The poet and playwright, William Shakespeare, is rightly lionised as one of the greatest Briton’s of all time. His legacy of language resonates down the centuries and his plays still hold audience’s captivated in this digital media age. However his enduring legend can also be put down to the mystery that surrounds his origins. Perhaps the greatest ever author in the English language, we do know that Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. His birthday is celebrated on April 23 each year. Although his actual date of birth is unconfirmed. this is the most likely date as his baptism was registered as April 26, 1564 at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. With his death being recorded on the same day in 1616, both his birthday and the anniversary of his death fall within a few days, making this is a very important week to fans of William Shakespeare and his work. This year is even more special as it is the 450th anniversary!
So all in all this is the perfect time to visit the bard’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, and take a step back in time to wander the picturesque streets. Here is our quick guide to this wonderful little Elizabethan haven!
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose.
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
- from Romeo and Juliet – 1600.
The Shakespeare trail
Getting a feel for Shakespeare’s family is as good a place as any to start. Visit the Holy Trinity Church to see Shakespeare’s grave and see where he was baptized. Then take a trip to the home that his mother, Mary Arden, grew up in and experience the daily routine, skills and crafts that William will have been familiar with from visits to his grandparents. Continue to follow in the footsteps of Shakespeare with a visit to Anne Hathaway’s House (Shakespeare’s wife and not to be confused with the Hollywood actress of the same name!). This is a thatched cottage set in stunning grounds.
Continue with your journey through the life of Shakespeare by stopping in at the café at Hall’s Croft, formerly the home of Shakespeare’s eldest daughter and her husband, Dr John Hall. Now would probably be the time to enjoy afternoon tea at one of the town’s many tea rooms.
“To be, or not to be: that is the question:”
- from Hamlet - 1602
Be stage struck
Take the opportunity to see one of Shakespeare’s many famous plays come to life at the world famous Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre. This year’s productions for Shakepeare’s birthday include:
Henry IV Parts I and II
Later in the summer, for the first time in 45 years, The Two Gentlemen of Verona will be performed in full production on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage.
Love’s Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour’s Won (usually known as Much Ado About Nothing) are also set to be highlights of the summer season!
Enjoy a pre-show meal at one of Stratford-upon-Avon’s many restaurants, a lot of which have special pre-show menus. Try The One Elm, a delightful gastropub just steps from Shakespeare’s birthplace. Or for something a little bit special the stylish Lambs Restaurant, set in one of the oldest buildings in Stratford, dating back to the 16th Century is worth a visit.
Even if you are not a fan of Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon is a lovely, picturesque town to enjoy a picnic on the grassy banks of the River Avon, or to take a leisurely stroll alongside the beautiful River.
In the evening, enjoy an intimate dinner whilst taking a cruise down the river or, for something a little different, join one of the guided Ghost walks around the town and hear the sinister tales of ghosts, witches and murder that haunt the town including the story of the Phantom that haunts the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Places to Stay
With so much to do in this town, full of history and character, a day trip just isn’t enough. Check out these hotels for somewhere to stay so you can experience all that Stratford-upon-Avon has to offer:
The Arden Hotel – an elegant hotel, located directly opposite the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre boasting the chic Waterside Brasserie and Champagne Bar.
Mercure Shakespeare Hotel – How could there not be a hotel named after the Bard of Avon? Of course there is and it is set in a Grade 1 listed Tudor building. Dine in Othello’s AA Rosette restaurant or enjoy afternoon tea in the Quill Bar.
The Stratford – This QHotel is a mini-oasis set against the historic backdrop of the town. Only a ten minute walk from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, you can have a drink in their superb bar before heading for a night watching the actors strut their stuff.
For a mixture of history, beautiful surroundings and entertainment, Stratford-upon-Avon really is worth a visit. Tell us your Shakespeare stories; by leaving a comment below!
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