Stratford Upon Avon is what we Brits call "a chocolate box" English city. Old country cottages, manicured green lawns and picturesque churches, just like a dream village on the cover of an old style chocolate box.
Stratford, with its Anglo-Saxon origins, grew up as a market town in Medieval times. The Avon canal wends its way calmly through the city, creating picnic places and stop off points galore. The name of the town derives from the olde English name for the street that fords the river in what is now the town's center.
Bordered by weeping willows and leafy trees, with pretty thatched cottages nestled on the edge of green recreation fields, the city cries out to be photographed. In fact, if it weren't for the millions of tourists that visit the place every year, and the modern dwellers of Stratford Upon Avon, you could blink and believe you were back in Shakespeare's time.
Thatched Cottages Stratford Upon Avon — Photo courtesy of Elliott Brown @Ell Brown on Flickr
That said, Stratford also has a modern part to it, and all the positives and negatives of a small English town. Tourism is, of course, its main industry, as the town can claim to be the birthplace, baptism and final resting place of one whom many consider the world's greatest playwright.
Holy Trinity Church — Photo courtesy of Elliott Brown @Ell Brown on Flickr
That person is, of course, the writer and poet William Shakespeare, who was born in 1564 and died 1616.
As well as visiting the various houses and buildings related to Shakespeare in town, you can also go and see one of his plays staged at not just one, but any of three theatres owned and run by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Royal Shakespeare Theatre — Photo courtesy of Elliott Brown @Ell Brown on Flickr
There are several ways to visit the town, by train, bus or car from London, for a day trip; arriving by narrow boat on the Kennet and Avon canal, as part of a longer holiday, exploring Britain's waterways and quiet market towns; or come and stay in the area for a few days and have a mini break out of London.
Stratford upon Avon itself lies just over 100 miles north west of London, not far from Birmingham and the so called Midlands. This is glorious countryside, green rolling hills, and pretty hamlets. As well as being famous for Shakespeare, Stratford still holds a Mop Fair every year in early October. Originally these were for domestic servants to find new employment, but nowadays they've become an excuse for a fairground and lots of rides to visit town. Stratford upon Avon is in the county of Warwickshire which is nestled near the pretty Cotswolds, home to many a star these days, including the singer Lily Allen, and the actress and model Elizabeth Hurley.
Stained Glass Window, Holy Trinity Church — Photo courtesy of Elliott Brown @Ell Brown on Flickr
Once in the town, it's easy to get around, as there are plenty of signs, an open top bus tour, and a tourist information in the heart of the place. No visit to Stratford would be complete without a visit to Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway's cute cottage in Shottery.
Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Stratford Upon Avon — Photo courtesy of Elliott Brown @Ell Brown on Flickr
All curated by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, other buildings which are significant are of course, Shakespeare's own property, New Place, where he died, and his mother Mary Arden's family's property, Palmer's Farm. Holy Trinity Church is another must see, with an imposing stained glass window and the site of Shakespeare's grave.
Rose and Crown Pub — Photo courtesy of Elliott Brown @Ell Brown on Flickr
It's worth giving yourself a bit of time here, to take in a play and spend some time wandering round the town and perhaps stay one night, but then try to explore some lesser known, and equally pretty surrounding countryside towns, to get away from the tourist trail and allow yourself to take in the beauty and history that you've just seen.