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An idyllic British town on the river and the birthplace of William Shakespeare

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Stratford-upon-Avon is an idyllic British town on the river, not far from Birmingham in the English Midlands. For many years now, it has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
It was founded in Anglo-Saxon times, slowly growing in size through the 7th and 8th centuries. The name comes from the old English words for "street" and "ford" - meaning that this was a main transport route for crossing the river. It began as a market town, which served many travellers or traders, who would stay for a few nights, before moving on to their destinations.
In later years, it was known as a centre for sheep farming, and wool production. The town continued to grow - but in the 16th century, something happened which would cause Stratford-upon-Avon to become well-known for a different reason. At the time, one of the leading members of the town's council was a man called John Shakespeare. In 1564, his wife gave birth to a son, who was given the name William. The boy grew up to become one of the most famous Englishmen ever to have lived.
Today, visitors to the town can follow the course of Shakespeare's life from beginning to end. The first sight is his birthplace, a traditional townhouse, surrounded by flowers and gardens. This was the family home, so young William spent much of his early days here. The house has been restored to its original 16th century look, with appropriate decorations and furniture.
The next big milestone in the playwright's life lies around a mile out of town, in a tiny village called Shottery. There is a charming cottage here, which was home to the family of Anne Hathaway, - who later became Shakespeare's wife. He would have made frequent visits here over the years.
The main attraction in Stratford-upon-Avon though, relates to William's accomplishments in theatre. This is the home of the renowned Royal Shakespeare Company, which puts on an ever-changing programme of plays throughout the year. There are several venues in the town, ranging from the small and intimate, to the full-sized Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which stands on the bank of the river.
As William's career began to take off, he relocated to London. But years later, towards the end of his life, he moved back home, to spend his final years in the town of his birth. Admirers can visit his grave at Holy Trinity church, to pay their respects.
Seeing the major sights from Shakespeare's life is the main reason to visit Stratford-upon-Avon, but there is still a lot more to see. The town has a lot of old preserved buildings, as well as a market, and great views along the river. There are also several haunted buildings here, which can be explored late at night by lamp-light!
In addition, the surrounding area is filled with other great sights, making Stratford-upon-Avon a good base, from which to explore such places as Warwick, with its castle, or the rolling hills of the Cotswolds.
Visitor Information
Stratford-upon-Avon Tourist Information Centre, 62 Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 6PT. Tel: 01789 264293
Shakespeare’s Birthplace is open daily, from 9am to 5pm (10am to 4pm Winter). Entry cost around £12.50 for adults, £8 children. Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6QW Tel: 01789 204 016
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is open daily, from 9am to 5pm (10am to 4pm Winter). Entry cost around £7.50 for adults, £4.50 children. Cottage Lane, Shottery, Stratford-upon-Avon. CV37 9HH. Tel: 01789 292 100

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