If I didn't live in beautiful Christchurch, I could quite easily see myself with pretty little townhouse in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Known predominantly as the birthplace of William Shakespeare, the town actually has so much more to offer, from delightful riverboat cruises and bustling markets to a wealth of shops, both independent and big high street names, and some truly fantastic bars and restaurants.

It took us around two-and-a-half hours to make the drive, which was much quicker than we expected, and even that was a pleasingly scenic route involving very little motorway.

Our first port of call was the centrally-located The Townhouse, a 400 year old, Grade II Listed building situated opposite Shakespeare’s school.

This popular restaurant and bar with rooms - it was packed when we checked in on a Friday evening - has been tastefully decorated with a contemporary style, while retaining its original quirky character.

The Townhouse is deceptively spacious, offering 12 individually-designed, en-suite bedrooms. Ours was dominated by a large blue bed and a free-standing bath in the corner, surrounded by dark wooden beams.

After a quick freshen, it was downstairs to the restaurant for dinner. Diners can take advantage of a pre-theatre set menu every day from 12pm to 3pm and 5pm to 7pm, with two courses for £14.50 and three courses for £16.50, ideal for those wishing to eat before heading to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre just 100 yards away.

I chose the homemade soup, followed by The Townhouse Burger which was topped with Swiss cheese, tomato and lettuce in a Brioche bun with fries, while my husband chose the pan fried scallops with broad beans, chorizo and sweetcorn purée, and the 8oz rump steak, which came with triple cooked chips, with a Béarnaise sauce.

Fed and watered by the friendly waiting staff, we decided to walk off the calories with a stroll around town to get our bearings.

We discovered the river, the famous theatre, the marketplace and a wealth of food and drink places, all within a few minutes' walk, and popped into one of the many traditional pubs for an al fresco drink in the cobbled garden to finish off our evening, before returning to the the hotel and sinking gratefully into the soft feather pillows.

Following a hearty breakfast - full English for the husband, waffles, bacon and Maple syrup for me - we headed off to explore the town by day.

Rather more bustling than it had been the previous evening, Stratford-upon-Avon is undoubtedly full of charm. It still has all the big name high street brands, but even those fit in unobtrusively alongside the independent traders.

We hopped on board an Avon Boating (avon-boating.co.uk) river cruise to enjoy a 40-minute meander along the water, with optional commentary educating us about the sights along the way. A great way to unwind while taking in the area's history.

After a leisurely coffee break and pastry, while we were entertained by a friendly local busker, we pottered around the shops for a while before indulging in an ice cream on the riverbank.

For those who fancy a more cultural stay, there are a huge number of historical sites to visit, including Shakespeare's birthplace and school, his wife Anne Hathaway's cottage and mother Mary Arden's house, all of which can be reached on one of the many City Sightseeing buses (citysightseeing-stratford.com).

Warwick Castle is only a short drive away and, for a spot of retail therapy, nearby Bicester Village hosts an array of designer outlets.

However my husband and I opted for a more relaxed weekend, and decided it was time to head to that evening's digs - The Bell at Alderminster, a traditional country pub with rooms located in a picturesque village less than ten minutes' drive away.

When we got out of the car and could hear nothing but the birds chirping, we knew we'd be in for a peaceful evening.

After checking into our room, the beautiful Alscot Suite, a spacious, second-floor suite featuring a sitting room with exposed beams, four poster king size bed and en suite shower room, it was back down to the bar for a pre-dinner drink, overlooking nothing but lush green fields. Aaaaand relaaaaax!

Just like The Townhouse, The Bell has character in bucket-loads. An an eighteenth century coaching inn, it is part of the historic Alscot Estate; a thriving award winning country estate headed by Emma Holman-West.

It has been managed in house for more than eight years, undergoing building and product development to achieve a reputable and multi award-winning modern day country pub, restaurant and B&B.

The decor is luxurious, yet relaxed, and we were immediately made to feel welcome by the attentive team.

At dinner we were spoilt for choice by the menu, eventually settling on the chicken & spring greens risotto, with tarragon cream, and the steak tartare, with dry cured egg yolk and croutons to start, followed by the duo of lamb (braised breast and minted cutlets), with minted crushed Jersey Royals, steamed broccoli and aubergine puree, and a mighty burger, with all the trimmings.

After eating we retired to the bar area for a night cap, and a chat with the restaurant manager and chef, before realising all that fresh air had exhausted us, and we should probably head up for bed.

The next morning there was just time for another top-notch breakfast before we had to pack up and head for home.

We left Stratford-upon-Avon feeling relaxed, yet revived, and a new yearning for rural idyll living.

Travel Facts

The Townhouse, Stratford - rooms from £130 - stratfordtownhouse.co.uk; 01789 262222

The Bell - rooms form £100 - thebellald.co.uk; 01789 450414

For more information about attractions and places to visit in Stratford-upon-Avon, visit shakespeares-england.co.uk