In Britain, you’ll notice you’re never far from a pub called The Shakespeare or The Tudor Inn. Such is the enduring legacy of the Bard, whose influence on the English language extends far beyond the plays and sonnets he produced. Here’s our pick of the country’s most atmospheric Tudor and Jacobean inns, places where you can eat, drink, stay and play...
Drink a ‘pot of ale’ at Shakespeare’s local: The George Inn, London
Make like The Boy in Henry V, who said he would ‘give all his fame for a pot of ale’, and head to the last remaining galleried pub in Britain ̶ The George Inn. The characterful pub was the subject of an entire book, ‘Shakespeare’s Local’, by professional beer writer Pete Brown. The jovial romp suggests the inn – albeit in a former incarnation ̶ may well have been frequented for after-work pints by the Bard himself. After all, Shakespeare’s Globe is just round the corner.
Go on a rural writing retreat: Manor House Farm, Staffordshire
Shakespeare’s plays are noted for their relative wealth of countryside references compared to those of his London peers, from birdlife to botany. And although he worked mostly in the capital it is now supposed he retreated to his spacious home, New Place in rural Warwickshire, to write. The Jacobean-era Manor House Farm, in peaceful Staffordshire, is a perfect hideaway if you feel so inspired. The house immediately invokes the imagination, from the waft of wood smoke as you enter the hallway, to the weight of the elaborate key which unlocks the door to your bedchamber — complete with 4-poster bed and regal red and gold drapes.
Play star-crossed lovers: The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa, Suffolk
This romantic 15th-century hotel in the medieval village of Lavenham, Suffolk, is a dreamy choice with its cosy oak-beamed corners, sumptuous bedrooms and inglenook fireplaces. You can book into the hotel’s luxurious Weavers House Spa or indulge in the Swan’s traditional Afternoon Tea Experience. If you feel like exploring, you’ll find the Lavenham Guildhall nearby. In the 16th century it was at the heart of the village cloth trade, and it’s now one of the finest surviving timber-framed buildings of the era.
Be entertained: The Fleece Inn, Worcestershire
This historic pub was built in the early 15th century. The inn’s interior has been faithfully restored to appear much as it would have in Shakespeare’s day, with flagstone floors and wooden pews. It’s much-loved for its lively line-up of music and events. Perhaps go along for a jig with the local Morris dancers, who regularly practice there. The English folk dance ̶ which involves rhythmic jumping with bells, sticks and lots of handkerchief-waving ̶ was famously employed by Shakespearean actor William Kempe when he danced from London to Norwich in 1600. The pub is hosting an all-female version of Romeo and Juliet on 15 July to celebrate Shakespeare 2016.
To be (or not to be) in Shakespeare’s birthplace: The Church Street Townhouse, Stratford-upon-Avon
If you’re a big Shakespeare fan you’ll be bound straight for Stratford-upon-Avon, the market town where the Bard grew up. The 400-year-old Church Street Townhouse makes an excellent base. You’ll find the stylishly furnished guesthouse conveniently located opposite Shakespeare’s old schoolhouse – opening to visitors for the first time in 2016. Shakespeare’s Birthplace – his family home, where you can stand in the very room he was born – is just a 5-minute walk, and the Royal Shakespeare Company, where you can catch one of his plays, is a mere 2-minute walk.