Celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday this week with Laura French’s pick of locations that inspired him.
The birthplace of the Bard needs little preface, and from catching a play by the Royal Shakespeare Company to exploring the timber-framed house where the playwright spent his childhood – now home to rare artefacts and costumed guides – visitors aren’t short of things to do. Other key sights include Anne Hathaway’s cottage, where Shakespeare courted his wife-to-be, and Holy Trinity Church, where visitors can see his resting place.
Book it: Just Go! Holidays offers a three-night break combining Stratford-upon-Avon with the Cotswolds from £169 per person, including two excursions and based on two sharing half-board.
It was in Windsor that Shakespeare wrote his only play set entirely in England, The Merry Wives of Windsor. The play references several sites visitors can explore today, including The Garter Inn – now the site of the Harte & Garter hotel, whose windows depict the main characters – and Windsor Castle, where Queen Victoria had several of Shakespeare’s plays performed and whose Royal Library houses the first three Folios (original printed collections) of his works.
Book it: Fairmont Windsor Park is due to open this summer on the edge of Windsor Great Park, with room-only rates from £375 for a Fairmont King room.
“There is a cliff, whose high and bending head looks fearfully on the confined deep,” says the Earl of Gloucester in King Lear, as he stands above the Dover cliffs, intending to throw himself off. Shakespeare is believed to have been a frequent visitor to Dover, and tourists today can explore Shakespeare Cliff, said to have inspired the passage, to see the views he gazed upon more than 400 years ago.
Book it: Viator offers a Canterbury and Dover Day Tour from London from £109.
4. Scottish Highlands
Glamis Castle and Cawdor Castle are both associated with the Scottish play, but it’s at Inverness Castle that Macbeth murders King Duncan. Trafalgar passes all three on its Scotland’s Highlands, Islands and Cities trip, with a guided tour of Glamis – once the home of the Queen Mother and birthplace of Princess Margaret – and dinner at a country pub in the village of Cawdor, giving guests a glimpse of the sights that caught the playwright’s imagination.
Book it: Trafalgar’s 13-day tour costs from £2,412, including accommodation, some meals, guide and transport.
No list would be complete without a nod to the capital, where Shakespeare lived from around 1585 to 1612. The reconstructed Globe Theatre recreates the intimacy of plays in his heyday with tickets to stand up close in the Yard or sit in the gallery. Elsewhere, visitors can check out the remains of the Rose Playhouse, where Henry VI and Titus Andronicus premiered; see the excavated site of the original Globe; and stop by The George Inn, where Shakespeare is said to have been a regular.
Book it: Hilton London Bankside is a five-minute walk from The Globe and offers rooms from £131.
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