Stratford Tours from London

By Viator, February 2014

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In the late 16th century, an alderman’s son and aspiring writer and actor headed out from his small Warwickshire market town in search of fame in Elizabethan London. It’s the kind of journey made by many provincial artists, but none has ever enjoyed renown quite of this one: William Shakespeare.

Widely recognized as the greatest writer in the English language, if not in the entire history of literature, Shakespeare made his name with popular entertainments which provoked laughter, cheers and sometimes tears from raucous London crowds. But behind the dazzling wordplay and ingenious plots were insights into the human condition which have never been improved upon.

The 100-mile (160 kilometer) journey to the playwright’s hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon, is a lot quicker than it was in Shakespeare’s time. Traveling north-west from the British capital, you pass through gentle Home Counties countryside before arriving in the world’s premier site of literary pilgrimage. The stages of the bard’s life are marked in the half-timbered streetscapes of the town, left much as Shakespeare would have known it. The house where he was born, the grammar school he attended and the church where he was buried are all here, as is the charming thatched cottage where his wife Anne Hathaway grew up.

Much of Stratford-upon-Avon can be covered on foot, or you can take the convenient Hop On-Hop Off bus which does regular circuits of the town’s major sights. But it’s not all museums and reverence; the Bard’s immortal words ring out in contemporary productions at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, right on the River Avon. A huge range of acting styles and artistic approaches testify to the inexhaustible richness of Shakespeare’s texts.

Stratford-upon-Avon is also ideally located to incorporate other renowned sites of natural beauty and historic interest into a longer tour. Further up the River Avon is mighty Warwick Castle, while the stunning landscape of the Cotswolds lies to Stratford’s west, boasting the elegant Georgian city of Bath among its standout attractions.

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