They’re the big five of Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s New Place, Hall’s Croft and Mary Arden’s Farm – the must-see tourist attractions that chronicle the home life of the world’s greatest ever playwright, William Shakespeare.
If you’re asking yourself if it’s worth buying a Shakespeare Family Homes annual pass – that is, a 12-month Full Story ticket with unlimited entry to all five properties – the answer is yes.
Whether you’re on a brief Stratford-upon-Avon visit or you live in the local area, the Full Story ticket is one annual pass you really should have in your pocket. Here’s why:
Top 5 reasons to buy a Shakespeare Family Homes annual pass
Reason to buy a Shakespeare Family Homes annual pass no. 1: You save money
There are few better reasons than saving some cash, right?
So, if you plan to visit Stratford-upon-Avon’s Shakespeare attractions and you have more than two hours available, buying a Shakespeare Family Homes annual ticket makes sense. Let’s look at the figures. An adult, one-day ticket to Shakespeare’s Birthplace costs £15.75. An adult, one-day ticket to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage or New Place costs £11.25. (It’s £7.65 for Hall’s Croft and £13.50 for Mary Arden’s Farm.) Now, an adult Full Story ticket – that’s a Shakespeare Family Homes 12-month ticket with unlimited visits to all five properties – costs £20.25.
Everyone starts at Shakespeare’s Birthplace. It’s the absolute must-see Shakespeare attraction in Stratford-upon-Avon. So £15.75 plus entry to any one of the other family homes is going to cost you more if you buy tickets individually compared with the cost of the Full Story ticket.
If you only have time to visit one of Shakespeare’s Family Homes this year, frankly, you aren’t staying long enough. Stay a little longer, make a weekend of it, buy a Shakespeare’s Birthplace annual pass, enjoy the Stratford-upon-Avon hospitality.
Reason to buy a Shakespeare Family Homes annual pass no. 2: You can attend free events
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which looks after the five family homes, puts on a varied calendar of free events throughout the year. With your Full Story ticket, your weekend plans could be sorted at no extra cost.
Art exhibitions, craft workshops, tea parties, seasonal festivities, arts projects, talks, tours and demonstrations are just a flavour of what’s on throughout the year at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s New Place, Hall’s Croft and Mary Arden’s Farm.
The trust offers a number of ticketed events too, but free events are always included as part of your Shakespeare Family Homes 12-month ticket.
Reason to buy a Shakespeare Family Homes annual pass no. 3: There are free family activities
As well as all the free events mentioned above, with a Shakespeare Birthplace Trust annual pass, you and your family can spend many fun weekends and school holidays trying out new activities, learning fascinating facts, and seeing what everyday life might have been like during Shakespeare’s lifetime – all at no extra cost when you buy a Shakespeare Family Homes annual pass.
At Mary Arden’s Farm, the most family friendly of all the properties, daily events and activities include goose herding, archery demonstrations and birds of prey displays (and there are loads of animals to see, a fantastic new playground to whizz around and benches available for picnics). During school holidays, other enjoyable events include sheep shearing displays.
At the other properties, there are regular weekend activities and an exciting line-up of school-holiday fun, including crafts, workshops, storytelling and much more for all ages. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage features an activity marquee in the grounds and a woodland walk. At Shakespeare’s New Place, there’s a space set aside for family time, with games, puppets and books.
At less than £60 for a Full Story family ticket (two adults and up to four children), plus 10 per cent off when you buy online (so currently £53.54), this is a great-value, fun-packed way to introduce your children to the world of Shakespeare.
Reason to buy a Shakespeare Family Homes annual pass no. 4: You can savour the peace of the gardens
Stratford-upon-Avon is a busy tourist destination, there’s no doubt about it. From early spring until late autumn, Henley Street buzzes with activity outside Shakespeare’s Birthplace, shoppers flood the main streets, and cafes and restaurants spill out onto every available space when the sun first peeps out from between the winter clouds. It’s amazing. It’s also noisy at times. With your Shakespeare Birthplace Trust annual pass tucked firmly in your wallet, you can escape the crowds and slip into one of the homes’ peaceful gardens.
Shakespeare’s New Place is a town-centre favourite. The gardens at Shakespeare’s Birthplace are decent-sized and pleasant, but at New Place – just a seven-minute stroll from the birthplace – the buzz of Stratford simply melts away. Saunter past the sculptures, through the sunken Tudor Knot Garden, and into the ancient realms of the Victorian Great Garden, where a mulberry tree stretches over the lawn. It is believed to have grown from a cutting of a tree from Shakespeare’s lifetime, perhaps even one he planted (he wrote many plays at New Place, so he might have come over a bit green-fingered during a writing break).
Quieter still than New Place are the gardens at Hall’s Croft, the home that once belonged to Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna and her husband, John Hall. The historic, wisteria-clad building is in Old Town, a serene part of Stratford-upon-Avon just minutes on foot from the town centre. The garden air is scented by rows of herbs and café tables look over the lawns.
With a Shakespeare Family Homes annual pass, you can pop in, sit down, take a deep breath and enjoy the sound of silence whenever you like.
Reason to buy a Shakespeare Family Homes annual pass no. 5: Follow the Stratford life of Shakespeare from start to finish
Follow in Shakespeare’s footsteps from cradle to grave with the birthplace annual pass.
It makes sense to begin at Mary Arden’s Farm, the 500-year-old childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother and her seven sisters. It’s in the village of Wilmcote. See the Stratfordblog guide to Mary Arden’s Farm for five ways to get there.
Back in central Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s Birthplace is the next obvious stop. As the place William was born, it has been a tourist attraction for hundreds of years. Find out more about the famous people who etched their names into the window of the birthroom.
Baby William was baptised on April 26 1564 in Holy Trinity Church, on the banks of the River Avon. You could visit here next or save it as your last stop, as it is also the location of the graves of William Shakespeare and his family.
Shakespeare’s Schoolroom, in Church Street, is where a young William Shakespeare received his education. Buy tickets online in advance and pay £7.20 for adults, £4.50 for children aged 5-16 (under 5s free), and £5.40 for students and over 60s.
To follow the timeline closely, it’s out to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Shottery, where a teenage William would have wooed his older bride before going off to London to seek the fame and fortune that followed.
With that fortune, Shakespeare purchased New Place, so head back into Stratford town centre and take a tour. Afterwards, pop along the street to the Windmill pub. As a hostelry during Shakespeare’s lifetime, and located between New Place and daughter Susanna’s home Hall’s Croft in Old Town, it’s likely that the Bard would have dropped in for an ale or two.
Hall’s Croft is the next stop. Susanna lived here with her doctor husband John Hall for a couple of years before moving to New Place in 1616, following the death of her father.
Visit Stratford-upon-Avon’s ancient Holy Trinity Church, which sits so prettily on the riverside just a few minutes on foot from Hall’s Croft. The grave of William Shakespeare is located in the chancel. You can enter the church at no cost during opening times; a £3 donation is requested for those wishing to enter the chancel to see the final resting place of Shakespeare and his family.
There you have it, the chance to follow Shakespeare’s Stratford path for about £30 for an adult (the cost of a Shakespeare Family Homes annual pass, schoolroom admission and a donation to Holy Trinity Church – don’t forget a few extra pounds for a pint in the Windmill!).
Read the Stratfordblog guides to the big five for all the essential info, including opening times, location and links to online booking with a 10 per cent discount: Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s New Place, Hall’s Croft and Mary Arden’s Farm.
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Information correct at date of publication