This blog post is way overdue but it’s here now and it’s a long one!
I turned 21 at the end of March and one of my birthday surprises was a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon. I first visited Stratford in 2009 for a school trip and I have wanted to go back ever since, as Shakespeare is one of my favourite writers and it’s just a beautiful place. As this year is the 400th anniversary of his death, it was a really great time to go back and be part of it all.
As we arrived in the afternoon we didn’t do a lot on the first day. I got to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace which I loved, I completely forgot about the museum there and just how much there is to see which was exciting. It was especially exciting to get to see a first edition folio as I’ve never had the chance to see one up close! As we were there later in the day there wasn’t as many people around which was nice as I didn’t feel I had to rush through everything just to move away from the crowds of people. Although the house itself was amazing, I must admit my favourite part was the Shakespeare Aloud actors who were there. They were fantastic and I loved their Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing and the sonnets. I’m always amazed when actors can just recite any Shakespeare play or sonnet at random, and perform it so convincingly too. I could have easily stayed there all day.
On the way back to the B&B we stopped off at the Royal Shakespeare Company to have a look round. Unfortunately we couldn’t book anything but I heard great reviews for Hamlet and Dr. Faustus. We had a slow walk back which was really nice, especially by the River Avon with the sun and the swans. It was just so calming and pretty!
The next day was a very packed day. We started at Harvard House and as we were there as soon as it opened it was empty. Whilst there wasn’t as much to look at compared to Shakespeare’s birthplace it was great to see – particularly the stained glass which was really well preserved. We then visited Hall’s Croft which was really interesting to look round, I really liked the dining room and the doctor’s study – the garden there was really nice too. After Hall’s Croft we made our way to Holy Trinity Church, as we were walking there we could hear the church bells ringing which I loved – it gave the place a different feel to it. The church, inside and outside, is beautiful and well worth to see not just for Shakespeare’s grave, although his epitaph is great to see.
Once we had done everything around the town we went slightly further out to Anne Hathaway’s cottage. Unfortunately because of the time we were there, there were a lot of large student tour groups. However that gave us some time to sit in one of the audio arbors (I think that’s what they were called) and listen to some sonnets whilst we waited. As the cottage was a little crowded and we had to wait at certain parts, this also gave us the time to hear more about the history of the house and of Anne Hathaway and her family. It was a little trick to look round everything because of all the people, but I really enjoyed what I did get to see.
Our last stop of the day was Mary Arden’s farm. It’s a working farm and it was really interesting to see people dressed in Elizabethan farm clothes tending to the animals or making something. I haven’t been to a farm in a while so it was nice t be back on one. While we were there we also caught the archery display which was fun to watch. My highlight of the farm visit was being able to see the different birds of prey, they were very beautiful and more than happy to pose for me to take their photo!
In the evening we ate at Pizza Express, which was great but also really weird because we were sat in the exact same part, and exact same table, as I was when I visited with my school in 2009. By the time we left it was dark and the town looked very pretty in all the lights.
On our last day we stopped off at Warwick Castle on our way home. I had visited the castle once before but couldn’t really remember it at all – so it was like experiencing it for the first time. The castle is beautiful, so many amazing, ornate, rooms. There was so much to look at there, and I loved how each room seemed to have a different colour scheme. In one of the rooms there was a huge painting in a frame which took up most of the wall – it was incredible.
We walked around the grounds and watched the trebuchet display (which wasn’t as impressive as my very hazy memory of it, perhaps my imagination filled in some blanks there). We saw some more birds of prey, this time we saw a bald eagle, named Archie, who was great. We then made our way to the peacock garden where we got to see more beautiful birds but this time they were just wandering around. Just like the birds of prey, they also liked to pose for the camera and we were even lucky enough to see one with his feathers all fanned out.
On our way back to the castle we managed to catch the birds of prey display – which was a lot different to any I had seen before. Instead of just doing the usual flying from the instructor to the post and vice versa, they allowed the birds to fly around the castle, up to the tallest tower and they came back whenever they saw the instructor’s hand reach into their food pouches.
Speaking of the tallest tower, Guy’s Tower, before we left the castle I walked up all 500 steps to reach the top of said tower. Although that day wasn’t as sunny as the others the view was still amazing and worth it – even if my legs nearly gave out as I was making my way back down the spiral staircase.
I absolutely loved my trip and didn’t want to leave. Stratford-upon-Avon is just one of those places that can never bore me, and as soon as I got home I was desperate to go back again. If any of you get the chance to go I strongly recommend taking the opportunity as there’s so much to do and see there.
If any of you have been to Stratford before then I’d love to read a comment about your experience! Also, if you have made it this far, thanks for sticking with me through this long post which took me around an hour to write…!