NEED to recharge your batteries and unwind for a few days - then why not indulge in a relaxing short break to Stratford upon Avon - one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK?
Set in beautiful Warwickshire countryside on the banks of the River Avon, it is famed as the birthplace of William Shakespeare and contains a wealth of historic buildings linked to Shakespeare, theatres and entertainment venues.
It is also home to The Royal Shakespeare Company which is celebrating two major milestones this year - it’s 50th birthday and the £112.8 million transformation of The Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
We recently stayed for two nights at the four star Stratford Manor, one of 21 award-winning QHotels, which is just five minutes from Stratford centre and three miles from the M40.
Standing within 21 acres of grounds, the hotel is renowned for its multi-functional conference facilities, and offers 104 beautifully appointed bedrooms and a swimming pool.
Checking into the hotel very late Friday afternoon, we decided to first pay a visit to Stratford upon Avon Butterfly Farm - a landscaped tropical greenhouse filled with exotic rainforest plants and hundreds of the world’s most spectacular and colourful butterflies.
The next morning we discovered that Stratford Manor serves a hearty buffet breakfast, there was plenty to tempt everyone from the usual bacon and eggs to a variety of fresh fruits, cheeses, yoghurt, cereals and delicious flaky pastries.
Wanting to take it easy and relax by not doing too much driving and appreciate the unexpected good weather, my husband and I decided to concentrate our efforts on visiting some of the attractions in Stratford that were within walking distance of each other.
Our first point of call was the Falstaff Experience’s Tudor World, an award-winning museum of Tudor life. Set within one of Stratford’s most historic buildings, it has documented connections to Shakespeare and is reputed to be one of England’s most haunted buildings. We managed to walk around the building alone without bumping into any ghosts, but then again I did ask my husband if there was somebody behind him in the darkness as I’d definitely heard footsteps and there was nobody there!
Next we made our way to Hall’s Croft, the 17th century home of Shakespeare’s eldest daughter, Susanna, and her husband Dr John Hall which is one of several owned by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, an independent charity founded in 1847 which cares for five Shakespeare Houses.
After lunch and a beer at the picturesque The Dirty Duck restaurant and bar we were given a guided tour of Nash’s House and New Place where Shakespeare died in 1616.
Receiving many thousands of visitors each year due to William Shakespeare being baptised and buried there, we walked the short distance to Shakespeare’s grave at Holy Trinity Church which is set along the banks of the River Avon.
After a walk in the park, and quick look round a nearby antiques centre and some of the town centre shops, we decided to end our day with a gentle 45 minute cruise along the River Avon with Bancroft Cruisers, and were entertained by their very informative young river boat guide Romeo who was pleased to tell us he came from Transylvania!
n Visit the website at www.Shakespeare-Country.co.uk or call 01926 471329.