Books, Bards and Boating: A very Shakespearean Stratford-upon-Avon itinerary

16 March 2022

Shake up your perception of Shakespeare’s life and times in Stratford-upon-Avon, surrounded by the Warwickshire countryside. As William Shakespeare’s birthplace, it’s only right that an itinerary in this medieval market town has a very Shakespearean twist.

While the itinerary is designed to play out over three days, you might want to attack one or two of the stops in ‘one fell swoop,’ as the bard himself might say.

The itinerary visits Shakespeare’s haunts, including his birthplace residence and theatres. However, in the spirit of Shakespeare’s curiosity and knack for observation, it also makes a point of investigating what makes modern-day Stratford-upon-Avon so appealing. That means rowing boats on the River Avon, a butterfly farm, distillery, and ghost walks too.

Day 1: Start off with Shakespeare’s Birthplace

The itinerary starts at the very beginning of Shakespeare’s story. More specifically, it starts behind the two-story half timber frames and wooden shutters of Shakespeare’s birthplace and childhood home.

With the help of costumed guides, you’ll get to look in on his parent’s Tudor-style bedroom, Shakespeare’s childhood quarters, attics, and the glove-making workshop where Shakespeare and his father once worked.

Browse Shakespeare’s Life

Now that you’re off the starting mark, you’re ready to advance through Shakespeare’s life. Just five minutes’ walk from Shakespeare’s Birthplace is New Place, where Shakespeare played out some of his final years in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Nash’s House, next door, is where his granddaughter lived. Here, you’ll get a greater sense for Shakespeare as a father and husband, not just a playwright.

Hall’s Croft, another five minutes’ walk, is the site where Shakespeare’s eldest daughter Susanna eventually settled down. Follow this with a 20 minutes’ stroll to Anne Hathaway’s thatched cottage and farmhouse, where she lived before swearing her vows to Shakespeare.

Where to end the day? Holy Trinity Church, of course, where Shakespeare remains buried to this day. On the banks of the river Avon, you can pay your respects to the poet and playwright. It's a 25 minutes' walk from Anne Hathaway’s house and takes you back to the river Avon and the town’s many watering holes, which make for a great supper.

Day 2: Get merry at Shakespeare’s Distillery

After a day’s wandering (and wondering) over Shakespeare’s life, your day-two itinerary begins with a slightly more modern twist. Just under an hour’s walk from the town or 10 minutes’ ride in a car or taxi is Shakespeare’s Distillery. Shakespeare was rumoured to have savoured a drink himself, so it’s only right that you take a cheers to his legacy.

If you’ve ever wondered what Shakespeare’s characters would taste like in artisan gin and rum form, many of the distillery’s spirits have been designed to embody them, such as the Jester Rum named after the gallant and crowd-pleasing jesters.

Take a cocktail masterclass, tour the distillery or gin school and savour the flavours of quince, mulberry, and blackberry. Such ingredients have been handpicked as traditionally Tudor.

Catch a play in a Shakespearean theatre

It’s just as well that you’re feeling merry in time for the evening’s theatrics. Stratford-upon-Avon has three theatres owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Take an hour or two to check out The Other Place on Southern Lane. The relative centre and the 200-seat studio make up a lively venue on the banks of the Avon and a setting for fresh, modern plays and cultural shindigs.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre consists of just one, Grade II-listed auditorium with 1,018 tiered seats. The atmosphere and the architecture are both reminiscent of the Tudor theatrics you’d experience back in Shakespeare’s time and modelled upon his theatres. This is where you can catch Shakespeare’s original works in action.

Afterwards, enjoy your favourite potion on the rooftop bar or take in the views from the 118-foot tower over the Swan Theatre next door. The Swan Theatre puts Shakespeare’s contemporaries, Restoration playwrights and modern-day scripts in the limelight.

Day 3: Row down Stratford-upon-Avon

Horse-drawn carriages and a few rowing boats would have populated Stratford-upon-Avon in Shakespearean times. Nowadays, the river is filled to the rafters with rowing boats.

Each rental rowing boat is named after a Shakespeare character. So mount your water vessel and cruise up or downstream, taking in the scenery.

Visit the Butterfly Farm

One of Stratford-upon-Avon’s prettiest sights is inside the Stratford Butterfly Farm near the riverside. With Green Banded Swallowtail, Great Yellow Mormon and Tree Nymph butterflies, Shakespeare surely would have had something to say about their multicolour wings.

Take a ghost walk

Every Saturday night is Stratford’s ghost walk, so time your visit right for medieval murder, mystery, witches, and the supernatural under the dark night sky. The stories you hear on the end of your Stratford-upon-Avon itinerary might remind you a little of a Shakespeare tragedy.

The best way to see it all in Stratford-upon-Avon on your day out

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