A Weekend In Stratford-upon-Avon
The birthplace of Shakespeare - truly an inspiring place to spend a weekend away.
A small, largely unremarkable town in the middle of England, Stratford-upon-Avon has been put on the map globally by one man: William Shakespeare.
Home town of the world's most famous playwright, the Warwickshire town is flocked to by tourists eager to see where the man who gave us Romeo and Juliet grew up.
The town in located on the banks of the River Avon and is a major theatre-going hotspot, in which the Royal Shakespeare Company is based. Shakespearian productions are aplenty and the Courtyard Theatre has a traditional thrust stage, as in the Elizabethan era.
Things To Do And See
There are many things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon not least visit Shakespeare's birthplace at Henley Street. The building has been restored since the 16th century and it now replicates what historians think would have been the authentic decor and furnishings of the time Shakespeare was born.
Then there’s the house at New Place where the bard spent his last years. The original house, where Shakespeare lived from 1597 until his death in 1616, was pulled down in a fit of pique by its eighteenth century owners, who became tired of holiday makers visiting! However, the present site is home to the original foundations and grounds, a pretty knott garden and Nash's House, which contains impressive period furnishings and an exhibition on the history of the town.
His wife Anne Hathaway's cottage is also available for tourists to look around. The cottage is outside Stratford in the hamlet of Shottery and is where Anne lived from being a young girl, throughout her courtship to the playwright and until their marriage ended. The rooms have been restored and many family heirlooms are on display.
The graveyard at the attractive 13th century Holy Trinity Church houses the remains of numerous members of the Shakespeare family, including the playwright himself, and the church itself has an original copy of the King James Bible on display. However, the church is not a full-time tourist attraction and regular services do take place for worshippers, which visitors should respect.
There is also the award-winning Falstaff's Experience on Sheep Street, which is set in a 500-year-old Shrieve's House. Rumoured to be the most haunting building in the world, it is the largest museum in Stratford and features waxwork figures relating the story of Stratford.
The thespian heritage has bequeathed Stratford with some of the finest theatre outside of London, most notably the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as the New Space and the Swan Theatre, where shows old and new are premiered boasting some of the world's leading actors and actresses.
However, it is not just Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. American tourists flock to see the family home of John Harvard, the founder of the great university, while once the sun comes out, locals and tourists alike flock to the Avon, where there are numerous parks and riverside walks.
Getting To Stratford-upon-Avon
There are a number of transport options for those wishing to visit Stratford-upon-Avon.
Motorists driving up from London can take the M40 motorway and get off at Junction 15. It is around 102 miles (164 km) between the two destinations and it takes around two hours to make the journey. Motorists should always check the parking situation at their accommodation, while day visitors can make use of the park and ride system.
Those using public transport will benefit from the train station, which is located around half a mile west of the town centre. The town is easily accessible by foot from the station.
Rail links operate regularly to Birmingham Snow Hill Station (this service takes about an hour), to Warwick (30 minutes) and London Marylebone (two and a half hours). Those travelling from London will sometimes need to change at Leamington Spa.
Given that Stratford is one of the smaller of the UK's tourist destinations, many visitors either visit the town as part of a day trip or else use it as a base to explore the surrounding region. The picture-postcard perfection of the Cotswolds is just a few miles away, as is Warwick Castle, a popular Medieval bout of fun for families.