by Ben Johnson
Set in the beautiful rural Warwickshire countryside, on the banks of the river Avon, Stratford upon Avon is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Britain. Famous as the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Stratford has much more to offer the visitor: a superb riverside setting, historic houses, a famous theatre, thriving street market, excellent shops and restaurants.
Easily accessible by road – and water! – Stratford is most famous for its association with William Shakespeare. In the pedestrianised part of the town centre you will find Shakespeare’s Birthplace with it’s excellent displays and of course entrance to the historic house and its neat garden. Shakespeare was born in this lovely half-timbered house in 1564, his descendants continuing to live here until the 19th century.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon
In Church Street you will find King Edward VI Grammar School where William was educated. Nash House and New Place, Shakespeare’s home from 1597 until his death in 1616, are nearby. Access to the beautiful Elizabethan-style knott garden of New Place is through adjoining Nash’s House which is beautifully furnished with items from Shakespeare’s period. Halls Croft, the impressive house where Shakespeare’s eldest daughter (Susanna), lived with her husband is near Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried.
Perhaps one of the most photographed cottages in England is Anne Hathaway’s cottage where she lived before marrying Shakespeare in 1582. Another famous building is Mary Arden’s House, the Tudor farmhouse where Shakespeare’s mother lived before marrying John Shakespeare and moving to Stratford. All the Shakespeare properties can be visited by taking one of the popular open-top bus tours.
A trip to Stratford would not be complete without taking a short stroll to Holy Trinity Church where William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway are buried. This ancient church provides a moment of calm away from the bustle of the town. The gardens border the River Avon and are an excellent spot for a picnic – you can watch the swans and the tour boats glide past!
The river adds greatly to the picturesque setting of Stratford. The famous Royal Shakespeare Theatre is situated next to Bancroft Gardens on the rivers edge. The Canal Basin is the place where the canal meets the River Avon and here you will find gaily painted barges, open air entertainers, cruise boats and much more!
There are several bridges over the river to the park, hotels, boat houses and Butterfly Farm but a favourite way of crossing the river is by the classic old chain ferry which the ferryman winds by hand. The ferry takes you from the Dirty Duck Pub in town to the parkland opposite where you can enjoy a peaceful riverside walk.
Stratford’s situation on the edge of the Cotswolds allows the visitor to explore some of the most beautiful villages in England. Burford, Bourton-on-the-Water and the Slaughters are world famous for the beauty of their mellow Cotswold stone cottages and the beautiful surrounding countryside.
Stratford-upon-Avon is easily accessible by both road and rail, please try our UK Travel Guide for further information.
View our interactive map of Museums in Britain for details of local galleries and museums.