Not just Shakespeare – The TownHouse – Stratford Upon Avon
It must be said that for many people visiting Stratford Upon Avon, it is because of William Shakespeare. It is here in this beautiful Warwickshire market town that you can visit the great mans birthplace, the church in which he is buried, go and watch one of his thirty nine plays in the spectacular Royal Shakespeare Theatre, take part in a class in the actual school that he attended and visit many other buildings associated with the man widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s most outstanding dramatist. It is England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon” that draws in the annual 3 million tourists a year.
But Stratford Upon Avon is not just about Shakespeare, it is a market town with more than 800 years of history offering a wide variety of ancient buildings, leisure, entertainment and shopping experiences. Educational, Ghost and Fun walks, Cream Teas, the Big Ferris Wheel, Butterfly Farm, Boating on the river Avon, art galleries, museums, hire bicycles and many other activities and visits in and around the town.
The best of Stratford-upon-Avon can’t be seen in a day so why not stay over in the town for a few days, which is exactly what I did by staying at the stunning The TownHouse at 16 Church Street.
I have visited Stratford Upon Avon on several occasions and had passed The Townhouse many times but had never passed through its doors. I had always admired the building from the outside. The castellations or decorative parapets running across the roof of the building and the large almost church like windows on the front facade are captivating and appealing. The Townhouse is an architecturally interesting building located in the `historic core` of the town in a 400-year-old, Grade II Listed building right opposite Shakespeare’s school.
I decided it was the perfect base from which to explore and enjoy the history, culture and entertainment that the town offers for a couple of days. It is just a couple on minutes’ walk from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, five minutes’ walk to Shakespeare’s birthplace and five minutes in the other direction to the Holy Trinity Church, where the Bard is buried.
The building has two very distinct architectural styles from front to back across the three stories. The rear dates to the seventeenth century with low ceilings and oak beams whereas the front of the buildings dates to the 1780`s and is Georgian in appearance with familiar higher ceilings and sash windows of the period.
The exterior façade was castellated in 1840 giving it the appearance of a small castle, an appearance much favoured during the Georgian period. The Building was originally built for a Burgess, an elected town official, at about the same time as young Will Shakespeare was attending the school on the opposite side of the road, but it has also been the family home of lawyers and doctors as well as being one of the towns top boutique hotels and restaurants!
Our room was at the back of the Hotel in the older section and I was pleased to see the oak beams and ceiling was not too low! I have in the past suffered because of banging my head on low ceilings in old buildings. I loved the framed Shakespeare quote hanging on the wall. and the soft carpet.
The Town House boats twelve comfortable individually designed en-suite bedrooms. A small decanter of complimentary Port and some shortbread helped ease us gently into our new surroundings. My wife loved the Chaise Longue! The Queen Size bed, soft pillows, ceiling to floor curtains helped provide an uninterrupted and relaxing night’s sleep. Our room not only had a Luxurious en-suite shower, Temple Spa toiletries and wash basins but also a roll top bath, in the bedroom! There was also a Nespresso coffee machine with a selection of hot drinks including tea & coffee plus still and sparkling water and Fresh milk in the mini fridge. The much appreciated Free wi-fi was available across all parts of the hotel.
When I went downstairs to the restaurant I noticed a ceiling sky – light which is said to be over 200 years old and there was an 18th century bread oven in the library bar. The bar is not only popular with hotel guests and passing tourists but also many locals. A clear sign that the comfortable surroundings, friendly staff and the fair prices go down well with all kinds of visitors to this ever-popular bar. A wide range of high-quality spirits, beers and wines from all over the world, is on offer to suit all tastes. There is also an extensive cocktail list and gin lovers have not been forgotten either, an enticing bespoke gin list is available too.
The waiting staff at the bar and restaurant were superb. Not only were they extremely professional and patient when we were contemplating the menu, but they also took an interest in us! They obligingly took a photograph of us when asked and offered suggestions on the wine to suit our meal and they even laughed at my jokes!
I dined on the Soup of the Day which was a Cream of Mushroom & Leek Soup which was wonderfully creamy, tasty and very hot! Some warm artisan bread and a knob of butter disguised as a wrapped sweet was just perfect for dipping. I admit it doesn’t look appealing in the photograph, but believe me it tasted great!.
My wife chose the grilled asparagus which included smoked sun blushed tomato, Kalamata olives, garlic crust, red onion and herb salad. A tasty salad, the asparagus had a nice firm texture, but she did not like the wafer-thin garlic slices because she thought they were too strong an addition to the tomato and olives, although this was her personal taste.
We decided on a bottle of Argentinian Lotengo Malbec 2017, red being our wine of choice. Interest in Argentinian Malbec is at an all-time high now and this bottle did not disappoint. Malbec has become synonymous with delivering the Argentinian soul straight to your glass. Vibrant red in colour, it presented a smooth, ripe, succulent fresh aromas to the palate, when drinking. The label describes it as the perfect partner in which to dance the night away! My partner and I were not quite ready to do that, but I am quite sure there are many places in Stratford Upon Avon for those who wish to do so!
For my main I chose the special Ham Hock Pie of the Day, served with a smooth, buttery mash and a small gravy boat to pour all over it. Monday Night is Pie Night! There was plenty of tasty meat filling in the pie and the pastry was crispy with plenty of creamy sauce. The perfect meal.
My wife chose Pan – Fried Bream with Pepperonata, orzo, lemon and lovage pesto. Although she was not familiar with the fish she thought it was very tasty and full of flavour. All the dishes are freshly prepared in the `open view` kitchen so you can watch your meal being prepared and cooked if you wish to do so! The hotel works closely with local suppliers to source the freshest produce whenever possible.
For dessert we struggled to choose from the six choices on offer, but we eventually opted for Peanut Butter Parfait with salted dulche de leche and Coconut Cookies plus the Summer Peach Melba Pavlova with Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream.
The desserts were stunning, the perfect conclusion to a wonderful meal. After enjoying a couple of Mocha Coffees, we managed to pull ourselves out from our chairs and decided to go for a walk down to the serene and peaceful river Avon.
Stratford Upon Avon is even more beautiful at night than it is during the day. Surprisingly, there were several people walking about outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and along the river bank, enjoying the swans, still searching for food from walkers and the twinkling of lights across the water. “All the world’s a stage”
Live piano is played in the bar every day except Sunday by music students from the King Edward’s School located opposite. Unfortunately, it was the school half term, so I was not able to enjoy the sounds of the school’s pianists. “If music be the food of love, play on.” In the morning a freshly prepared Full English breakfast set me up for the day. A Buffet style continental with fruit juices and croissants, fruit and yogurts were also on offer.
The Townhouse offers a series of weekly events including Pie Monday, The Burger Club on Wednesdays, 2 for 1 Cocktails on Thursday and the ever-popular Beast & Bordeaux on Friday.
I crossed over the road and enjoyed a short visit to Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall. I walked through the doors where William Shakespeare himself had walked as a child and young man to learn many of the things that made him the World’s greatest playwright. Inspiring!
A tropical rainforest in the centre of Stratford Upon Avon? Not quite, but the closest you can get to the tropical experience in Stratford is to visit the Stratford Butterfly Farm. When I walked into the flight area I was overwhelmed by the number of butterflies fluttering around me. A simply marvellous experience.
I also visited the house in which Shakespeare was born, which has been looked after by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for the last one hundred and seventy years! I must say the renovated building appears to be in very good condition considering it is reputed to have been built in the mid-16th century.
Minutes from The Townhouse is the Shakespeare’s New Place, which was the great man’s family home from 1597 until he died in the house in 1616. The house was demolished in 1759 but a registered garden has been designed to commemorate the importance of the original site and allow visitors to make their own personal connection with Shakespeare. A peaceful place in which to sit and rest amongst the beautiful gardens.
On my final day I took a trip along the River Avon with Avon Boating. It was a great way to get a different perspective on the town and its environs. There were some stunning houses nestled alongside the river with their own boat houses and extremely long gardens. It was a pleasurable way to take a short break for forty minutes.
My stay at The Townhouse was fantastic. The accommodation and meals were first class and the waiting staff could not have done anything more to make our visit such a wonderful experience. If you are planning to visit Stratford Upon Avon, stay a couple of days and fully experience what the town has to offer by taking a break at The Townhouse.THE TOWNHOUSE
16 Church Street,
Stratford upon Avon,
Telephone: 01789 262222
Disclosure: My stay was courtesy of The Townhouse. The views and comments expressed are as usual my own.