Honour the world’s greatest writer: Stratford-upon-Avon is William Shakespeare’s hometown, and you truly can see his whole life here – from birth to death. Start at Shakespeare’s birthplace, a restored Tudor house on Henley Street, and finish at his grave in the Holy Trinity Church, where his haunting epitaph reads: 'cursed be he that moves my bones'.
Meet Shakespeare’s family: Well, not quite, but you can see where they lived. Visit Mary Arden’s Farm, a family-friendly working farm that was his mother’s childhood home. Or enjoy the medical exhibitions and herb gardens at Hall’s Croft, the Jacobean home of his daughter and her physician husband. Perhaps most beautiful of them all is Anne Hathaway's Cottage, a picturesque thatched cottage where his wife lived before their marriage.
Take a cruise: the slow-flowing River Avon is perfect for relaxing boat rides; with over three miles to explore, you won’t get bored. You can opt for a guided cruise or rent a rowing boat and traverse the river at your own pace.
Visit the new New Place: Reopening in summer 2016, New Place is the house in which Shakespeare lived for the last 19 years of his life, and where he wrote most of his later plays, including The Tempest. In its new restoration, you can walk in his footsteps, see rare artefacts from his life and visit his garden.
Watch a play: Contrary to what the name might suggest, the world-renowned Royal Shakespeare Company doesn’t only do Shakespeare. They are recognised as the best interpreters of the Bard’s work, but they also produce plays by Shakespeare’s contemporaries and commission new work from some of the UK’s best playwrights. British acting legends like Lawrence Olivier and Judi Dench have graced their three stages.
Go a bit mad: Turn handles, twist knobs and push buttons at the Museum of Mechanical Art and Design or the Mad Museum, dedicated to kinetic art and automata. The whirling, rolling and rattling will illuminate your imagination, and you can take some of the magic home from the museum gift shop.
Make friends with the butterflies: The enormous greenhouse at Stratford Butterfly Farm houses over 250 different species from over 20 countries – the largest display of tropical butterflies in the UK. You’ll feel like it’s summer just by looking at them.
Time travel to Victorian England: Only four miles east of Stratford-upon-Avon is Charlecote Park, a 12th century Victorian estate now owned by the National Trust. Home to the wealthy Lucy family, some of whom still live in a wing of the house today, it’s filled with well-preserved artefacts and furniture. Appreciate the flowers in the manicured gardens and watch for birds, deer and sheep on the woodland grounds.
A 30 minute drive south will land you in the rolling green hills of the Cotswolds, where you can stay at a chic B&B, dine at a Michelin-starred gastro pub or cycle through fields on quiet country roads.
Nine miles east is Compton Verney, an 18th century mansion converted into an art museum with over 800 works ranging from British folk art to Chinese pottery. Its gorgeous gardens and lake were designed by iconic landscape architect Capability Brown.
Eight miles to the north is Warwick Castle, the UK’s most impressive intact example of a medieval castle. Built in 1068, it has been meticulously preserved, with engaging exhibits that bring its history to life.
Grab a pint at the town’s oldest pub, the Old Thatch Tavern. It has a thatched roof, a spacious courtyard, real ales and a Sunday roast with local meat from Barry the Butcher.