header image: Stratford-Upon-Avon, Holy Trinity Church by David Dixon
Despite the controversy about whether he truly authored all of his plays, there can be no argument that Shakespeare is still a fascinating character and an important part of history.
The market town of Stratford-upon-Avon on the banks of the River Avon is the place to find out all about his life and works and whether you believe he truly was the man who wrote Hamlet, Macbeth et al, a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon will immerse you in Shakespeare’s world and give you an insight into his life, times and inspirations.
Situated on the River Avon in the county of Warwickshire, the town has a rich cultural history and deserves to be explored. It would be unthinkable to visit Stratford and not dive into the history of Shakespeare, and there are a wealth of attractions and places to visit.
If you want to go back to the beginning of the Shakespeare story then visit the Holy Trinity Church in the Old Town. The church was first mentioned in 845 AD and plays a central role in the community. It has many connections to Shakespeare, it was the place of his baptism, where he worshiped and is now his resting place (he is buried in the chancel of the church). Interestingly, it was not his status as a dramatist which gave him the right to be buried in the church, but rather the fact that he bought a share of tax privileges sold off by Henry VIII. The church is open year round although opening times vary (check the church’s website for details) and if you want to visit the Bard’s grave it is asked that you pay a small donation of £2 (about $1.5 or €1.2: correct at time of post).
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust charity was formed in 1847 to preserve heritage sites and raise awareness of his life and works. The Trust cares for a number of significant buildings including the house on Henley Street where he was born and also spent the first years of married life with Anne Hathaway.
If you want to learn more about Mrs Shakespeare, it’s worth walking along the river bank to visit her childhood home which still has most of the original features and furniture. The cottage is also famous for its award winning gardens, and until 31 December 2013 is hosting “Say It With Flowers” which explores the use and symbolism of flowers throughout the work of Shakespeare.
If you want to delve further into Shakespeare’s written works then there is no better place to go than the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The theatre is home to the Royal Shakespeare Company and you can either choose to take in one of the many productions running throughout the season or take one of the many tours which operate. Choose from a Behind The Scenes tour, giving access to both public and private areas of the theatre, learn about the origins of the company and get the chance to explore a production in depth.
If you’re feeling a bit braver then take the After Dark tour where you’ll learn the history of the characters that are said to haunt the theatre, including the infamous Grey Lady. You’ll be taken round the old parts of the theatre and you might be lucky (or unlucky!) to catch a sighting or hear footsteps………
After learning more about Shakespeare, you’ll need somewhere to relax and there are a number of fabulous hotels in Stratford-upon-Avon. No matter your budget or requirements, you’ll find somewhere to stay which will ensure you have an unforgettable time in Stratford-upon-Avon. Hotels in the town which are well worth checking out include the two Macdonald Hotels in the area, especially the Alveston Manor Hotel. It offers luxurious surroundings, including gardens, spa and located 5 minutes from the city centre. QHotels also offer two fine properties in the area. Either of these hotels would make a great base for your trip to Stratford-upon-Avon.