Proudly proclaiming the fact that it is "Europe's largest", the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm affords a peaceful retreat away from all things Shakespearean. Hundreds of butterflies can be viewed at close quarters, many of the species sporting spectacular colors. For those interested in less attractive, more frightening creatures, other insect displays are available, including stick insects, leaf-eating ants and the world's largest spider.
Birmingham's main library was opened in 2013 and is one of the most recognizable and visited buildings in England's second city. The Birmingham's library is the largest public library in the UK and is as remarkable as looking on the inside as it is on the outside. As soon as you walk in you feel like you're in some sort of literary spaceship. And the collections are just as out of this world, including the Boulton and Watt Archives, the Parker collection of children's books and several notable photography collections and archives. In addition, the library houses the Shakespeare Memorial Room, designed in 1882 and moved from the old central library to this one.
These fine gardens, opened in 1832, were designed by John Claudius Loudon, a leading garden planner, and horticultural journalist. The gardens offer you the chance to see some of the most beautiful greenery in the world along with stunning glasshouses. Attractions besides plants include indoor aviaries, a restaurant with a fantastic view of the gardens, a children's adventure playground, a gift shop and plant center and a gallery displaying work by local artists.
Originally the home of Shakespeare's parents-in-law, Anne Hathaway's Cottage is a charming, half-timbered, thatched-roof farmhouse. Inhabited by descendants of the Hathaway family until the 19th Century, the cottage still contains items of furniture that used to belong to them. Outside is a fantastic traditional English cottage garden complete with an orchard. Take a stroll through this idyllic setting, perhaps stopping to buy plants and herbs grown by the property's gardeners en route. The Tea Garden provides light refreshments and is open from March to October. Note too that Guide Friday Tours stop at the cottage.
Step into the farm of history's most beloved playwright, William Shakespeare's mother and get ready to be transported back to the 16th Century. Mary Arden's Farm or Mary Arden's House is a popular tourist attraction is near Stratford-upon-Avon. This Tudor farm is now managed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. It has many rare breeds as well. It was also where young Will used to come and visit his grandparents. Lend your hand in basket-weaving, skep-making, bread-making, animal tending and threshing. During summer you can partake in Tudor games as well. Definitely an eye-opener in the Tudor lifestyle, you will enjoy the time spent here.
Hall's Croft was named after Dr. John Hall, husband of Shakespeare's daughter Susanna. It is a fine example of a gabled half-timbered house built in the 16th Century. Notice its three stories—the upper two of which are overhanging—which make it quite typical of its time. While you are here, take a look at Dr. Hall's consulting room together with the exhibition featuring medical treatments used in Shakespeare's time. Also on display are some superb 16th- and 17th-century paintings and furnishings, while the walled garden, with its fragrant herb garden, is a particular delight.
In striking contrast to the typical 15th-Century style of this area sits Stratford Town Hall. It owes its classic stone design to the fact that it was completely re-built in the 1800s. The original building, which housed the Market Hall, dated back to 1634. However, it suffered extensive damage from a gunpowder explosion during the Civil War when parliamentarian forces were in occupation. Look out for the statue of Shakespeare, presented to the town by David Garrick, set in a niche on one of the exterior walls. Beneath this is a plaque commemorating the silver jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.
It is well worth spending time studying the frontage of Harvard House, for it is Stratford's most ornate structure and a splendid example of an Elizabethan town house. Look in particular for the initials of the owners who had it re-built following the severe damage sustained in the Great Fire of 1594. It was their grandson John who, having emigrated to the United States, founded the university which bears his name. In 1909, the house was purchased by a Chicago millionaire who paid for it to be restored before presenting it to Harvard University. Today the house is managed on behalf of Harvard by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Inside the house, in addition to fine pieces of 17th century furniture, is part of the Neish pewter collection. This collection of great national importance boasts items spanning over two thousand years.
Experience the Falstaff Experience for an informative and theatrical living history lesson. You will be met and entertained by staff in period costume and you can have your photograph taken alongside characters in the mock-up cottages and shops. Items of interest here include the punishment stocks, the music room and a Gothic collection of all things ghastly and glorious!
The Chapel, established by the Guild of the Holy Cross in the 13th Century and subsequently re-built in the 15th, looks more like a church than a chapel from the outside. This, together with The Guild Chapel's proximity to the town center, sometimes makes visitors think that they are approaching the Holy Trinity Church. The Guild Chapel, however, deserves a visit in its own right as it houses some stunning frescoes. The frescoes were painted over during the reformation in the 16th century but fortunately were revealed during restoration work some 300 years later. Of these, the fresco representing the day of judgment, above the chancel arch, is one of the largest of its type anywhere in the country. Services are held at The Guild Chapel every Wednesday morning and on the first Saturday of each month. There are no Sunday services. The Guild Chapel also serves as the school chapel to the adjacent King Edward VI Grammar School.
King Edward VI Grammar School set in the heart of Stratford's Old Town is a low, black and white timbered building that dates back to the century before Shakespeare's birth. King Edward VI dispossessed the Guild of the Holy Cross, which founded the school. He subsequently granted it to the borough of Stratford and today it continues to challenge the hearts and minds of Stratford's young people. The buildings are open on Saturdays and Sundays in August and by special request.
City Sightseeing is a company that is dedicated to help tourists explore cities. This touring company runs buses along specified routes covering different tourist locations. The bus has a guide who gives the tourists information on the place of visit and assists them in the English language. The company also has pre-recorded commentaries in languages like German, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and Russian. Check website for details.