To Be Or Not To Be: A Shakespearean Road Trip
As the UK celebrates National Shakespeare Day on the 23rd of April, we’re taking inspiration from the playwright’s famous works for an adventure through Europe. The bard chose some sensational beautiful locations to set his classic plays in, from quaint towns in the UK to romantic Italian cities. Here are a few of our favourite spots, along with ideas of what to do and see in the local areas. Whether you want to stay at home in the UK or venture further afield across the continent, these are our top picks for your Shakespeare inspired road trip.
Bianca Ohannessian is a travel and fashion writer and social media expert. With a passion for fashion and an appetite for adventure, when she’s not writing copy, she’s out exploring the globe.
The picturesque coastal town of Forres is our first port of call as the dramatic story of Macbeth unravels in the Scottish Highlands. Historic Forres is one of Scotland’s oldest towns, full of art galleries and shops selling local crafts. Be sure to explore the stunning floral sculptures in the town’s delightful gardens. Then take the scenic route to Inverness Castle, poised on the banks of the River Ness, which also features in the play.
Join a tour or simply enjoy the wonderful views of Inverness and the gorgeously green Great Glen. Wander into the old town to enjoy a spot of shopping in the Victorian Market. Or drive 20 minutes to nearby Loch Ness to try to catch a glimpse of the legendary monster.
As You Like It, Forest of Arden
Although it’s possible that As You Like It is based in France, there also used to be a Forest of Arden in the quaint English countryside of Warwickshire. The bard’s home county is an essential point of call on a Shakespearean journey of discovery. You’ll drive by charming villages and rolling fields of wild flowers. Stop off in Stratford-Upon-Avon to catch a play in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre or enjoy tea at a canal-side café.
Take a step back in time with a visit to Mary Arden’s Farm. Linked to Shakespeare’s mother, it offers a unique insight into Tudor life with its fully-functioning traditional farm. Then head to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage where Shakespeare courted his wife, which features an original-style thatched roof, lush gardens and nature trails.
The Merry Wives of Windsor, Windsor
Modern-day Windsor still retains much of the charm and majesty of the late 16th century world where The Merry Wives of Windsor was set. You’ll find traditional tea shops tucked away in the cobbled backstreets and lively bars lining the banks of the River Thames. The spectacular Windsor Castle is the jewel in the crown of this tranquil town. You’ll catch the changing of the guards if you time your visit right.
Don’t miss the beautiful gardens around the area too, such as Savill Garden in Windsor Great Park. Or if you’re looking for a fun-filled family day out, head to Windsor’s colourful theme park.
All’s Well that End’s Well, Rousillon
Continue your literary adventure down into France with a visit to cliff-top Rousillon, with breath-taking views of the Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon. It’s not surprising that this idyllic village has inspired artists and writers over the years, including All’s Well that End’s Well. You’ll be greeted by striking shades of ochre and pretty Provencal architecture as you explore the area. Make your way to the main square to enjoy the relaxed al fresco restaurants serving up delicious local produce.
Be sure to take a hike through the moonscapes of the old ochre quarries which used to provide the pigment for artist paints. Then drive westward to discover the charming city of Avignon. Wedged between two rivers that run off the mighty Rhone, the city is bursting with shops, cafés, art and history, including the grand 14th century Palace of the Popes.
Romeo and Juliet, Verona
Fair Verona is as charming and romantic as you might expect from the city that spawned one of the most dramatic love stories of all time, Romeo and Juliet. Wander through the meandering medieval streets and stumble upon cafés, museums and beautifully decorated churches in the walled town centre. Then catch a moonlit opera performance in the Roman Arena. No Shakespearean road trip would be complete without a visit to Juliet’s Balcony. The 13th century courtyard is adorned with love letters from visitors captivated by the epic story of the star-crossed lovers.
Verona is also just an hour’s drive away from magnificent Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake. Check out the peaceful villages dotted around the area. Or seek out thrilling action sports such as hand-gliding and windsurfing.
The Merchant of Venice, Venice
A short drive from Verona, the unique City of Canals makes a dramatic backdrop for The Merchant of Venice and a fascinating destination to explore. Speckled with museums and must-see attractions that you’re sure to recognise, Venice’s glistening Grand Canal is a good place to start. Take a water taxi or splash out on a Gondola ride as the canal sweeps you along past the iconic Rialto Bridge. Take a tour through the extraordinary hidden passageways of the mighty Palazzo Ducale.
Afterwards, head to Piazza San Marco to watch the world go by over a cappuccino, before exploring the 9th-century San Marco Basilica and Campanile. For a little Shakespearean twist, go in search of the vintage-inspired Merchant of Venice perfumery on Campo San Fantin, with its beautiful Murano style glass bottles.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Athens
The magical A Midsummer Night’s Dream unfolds in an enchanted forest near the ancient city of Athens. Watched over by the majestic Acropolis and cloaked in history, contemporary Athens also offers a lively café culture and buzzing nightlife. Walk up to the Acropolis to admire the intricately carved marble temples, sculptures and artefacts in the museum. Then wander through Plaka to pick up souvenirs before sampling the small meze dishes at a Greek restaurant. Soak up the glorious sunshine with a visit to a beach, such as Glyfada, known as the “Hellenic Hamptons”.
Athens is also a wonderful gateway to the hundreds of Greek Islands that are sprinkled across the surrounding seas. Go in search of your own piece of paradise, like the imaginary isle from The Tempest. Hop on a ferry from Piraeus Port to dreamy Santorini or magical Mykonos, to end your Shakespearean adventure with an island getaway.