Stratford-upon-Avon, at the edge of the Cotswolds, is surrounded by beautiful countryside and boasts many cultural treasures. While much of the attraction rightly centres on William Shakespeare, who was born and raised here, there is much more to this picturesque town. Read on to find out our favourite things to do.
A host of historic buildings in the town are linked with William Shakespeare, including Shakespeare’s Birthplace, a charming half-timbered house on Henley Street where he was born in 1564.
Do also visit Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall where he developed his creative flair for playwriting and you can pay your respects at Holy Trinity Church where he is buried.
If it’s a good weather day, take the pleasant stroll of about a mile from the town to the village of Shottery and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Anne was born here in 1556 and went on to become Shakespeare’s wife, although the cottage was built in 1463.
The original kitchen and parlour survive, while outside in the pretty gardens and orchards there is a sculpture trail inspired by Shakespeare’s plays.
The waterways of Stratford-upon-Avon played a pivotal role in the Industrial Revolution and a boat trip is a great way to learn more.
Take a tour on a modern Dutch Barge from the canal basin to explore the town’s historic working lock and the ‘swan lake’, home to some of Stratford-upon-Avon’s most graceful residents that love to show off their plumes.
There are also sightseeing river cruises that will escort you on a leisurely trip through the historic Clopton and Tramway bridges, beautiful countryside and past points of interest including Holy Trinity Church.
For something extra special, book a lunch or dinner cruise aboard the Countess of Evesham restaurant boat. Enjoy the best of sightseeing with a delicious meal, the town is beautiful at night when it’s lit up in all its glory.
If you catch the Shakespeare bug during your time in Stratford-upon-Avon, you must visit the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Book a guided theatre tour which includes access to at least one ‘behind the scenes’ area such as the Costume Workshop which is the largest in-house costume-making department of any British theatre.
You should complete your Shakespeare experience with tickets to see a play and The Royal Shakespeare Company performs the bard’s works throughout the year.
If you’d like to make an evening of it, book a pre-theatre supper at the Rooftop Restaurant on the third floor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre which serves British cuisine.
If you appreciate a good gin or a fine rum when you taste one, book the distillery tour at the Shakespeare Distillery.
Inspired by the bard and some of the characters in his plays, this artisan producer has handcrafted premium spirits including the award-winning Stratford Dry Gin and Jester White Rum.
The guided distillery tour is lots of fun and you’ll learn about the history and distilling process of gin and rum, before sampling three spirits and finishing with your choice of either a G&T or a rum and mixer.
If you’re super keen to learn more, book the Gin School experience where you will have a go at infusing and distilling your very own blend of gin which will be bottled up for you to take home.
At the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm there are over 250 species of colourful butterflies from over 20 countries. Walk amongst them, there are about 2,000 in total, in the Rainforest Flight Area that is housed in a large greenhouse with waterfalls, ponds and exotic plants, as well as replica Mayan artefacts.
Find out about the life-cycle of the butterflies in the Discovery Zone where butterflies are bred, while the Minibeast Metropolis display is home to a busy collection of insects including Leafcutter Ants, snakes, reptiles and amphibians.
Outdoors, the gardens bloom with wildflowers from June to September, so there is an array of native butterflies to see. A trip to the Butterfly Farm is a fantastic way to observe these creatures close-up in the most natural environment possible.
If you’re looking for somewhere to entertain the kids for an hour or so, in between shopping and sightseeing, head to the MAD (Mechanical Art and Design) Museum. It’s right in the centre of town, on Henley Street, and is the only one of its kind in the UK.
On show is a fascinating collection of kinetic art and automata including machines, gizmos and gadgets that blend design with intricate moving parts and plenty of physics know-how.
Children will like interactive exhibits such as the dancing lasers, roaring dinosaurs, rolling ball circuits and whirligigs that have lots of buttons to press, while grown-ups will be drawn to a host of technical moving art pieces, both modern and traditional. It’s a great place for budding inventors to feel inspired.