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The Bard’s birthday – 5 must-dos for Shakespeare lovers in Stratford-upon-Avon

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Although nobody really knows the date on which Shakespeare was born, it’s officially celebrated on 23 April. That’s St. George’s Day too, so it’s the perfect time for patriotic play-lovers to party, by taking the train to one of England’s most famous son’s birthday celebrations.

Read on for our top five must-do activities for Shakespeare fans – and check our journey planner for cheap train tickets before you head off.

Stratford-upon-Avon was Shakespeare’s home town and every year it celebrates the Bard’s birthday in style. And this year, 23 April marks the beginning of the World Shakespeare Festival too, so the party’s going to be bigger and better than ever.

It’s simple to get there by rail too – take the train to Birmingham (Moor Street Station or Snow Street Station) or hop on a train to London (Marylebone Station), and catch a connecting service to Stratford-upon-Avon.

1. Watch the Grand Birthday Procession

The centrepiece of Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations in Stratford-upon-Avon, this colourful procession – featuring musicians, dancers and people in historical costume – kicks off at 10.35 a.m. on Saturday 21 April outside of the Town Hall. It continues through the streets of Stratford to Shakespeare’s grave.

2. Take a trip on the Sonnet Ferry

Relax on the water and listen to actors from the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) reciting some of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The Sonnet Ferry will be operating between 12 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. on Saturday 21 April 2012 and a ride costs just 50p.

3. Learn about the art of acting

Head to Swan Gardens on 21 April 2012 and you can enjoy a packed programme of workshops and demonstrations – for free. Discover how make-up artists create bruises, cuts and scars; learn some stage-fighting basics; find out how to move on stage; and enjoy a session with an RSC voice practitioner.

4. Take a tour of the town

There are plenty of places to see in Stratford, including five historic houses linked to the Bard. Three of these houses are in the town centre: Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Henley Street; Nash’s House and New Place in Chapel Street; and Hall’s Croft in the Old Town area.

The other two properties are situated just outside of the town. Anne Hathaway – Shakespeare’s wife -‘s Cottage is located in the hamlet of Shottery, about 30 minutes’ walk from the centre of Stratford, and you can catch a train from Stratford to Wilmcote to see the final property, Mary Arden’s Farm, which is just opposite Wilmcote Railway Station.

For a taste of what’s in store for visitors to these historic houses, take a look at this virtual tour, produced by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which takes care of the properties:

5. Visit the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

No trip to Stratford-upon-Avon would be complete without a trip to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Located on the banks of the River Avon, this world-famous theatre is home to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The main theatre site actually contains two auditoriums – the main Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the adjoining Swan Theatre. You can learn more about the theatre on one of a number of guided tours on offer. The programme changes throughout the year but tours include a ‘Front of House Tour’, a ‘Behind the Scenes Tour’, an ‘Open Air Tour’ and an ‘After Dark Tour’ (a spectacular spooky search for some of the theatre’s ghosts).

Make sure you don’t miss out on the chance to see a performance at the theatre during your stay – you can book tickets via the Royal Shakespeare Company’s website. April’s schedule includes performances of ‘Twelfth Night’, ‘The Tempest’, ‘King John’, ‘The Comedy of Errors’, ‘Richard III’ and the Iraqui Theatre Company’s production of ‘Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad’.

Don’t forget to book your train tickets while you’re online too – checking our journey planner before you travel could help you to make sure that ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ when it comes to budgeting for your trip.

Will you be taking the train to Stratford-upon-Avon for the bard’s birthday bash? Let us know…

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