Midlands – Stratford upon Avon

Stratford upon Avon
1. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is an immaculately maintained half timbered building with a thatched roof, and was home to Anne Hathaway before she married Shakespeare in 1582. The interior holds a comely combination of period furniture, including a finely carved four-poster bed. The adjacent orchard and Shakespeare Tree Garden features over forty trees, shrubs and roses mentioned in the plays, with each bearing the appropriate quotation inscribed on a plaque.

2. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre
The world renowned Royal Shakespeare Company stages regular performances of Shakespeare’s plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon. The company works on a repertory system, so you could stay in Stratford for a few days and see three or four different plays. The RSC does focus mainly on Shakespeare, but there are other productions too, from new modern writing to plays by Shakespeare’s contemporaries.

3. Mary Arden’s Farm
Mary Arden’s Farm is located three miles northwest of the town centre in the village of Wilmcote, and is a well furnished example of an Elizabethan farmhouse. See the Elizabethan way of life and interact with the daily domestic routine of a working farm, and watch the farmer’s wife prepare and cook her home grown food in the farmhouse kitchen. Follow the nature trail and track down the Long Horn cattle and other rare breeds including Cotswold sheep and Gloucester Old Spot pigs.

4. New Place and Nash’s House
Nash’s House on Chapel Street was once the property of Thomas Nash, first husband of Shakespeare’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Hall. The house’s ground floor is kiited out with a pleasant assortment of period furnishings, and upstairs, one display provides a potted history of Stratford while another focuses on the house. The adjacent gardens contain the bare foundations of New Place, Shakespeare’s final home before his death in 1616, allegedly after an evening spent entertaining.

5. Shakespeare’s Birthplace Museum
Shakespeare’s Birthplace Museum on Henley Street consists of a visitor centre and the restored half timbered building where Shakespeare was born, with exhibits examining different aspects of Shakespeare’s life and times. The adjacent birthplace dwelling is actually two buildings knocked into one. The northern, smaller and later part was the house of Joan, Shakespeares sister, and it adjoins the main family home, bought by John Shakespeare in 1556 and now returned to its original appearance.

6. The Dirty Duck Pub
Located next to the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Dirty Duck is a world famous actors pub which over the years has been frequented by many famous actors and actresses, some of them prolific drinkers such as Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton. Unsurprisingly there are often famous faces here after a performance, but if not you can play ‘spot the luvvies’ from the many signed photos on the walls.

7. Hall’s Croft
Hall’s Croft is Stratford’s most impressive medieval house, named after John Hall, a doctor who married Shakespeare’s elder daughter, Susanna, in 1607. The immaculately maintained house, with its creaking wooden floors, beamed ceiling and fine kitchen range, holds outstanding furniture and paintings as well as a fascinating exhibition about medicine in Shakespeare’s time with references to remedies and potions mentioned in his plays. Outside there is a large, peaceful garden.

8. Holy Trinity Church
Enhanced by its riverside setting, Holy Trinity Church’s dignified proportions are the result of several centuries of chopping and changing, culminating with the replacement of the wooden spire with today’s stone version in 1763. William Shakespeare is buried here, and the church provides a moment of calm away from the bustle of the town. In the shop you can buy a copy of the Magna Carta on a roll in a tube in both authentic Latin text and English translation.

9. River Avon Chain Ferry and Narrow Boat Cruises
The river Avon Chain ferry is an old manually wound means of crossing the river. Built in 1937 it was the last of its sort to be made and used in Britain. The ferry travels from the Dirty Duck Pub side of the river to the more open opposite bank where you can enjoy country walks or visit the nearby Butterfly Farm. At a cost of only 20 pence, it has top be one of the cheapest attractions in the country! If you would like to try a longer journey, Bancroft Cruisers operate canal boat and pleasure cruise trips.

10. Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre Tours
Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre Tours include an introduction to the colourful history of the company, an insight into the two theatres and a look at aspects of current productions. As the Royal Shakespeare Company performs in a fully working theatre, each tour is a unique experience, and may include the opportunity to see backstage at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre or the Swan Theatre. The backstage section of the tour offers a wonderful glimpse behind the scenes at one of the busiest theatres in the world.

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