Stratford-Upon-Avon is often associated with the famous playwright and poet, William Shakespeare. It was his birthplace, so the town is practically dedicated to him. There are several Shakespearean attractions around town– lots of houses, a farm and a church, which are all owned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
The town is located south of England in the county of Warwickshire, on the River Avon. It was the final stop of my family’s Cotswold Road Trip; starting from London and ending in Manchester. We spent 2 days exploring Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
Coming from the Cotswold, we drove towards Stratford-Upon-Avon from the west. Before heading into the town center, we had our first introduction into some Shakespearean history. The first stop of the day was located just outside town– Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Not the actress! Anne Hathaway was also the name of Shakespeare’s wife. He married her in 1582 when he was 18. They had 3 children together.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is really lovely. It looks like it came out of a picture; with mushroom roofs, chimneys and flowers in the garden. Though called a cottage, it is actually a spacious twelve-roomed farmhouse in the Tudor style architecture. Visiting it gave me an insight into how people lived all those years ago– when all they needed were just the basic necessities.
During Shakespeare’s days, the place was known as Newlands Farm. Therefore, there is an extensive garden right next to the cottage. The pretty garden provides a lovely stroll during summer– it is filled with rows of apple trees, beautiful trimmed bushes, interesting sculptures and even a garden maze!
Tea in the Garden
After visiting Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, we popped over the road to the Cottage Restaurant and Tea Garden. The restaurant has a pretty outdoor setting– complete with a flower garden and a duck pond. It was a little overpriced (afterall, it is right next to a main tourist attraction); but I enjoyed the early lunch with scones, cakes, sandwiches, and hot tea.
After lunch, we made our way into the town center of Stratford-Upon-Avon. Shakespeare’s Birthplace is located here, on Henley Street (which is great for some shopping). It is another restored building that is part of the Shakespearean history; and is now a place for all lovers of literature to get to know and understand this genius– in this 16th century house where he was born and spent most of his childhood years.
Over the many hundreds of years, the house was used as a residential place, then as an inn known as “The Swan and Maidenhead Inn”, and is now a small museum opened to the public.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace is a carefully restored half-timbered house, also constructed with clay, wattle, brick and stone. The ground-floor consists of the parlor with fireplace, as well as the dining area. The bedrooms (or chambers as it was called in the olden days) are on the first floor, with beautiful intricate designs on its walls and sheets. There is also a workshop connected to the house, as William Shakespeare’s father was a glove maker and wool dealer, and he divided the house into two parts so that he could work from home.
Walking around the house made me feel like I was in a maze of some sort; spiral stairs, doorless arches, weirdly shaped ceilings. It is built in such a way that one room leads into another room, so walking into every door is a surprise– you never know what you’re gonna walk into next. It is an exciting (and very pretty) house!
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan Theatre next to it, is dedicated to William Shakespeare. It opened in 1932, and underwent many renovations throughout the years. It stages one or two runs of a Shakespeare play daily, as well as plays from other playwrights. I wanted to catch a play while I was there, but tickets were sold out.
The little town of Stratford-Upon-Avon is so pretty! I couldn’t stop admiring the Tudor and Gothic houses that line the streets, making me feel like I was walking or driving pass a part of the past. Stratford is officially over 800 years old and was a market town during medieval times.
Lying on the River Avon, the town has a canal that was built in the late 18th century. It is a lovely place to chill and relax during summer; so there were lots of people lying on the grass, picknicking, boating along the river, as well as watching and taking part in the performances on the lawn.
We spent the rest of the day by the canal, and I decided to get on a boat! It was so much fun despite the fact that I couldn’t paddle. I was trying very hard to navigate the boat in a straight line, but just kept knocking into other boats and hitting the river banks. It took some time, but I eventually got a hold of it.
Mary Arden’s Farm
On our second day in Stratford-Upon-Avon, we made a visit to our third Shakespearean attraction, Mary Arden’s Farm. Mary Arden was the mother of William Shakespeare, and she lived in this farm as a child. She inherited it from her father later on.
Mary Arden’s Farm is a real working Tudor Farm, and has been that way over the centuries. We fed the goats and cows, disturbed the angry goose, hollered at the chicken on a haystack, tried to wake the sleeping owls, and petted the prettiest snow white pony. The farm has many rare breed animals in it too– Tamworth pigs, Cotswold sheep and Bagot goats just to name a few.
It was eye-opening to see how an actual Tudor farm works. There is a cider mill, a bread oven, a woodsplitter, a stonework place, a wheelwright and cooper display, a harvest barn, an orchard and so many other farm stuff in it. During those days, people were so self sufficient– doing everything, making everything and repairing everything themselves.
The farm also includes a farmhouse that belonged to Mary Arden’s friend and neighbor, Adam Palmer. Like the rest of the farm, the farmhouse reflects life in the 16th century, specifically 1573. They even had ladies dressed in 16th century dresses, cooking over a stove at the fireplace. It made me feel like I was walking into someone’s house!
Mary Arden’s Farm was a very interesting and educational visit– my favorite of all the historical Shakespearean attractions. The farm was our last stop before leaving Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Other Shakespearean Attractions
Due to limited time, we could only visit a couple of the historical Shakespeare sites in Stratford-Upon-Avon. If you have more time, be sure to drop by these places too.
Halls Croft – Home to Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna and her husband; with a collection of 16th and 17th century paintings and furniture.
Nash’s House – Former home of Shakespeare’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Hall and her first husband, Thomas Nash. It is now Stratford’s local history museum.
Holy Trinity Church – Shakespeare’s last resting place. He was also baptized here, and worshiped here as a boy and during his retirement years.