It’s a writer’s bucket list staple, isn’t it? A visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare, the greatest playwright and poet in the history of the universe.
It was certainly on mine, and its inclusion in the list of literary tours offered on the History, Mystery and Magic writing retreat I attended in September 2014 was a major drawcard. (You can read more posts about this retreat here.)
We’d spent the morning learning about the importance of research with our teacher and tour director Kate Forsyth before tumbling onto our magical literary tour bus. First stop, Anne Hathaway’s cottage in the village of Shottery, Warwickshire. This beautiful house is where Shakespeare courted his future bride, Anne Hathaway. Back then it was known as Hewlands Farm, and had more than 90 acres of land attached to it. The house itself was built before the fifteenth century while the higher parts date from the 1600s.
We had a lovely wander around the gardens and the house, soaking up the beautiful sunshine and the history.
Next stop, Palmer’s Farm, in the village of Wilmcote. This farmhouse is where Mary Arden, Shakespeare’s mother, grew up. After that, it was off to Stratford.
More than 200,000 visitors come to The Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon each year. It is Stratford’s oldest building, and was built in the 1200s upon the site of a Saxon monastery.
William Shakespeare was baptised in Holy Trinity on 26 April 1564 and buried there in a 15th century chancel on 25 April 1616. His funerary monument is on the wall alongside his resting place.
His epitaph is more a warning against exhumation:
GOOD FRIEND FOR JESUS SAKE FOREBEAR,
TO DIGG THE DVST ENCLOSED HERE.
BLESTE BE YE MAN YT SPARES THESE STONES,
AND CURSED BE HE YT MOVES MY BONES.
To finish our jaunt through Shakespeare Country, we stopped at his birthplace, a restored 16th century half-timbered house in Henley Street.
For me, the highlight of Shakespeare Country was Holy Trinity. 200, 000 other visitors each year aside, I was suitably awed and impressed by both the beauty of the church and my own proximity to what remains of Shakespeare’s legend.
Consider that item on the bucket list resoundingly ticked.