Stratford-Upon-Avon – The Ultimate Guide
Stratford-Upon-Avon is a quaint little town in the heart of the midlands. It has timber-framed houses and stores all throughout its historic center and is full of little tearooms and fantastic restaurants. It is of course renowned for being the birthplace of the world’s most famous playwright: William Shakespeare.
For me, this was a real treat. A real opportunity to get away from the bustling and hustling of the big cities and get out into the countryside of a beautiful country. I always find people warm and willing to share about there towns history in places like this.
There are a total of 5 properties to visit in Stratford-Upon-Avon which are in some way connected to the life of William Shakespeare, all of which are preserved as museums today. If you are going to be in Stratford for a few days, then you can get a pass which allows you discounted entry to all 5 properties. There is also a city sightseeing tour bus which will take you between all of the houses and give you an audio commentary of the things you see on the way.
Here are the 5:
- Shakespeare’s Birthplace (as mentioned below)
- Anne Hathaway’s Cottage & Gardens
- New Place & Nash’s House
- Mary Arden’s Farm (the ultimate step back in time)
- Hall’s Croft
There is Shakespeare’s birthplace. When visiting Stratford-Upon-Avon, make sure to go here first. The site now serves as a museum about the Shakespeare family. Here you can learn all about his father’s tanning business. Plus, see how families would have lived during Tudor times. This is definitely a must-see: you get a great idea of what life would have been like for Shakespeare as a boy growing up in a much louder and far dirtier Stratford.
Mary Arden’s House
Mary Arden was Shakespeare’s mother and her house in the nearby village of Wilmcote is preserved as a living Tudor farm. Here they preserve the Tudor methods of farming and often have demonstrations of how to make fences or hay bales before the invention of heavy machinery. It is also a rare breed’s farm and the site of daily falconry displays.
The Royal Shakespeare Company and Tower
Even if you only have one night in Stratford-Upon-Avon you absolutely must try to see a play at the RSC. The Royal Shakespeare Company is one of the most highly-regarded theater companies in the world. If you are a theater-lover then you will not be disappointed by the standard of the performances! The main theater was built to mimic the performance space of the Globe, Shakespeare’s theater in London. Book well in advance to avoid disappointment but some tickets are usually released on the day of the performance so it may be possible to purchase tickets when you arrive.
The RSC also has a tower which gives you a fantastic vantage point from which to look out over the whole town. On a clear and sunny day you will be able to see well into the glorious English countryside and look on as the town goes about its daily business.
There is also a rather nice restaurant on the top floor which offers really great food as either pre or post-theater dining.
Warwick is another beautiful little English city about a 15 minute drive from Stratford-Upon-Avon.
It is home to one of the best examples of an English castle left in the UK today. And if you ever wanted to see a castle this is the place to go! There are often deals offering half-price or 2 for 1 entry but you will need to leave a whole day aside to really make the most of everything it has to offer.
There is an interactive tour through the dungeons, which is really terrifying, an impressive falconry display, a trebuchet which is loaded with a flaming cannonball and fired at sunset, a jousting demonstration, live sword fights and numerous other exhibitions and displays. The castle is literally dripping with history and makes for a fantastic day trip for everyone.
Stratford-Upon-Avon is definitely the perfect addition to any trip to the UK. It is well worth the visit as it offers a unique insight into more rural British life as well as having a fascinating history and a rich culture which still survives today. Plenty of cafe’s to head too, great food as always, and a real step back in time! And if you’re looking for more day trips in England, be sure to head over to my article here.