The timeless appeal and universality of William Shakespeare’s literary work
have long made his hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon, a point of pilgrimage.
With streets of historic half-timbered houses and an air of genial prosperity,
it would likely draw visitors even without the fame of the town’s native son. In and
around Stratford are five houses with connections to the Bard, including the house where
he was born in 1564 (the exact date is unrecorded, but he was baptized on April 26, so
his birth date is estimated as April 23) and the cottage of his wife, Anne Hathaway. Also
on the required circuit is the 13th-century Trinity Church, where Shakespeare and his
family were buried (he died on April 23 at the age of 52).
performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company, one of the finest repertory troupes
in the world. Of the three theaters in town, most classics are performed at the Royal
Shakespeare Theatre; there are weekly matinees for those heading back to London in time
for dinner. The Elizabethan-style Swan Theatre was reconstructed along the lines of
Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre, and The Other Place is a more intimate venue for
In between sightseeing venues, stop for a pint at a historic pub such as the Windmill,
which is old enough to have been frequented by Shakespeare himself, or the Black Swan,
affectionately known by all as “the Dirty Duck” and a favorite spot for actors, pre- or
After a day in town or an evening at the theater, relax at the Swan’s Nest Hotel, a grand
old redbrick house dating from the 17th
century, where guests can enjoy a drink on the terrace overlooking the river as real swans glide by. Or travel 5 miles in the direction of Alderminster to the magnificent Ettington Park Hotel, a stately neo-Gothic home set on 40 acres of deer-inhabited parkland and manicured gardens on the banks of the River Stour. This 19th-century country house has long been associated with the Shirley family (Shakespeare’s Hal speaks of a “valiant Shirley” in Henry IV Part I), and family ghosts linger, but guests will be hard pressed to find a more welcoming place.