As home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the UK’s most popular tourist spots. But if the Bard doesn’t appeal, the town and its stunning surrounds has plenty to entertain: from hiring a boat on the River Avon to admiring the half-timber Tudor houses, or calling into lovely pubs to break up a riverside walk, it’s the perfect weekend escape. shakespeares-england.co.uk
Where to stay
Head just out of town to the Welcombe Hotel
, a Victorian mansion with lavish suites and beautiful gardens. It was built as a calendar house, where the architecture is influenced by the number of days, weeks or months in a year. Once you’ve counted the (365) windows, head for the large spa and pool or the championship golf course.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
is a pretty thatched farmhouse — the childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife — with woodland walks and a charming sculpture trail. In nearby Wilmcote is Mary Arden’s Farm, a Tudor house where Shakespeare’s mum grew up. There are rare-breed animals and a brilliant adventure playground for younger visitors.
What to do
Yes, it’s obvious, but try to catch a show at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. While there, check out The Play’s The Thing, a family-friendly exhibition with costumes, props and a rare copy of Shakespeare’s first folio. Look out for the magic costume mirror, where you can try on virtual costumes from the collection.
Where to eat
Lambs of Sheep Street
is in one of Stratford’s oldest buildings, dating from the early 16th century. It’s an atmospheric place with friendly service and great food, including a good-value pre-theatre menu (the theatre is nearby).
The bonkers MAD (Mechanical Art & Design) Museum has more than 90 pieces of kinetic art and automata from some of the world’s most ingenious makers. Pop in to spend a fun few hours building marble runs, bringing machines to life and marvelling at some of the cleverest designs you’ll ever see.
Featured in the September 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)