Help your children bring William Shakespeare to life with a visit to his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon
The best teachers always bring a subject alive. Reading one of Shakespeare’s plays in the classroom has put many a child off its riches and relevancy, be it tragedy or comedy. Taking your kids to the childhood home of The Bard is a great way to fire their imaginations and bolster their knowledge without them even realising you’ve sneakily transformed an English lesson into a short break.
Start with a bang at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, HQ for the RSC. Sitting right on the banks of the Avon River, it’s an impressive building that’s so much more than just a theatre. Before you head to your play, check out ‘The Play’s the Thing’ exhibition which takes families behind the scenes with an up-close look at costumes worn by RSC actors. Children can step inside the mind of a director and perform as Hamlet on a virtual stage.
There’s also a cool rooftop restaurant, cosy bar cafes full of character and a viewing tower looks like a fire station! The current production of Macbeth starring Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack is a great version for kids aged 10 and up that’s easy to follow, fast paced and moving. Kids will engage with the three witches depicted as kids in onesies with dollies. It’s a great introduction to the power of Shakespeare and runs until September 18, 2018. Or how about the passionate version of Romeo & Juliet running until 21 September, 2018?
Just a stroll away from the theatre, you’ll discover Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall which opened as an attraction in 2016 on the exact day of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death.
This is a fabulous place to bring school-age children as it drops them right back in time in a live Tudor school complete with black-robed school master, in the very room Shakespeare would have been taught in. You’ll learn from the master that it was only boys who went to school back then, nor was school compulsory.
Your kids will be horrified to learn that Tudor school days began at 6am with morning prayers and lasted until 5pm. They may be equally horrified to hear that kids were given weak beer to drink, as no one trusted the water. Lessons consisted of Latin, Greek, Roman numerals and religious studies and all ages studied together.
You and your kids can sit at old desks and try your hand at writing with a quill and ink. There’s a fun family trail to take from the Guildhall and Almshouses near the schoolroom which takes you around the town learning about Shakespeare and the many characters he created from Titania to Richard III.
Other great attractions include Shakespeare’s Birthplace and New Place, the site of his family home for 19 years of his life. A 10-minute drive away is Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, a beautifully preserved thatched cottage which was in Shakespeare’s wife’s family for 13 generations.
You can walk through the house with the same flagstones on the floor that Shakespeare and Anne would have trodden on and hear the rather racy story about how Anne was 26 and William just 18 when they discovered she was pregnant out of wedlock.
Kids are sure to come away with much more rounded picture of William Shakespeare as a real man, not just a historic figure.
Where to stay
Stay just out of town at the friendly Stratford Manor which has interconnecting rooms for families, milkshake tokens and colouring packs for kids on arrival and a decent sized indoor swimming pool for families to splash in after a day of sightseeing. There’s also a small spa for mums and dads to treat themselves to a treatment. Kids will love the colourful Shakespeare Restaurant with children’s menus at dinner and a fabulous buffet spread for breakfast where they can help themselves to all sorts of treats if parents allow! Doubles from £120 with breakfast.
What to see and do
For tickets to Shakespeare related attractions go to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and save 10% on ticket prices.
Book tickets to see RSC productions at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Macbeth costs from £10 per person.
Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall costs £7.20 per adult, £4.50 per child.
‘Stay Play Explore Warwickshire’ was launched to celebrate the range of visitor attractions and experiences in the area. It offers a choice of three from 11 top-class visitor attractions in Stratford and Warwick, plus one night’s accommodation with breakfast in a local 4-star hotel for just £185 for a family of four.
Stratford River Festival
30 June – 1 July, 2018
This free community-spirited festival held in Stratford-upon-Avon features entertainment and events both on and off the river. There will be live music and dance, local ales, an artisan craft market and a spectacular illuminated parade of boats and a grand firework display. And of course, the festival can be combined with the town’s most famous attractions such as Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall.