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.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust owns and operates the five Shakespeare Houses in and around Stratford. Three of these, Shakespeare's Birthplace, Hall's Croft and Nash's House & New Place, are in Stratford itself. The other two, Anne Hathaway's Cottage and Mary Arden's House, are set in the outlying villages of Shottery and Wilmcote respectively. Each of these beautifully preserved Shakespeare Houses gives you the chance to fully imagine the world inhabited by the most famous playwright and poet in history.
As the only surviving example of the once prevalent Back to Backs of Birmingham, these historic buildings are a rare treasure. During the 19th Century, a number of buildings were built back to back around a common courtyard to meet the demands of the rapidly growing population of the city as a result of industrialization. These houses were inhabited by the working class who managed to survive in these cramped quarters. Each of the four Back to Backs around the courtyard has been restored and refurnished as a representation of four different time periods, giving visitors an extremely rare opportunity to take a peek into the lives of the ordinary working men and women of the 1840s, 1870s, 1930s and 1970s. Only a few slots are available each day and prior reservations are a must if you wish to visit these homes.
One of United Kingdom's finest vestiges of medieval-age military architecture, the legendary Warwick Castle sits right in the heart of the Warwick Castle Knight's Village. The castle, William I's iconic stronghold that he built in 1068, encapsulates nearly 1000 years of history. Originally built as a motte-and-bailey castle, it was equipped with a stone keep in the 12th Century, during Henry I's rule. Its displays today include a host of medieval weaponry, vivid waxworks, and the Herculean 18-meter (59-foot) Warwick trebuchet, known as one of the largest siege engines of its kind in the world.
Established in 1990, this premier attraction is steeped in Cadbury's legendary goodwill and time-honored offerings over the years, opening up an array of chocolate-themed possibilities that appeal to children and adults alike. One of Birmingham's most frequented attractions, Cadbury World encourages visitors to embark upon a journey of decadent discoveries, right from learning about the roots of the company's history, to its international adulation over the years. Fourteen zones stipple this labyrinthine chocolate-filled world, each zone offering a glimpse into the remarkable Cadbury universe. The Cadbury experience is brought to life through a medley of displays, exhibits, tours, engaging multimedia presentations and more. One of its most highly-rated attractions is the '4D Chocolate Adventure', a vivid rollercoaster ride that hurtles one through a world of chocolate.
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.
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.
Nash's House, once owned by Thomas Nash, the first husband of Shakespeare's granddaughter Elizabeth, contains fine examples of 17th-century tapestries and oak furniture. The garden of this beautiful half-timbered house, with its Elizabethan-style knot garden, was planted on the site previously occupied by New Place. Shakespeare bought New Place in 1597 for £60 as a retirement retreat, and it was here that he spent his last years. Reputed to be one of the finest houses in Stratford, New Place was unfortunately demolished on the instructions of an eccentric owner in the 18th century; all that remain are two wells and parts of the foundations.
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.
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.