Top places to celebrate Shakespeare
On 23 April, activities and events will be taking place up and down the country to celebrate Shakespeare Day -- the Bard's birthday. No matter where you are in the UK, you'll be within reach of a key Shakespearean destination -- here are our top five, with great deals available for each:
Charming Stratford-upon-Avon is famous the world over for being William Shakespeare's birthplace, as well as being known for its quaint Tudor architecture, the picturesque River Avon, the stunning surrounding countryside and nearby Warwick Castle. There are five historic properties relating to the playwright in Stratford-upon-Avon, including Shakespeare's Birthplace; Anne Hathaway's Cottage, the home of his wife; Shakespeare's New Place, where he lived as an adult; Hall's Croft, the home of his daughter; and Mary Arden's Farm, where his mother worked and lived.
You can also take in a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre or the Swan Theatre. On 27 April, the company will host a selection of free activities and events to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday, including craft workshops and theatre-making demonstrations, such as classes on stage fighting, vocal warm-ups and stage movement, as well as a special performance of "The Taming of the Shrew".
Alternatively, on 27 April you can join the birthday parade through the town at 10:15am, watch a selection of traditional and contemporary dance performances in the town centre from 11:30am, or take in the Knights & Nymphs Children’s Garden Party -- be sure to come dressed as a knight or a nymph!
The Globe, London
Today's Globe Theatre stands a few hundred yards from the site of the original Globe in Bankside, which was built in 1599 by the Lord Chamberlain's Men, Shakespeare's company of actors.
It was one of the first purpose-built theatres in London, with the opening production thought to have either been "Henry V" or "Julius Caesar". Sadly, in 1613 the theatre burned to the ground after a theatrical cannon misfired and ignited the building.
After being rebuilt in 1614, the theatre was again demolished in 1644 and it wasn't until 1997 that the Globe Theatre was resurrected. The reconstructed polygonal building is a perfect replica of the original, featuring a roofless auditorium, a standing-room-only yard in front of the stage and tiered galleries. There's also the smaller, more intimate Sam Wanamaker Playhouse Jacobean-style indoor theatre, which makes the Globe a year-round theatre.
The Globe's summer season programme for 2019 has been announced, with tickets from £5 for every performance. Plays include "Twelfth Night", "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and others. Why not make a weekend of it and stay in one of the many hotels near The Globe?
Shakespeare’s Way, the heart of England
Shakespeare travelled between Stratford-upon-Avon and London numerous times, and Shakespeare's Way follows the most likely path of his journey. The 146-mile-long route includes existing footpaths, bridleways and minor roads, and was originally set up in 2006 to raise money for the Shakespeare Hospice.
The long-distance walk begins at Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon and winds its way through some of the heart of England's most scenic countryside and best-loved sites. These include beautiful Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill's family home; Oxford, the City of Dreaming Spires; the Grand Union Canal; the River Thames; and Shakespeare's Globe, where the walk ends.
Base yourself at The Bull at Burford, which is 25 minutes' drive from Blenheim Palace.
Perhaps best known as the site of Queen Elizabeth II's country home, Windsor Castle, Windsor is also famous for being the setting of "The Merry Wives of Windsor", the only comedy Shakespeare set in England. The play is set in and around Windsor Forest, which is now part of the royal Windsor Great Park, and features Sir John Falstaff, a down-on-his-luck knight looking to fix his financial difficulties by seducing two wealthy married women. When they discover his treachery, they decide to play a series of hilarious tricks on Falstaff to exact their revenge.
You can visit the play's setting for free -- the Grade I-listed Windsor Great Park is open from dawn to dusk. The park is home to ancient oak trees, sweeping lawns and a scenic route to Windsor Castle, which you can find by following the aptly-named Long Walk. This tree-lined avenue runs the length of the park.
The Macbeth Trail, Scotland
Head to Glamis Castle in Angus, Scotland, to follow the Macbeth Trail, where you'll find intricate sculptures inspired by one of Shakespeare's most famous plays.
Shakespeare based the play's main character on Mac Bethad mac Findlaích, the King of Scots from 1040 until his death in 1057. The real King Macbeth differed greatly from Shakespeare's character, who murdered King Duncan after three witches prophesied that he himself would rule. The Thane of Glamis then becomes a tyrant, killing anyone who threatens his power, until he is overthrown by his former ally, Macduff, and the throne is handed to Duncan's son, Malcolm. Shakespeare's Macbeth resided at Glamis Castle, although the real King Macbeth had no connection to the Category A-listed building. The real King Malcolm was murdered at Glamis Castle in 1034.
It takes 25 minutes to walk along the 700-metre Macbeth Trail, which features seven hand-carved statues made from oak, Douglas fir and noble fir trees. The sculptures include depictions of the play's key characters, including the three witches, King Duncan, Macbeth, Banquo, Lady Macbeth and Macduff.