Explore: Stratford Upon Avon
Date Posted: 21/05/2015
Pictured: The river in Stratford Upon Avon.
Stratford-upon-Avon and William Shakespeare go hand in hand like Romeo and Juliet, and although the Tudor town is synonymous with the world’s most famous writer there’s much more to discover here than just the Bard.
Newly opened to the public for 2015 is Harvard House. This period property was built in 1596 by wealthy townsman Thomas Rogers whose grandson founded America’s Harvard University. Visitors can learn more about the history of the striking house and get a real sense of the lives of wealthy Elizabethan townsfolk in Stratford.
This year Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Centre, the largest attraction of its type in Europe, celebrates its 30th anniversary. The large, tropical greenhouse is filled with hundreds of spectacular free-flying butterflies and group benefits include talks and handling sessions.
The new Museum Collection Centre opens this summer at Gaydon’s Heritage Motor Centre and will house the centre’s reserve collection of British cars, including many rare prototype vehicles that have not been on show before. Close to junction 12 of the M40, the centre can easily be visited on the way to or from Stratford, which is ten miles away.
And at Compton Verney the arts and crafts movement comes under the spotlight in the summer exhibition that runs from 27th June to 13th September.
Shakespeare’s birthplace: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust owns five houses all linked to the Bard. The most famous, in the centre of Stratford, is the house where he was born and grew up. For an extra special visit GTOs can book the exclusive Birthplace Grand Tour. The evening includes wine, canapes and costumed actors performing extracts from Shakespeare’s works.
River cruise: Enjoy Stratford and the surrounding countryside on a leisurely boat cruise. Bancroft Cruisers offers 45-minute sightseeing tours with live commentary and bespoke group charters, as well as a range of food options. Cruises leave from Stratford’s central Holiday Inn, where there is coach parking.
Pictured: Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle: Eight miles east of Stratford is one of England’s largest and most spectacular castles. Opening this month is the new Time Tower, which takes visitors on a 1,100 year journey through the castle’s rich and colourful history. The castle offers a range of special visits and benefits for groups.
Take a tour
Royal Shakespeare Company: Behind the scenes, front of house and spooky after dark visits are among the fascinating tours offered by the RSC. Groups can extend their visit with morning coffee or afternoon tea and add a trip to the panoramic viewing platform in the theatre’s tower.
Shakespearian stroll:Be amused and entertained in equal measure with the 90-minute ‘No Holds Bard’ Stratford walking tour led by Shakespeare himself. Run by the town’s Tudor World attraction, a less energetic alternative is the ‘Bard on a Bus’ tour.
Garden tour: Discover another side to the Shakespeare properties with a guided tour of the garden at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage or Hall’s Croft, home of Shakespeare’s eldest daughter Susanna. The special interest tours are exclusive to groups and include admission to the house of choice.
Best for groups
Mad Museum:For something completely different the MAD (Mechanical Art and Design) Museum in the centre of Stratford is the only specialist attraction of its kind in the UK. It displays an amazing collection of automata and all manner of eccentric and ingenious creations. Private tours are available and there is a nearby coach drop-off point.
Ragley Hall: Dating back to 1680, and located eight miles west of Stratford, Ragley Hall is the stunning family home of the ninth Marquess and Marchioness of Hertford. Private group tours, which include the magnificent state hall, red saloon, dining room and music room, are available on selected dates and a garden tour can be added.
Pictured: Compton Verney. Image by John Kippin.
Compton Verney: All groups receive a free 15-minute introductory talk at this accessible art gallery in a Grade I listed mansion set in 120 acres of Capability Brown parkland nine miles outside Stratford. The range of options include tours of the permanent collection or changing programme of temporary displays and there’s a tasty group menu.
Where to stay
Housed in an historic 16th century black and white building in the heart of Stratford, the 83-room Falcon Hotel, formerly the Legacy Falcon, recently joined the St James’s Hotel Group.
Directly opposite the Royal Shakespeare Company theatres, the boutique Arden Hotel overlooks the River Avon.
Situated in 157 acres on the outskirts of Stratford, the Welcome Hotel Spa & Golf Club is an atmospheric Jacobean-style house with traditional features.
For more information visit www.shakespeares-england.co.uk.