Stratford-upon-Avon is a bustling market town, rich in culture and a perfect stop on an Active England cycle tour. It is over 800 years old and most famous for being the birthplace of the playwright William Shakespeare. Today, visitors from all over the world flock to experience the homes, theatres and the fascinating life of this great man. This beautiful town on the banks of the river Avon encapsulates the character and charm of the writer himself.
Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, as the son of a glove-maker his early life was relatively humble. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway and they went on to have three children.
William Shakespeare wrote 38 plays and 154 sonnets. Perhaps his most famous are his tragedies, including Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Hamlet. In 1599, Shakespeare’s group of players The King’s Men worked together to build their own theatre, The Globe, on the banks of the river Thames.
In 1616 Shakespeare died and was buried at the Holy Trinity Church in his hometown of Stratford. His life and works have since been commemorated all over the world by statues and memorials.
Shakespeare was born in a charming half-timbered house on Henley Street. It offers a fascinating glimpse into his early life and a chance to learn more about the man himself at the Shakespeare Exhibition.
A short distance from Stratford centre lies the tiny hamlet of Shottery, where you’ll find the cottage of Shakespeare’s bride-to-be Anne Hathaway. Relax in its tranquil gardens and enjoy the romance of this picturesque thatched home.
Built in 1613, Hall’s Croft was the impressive home of Shakespeare’s oldest daughter Susanna. After she married a wealthy doctor in 1607 the couple lived here until Shakespeare’s death. At this impressive Jacobean home you’ll find a stunning walled garden framing an opulently decorated interior, all reflecting the family’s affluent lifestyle. There is also an intriguing display of the doctor’s medical equipment which may leave you feeling relieved to not have been a patient in the 17th century!
Standing proudly on the banks of the Avon is the 750-year-old Holy Trinity Church. This ancient church is where Shakespeare was baptized, prayed and was finally laid to rest. It’s stone Norman architecture is striking yet it possesses a calming atmosphere – perfectly paving the way for an opportunity to pay your respects to the great writer and his family.
From Comedy to tragedy, Shakespeare has done more than anybody else to demonstrate the power and versatility of the English language. And there can be no better place than Stratford to experience his work first-hand. Of its theatres, the most famous are The Royal Shakespeare and The Swan. They have recently been redeveloped at a combined cost of £100 million pounds, creating an impressive 1042 seat theatre, along with both rooftop and riverside restaurants – plus a 110-foot high observation tower!
With so much to see and do a guided tour might be just the ticket to help you discover all this town has to offer. There are fascinating guided walks as well as an open air bus tour, a boat tour and, if you’re not easily spooked, there’s even the Stratford Town Ghost walk.
And if you’ve had enough of culture, there are plenty of other things to do in Stratford too. The Rother Street farmer’s market sells delicious local produce. There is also the fun MAD museum, showcasing a clever collection of mechanical art and design. You could just unwind with a dip in the pool at the leisure centre or even partake a round of crazy golf.
Just in front the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, on the banks of the river Avon, are the beautiful Bancroft Gardens. Designed in the early 19th century the gardens feature impressive statues of Shakespeare and some of his memorable characters, including Hamlet and Lady Macbeth. On sunny summer evenings, outdoor performances often take place on the garden’s sloping lawns.
Our Active England tours offer you an unrivalled chance to garner a true insight into the life and works of this internationally renowned playwright. And that is not all, from the landscaped lawns of Bancroft Gardens and the calming ambience of the river Avon to the buzz the theatres and busy streets – Stratford is full of memories waiting to be shared.