The centre of Stratford-upon-Avon is packed with Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture and history that recall the life of the world’s most famous writer, William Shakespeare. This article shows you how to spend one day in Stratford-upon-Avon, exploring the town and its connections to the bard.
We start the walk in Henley Street near the centre of the town. On the left is the Shakespeare Centre. It is the entrance to a museum about Shakespeare’s life and to Shakespeare’s Birthplace.
You’ll visit the first floor room where he was born (on 23 April 1564), the family rooms, kitchen and gardens. Also see Shakespeare’s bedroom – and its original window. Etched into the glass are signatures of previous visitors, including Henry Irving and Ellen Terry – the two greats of Shakespearean acting in the Victorian era.
After visiting the birthplace, turn right into the High Street at the roundabout, passing the former Market House with its clock tower (1821) on the right at the end of Wood Street. Judith Shakespeare, the poet’s daughter (born in 1585), lived in a house opposite the Bridge Street corner.
Further along High Street is Harvard House, on the right hand side. Built by Thomas Rogers in 1595, his daughter married Robert Harvard of Southwark (London) – and their son founded the American university. The adjoining Garrick Inn (with its jettied stories) claims to date from the 1450’s, making it the oldest pub in Stratford.
Continue ahead and pass Sheep Street and the Town Hall (from 1767) on your left hand side. Entering Chapel Street, continue to Nash’s House, the last building before Chapel Lane. Here was the home of Thomas Nash, who married Elizabeth Hall, Shakespeare’s granddaughter. Right next door was the home of Shakespeare from 1610 to his death on 23 April 1616. It is called New Place and stands on the corner of Chapel Street and Chapel Lane. Sadly, all that remains are the intricate Knot and herb gardens, but well worth a visit. (Your ticket to Shakespeare’s Birthplace includes free entrance to four other homes in and around Stratford, including Anne Hathaway’s cottage and Mary Arden’s (Shakespeare’s mother) farm).
Continue ahead into Church Street and pass the Guild Chapel and King Edward VI School. Shakespeare attended the grammar school run by the Guild in the upper floor of the 15th Century half-timbered building facing Chapel Street. You can visit the schoolroom, where Shakespeare was taught, and receive a short lesson about the school. Almshouses of the same period come after the school.
Turn left at the end of Church Street into Old Town. You will soon come across Hall’s Croft on the left. This was home to John Hall, a physician, who married Susanna (Shakespeare’s elder daughter) in 1607. It is a Jacobean style house with fabulous period interiors – a step up from the more humble childhood home of Shakespeare in Henley Street.
At the end of Old Town, enter the grounds of Holy Trinity Church. Shakespeare is buried in the church, along with Anne Hathaway and members of the family. It’s moving to stand only three feet from Shakespeare’s tomb. Also see the memorial bust of Shakespeare up to the left of the tomb. When you leave the church, walk through the churchyard towards the river Avon and follow the river back towards the town centre. Pass the Other Place theatre and reach the Black Swan Inn.
Opposite are The Swan and Royal Shakespeare Theatres. Take the lift to the top of the Royal Shakespeare theatre where there is a modern café and restaurant with views out over Stratford and the River Avon.
After the theatre, head to the fountain, cross the footbridge over the Canal basin and turn left. Reach the famous Gower Memorial, where characters (Hamlet, Prince Hal, Lady Macbeath and Falstaff) surround a statue of Shakespeare. Finally, walk up Bridge Street bearing to the right into Henley Street and the starting point of the walk.