Stratford Upon Avon
It must be said that for many people visiting Stratford Upon Avon, it is William Shakespeare that is the pull factor. 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 lesson inside 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 three million tourists a year.
But Stratford Upon Avon is far more than 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 & Fun walks, Cream Teas, a Ferris Wheel, Historic Pubs, Butterfly Farm, Boating on the river Avon, art galleries, museums, bicycle hire and many other activities in and around the town.
When you visit Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall, it is more than just a visit, you are walking in the footsteps of William Shakespeare. As a child & young man it is here he learnt many of the things that made him the World’s greatest playwright.
My favourite pub in Stratford is the splendid Garrick Inn, more specifically the front bar, arguably the oldest public House in Stratford. The Guild Chapel, on the opposite corner to the recently renovated Tudor Hotel Indigo is a fascinating place too. I took the opportunity to sit down and rest my feet for a couple of minutes whilst I admired the intriguing medieval wall painting including one which was called, Doom. It reminded me of the hellish scenes from the work of Hieronymus Bosch`s, The Garden of Earthly Delights.
Why not take a guided walk around the town with Stratford Town Walks? Founded eighteen years ago, enthusiastic & knowledgeable guides lead groups of walkers around the town every day of the year, including Christmas Day, whatever the weather! I excitedly retraced the footsteps of William Shakespeare from his birthplace on Henley Street to his last resting place in the splendid Holy Trinity Church, along the historic streets of ancient Stratford. It was like walking through the pages of history with plenty of fascinating snippets of historical interest provided to the group from my guide. Passing Shakespeare’s Birthplace and other sights in the town, the guide told some fascinating stories of fire, flood, plague, old-fashioned sayings, medieval cures and history, all wrapped up in a little Shakespeare.
I simply loved the old Stratford public library, which must be one of the most beautiful libraries in the country. Now a grade II Listed building, the building was saved from demolition after a successful conservation campaign led by Marie Corelli, a best-selling novelist of the late nineteenth century. Shrieve’s House on Sheep Street is thought to be the oldest lived-in house in Stratford upon Avon. The house was once owned by William Rogers, the real-life person who inspired Shakespeare’s comic character Falstaff. Now ‘Falstaff’s House’ has been transformed into the award-winning Tudor World Museum.
There is a tropical rainforest in the centre of Stratford Upon Avon too! Not quite, but the closest you can get to a 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. I saw plenty of incredibly colourful butterflies, some the size of my hand. It is not just butterflies either, Madagascan hissing Cockroaches, giant African Millipedes, African Land Snails, a wide variety of Stick Insects & many other living creatures clamour for your attention. The outdoor and tropical gardens have been replanted and the Minibeast Metropolis has been given a stunning new look which includes a 1,000-litre tropical Aquarium. What is there not to like?
There are lots of exciting things to discover at Mary Arden’s Farm. Experience the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother, the sights, sounds and smells of a working Tudor farm. For their all-year-round stunning gardens, visit Anne Hathaway’s Cottage & Hall’s Croft. After a short stroll from Hall’s Croft I came to the magnificent Holy Trinity Church where for a small fee I got to read a plaque pointing out where William Shakespeare is buried in the Chancel.
From Holy Trinity Church I strolled back along the picturesque River Avon to the Royal Shakespeare Theatres. Look out for the towns collection of donated lamp posts including fixtures from Edinburgh, Glamorgan and Israel, the latter depicting Bottom with his ass’s ears and Topol from Fiddler on the Roof, overlooked by a small owl from The owl and the pussycat by Edward Lear, perched on top of the lamp post.
I also 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. Why not take a stroll alongside the River Avon and stop & buy a coffee or an ice cream. Whether you decide to walk or take a cruise along the river Avon it is certainly a great way to pass the day! If you have a little extra time, with a view of the river, the recreation ground, the bandstand and the Royal Shakespeare Company, why not enjoy a game of mini golf before you leave?
Stratford Upon Avon is even more beautiful at night than it is during the day. There were many 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. Stratford Upon Avon is worth a visit at any time of the year.