The birthplace of William Shakespeare and home of the Royal Shakespeare Company
Tour Stratford-Upon-Avon and trace the footsteps and life of the world's most famous and celebrated playwright, William Shakespeare and discover the places he lived and loved.
Stratford is where Shakespeare was born, went to school and after years of gallivanting returned to live his twilight years. Remarkably, the family home of his wife, Anne Hathaway, the home of his daughter Susanna, his school and parish church have all survived and can be visited.
Stratford is a beautiful town, so you do not need to be a Shakespeare nut to enjoy a tour. There are plenty of great pubs, riverside walks, great shops and of course those historical buildings to visit. We can tailor an in-depth tour of the town or include highlights only. If you wish to spend a half-day in Stratford, it makes sense to have Warwick Castle on the itinerary.
Shakespeare's home town
England's greatest playwright and poet
Did you know
Did you know that Shakespeare's father, John, was the Mayor of Stratford? which was the highest elective office in the town. This social elevation was crucial in Shakespeare's story as a writer. It meant that William would receive a grammar school education, where he learned to read, speak and write in Latin and memorize and perform stories from history. These skills we must imagine would have come in really useful for England's best-loved playwright.
The truth is, we don't know much about Shakespeare at all, much of what you read is guest work, it makes the fellow even more enjoyable. What we do know is where he was born, and roughly how many plays he wrote or collaborated with others. He seems financially astute, he returned to his home town after making a fortune (writing plays and investing in brewing businesses) and bought the largest house in the street.
He was one of eight children and had the opportunity to go to the local grammar school until around thirteen. Enough education to fuel creativity, but not too much to stifle his imagination. Most agree he probably joined a travelling troop of players, actors, showmen and became an actor, and eventually wrote plays.
Maybe because of his limited education, William may have felt free to write in a standard way. He either invented or promoted and made famous idioms that we are all familiar with in Britain today. For example, my friend has a heart of gold. But, he made me a laughing stock. On occasions, he leads me on a wild goose chase, but I must be careful, he is sometimes jealous and becomes the green-eyed monster. He is also kind and wears his heart on his sleeve. There are many more phrases; it is heart-warming to know that we quote Shakespeare every day and most of us without knowing it.
Can you think of a connection between Shakespeare and New York's Central Park? The starling. In 1890, an American and Shakespeare obsessive, Eugene Schiffelin, set about importing every kind of the 600 birds mentioned in Shakespeare's works. Eugene had two flocks of 60 starlings released in Central Park. Now there are 200 million Shakespeare starlings because the lustrous songbird starred in Henry IV. Part I.
Holy Trinity Church - The tomb
Holy Trinity is a classic English parish church, dating back 800 years. It has gothic arches, delicate stone traceried windows, stout tower and sits on the banks of the River Avon. Upon entry, you stoop to avoid hitting your head on the low door frames, and then you will be amazed by the light flooding into the nave. Most of the stained glass is Victorian and is vivid and bright.
The misericords seats in any church are attractive, but here they are superb. Their name comes from the Latin misericordia, which means an act of mercy. The seats fold up when you are required to stand during a service, but there is a little perch to rest your bottom on to save your legs, this is helpful when you are a great age. When they are in the up position, you see carvings of faces, events in history and strange creatures, and they are a delight.
The precise location of your tomb in the past was of great importance. The closer to the eastern end of the church the better, this enabled your soul unfettered route to heaven. It is prestigious to be closer to the high altar. Well, Shakespeare is right there in a great location. His family had gained a coat-of-arms, and he was a man of substance. The inscription on the gravestone reads; "Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare. To dig the dust encloased heare. Bleste be ye man Y spares thes stones" And curst be Y moves my bones”. As a point of interest, the actual coffin is in a brick-lined crypt below the gravestone – along with his close family members.
Houses in Stratford associated with Shakespeare
The Birthplace has been called the 'most honoured monument of the world's greatest genius.' The house was built around 1500, using traditional building techniques, with low foundation wall to stop the damp. The oak frame filled with 'daub and wattle', which is mud sticks and horsehair.
The ground level would have consisted of a workshop. Shakespeare's father, John, was a glove maker and wool merchant. The living area and kitchen area are on the ground floor, with sleeping rooms on the second floor, where you will find the place of the bards birth. The garden is substantial and would have grown vegetables, herbs, and space for animals. The house has been a pub called 'The Swan and Maidenhead' and a butchers shop. Since the mid 19th century it has been cared for by the 'The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.'
The Royal Shakespeare Company
The Royal Shakespeare Company doesn't limit their talents to performing Shakespeare plays; they also put on work by Shakespeare's contemporaries and plays by the writers of today. The company builds the sets, props, and costumes, and performs in Stratford at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, The Other Place, and The Swan Theatre.
Touring and accommodation
Stratford-Upon-Avon sits on the edge of the stunning Cotswolds region of rolling hills and pretty villages, classic rural England. It makes logistical sense to tour the Cotswolds and Stratford on the same day or even stay in the area. Warwick Castle is a superb medieval experience and great for families. Therefore a two-night trip can include Oxford, the Cotswolds, Warwick Castle and Stratford, plus Blenheim Palace time permitting. If you have only one day the Warwick and Stratford tour will work. One of our favourite hotels in the Stratford-Cotswolds region is The Lygon Arms, located in the attractive village of Broadway.
The Cotswolds is full of beautiful places to stay; please see our current best hotels in the Cotswolds.
If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of our Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands. Merging Wales with England makes for a dynamic experience of mountains, stately homes and cosy country pubs.
Shakespeare's Home Town
Upgrade with a Specialist Shakespeare Tour Guide with in-depth Knowledge
- Tour the Birthplace and Museum
- See the Tomb of Shakespeare
- Tour the Original 16th Century Homes
- Specialist Guide Available
- Tour the Cotswolds nearby
- Tour Warwick Castle nearby
Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Holy Trinity Church Knocker
Monuments in the Public Gardens
Shakespeare's Grammar School
The Birthplace Gardens on a wet day
The Birthplace Garden
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