Walking Tour of Stratford-upon-Avon, England
Stratford-on-Avon, a lovely town at the southern end of the Cotswold is perhaps the most important of the villages and, of course, famous as the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Everything in the town is about “The Bard”, including the beautiful Hathaway Cottage where Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, lived. Parking in town is very difficult, with numerous restrictions, and the area is extremely crowded with tourists for much of the year, but it is certainly worthy of a morning or afternoon, especially for fans of Shakespeare.
My walk begins at the Town Hall, located at the junction of High, Chapel, Ely, and Sheep Streets. The Town Hall was built in 1767. Walk north on High Street to see an excellent example of an Elizabethan town house. Harvard House, on your left, is now owned by the prestigious American university, a fitting development since it was once the residence of the mother of John Harvard, the school’s founder.
At the next intersection, bear left on Henley Street, which leads to Shakespeare’s Birthplace, the most popular attraction in town. It is filled with memorabilia of The Bard, as well as period furnishings.
Exit the house and then retrace your steps on Henley Street. Bear left onto Bridge Street, and then turn right on Waterside Street, which brings you to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Its season runs from November to September, so try to obtain tickets prior to your arrival in town. The Swan Theatre, next door, is designed more like an Elizabethan theater, but has a more limited schedule. The Other Place, a bit further along, is more of a workshop/experimental-type venue.
Continue south along the River Avon and onto Trinity Street, which leads to Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare and some of his family are buried. Records of his birth and death can be found in the parish register, while a bust of playwright, done shortly after his death, is located near the tomb.
Now, walk back down Trinity Street, and then turn left onto Old Town Street. Hall’s Croft, former residence of Shakespeare’s son-in-law, Dr. John Hall and Susanna, Shakespeare’s daughter, is on the right side of the street. The beautiful Tudor home is furnished as it might have looked in the early 1600’s.
Continue west on Old Town Street, which becomes Chestnut Walk, and then turn left onto Evasham Place. Follow this road for about a mile to reach Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, where Shakespeare’s wife resided before their marriage. It is one of the most photographed houses in England, with its classic thatch roof and beautiful gardens.
Now return to Stratford by retracing your steps. When you reach Scholar’s Lane, turn right, and then turn left on Chapel Street. On your right is Nash’s House, built over the site of New Place, where Shakespeare died in 1616. The gardens of original home remain, and contain a mulberry tree, believed to be derived from Shakespeare’s own tree. Continue to the end of the block to return to the Town Hall, where your walk began.