Shakespeare Country

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May 6th 2022
Published: June 17th 2023
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A birthday experience gift voucher from last year meant we could book accommodation and spend a couple of nights away. The options where we can stay are limited but a pub with standard B&B rooms caught our attention in Alcester, Warwickshire and we discover that the local area has links to William Shakespeare. The trip is only an hour and half drive from where we live and seemed a good fit.

After our drive up to Warwickshire, we first head to our accommodation to check-in, driving through Alcester high street, which has a mixture of shops and buildings with Medieval, Tudor, Georgian and Victorian architecture influence. This market town originates back to the Roman time and has a wealth of history. Our accommodation is quite basic but adequate. The bed, however, is hard and feels like laying on bricks; luckily we've brought our goose pillows from home with us, which we hope will give us some comfort.

After unpacking and having our usual afternoon cuppa tea, we decide to do some exploring. We notice there is quite a bit to see in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon but we've only got a few hours before things pack up for the day. We learn that Anne Hathaway's Cottage (the childhood home of Shakespeare's wife) is on the outskirts of Stratford and so it seems best we visit this place first and then we can spend more time in Stratford on another day.

We arrive and purchase our tickets at Anne Hathaway's Cottage. You can buy a multi ticket to visit all Shakespeare related buildings (Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Shakespeare's Birthplace and Shakespeare's New Place) and this works out sufficiently cheaper, if you have time to visit them.

We enjoy a wonder in the orchard and gardens of the cottage, finding many unusual and quirky sculptures in honour to different Shakespeare plays. The weather has changed from the sunny clear blue skies we left home, as the sky is now overcast with dark heavy cloud and the air has a slight chill to it. We are eager to visit inside Anne Hathaway's Cottage in the hope to warm up slightly. As we get closer to the cottage, you can't help but notice how old looking the building is. We learn this building was originally built in 1463 and comprised of three rooms with two still intact today. The cottage is where Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway, was born and raised, and Shakespeare would have visited here quite often in the early years of their relationship when they starting courting each other. It's quite something to stand in this cottage which was built over 500 hundred years ago with most of it still remaining. There is original furniture inside which belonged to the Hathaways and we learn that 13 generations of the family lived in this cottage over the years. Upstairs, we find what is believed to be Shakespeare's Courting Chair; a 17th-century oak armchair with the coat-of-arms of Shakespeare carved on the back.

The cottage is a great experience and throughout the walk around we found the staff very knowledgeable and passionate about the Hathaway family.

Our evening is spent in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon as we have some restaurant gift vouchers to spend. We end up at the French chain, Café Rouge, where we enjoy a lovely three course meal and rose wine. We see a glimpse of what Stratford has to offer and look forward to visiting on Sunday.

The next day

We enjoy a full English breakfast at our B&B before our day trip out to Warwick Castle. We are visiting a castle that is over a 1,000 years old and is owned by Merlin, an entertainment company who own many attractions in the UK. I have been to Warwick Castle before, but it was a very long time ago, so imagine it has changed a lot since Merlin have now taken ownership since my last visit.

The weather today is glorious as we enjoy getting the sunglasses out for our road trip to Warwick. The journey is approx. 30 mins as we drive through Warwickshire. When we arrive at Warwick Castle, the field for car parking seems miles away from the main entrance as we have to trek back from the direction we entered.

The castle is pretty busy given its popularity of being a Merlin attraction and it being a Saturday. We decide first to visit the maze which is a quirky Horrible History maze. We spend time going around trying to complete all the different sections of the maze and stamp our Horrible History booklet, it seems fun and we know Jovie would love this.

Next, we visit the inside of the castle and thankfully good we do so, as sections are due to close later for a wedding reception. The castle is quite impressive with a hall display full of armoury and weaponry. In the upstairs rooms, they have been styled to represent different time eras and have realistic waxworks people (not surprising given Merlin own Madame Tussauds) who once lived in the castle or famous persons who visited. There is a goal and underground tunnel passage ways to move from one end of the castle to the other. The castle dungeons you have to pay for separately, which was included in the price last time I visited as a child, so we decide not to do this.

We spend our afternoon walking the grounds of the castle and witness some beautiful male peacocks doing their mating display to attract the females. We also enjoy the live bird of prey show, as many large birds of prey fly extremely close over our heads.

The castle closes at 4pm, which feels quite early for a main attraction. I manage to visit one section of the castle tower as they begin to close it for the day (Fiona isn't feeling the steps or the pressure to move quickly through the tower). I manage to capture some great panoramic photo shots as well enjoy the different views and angles of the castle and its grounds.

We have enjoyed our time at Warwick Castle. The best thing about this castle is the Merlin influence which I think makes it appeal as a family attraction. There is a Zog themed playground, which we didn't visit given our ages, but we do feel that a visit here with the kids could work in the future.

Our evening ends up back in Stratford-upon-Avon, where we visit a restaurant called The Encore that is recommended to us by a friend. The food is great and we enjoy an alcoholic cocktail (I am driving). We both agree if we visit this part of the world again, we would prefer to stay in Stratford, so we are walking distance to the restaurants and pubs & bars. We like Stratford-upon-Avon, it has a nice vibe about the place.

The next day

Our last day here (thank goodness, because we miss our bed mattress) and after checking out of the B&B we head for Stratford again. When we purchased our multi ticket the other day we had to book an allocated timeslot for Shakespeare's Birthplace. We had requested 10am when it first opens as we only have half a day here in Stratford before we need to head home.

Shakespeare's Birthplace is, as it says on the tin, the place where William Shakespeare was born. William's father, John Shakespeare, lived and worked at the house and married his mother, Mary Arden, around 1557, with William being born around 1564. William was the third child out of the eight children that John and Mary had together.

In 1568 John became the Mayor of Stratford and because of his father's status William was privileged enough to attend a local grammar school to begin his education and, as we know, this has lead him to becoming the greatest English writer and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. William married Anne Hathaway in 1582, at the young age of 18. The young couple lived at the Birthplace and it is where their three children were born.

Walking around the Birthplace, knowing this was the place where William Shakespeare was born and grew up makes my hair stand on end, and there is something about this place that makes it stand out; I think it's because you can tell just how old and delicate the building is.

As we exit from the Birthplace, we are relived to have booked the first timeslot as this place has become very busy with tourists.

We next head to Shakespeare's New Place. This was William's family home from 1597 until he died in the house in 1616. We were surprise to see no building to be standing but understand it was completely demolished in 1759 and so today the area where New Place once stood is a garden. The garden has been designed on the site to commemorate the importance of what once stood here and its history with Shakespeare. In 1601, William's father died and he inherited Birthplace but decided to continue living at New Place.

We enjoy strolling through the beautiful garden which has many sculptures in Shakespeare's honour. There is also access to the building next door to New Place where it gives you an overview of timeline events as well as a shop to purchase souvenirs.

We decide to grab something to eat before we head home and the other night we walked past this lively 1940's café called The Fourteas Tea Room. This place takes you back in time to an era where there was a war with the likes of music by Vera Lynn, war time songs, it is what kept people's spirits in a good place during this time period. The team room offers afternoon teas and cakes. We opted for a Cream Tea, which is a scone with cream and jam, which we washed down with a nice cuppa tea. This tea room doesn't just specialize in afternoon tea, they do a breakfast menu too. They also have a VIP lounge for evening events, which must have been what we heard the other night when we walked past.

Our time in Warwickshire is coming to an end, as we spend our last hour browsing markets stalls which we pass to get back to the car. I've enjoyed learning about Shakespeare and seeing the buildings he visited or once lived in has truly been magnificent... Now I really want to read a Shakespeare novel.

Additional photos below
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18th June 2023

Thanks for the memories....
We have visited Stratford-upo- Avon many times. Each time we attend a play. BTW, Shakespeare's aunt Margaret Arden is my 13th great grandmother.
20th June 2023

Shakespeare play
That is great Bob. If I visit again, I'll be sure to see a play. Very cool that you have a relation connection with Shakespeare :)
18th June 2023
Anne Hathaway's Cottage

This sounds like an excellent part of the country to explore. You may need to get a massage after you get home because of the bed. Good to see you out exploring. We will add this location to our long list.
20th June 2023
Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Long list
I hope you guys manage to visit this part of the world and would love for our paths to cross again :) We had a lovely time exploring but we were so happy to be back home on our own mattress
2nd July 2023

I have never been to Stratford-upon-Avon or Shakespeare country, but your blog entry and visit has whetted my appetite! It's just amazing how old those buildings are, and who once dwelt in them! I would also be inspired to read a Shakespeare play after visiting!
6th July 2023

Glad to hear this blog has whetted your appetite. You really must visit :)

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