A bastion of invincibility

Sample some family fun in this historic region. By Pete Browning

Will the real William Shakespeare stand up? England’s greatest wordsmith depicted some of the meatiest characters and episodes in history and legend – yet left us virtually nothing written in his own hand, nor little concrete knowledge about his own life. Instead, a series of clues in the shape of centuries-old houses, some revealing lines in his plays and sonnets, and the landscapes of the heart of England around Warwick, Kenilworth, Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Exploring the scenes of Shakespeare’s early years, and the landmarks dotting his homeland, is spiced up this year by special events and attractions celebrating not only the 450th anniversary of the bard’s birth but also 1,100 years since the first fortification was built at Warwick.

The roll-call of attractions studding Shakespeare’s England reads like a shortlist of things children love best – mighty castles, funny shows, dressing up, tales of ancient battles, kings, knights and princesses, and the world’s largest catapult – with its central location and great accommodation making for an ideal family break.

Tower play

Warwick Castle is everything an English fortress should be: looming towers flanked by imperious battlements, jousting tournaments, bird-of-prey displays and a huge trebuchet with an 18m-long arm – the planet’s largest siege engine. All attractions have been revamped for this anniversary year; try medieval glamping in pennant-topped tents.

Warwick Castle (01926 495421; warwick-castle.com; £30.60, child £25.80, family £107.40 including Merlin: Dragon Tower and Castle Dungeon, advance discounts available; open daily except Christmas Day).

Bard for life

For the juvenile Shakespeare, a visit to grandma’s meant a day on Mary Arden’s Farm. The Tudor homestead where the playwright’s mother grew up is populated with costumed characters, providing a snapshot of 16thcentury domestic life. Follow with a visit to Shakespeare’s Birthplace, where actors recite favourite scenes in the garden and special exhibitions celebrate the bard’s 450th birthday, Or visit the Royal Shakespeare Company where family activities take place throughout the year. Mary Arden’s Farm (01789 293455; shakespeare.org.uk; £12.50, child £8; open daily to early November); Shakespeare Five House Pass, covering all main sites: £23.90, child £14 Royal Shakespeare Company (0844-800 1110; rsc.org.uk)

Flights of fancy

The machinations of Iago and Claudius are nothing compared with the devilishly complex contraptions on show at the MAD Museum. Marbles tumble and figures perform pirouettes as kinetic artworks and wondrous automata clunk and whirr. More mechanical marvels can be found at the Heritage Motor Centre, tracing the evolution of cars over a century and more – discover how Britain’s history has changed the way we get around. Elsewhere, the mysteries of metamorphosis are revealed at the Butterfly Farm, where spiders, beetles and all manner of bugs join more than 1,500 free-flying butterflies.

MAD Museum (01789 269356; themadmuseum.co.uk; £6.80, child £5.50; open daily) Heritage Motor Centre (01926 641188; heritage-motor-centre.co.uk; £12, child £8; open daily) Butterfly Farm (01789 299288; butterflyfarm.co.uk; £6.25, child £5.25; open daily)

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

Getting there The M40 runs between Stratford and Warwick, providing easy access to both. Regular trains serve London (Stratford two hours, Warwick 90 minutes), Birmingham (Warwick 30 minutes, Stratford 50 minutes) and beyond.

Staying there

Mercure Shakespeare (024-7709 2802; mercure.com) Doubles from £56, room only. The Stratford (01789 271000; qhotels.co.uk) Doubles from £107.10, w/breakfast. Legacy Falcon Hotel (0844-411 9001; www.legacy-hotels.co.uk) Doubles from £90. Alveston Manor Hotel (01789 205478; macdonaldhotels.co.uk) Doubles from £95. Ardencote Manor (01926 843111; ardencote.com) Doubles from £115, w/breakfast.

More information

http://shakespeares-england.co.uk/

VisitEngland.com/morehistory

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past