s farm , Anne Hathaway’s Cottage , New Place and that’s just for starters. When you’ve taken in all those significant sites, head to the Holy Trinity Church and the bard’s final resting place for some quiet reflection.
Start at the River Avon and head up along the High Street, taking in the best high street stores have to offer before delving into a world of antiques and curios at the many antique shops around Shakespeare's house. Stratford antiques centre located in a timbered building is a great place to pick up jewellery and original paintings.
Set the camera to macro and head to the Butterfly Farm for a chance of snapping over 100 species of butterfly that fly and feed around you. The creepy crawlies housed at Arachnoland, including the deadly black widow, will have the kids screaming. Not with pain, of course. Lord no. Before they’ve had a chance to rest their vocal chords, take them to the Museum of Wizardology and Imagiscarium in the haunted Creaky Cauldron building.
Unwind with some holistic therapy on the banks of the Avon at the Stratford River Festival , before taking in some live music performed from a floating stage. The annual literary festival has top authors offering advice on how to get published which might just inspire your inner-Shakespeare. And with everything from brass bands to belly dancers, Shakespeare’s birthday celebrations are as eclectic as they are fun.
Psst... Handy hints
Enjoy champagne celebrations at the sophisticated Arden Hotel Champagne Bar.
Walk along the Greenway , a disused railway line, and take in the scenery.
...and all things Shakespeare.Shakespeare Country
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