Billesley, Warwickshire

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Less than 5 miles from the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon, nestling in the Warwickshire countryside lies the village of Billesley.  Easily found by turning off the A46 Alcester Road (watch for speed cameras), the postcode B49 6NF will guide you to the grounds of the stunning Billesley Manor Hotel and the All Saints' Church.  The hotel, a listed building, is set in eleven acres of stunning countryside and amongst its unique features it boasts a 100 year old listed Topiary Garden.  With free parking this is surely the perfect place to enjoy refreshments before requesting the keys from the hotel reception for the Grade 1 listed Anglican church.  Once within the Forest of Arden the church is still approached through a stunning path of lime trees welcoming you to this picture-perfect and unusual building.

All Saints Church, Billesley, WarwickshireThe original 11th century church was built to serve this thriving parish however in the 14th century the church fell into disrepair and was eventually rebuilt in 1692 when it became the estate church of Billesley Manor.  Further alterations followed in the 18th century however 12th century stone carvings still remain and fortunately the little church is now cared for and preserved by the Churches Conservation Trust.  The Trust produce a church tour leaflet, a guided trail of the local villages and a county guide.  Visit www.visitchurches.org.uk for further information.

Parish registers have not survived yet tradition says that William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway  in Billesley Church in 1582.  His granddaughter Elizabeth Nash (nee Hall) also married her second husband John Barnard there in the 1640s.  Visitors who are keen to walk in the footsteps of Shakespeare will also be pleased to learn that he apparently frequented Billesley Manor regularly to make use of their extensive library.  Local legend has it that the comedy As You Like It was written in this library (now a meeting room).

Billesley is 4 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon railway station and 2.5 miles from Wilmcote station and provides a tranquil Shakespeare experience away from the hustle and bustle of the busy market town.

According to Stratford-upon-Avon District Council 'Shakespeare Country is South Warwickshire, covering historic Warwick and Kenilworth, Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon', therefore visitors to this vast area will always be spoilt for choice.  It's worth noting that Mary Arden's Farm (once the home of Shakespeare's mother) is only 2 miles from Billesley providing a popular living history experience.  With 5.5 million visitors to the District annually the Shakespeare Houses & Gardens provide something for everyone.

•  Read Julie's review about Billesley Manor Hotel

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