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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The English midlands town of Stratford-Upon-Avon in Warwickshire is postcard pretty. The market town, which sits on the tree-lined River Avon, dates to medieval times, and was a busy ford in Roman and Saxon times. It is steeped in history and is probably best known for being the place where William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and died in 1616.

He married Anne Hathaway but left her to become an actor in London, performing at famous venues such as The Rose and The Globe. While he was considered to be first-rate on stage, it is his penmanship that has achieved lasting fame and admiration. His 37 plays, as well as poems and sonnets, are said to be the finest ever written, in any language.

Stratford's history reflects the growth of the poet's reputation after his death. It grew even more after the actor David Garrick formed the Shakespearian Festival in 1769.

Shakespeare's birth home on Henley Street was almost entirely reconstructed in the 19th century in the Tudor style. It is typical of the time, in that half of the home was used for the family business, which in Shakespeare's case, was glove making and tanning.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage in Shottery is still standing, despite fire damage in 1969. It was fully restored and contains original 16th century furniture. Hathaway descendents lived there until the early 20th century. Its 12 rooms have changed little and the charming cottage with its thatched roof is most attractive.

Shakespeare was baptised and buried in the Holy Trinity Church, one of England's most beautiful and frequently visited.

A church on the banks of the Avon in Stratford is first mentioned in the charter of 845. It would have been a wooden construction, most likely replaced by a stone building by the Normans. Construction of the present cross-shaped limestone building began in 1210. The porch was added in 1500. Above it is a room reached by a narrow spiral staircase. The small door, which has a sanctuary knocker, admits just one person at a time. It gave fugitives from justice 37 safety days before facing trial.

Holy Trinity Church is reached by an avenue of lime trees, believed to represent the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles.

Halls Croft is an impressive 16th century house with Jacobean additions, outstanding furniture and paintings and a medicine exhibition. It is named after Dr John Hall, the husband of Shakespeare's favourite daughter, Susanna. It has a peaceful garden and a wonderful 200-year-old mulberry tree.

Nash's House and New Place was owned by Thomas Nash, first husband of Shakespeare's granddaughter, Elizabeth. It has a fine collection of Elizabethan furniture, tapestries and a fascinating display of Stratford's history.

There are walking and bus tours around Stratford, but a Bancroft Cruisers boat trip from the Moat House Hotel Wharf is a great way to spend half an hour. Barbecue and cream tea cruises can be arranged.

The Macdonald Shakespeare Hotel is in the Tudor-style with a black and white gabled façade. It has 74 rooms, each named after a character from a Shakespeare play. The restaurant is named after Garrick and is a cosy place with a wide selection on the menu. The oak-beamed Quill Bar and Lounge is the perfect place for relaxing with a drink. It is cool in summer and warmed in winter by large log fires.


Queensland's Gold Coast Hinterland.


Macdonald Shakespeare rooms start at $325 a night, including breakfast.
Virgin Atlantic has flights to London. Fares include taxes, fees and surcharges and conditions apply.
  • Melbourne $2240
  • Brisbane $2243
  • Adelaide $2252

Valid for travel between February 25-March 24, 2006.
Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

More information

The Parish Office
Holy Trinity Church
Old Town
United Kingdom CV37 6BG
Ph: 44 1789 26 6316

Bancroft Cruisers
Moat House Stratford
Stratford-upon- Avon
United Kingdom CV37 6YR
Ph: 44 1789 26 9669

Macdonald Shakespeare Hotel
Stratford-Upon-Avon CV37 6ER
Ph: 0870 400 8182

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