Day 1. A weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon

We set off bright and early to make the most of our short break in the charming medieval market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, famous for the English poet and playwright William Shakespeare.  The town is located in rural Warwickshire, approximately 100 miles north west of London.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Stratford-upon-Avon
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Our first stop was at the village of Shottery, home to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.  Dating back more than 500 years this was the former home of William Shakespeare’s bride to be.  The cottage was extended over the years but much of the original structure survives to this day.  The property was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1892.

Bedroom, Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Stratford-upon-Avon
Bedroom, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage,

Tickets to Anne Hathaway’s cottage can be purchased separately at £15 or as part of a combined ticket to also include Shakespeare’s Birthplace and New Place in the town centre at £26.50.  We gathered in the garden for a short talk by one of the guides and then enjoyed taking a self guided tour of the house with its original furnishings and information boards telling the stories of the 13 generations of the family who lived there.  For once it was advantageous to be small as doorways were just 5’2″ in height so I was able to comfortably fit through without bending down.

Scullery, Anne Hathaway's Cottage
The scullery

The cottage is surrounded by a beautiful garden extending to nine acres with paths leading to a sculpture trail inspired by Shakespeare’s plays.  If you are already in Stratford and without your own transport the cottage is a pleasant 1.3 mile walk from the town centre, taking around 30 minutes.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage garden
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage garden

Leaving there, we drove into the town centre and checked into the beautiful Hotel Indigo on Chapel Street which has its own car park to the rear of the property.

Hotel Indigo, Stratford-upon-Avon
The beautiful Hotel Indigo in Stratford

This boutique hotel lies directly opposite Shakespeare’s last home and is absolutely gorgeous with its decorative half timbered exterior encapsulating the charm of the Tudor period.

Our stylish room at the Hotel Indigo, Stratford-upon Avon
Our stylish room

The newly refurbished hotel is a delightful mix of old and new blending together in perfect harmony.  After settling into our contemporary styled room and enjoying a light lunch in its secluded garden we set off to explore the beautiful town synonymous with William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare's New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon
Shakespeare’s New Place

We didn’t have far to go as directly opposite the hotel stands Shakespeare’s New Place so we visited there first.  This was the site of Shakespeare’s family home for 19 years.  The house was demolished in 1759 and a garden has since been designed on the exact location where ‘New Place’ once stood to commemorate the importance of the site.  When Shakespeare lived there, the house was one of the largest in the town and an indoor exhibition creates an impression of the scale of the original building.

Wall sculpture, Shakespeare's New Place
Wall sculpture, Shakespeare’s New Place

Wandering through its delightful gardens awash with spring blooms and specially commissioned artworks we learnt about the fascinating story of the house that’s no longer there.

The garden, Shakespeare's New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon
The garden, Shakespeare’s New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon

Leaving there, we wandered along Stratford-upon-Avon’s quaint streets with their characteristic half timbered buildings now home to high class shops, cafes and restaurants.

Shakespeare's Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon
Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon

Our next stop was at the third of the Shakespeare Trust’s buildings, that of Shakespeare’s Birthplace located in the Shakespeare Centre on Henley Street.  This was where William Shakespeare was born and raised and where he spent the first five years of his marriage living with Anne Hathaway.  We began our visit by viewing a fascinating exhibition in the Shakespeare Centre which features a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio and a timeline of his life.  The exhibition helped to set the scene documenting his life and legacy before we entered the family home.

Shakespeare's Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon
Touring the rooms of Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Touring the house we learnt that his parents were wealthy enough to own the largest house on the street.  We viewed a replica of his father’s glove making workshop where he made gloves for all occasions from everyday working gloves to elaborate pairs worn on special occasions.  In 1568 his father John became mayor of Stratford and because of his status William was privileged to attend the local grammar school.  The house remained in the family until the late 18th century and was purchased by the Trust in 1847.  It has been well preserved and provides an insight into what the Bard’s early life may have been like.

Knot Garden, Shakespeare's Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon
The Knot Garden of Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Our visit them continued into the garden where resident actors occasionally bring Shakespeare’s works to life.  It was a real sun trap so we relaxed awhile on a bench whilst studying our map of the town planning where to head next.

Stratford-upon-Avon riverside
Stratford-upon-Avon riverside

We decided on a stroll by the riverside and paused to buy ice cream cones as it was such a lovely warm afternoon.  The Bancroft Gardens overlook the riverside and it really is a beautiful spot to come for a picnic.  The Bancroft canal basin lies at the heart of the historic town and is where the Stratford-upon-Avon canal joins the River Avon.  We wandered over the bridge watching both canal and pleasure boats pass by and a little further on came to the Stratford Butterfly Farm with standard admission £7.95.

Stratford Butterfly Farm
The entrance to Stratford Butterfly Farm

On entering the tropical rainforest environment we encountered hundreds of the most beautiful exotic butterflies possible, all fluttering around us.  Whilst it is not permitted to touch any of the butterflies they often land on you as you walk around.

Stratford Butterfly Farm
Butterflies were all around us at the farm

It really felt like a tropical paradise with its lush vegetation, waterfalls and koi carp filled pools.  I usually have little success taking photos of butterflies as they normally close their wings just as I am pressing the shutter.  However, here it was different and I managed to take numerous shots that I was pleased with.

Stratford Butterfly Farm
Beautiful butterflies at the farm

As well as butterflies there are mini-beasts, reptiles, snakes and amphibians to be seen.  The discovery zone was particularly interesting as we could observe the life cycle of a butterfly and were able to see a butterfly hatch from its pupa.  I’d definitely recommend a visit to the Butterfly Farm as it’s an enchanting experience for both young and old.

Koi carp pond at the Stratford butterfly farm
Koi carp at the butterfly farm

It was then back to the hotel to collect our car for the short drive to Shakespeare Distillery located two miles outside the town centre.  The distillery was established in 2015 as an artisan spirit producer of a range of premium gins and rums.

Shakespeare Distillery
Shakespeare Distillery

We’d pre-booked a tour around the working distillery which began with an interesting short talk on the history of gin distilling in the United Kingdom.  We learnt that small batch distilling has flourished since 2009 when the law changed to allow alcohol to be distilled in small batches, replacing a 1751 act restricting production to large distilleries only.

Shakespeare Distillery Tour, Stratford
Shakespeare Distillery Tour, Stratford

Our tour then moved into the still room where we discovered how gin and rum are made and of the many different ingredients and botanicals used in the distilling process.  From there we were led into the bottling room where we were shown the automated process of affixing labels to full size bottles and how the labelling of miniatures is done by hand.

Tasting Room and Gin School, Shakespeare Distillery
Tasting Room and Gin School, Shakespeare Distillery

It was both an informative and fun tour as we were shown around by the staff themselves who were very knowledgeable and passionate about the distillery.  Our tour concluded in the tasting room where we were offered a selection of their award winning gins and rums to try.  Luckily for me, I wasn’t the one driving so I was able to participate in the tasting which concluded with either a gin or rum of our choice. The Stratford Dry and Rhubarb Gin were my favourites so I opted for the latter which was very refreshing, as the tartness of rhubarb was very tangy and less sweet than some other gins I have tasted.  Drivers did not miss out as they were offered generous sized miniature bottles to take back home with them so my husband selected the Jester spiced rum.  The distillery also runs gin schools and cocktail classes and is a great place to visit in the area.

Our drinks in the tasting room of Shakespeare Distillery, Stratford
Our drinks in the tasting room of Shakespeare Distillery, Stratford

We then returned to the hotel and I couldn’t wait to take my shoes off after walking around all day and relax on the huge bed with its stylish grey, yellow and blue chequered headboard.  The large wardrobe opened to reveal a fridge filled with complimentary bottles of water, soft drinks and milk for our tea.  There was even complimentary popcorn for film watching on our large television.  After luxuriating in the sophisticated bathroom with its bold designed blue and white tiling we went downstairs to enjoy a meal in the Woodsman Restaurant.

Woodman's Restaurant, Hotel Indigo Stratford-upon-Avon
Woodman’s Restaurant at the Hotel Indigo

We’d read that the restaurant was awarded Best New U.K. restaurant in the Good Food Guide 2020 so thought we’d be in for a treat.  The restaurant is divided into intimate areas and has a relaxed vibe.  From our table we were able to watch the chefs prepare food on the sizzling grill and in the wood fired oven.  As it was a Sunday mouth-watering roasts were on the menu and we can never pass up on a roast.  After our delicious starters, our mains arrived on a sharing platter with succulent beef, pork and huge Yorkshire puddings accompanied with fresh vegetables and a delicious gravy.

Sunday roast at the Woodman's Restaurant, Hotel Indigo, Stratford
Sunday roast at the Woodman’s Restaurant

After being unable to resist the delectable selection of desserts we returned to our gorgeous room and were asleep in seconds tucked under the duvet of our extremely comfortable bed looking forward to our next day in Stratford.

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87 thoughts on “Day 1. A weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon

  1. It reminds me of another visit with the school, I do have a vague memory of exposed beams. We have our own Stratford in Ontario, not far from Toronto. There are several theatres performing Shakespeare’s plays.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very informative post Marion
    I think you saw we were there earlier this year but missed all of the above! It was February I think and may have been closed. The inside of the house looks very well kept and the gardens were beautiful
    Your hotel was definitely nicer than ours!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, I remember reading about your visit to Stratford a few months ago. Everywhere looks nicer when the sun is shining and things are back open. I’d definitely recommend the Indigo as it’s lovely and having its own car park a big bonus.

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  3. I have visited Stratford but not recently. I have a friend who is a massive Shakespeare fan and who is trying to persuade me to spend a weekend in Stratford. Having read your post, I don’t think that it will take too much to convince me, there’s so much to see. The butterfly farm and the gin tasting appeal, let alone all the Shakespeare related elements! The hotel and the roast look superb. I look forward to reading more about your weekend, Marion.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m certain you would enjoy a short break in Stratford-upon-Avon June as although it’s undoubtedly famous for Shakespeare, there is also so much more to see and do. Perhaps by the time you have read my follow up post you will be more inspired than ever to visit! Hope you enjoy a good week. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so pleased you enjoyed reading this post on Stratford-upon-Avon. It’s a delightful town and a wonderful opportunity to follow in Shakespeare’s footsteps. I do hope you get an opportunity to visit before too long. Thank you for taking the time to comment, it’s much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage looks so charming, but I imagine it would be tough to live there. I’m tall so bending down to fit through the doorways would get old real fast! The gardens at Shakespeare’s New Place look marvelous. What better way to end the day than by eating a fabulous dinner.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I never had the opportunity to visit Stratford-upon-Avon, even when I had the chance to study abroad in university or when I visited England for the first time. Such a quaint and gorgeous little place, and to visit the town of one of the most-famous literary figures in English literature is definitely an honor. You were incredibly fortunate to stay opposite of one of Shakespeare’s homes: I can imagine it must’ve been a view waking up to it every day on your trip!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. What a lovely little town, Marion! I am glad to see that you made the most of getting to know the historic market town and birthplace of Shakespeare. Anyone who is a Shakespeare buff won’t be disappointed as there is a chance to visit a picturesque 500-year-old cottage with a poignant love story behind it. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We adored visiting Stratford-upon-Avon and having an opportunity to learn more about Shakespeare. Anne Hathaway’s cottage is exceptionally beautiful and just looked like a picture from the lid of an old fashioned chocolate box! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment as it’s much appreciated Aiva.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Stratford-upon-Avon is a delightful town and well worth visiting. Years ago I had numerous pen friends from around the world and amazingly two still remain, one in the US and the other in Norway but if course nowadays we correspond via email except at Christmas and birthdays! I also wonder what happened to the others! Thanks for commenting, it’s much appreciated.

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  7. What a lovely visit you had to Stratford-upon-Avon! I (Kellye) never knew that Shakespeare’s father was a glove maker. Your post made me feel like I was also visiting, and I loved your description (and photo) of your hotel room – sounds fabulous! Rhubarb gin…hummm. Thank you for providing us with a history lesson, wonderful photos, and a newfound desire to visit Stratford-upon-Avon. Happy travels!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Exactly Hannah, Hotel Indigo was absolutely lovely and we adored Stratford. That roast dinner was delicious too and I can never resist them whatever the temperature! Hope you’re settling back into work after your own lovely holiday. M

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  8. That’s a very full and enjoyable day, Marion. The chic room and bathroom plus the popcorn provided by the hotel make this place an alluring accommodation option. Stratford is bursting with charm. It’s a perfect place to immerse oneself in Shakespeare’s work, life and times. We visited a similar butterfly garden/park in Lancaster and seeing all the exotic species flutter around and suddenly reveal their magnificent colours was fantastic. You have some great butterfly shots, they are elusive creatures not always easily captured on camera.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. We adored our weekend in Stratford and couldn’t understand why we hadn’t visited the town before. I’d studied Shakespeare at school and seen a few of his plays at the theatre but knew very little of his childhood and upbringing so touring the three parts of Shakespeare’s Birthplace was very interesting. The butterfly farm was lovely too and you know me, I can never resist a distillery tour and a G & T! As the hotel was in the centre of town it was really convenient for getting around on foot. Thanks so much for your interest in this post Leighton and I trust your week is progressing well.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. What a wonderful tour around this iconic city. It was so interesting to learn some new things about Shakespeare and his wife Anne. I’ve always been a little hit and miss when it comes to his plays- absolutely love Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing but I’ve never been a fan of Romeo and Juliet. But any place with those gorgeous timbered buildings and intricate gardens will always be a win in my book. Distillery tours are always interesting to me with the process they use and the regulations they have to live by. All around a perfect tour with a good mix of the historic, the beautiful, and the modern 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. We enjoyed a delightful weekend in Stratford Meg and I really don’t know why I hadn’t got around to visiting there before. I’d studied Shakespeare at school and seen a couple of his plays at the theatre but knew little of his upbringing until our visit. The butterfly farm and distillery were great too! Thanks so much for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Stunning town Marion. Love the well maintained half timber houses honour the time and place of their history. Your hotel looks wonderful and the variety of tours in the are would keep anyone busy. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Ah Marion, a medieval town … sounds great! Thanks for showing the inside of Anne Hathaway’s cottage – the scullery looks like it could have been a busy place in the house! Lovely gardens (and beautiful art on the wall) … and the stroll through the butterfly farm must have been splendid (so much colour)! And of course, I would not miss a tour to a distillery 😉 … the rhubarb gin sounds really nice and I like the look of that little bottle of rum. What a delicious plate of Sunday roast – perfect to end a great day! And complimentary popcorn in the room – that’s a first and a nice touch I would say!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. It was a splendid first day in Stratford-upon-Avon Corna learning about Shakespeare’s home town and visiting the butterfly farm and distillery. That Sunday roast was up with the best and then sitting up in bed with a bag of popcorn whilst watching a film ended the day beautifully.

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  12. Quite the contrast between Anne Hathaway’s bedroom and yours at the Hotel Indigo! I vaguely remember visiting Shakespeare’s cottage decades ago, but never knew about all these other places on offer. Thanks for tsking us on the journey.

    Liked by 7 people

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