|Perhaps one of the most picturesque of the Cotswold villages is Arlington Row in Bibury. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Warwickshire and nearby Gloucestershire in the southeast of England are renowned not only for their literary connections but the area's idyllic beauty of rural countryside and quintessentially English sights from "chocolate-box" villages and English gardens to formidable medieval castles and cobblestone streets. Many of you know Stratford upon Avon as the home of the literary giant William Shakespeare, and as such, you will be spoiled once you arrive in this enchanting place. However, there is so much more to see in the surrounding villages as well! Let’s take a look at what to see and do in Shakespeare country today.
|Picturesque Cotswold village of Castle Combe. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare’s Birthplace
|Stratford-upon-Avon—birthplace of William Shakespeare. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
One such place is undoubtedly Shakespeare’s actual home, Stratford-upon-Avon. Henley Street is where he was born in 1564 and spent his childhood years. Managed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and visited by Charles Dickens and Lord Byron, Shakespeare’s birthplace home and gardens are authentically recreated just as they would have appeared back in the 16th century.
Be sure to stroll down the cobbled streets lined with black and white Tudor houses of Stratford, see a Shakespeare play or two at the Stratford Theatre, and even take a long walk along the river while you’re here.
Exploring the local villages
|The charming medieval streets of Stow On The Wold in England. Photo: Wenno.|
For it was not Stratford alone that inspired Shakespeare as you will discover when you head south to the medieval Cotswold village of Stow On The Wold—a charming market town replete with town square, historic inns and country walks just five minutes behind the centre, plus a fascinating history of the role it played in the Cotswold wool industry with its annual wool fairs that started in the 14th century.
Perhaps it was Chipping Campden, another significant player in the wool industry, with its rolling hills and picturesque landscapes that inspired him and other literary greats including Tolkien. Bourton on the Water, just 15 minutes from Stow, is often called "Little Venice" for its picturesque landscapes and low-lying bridges along the river Windrush. Don't miss Model Village, a fascinating 1/9th-scale replica of Bourton. Once you've visited the Cotswolds, it's easy to understand why so many artists and writers were and are inspired by such beauty.
|Also known as "Little Venice," Bourton on the Water beckons to artists and tourists alike. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
A journey to Medieval times
|The medieval Warwick Castle was designed by William the Conqueror himself. Photo: ShelbyPoppit.|
The glorious countryside around Stratford is home to historical sites as well. If you're a Medieval history buff like me, then a trip to Warwickshire would not be complete without visiting Warwick Castle. This imposing fortress has a fascinating history that dates back to 1068 when William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a "motte and bailey" castle which included a large earthen mound surrounded by a wooden stockade. Two hundred years later, the wooden castle was replaced by stone and the 14th century saw the construction of two towers: Caesar's Tower and Guy's Tower, plus the dungeon. Once you're here, tour the castle dungeons, immerse yourself into the interactive attraction "Merlin: The Dragon Tower" based on the popular TV series, your little princess with love the Princess Tower, walk along the endless battlements and even witness a jousting tournament. There's a fascinating history here so be sure to visit Warwick-Castle.com.
History, literature and sublime scenery come together in this beautiful English countryside. You may find yourself drawn here for your love of Shakespeare or simply spellbound by the enchanting beauty of the landscape; maybe enough to write a sonnet or two of your own...
This article was produced in partnership with Smartsave.com/Shakespeare.