'This sceptred isle
This precious stone set in the silver sea'
The world's most performed playwright enriched British culture with new words and dazzling imagery as no author before or since. From knockabout comedy to searing tragedy, he plumbed the landscapes of the human soul.
William Shakespeare was born in 1564 at Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, and the surrounding region, fretted by rivers and canals, is now called Shakespeare Country. Although Shakespeare spent much of his working life in London, references in his work imply a continuing affinity with nature and the countryside.
‘Are not these woods / More free from peril than the envious court?’ a character asks in As You Like It, referring to the Forest of Arden - perhaps an echo of the Warwickshire wood of the author's boyhood. Henley-in-Arden is a great walking base; take picnics in the peaceful River Avon valley or cruise the Stratford-upon-Avon or Grand Union Canals.
Seek out the settings for historical action in other Shakespeare plays and you'll discover some of Britain's most evocative vistas. Head to Scotland for the heath and haunting castles of Macbeth: Birnam Wood and Dunsinane Hill near Perth, Glamis Castle, in Angus and Cawdor Castle near Inverness, gateway to the mountainous Highlands. From Inverness you can walk the invigorating Great Glen Way, cycle a number of national trails, cruise from the harbour to watch dolphins, or take a boat trip on Loch Ness to look for the monster.
Visit Kent's famous Dover coast - ‘the dread summit of this chalky bourn’ - for scenes in King Lear and Henry VI, Part II. Walks around the iconic White Cliffs are renowned for their views, while the long-distance Saxon Shore Way is rich with wintering and migratory birds. As Shakespeare wrote in Richard II, England's coast is "a demi-paradise built by Nature for herself".