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UK Tourist Attractions: Shakespeare's Stratford

Belinda and Mike - follow our tourist travels in the UK

Cotswold Holiday, Shakespeare & Stratford July 2009 - page 2

Following in the footsteps of millions of other tourists we headed for Shakespeare country in Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, and did the fascinating Shakespeare Houses tourist trail including Shakespeare's Birthplace, Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Hall's Croft and New Place, Nash's House, and Mary Arden's farm at nearby Wilmcote.  The Shakespeare Houses are run by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
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Anne Hathaway's Cottage in Shottery, Stratford upon Avon
We just had to head up to Warwickshire and Stratford upon Avon to tour the five Shakespeare Houses!  So we headed first to Anne Hathaway's Cottage just on the edge of Stratford at Shottery.  This was the house that William Shakespeare's wife-to-be lived.

A short bed inside Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Stratford
A tour guide took us round inside Anne Hathaway's Cottage and related many interesting facts told in an entertaining way.  For instance, we learnt the reason for the short beds was that people slept sitting up to prevent the devil nabbing them during the night!

Admiring the garden at Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Here's Mike enjoying the sunshine in Anne Hathaway's Cottage garden which was full of the most marvellous and colourful flower displays.  We left...

Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire
...the car parked at Anne Hathaway's Cottage and took the 20 minute walk into Stratford, heading for William Shakespeare's Birthplace in Henley Street.  After the 'enthralling experience theatre' we next entered Shakespeare's house to be taken around in a small tour group - and promptly got reprimanded for daring to take photos!  However, the house tour took us round the parlour, kitchen and buttery, the rear wing and, of course, Shakespeare's birthroom.  Shame about the no photography policy though.

The garden at Shakespeare's Birthplace
The fascinating tour emerged from Shakespeare's Birthplace into the rear garden; fortunately the heavy rain had stopped so we were able to admire the playwright's statue and the wonderful flowers and, thankfully, take pictures once again.

Actors performing a scene from Hamlet outside Shakespeare's Birthplace
Suddenly the happy chatter of our fellow tourists was broken by a penetrating shout as two actors appeared into the garden enthusiastically acting out a scene from one of Shakespeare's plays, Hamlet (we think).  What a marvellous surprise!

Chapel Street architecture in Stratford upon Avon
After a detour to the Stratford Canal we next headed along Chapel Street towards Nash's House and New Place.  Shakespeare's legacy is reflected in many of the businesses in Stratford, taking names from his plays and famous sayings.  And there's many a fine half-timbered building too.  Anyway, on to...

Shakespeare's Stratford: Nash's House and New Place
...Nash's House and New Place where once again photos weren't allowed inside!  Nash's House was owned by Thomas Nash who married Shakespeare's granddaughter; Shakespeare bought New Place as a young man and later retired and subsequently died there in 1616.  Now, please keep up with the history...

The Knot Garden at Nash's House in Stratford
...New Place was demolished in 1702 and in its place are these picturesque gardens, this one's called The Knot Garden.  Hmmm... all the Shakespeare gardens sure put our own efforts to shame!  There were some hideous statues in The Great Garden though!

Front view of Hall's Croft in Stratford
Our final Shakespeare house visit in Stratford was Hall's Croft in Old Town.  And you've guessed it - no photos allowed, grrrr...  Hall's Croft was the home of Shakespeare's eldest daughter and her wealthy husband Dr John Hall.  Hope you're keeping up!

Mary Arden's House and Palmer's Farm at Wilmcote, near Stratford, Warwickshire
The last Shakespeare House was Mary Arden's House and Palmer's Farm at Wilmcote, a few miles north along the A3400 from Stratford.  It was the home of Shakespeare's grandparents and mother in her youth.

Inside Mary Arden's Farmhouse at Wilmcote
Hooray, we could take pictures at Mary Arden's Farm!  So here's Belinda finding out how meals were served to the farm labourers in the 1570s.  No guided tour, but period re-enactors were on hand...

Mind the low beams at Mary Arden's Farm!
...to tell visitors everything except to watch out for the low beams - ouch!  Again we saw much period furniture and a demonstration of...

A period re-enactor in the kitchen at Mary Arden's Farmhouse
...meal preparation from the Elizabethan era by one of the period re-enactors.  Mary Arden's Farm also had a gripping demonstration of...

Falconry demonstration at Mary Arden's Farm
...Falconry, a popular sport in Shakespeare's day.

Inside Mary Arden's House, Wilmcote
Adjoining Palmer's Farm is Mary Arden's House which was still being lived in until the 1960s.  Many of the rooms have been preserved as they were in the latter part of the house's history when acquired by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Now, where's Mike gone...

Feeding the goats in the farmyard at Mary Arden's House
...ohmigod, he's attempting to feed the goats!  In the farmyard here behind Mary Arden's House were some outbuildings housing wheelwright, carpentry and stone masonry exhibits.

The tranquil Stratford upon Avon Canal at Wilmcote in Warwickshire
Just before leaving Wilmcote we wandered down to the nearby Stratford upon Avon Canal for some tranquillity and to indulge in our hobby of Geocaching.  The canal had fair bit of boating traffic trundling by.

A lovely home cooked meal in the Cotswold holiday cottage
Later, back at the holiday cottage we cooked a yummy meal, washed down with red wine.  This was the only evening we didn't eat out in fact.


So what did we think of the Shakespeare Houses trail?  Well, although we're not particularly into Shakespearian heritage we certainly found the trawl round the houses enlightening and it's undoubtedly a very popular tourist attraction.  The five Shakespeare Houses and Gardens adult ticket cost 17 (we used supermarket rewards vouchers).  The Shakespeare Houses are operated by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust charity.

Check out our tourist resources for related websites.

Now, on the last page of our Cotswold holiday we visit Warwick and Sudeley Castles plus Bourton on the Water >>>


We've also visited the Shakespeare Globe Theatre in London.