After the sunshine yesterday, it seemed too good to be true that the weather would hold out for the rest of the weekend. Sure enough the clouds rolled in, but in a town with as many teahouses and pubs as Stratford-upon-Avon, that just means more opportunities to try the town’s local joints.
First things first though, we needed to earn our afternoon tea and cake, and so we headed to Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare and his family are buried at the altar. In Tudor times rich citizens could pay for a decent grave plot inside the church, but over time as the church’s bodies built up they would dig up the bones and store them in a charnel house. Shakespeare wasn’t only a master of the English language though, he was also a dab hand at business and ensured no one would part him with his expensive grave by inscribing a curse condemning anyone who disturbs his bones to a lifetime of bad luck.
After seeing his tombstone, it seemed only right (poetic even, which I think Shakespeare would appreciate) to see his birthplace.
The house originally belonged to his father, John Shakespeare, but it was bequeathed to William and his father’s death. With Willy having already made his riches and living quite comfortably elsewhere, he turned the place into a tavern. After the property was bought in the 1900s however, it was refurbished to display its dual use as Shakespeare’s childhood home and its tavern days.
It’s highly unlikely Shakespeare penned any of his works from this desk, but hey, my inner writer can dream!
Outside there is a makeshift tavern, with actors playing traditional instruments and strongly encouraging you to learn Tudor dance steps.
Just next door to Shakespeare’s birthplace is one of Stratford-upon-Avon’s best coffeehouses, Box Brownie Coffee. Their brownies are arguably the best in Stratford, and their coffee strong – just the thing to perk you up in the afternoon.
With our brains full to bursting with Shakespeare facts and the rain only pouring harder outside, we decided the next course of action was to find indoor entertainment that had nothing to do with Shakespeare. Luckily Stratford-upon-Avon had just the place: the Butterfly Farm.
The Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm is the largest tropical butterfly farm in the UK, with specimens flown in regularly from South America. Inside, you’re free to wander and watch (but not touch!) the butterflies around the makeshift tropical forest. Even if you can’t touch them, there’s no saying they won’t land on you!
With the rain still unrelenting, we ran to Stratford-upon-Avon’s quirkest teahouse – The Fourteas.
The entire place is decked out in a ration-style, ‘make do and mend’ theme. Don’t let the theme fool you though, the desserts and teas are the one thing that has been left to modern-day standards, with an extensive tea menu, and the cake offerings regularly changing. On a side note, if those of your party don’t fancy tea, the Fourteas also serves wine and beer.
Having licked the plates clean and sucked every last drop out of the teapot, it was time to depart for our last excursion of the trip – a ghost tour at Tudorworld. Given it was the last item on our itinerary, we wanted to do it in style, and as they say, ‘When in Rome….’.
Once a tavern that was frequented by William Shakespeare, today it is a kitschy museum dedicated to the weird and wonderful history of the Tudor times. At night though, its spooky side comes out and ghost tours are taken throughout the building. Numerous paranormal sightings and investigations have been held here, with stories of the ghosts of a little pickpocketing girl, a murderer and even the owner frequently reported. Unfortunately we didn’t see any ghosties, but given how big and clumsy the skirt of my dress was, perhaps it was just as well.