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This is Stratford-upon-Avon in 48 hours...

Day One

09:00  Breakfast like a king by feasting on Danish pastries, smoked salmon, eggs benedict or a full English at the uber-chic Bensons Restaurant (bensonsrestaurant.com). The posh cafe also does an award-winning afternoon tea so it’s worth returning to later if you get a craving for scones and clotted cream.

10:00  Unravel the myths of where Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway at a thought-provoking new exhibition And Thereby Hangs A Tale at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (shakespeare.org.uk), which is on until January 29. The playwright’s wedding was a social drama when it took place in 1582 because William, 18, was below the age of consent and Anne, eight years his senior, was already pregnant with his child. The age difference and the fact that Anne was pregnant out of wedlock has been the topic of much historical debate. Once you’ve checked out the exhibition, tour the picturesque thatched farmhouse, once Anne’s family home where Shakespeare courted his future bride. Admission is £7.50.

12:30  Follow in the star-studded footsteps of thespians such as Laurence Olivier and Richard Burton by stopping for lunch at atmospheric watering hole The Dirty Duck (dirtyduck-pub-stratford-upon-avon.co.uk), which enjoys an attractive riverside location. Expect traditional British fare, such as cod and chips, and a ploughman’s platter. Enjoy a drink in the Actors Bar where you can see photos of the stars who have drunk here over the years.

14:00  Get a glimpse into the early life of England’s most famous wordsmith at the town’s number-one attraction, Shakespeare’s Birthplace (shakespeare.org.uk). As well as growing up in the house, Shakespeare spent the first five years of married life here. A host of literary luminaries have visited the home during the past 250 years, including Charles Dickens, John Keats, Walter Scott and Thomas Hardy. Expect tourists galore year-round at this theme park-style attraction for cultured types. Admission from £12.50.

17:30  Treat yourself to a good feed at unpretentious eatery The Vintner Cafe (the-vintner.co.uk) where top-notch dishes include surf & turf and rump steak with king prawns.

19:15  See one of the Bard’s greatest works by taking in one of his plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company (rsc.org.uk), recently treated to a £113 million facelift that means that the distance between the back row and the stage has now halved. The theatre still has many of its gorgeous original features, such as its art deco bar and stone staircase. Currently showing is Macbeth, The Merchant Of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ticket prices range from £14 to £58, depending on where you’d like to sit and when you want to visit. Go midweek or to a Saturday matinee for the cheapest tickets.

23:00  Get spooked by spending the night at the creepy Ettington Park Hotel (handpickedhotels.co.uk), a neo-Gothic mansion six miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, where ghosts and ghouls are said to go bump in the night. Featured in 1963 horror The Haunting, the hotel’s site has been a centre of human habitation for more than 2000 years. Double rooms cost from £125 per night.

Day Two

10:00  Ditch the Bard for butterflies at Stratford Butterfly Farm (butterflyfarm.co.uk), a lush indoor landscape of waterfalls and fish-filled pools that’s flush with hundreds of the exotic insects, as well as scorpions
and spiders. It’s the largest of its kind in Europe. Admission is £6.25.

12:00  If you’re still itching to see more Shakespearean attractions, swing by Mary Arden’s Farm (shakespeare.org.uk) where the playwright’s mother grew up. Experience the daily routine and skills that the young Wills would have known in the 1570s. Get stuck into tasks such as threshing and breadmaking, while soaking up the sights and sounds of an authentic Tudor farm. Admission is £9.50.

13:00  Grab a tasty yet affordable lunch at popular English brasserie Edward Moon (edwardmoon.com). Mains include lamb shank, beef bourguignon and wild mushroom risotto.

14:00  Round up your weekend by visiting the Holy Trinity Church (stratford-upon-avon.org) where Shakespeare was baptised and buried. Prettily set on the banks of the River Avon, you can see the graves of the Bard, his wife, his daughter Suzanna and son-in-law Dr John Hall.

15:00  If you have time before heading home, drop by the medieval Warwick Castle (warwick-castle.com). Admission is £29.40.

For tourist information: Shakespeare-Country.co.uk Take a train from London Marylebone to Stratford-upon-Avon from £25 return (2h12mins) with Chiltern Railways: chilternrailways.co.uk.

- Janine Kelso


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A weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon: What to do
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