The Arden Hotel

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Date of travel

Aug, 2014

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Culture / Sightseeing

Stratford-upon-Avon has beautiful buildings at every turn, an ambience that hasn’t yet caught up with the grubby-hype of the twenty-first century and theatres to match any in London. This near perfect English town has everything anyone might need but not too much of it. It’s ideal for strolling around although you can opt for organised walking tours, river trips or a circular bus tour, and parking is surprisingly cheap.

In Shakespeare’s day Stratford was a thriving market town and today it’s still a beautiful Tudor town perched on the edge of the Cotswolds with wonderful cafes, pubs, restaurants, hotels and of course theatres.

You can’t visit Stratford without following the Shakespeare connection – where the town’s most famous son was born, where he’s buried, an empty space where he lived in later life and the beautiful Anne Hathaway cottage. But nearly everything you hear about Shakespeare will be guess work or speculation because virtually nothing is really known about any aspect of his life.

Shakespeare’s plays are the only definite evidence about his life (although even the authenticity of these are questioned by some) so any visitor should really stop off at the splendidly revamped Royal Shakespeare Company and Swan theatres. As well as Shakespeare, they perform work by his contemporaries, other classics as well as some modern works.

Even if you don’t enjoy the theatre the RSC is still well worth visiting for its riverside terrace, rooftop restaurant, viewing tower or just letting the kids play in the dressing up box in the foyer.

We had theatre tickets so stayed at the RSC’s recommended Arden Hotel. It is perfectly located directly opposite the theatres, the River Avon and close to the town centre, making it the ideal place to stay for our trip.

The Arden is an elegant and sophisticated 45-bedroom boutique-style hotel and its recent multi-million pound refurbishment has made it smart and slick in every detail. Its Waterside Brasserie is not only a popular place for evening dining but breakfast is freshly cooked and served to order – no stewed buffet offerings here.

Rooms are spacious and colourful with bold patterns and plush fabrics and some have views over the River Avon. All have sitting areas with flat-screens cable TVs and DVDs plus a library of films to borrow. There’s complimentary WiFi, coffeemakers, biscuits, minibars and a turn-down service. The lovely bathrooms are huge with large baths and double showers. The King sized beds are equally huge with a choice of sheets, duvet and pillows.

The waiters from the elegant champagne bar also serve drinks and afternoon tea at several terrace and garden areas. The front terrace is the perfect place to watch activity around the theatre and it was interesting to note that fans waiting for actors to emerge wanted selfies (themselves with the actor) rather than autographs – no doubt posted on Facebook within minutes. The Arden is also a popular pre and post theatre dining venue and because it’s so close some theatre goers order interval drinks and nip back across the road to avoid the theatre queues.

As the best and most convenient hotel in town many actors stay at the Arden and the walls are covered with photographs of past greats and modern celebrity actors. Staying the Arden turned a very enjoyable visit to Stratford into a really memorable experience.

Peter Lynch

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