There are few people in the world who don’t know the name William Shakespeare, the famous English playwright who wrote such works as Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet and many more. In spite of this global renown, however, no place celebrates the man quite like Stratford-Upon-Avon, and here’s why.
Paying homage to Shakespeare
Nestled in the heart of Warwickshire, Stratford-Upon-Avon sits on the border of the picturesque Cotswolds region of England, known for its pastoral beauty. This historic market town set on the banks of the River Avon has over 800 years of history under its belt, with one of those moments as being the birthplace of Shakespeare.
The famous playwright certainly left his mark on Stratford, with the town centre fit to bursting with Shakespearean references and memoirs. Getting to Stratford-upon-Avon is easily from the nearest international airport of Birmingham – simply take the Air Link monorail across to the Birmingham International Train Station and hop on one of the trains heading south to the Stratford-upon-Avon station.
From there, it’s a short walk to the town centre – be sure to stop off at one of the charming little cafes or tea rooms on the way.
The Shakespeare Centre, Henley Street
The first stop on any pilgrimage to the Bard should logically be the place where he was born – a wonderfully preserved Elizabethan era home on Henley Street. Step inside this historic building, the wooden floors worn smooth with the footsteps of Shakespeare, his parents and siblings.
Inside, you’ll see the kitchen and dining table, as well as the street-facing workshop where William’s father, John Shakespeare, practised his trade of glovemaking. Once William inherited the building, he leased part of it, and the Maidenhead was born. You can still see a sign for the pub upstairs.
As you’re guided though the house, you’ll see the original bedrooms, as well as the loft where the girls of the house would have slept. The neat back garden area you see today would have been occupied by farmyard animals, as well as a storage place for John’s tannery skins for making leather gloves.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
22 Cottage Lane, Shottery
The childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, is a few minutes’ drive out of the town centre into the countryside hamlet of Shottery. Surrounded by flourishing gardens and woodland, the site of the cottage appears frozen in a time hundreds of years before our own.
It is here, amongst the flowers and the winding paths, that a young William will have courted Anne in accordance with the Tudor protocols of the period. Today, you can stroll through the thatched roof farmhouse with its kitchen, parlour and bedrooms still in tact.
While you’re here, take a walk through the beautiful forested path at the edge of the property, where the Shakespeare Trust often hosts fun activities for the young and young at heart.
Holy Trinity Church
Old Town, Stratford-upon-Avon
Known affectionately as ‘Shakespeare’s Church’, Holy Trinity is set right of the banks of the Avon, with the history of the site reaching all the way back to 714 AD. The intricate limestone construction which you see today was first built back in 1210.
The church, magnificent in its own right, has special ties to William Shakespeare, as it was the place where he was both baptised and buried. As you walk though the nave with its vaulted ceiling and mosaic windows, you’ll find yourself approaching the chancel.
It is here, where William, his wife Anne, as well as his daughter Suzanna as well as his sons-in-law, Tom Nash and Dr John Hall are buried. Hundreds of visitors from around the world now come to pay homage to this literary genius, as well as marvel at the wonderful surroundings of his home town.
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Just across the river from the Holy Trinity is the instantly recognisable outline of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It is here where the Bard’s legacy truly lives on, performed by some of the country’s most talented thespians almost 400 years after his death.
Grab a bite to eat at the Encore pub just up the road, before meandering down to the river front theatre, fronted by the grassy lawn usually full of locals and tourists in summertime.
Various productions of Shakespeare’s plays are put on here throughout the year, so it’s well worth consulting the Royal Shakespeare Company’s website to see what will be playing at the time of your visit.
Once inside, you’ll find the theatre set up in a nostalgic seating arrangement around a circular stage, first opened in 1879. At the interval, take the chance to explore the upper story, where you’ll find both an excellent restaurant and a wonderful view out over the River Avon.