Shakespeare in Love: Things To Do In Stratford-Upon-Avon
Spring has finally sprung and there’s no better time than now to visit Stratford-upon-Avon, the town in which the great playwright William Shakespeare was born and died. While he spent much of his time working in London, acting and writing plays, it is here that he grew up and chose to raise his family.
This month marks the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death, and to commemorate the writer the town is hosting a parade, fireworks and a live TV broadcast. It will also reopen the refurbished The Other Place theatre, and, following a £2.8 million investment, reopen the Swan Theatre, which hosts the exhibition The Play’s the Thing. It includes props, costumes and set designs from 100 years of theatre, as well as family activities (from 25 Jun).
The world-famous Royal Shakespeare Company is celebrating with shows at the grand Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (to 16 Jul) starring Ayesha Dharker; Cymbeline (from 29 Apr) and Hamlet (to 13 Aug). Located about 100 miles outside London, and taking two hours by train from Marylebone, Stratford-upon-Avon makes for a great day trip as well as a short stay where you can eat, pray and fall in love, just like the bard did.
Enjoy a sharing platter or cheeseboard at the Hathaway Tea Rooms. The Tudor building features beams, wooden panelling, exposed brick and criss-crossed windows. Save space for a wedge of Victoria sponge or share in a traditional afternoon tea, which comes on a three-tier stand. On a fine day, you can also sit outside in the garden. 19 High St, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6AU. 01789 264022. hathawaytearooms.com
The Dirty Duck is ideal for a pre-theatre dinner, as it’s opposite the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Go post-performance and you might spot a star by the open fire – previous guests have included pop singer Kylie Minogue and actress Dame Judi Dench, while signed portraits of actors line the walls. It serves large portions of traditional dishes such as Sunday roast, fish and chips, and sausage and mash with beef-dripping gravy, washed down with real ale. Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6BA. 01789 297312. oldenglishinns.co.uk
For wonderful views, head to the Rooftop Restaurant inside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. A two-course meal costs £19.95 – mains include chargrilled sirloin steak and pork belly. Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6BB. 01789 403449. rsc.org.uk
Hundreds of poet pilgrims visit Holy Trinity Church each year to pay their respects at the graves of Shakespeare, his wife Anne Hathaway, their daughter and son-in-law. You can also see a memorial bust of the bard, which aptly depicts him holding a pen and paper. Visit on 23 April and you’ll see a pageant of thousands, led by boys from Shakespeare’s old school, parade through town to lay flowers on his grave. There will also be fireworks and a show inspired by Shakespeare’s stories by the acrobatic company, Mimbre. £3. Old Town, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6BG. 01789 266316. stratford-upon-avon.org
Shakespeare’s Birthplace shows you where the poet spent his childhood and then lived with his wife Anne Hathaway early in their marriage. While you explore its restored Tudor rooms, acting troupe Shakespeare Aloud! performs live. Prices vary. Check website for details of passes you can buy which allow entry into other Shakespeare attractions. Henley St, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6QW. 01789 204016. shakespeare.org.uk
Walk along the pleasant mile-long footpath from the centre of the town and you reach Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, which is where Shakespeare courted his wife-to-be. It has a thatched roof and original furniture including her carved oak bed. When you’ve finished, stroll along the sculpture trail in its nine-acre garden. Adult £9.90; child £5.90. Cottage Lane, Shottery, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 9HH. 01789 204016. shakespeare.org.uk
Who’d have thought that Stratford-upon-Avon is also home to one of the most romantic modes of transport: a gondola. Romantic novelist Marie Corelli would punt up and down the river in one in the early 1900s. Now the vessel has been restored by Avon Boating and passes the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Holy Trinity Church. Rowing boat adult £5; child £3 per hour. Gondola £100 for 40 minutes. Swan’s Nest Lane, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 7LS. 01789 267073. avon-boating.co.uk
Another highlight is Hall’s Croft. Home to a walled rose garden, it also offers breathtaking views across Stratford when you climb up its tower. Built in 1613, it was home to Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna and her husband Dr John Hall. Prices vary – see details of passes in Shakespeare’s Birthplace section. Old Town, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6BG. 01789 338533. shakespeare.org.uk
Where could be more picturesque to spend the night than the Falcon Hotel? Built in the 16th century, the hotel boasts original slanted windows and a Tudor timber exterior. Its 83 bedrooms have been refurbished, and some have four-poster beds. Enjoy afternoon tea in the courtyard garden, then cosy up by an open fire at night. From £89 per night. Chapel St, Stratford-upon- Avon, CV37 6HA. 01789 279953. sjhotels.co.uk