Kings, Queens, Castles & Gardens; A History & Garden Tour
For Groups (Minimum: 15 People)
If you appreciate, history, beauty and tradition, then prepare to surround yourself with the grandeur, drama and pageantry of England & Wales.
A 16 day tour which commences at Canterbury first, settled by the Romans and where the Cathedral was founded in 597AD.The County Kent is called the garden of England; Sissinghurst a truly spectacular collection of gardens will set us up for many treats ahead.At Stratford Upon Avon we can walk the streets frequented by William Shakespeare and perhaps take a 'pint' at his hostelry.
Onto Harrogate with the nearby spectacular water garden of Studley, created between 1716 & 1781. Harrogate being a spa town you might like to take a hot bath in one of the few remaining Victorian bath houses in England.
We end our tour in London, a jewel of city rich in history, with museums and gardens to suit everyone's taste.
Overnight from North America to London.
Depart London, arrive Canterbury. Upon arrival you will be met by your Tour Director, board the luxury touring coach and drive to the gracious spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. Enjoy elegant architecture and a mid morning break (elevensies) before moving on to the delightful walled city of Canterbury. Our home for the next two nights is the famous County Hotel. Licensed in 1588, it is superbly located in the pedestrianised historic High street. Spend the afternoon either relaxing in your comfortable chair or exploring this ancient town first settled by the Romans. In 1066 Canterbury became the first major town to submit peacefully to William the Conqueror and in 1170 Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered by Henry 11's knights at the cathedral. This evening relax at a get acquainted welcome dinner and overview of the tour.
Enjoy a hearty English Breakfast and then walk it off in a magical garden that promises explosions of color mixed with statues, a moat, unique buildings and the most imitated rose garden in the world. - all situated at the home of famous author the late Vita-Sackville West and her husband Harold Nicolson. Their planning and execution at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens has produced a group of 10 of the most spectacular and famous Gardens in the world. After the Norman Conquest (1066), the victorious Norman barons were surrounded and vastly outnumbered by the hostile English, so they built magnificent castles, such as Leeds Castle (which we will visit this afternoon) to overawe them. Built nearly 900 years ago, it served as a royal palace for the next three centuries and is one of the most romantic and ancient castles in the kingdom.
Beginning with Edward 1, a number of English Kings and six medieval queens made Leeds their home, including Edward 11, Henry V, and the most famous of all, Henry V111. The Culpeper and Fairfax families (important influences in US history) were also owners of the castle which is magnificently furnished with tapestries, paintings and treasures. The breathtaking grounds feature lakes, waterfalls, gardens and greenhouses.
Return to hotel and enjoy dinner at the award-winning Sully's Restaurant
Depart Canterbury arrive Arundel. This morning you will tour the 900-year-old site of the battle of Hastings where king Harald fell mortally wounded during the last invasion of England led by William the Conqueror in 1066. Later you will follow the coastal route to the picturesque town of Arundel, with it's ancestral home - an 11th century castle that flies the flag of the Earl Marshal of England, the Duke of Norfolk (the premier Dukes of Britain).
The Castle is complete with furnishings and treasures including portraits by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Van Dyck and others. The castle is flanked by the 14th century church of St Nicholas and an 1868 Roman Catholic Cathedral. The view from across the river seems like a Gothic fairy tale.
Your hotel tonight is the Norfolk Arms, a splendid 18th century Georgian Coaching Inn built over 200 years ago within the battlements of the castle.
Depart Arundel arrive Stratford Upon Avon. As you travel northwest, your first stop will be the Salisbury Cathedral and Close. Built between 1220 and 1258, it is the only medieval cathedral in England completed inside and out in the same Early English style and boasts the tallest spire (over 400 feet) in England. The Chapter House, located in the Close, contains one of the four surviving originals of the Magna Carta.
After leaving Salisbury, you will stop at the village of Avebury to view the Circle, probably the greatest megalithic monument in the world - it is built with unhewn stones which are older than Stonehenge. You will have an opportunity to view the manor house, dating back to the early 16th century, and glimpse the work which the National Trust is carrying out in the reconstruction of an Elizabethan period garden.
Onward to Stratford Upon Avon and the Falcon Hotel - a 16th century inn in the center of town where you will stay for the next two nights.
Spend the morning strolling the streets, following the same path that the bard (William Shakespeare) took from the room he was born in (1564) or from the house he bought with its beautiful garden (1597) ot to the inns he frequented. You will also see Harvard House, the home of Katherine Rogers whose son gave his name to Harvard University.
Later you will tour the truly impressive medieval fortress - Warwick Castle, built by William the Conqueror not for show but for political and military might to inspire respect and terror. Return to the Falcon and spend the evening relaxing or enjoying a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Depart Stratford arrive Ruthin. Today you head North for North Wales. After a morning stop in Ludlow, we cross the English/Welsh border at Welshpool: your destination Powis Castle and Gardens. This lovely garden is overhung with clipped Yew trees which shelter rare and tender plants in colorful herbaceous borders. Influenced by Italian and French Styles, the garden retains its original lead statues, an orangery and an Avery on the terraces.
This medieval Castle contains one of the finest collections of paintings and furnishings in Wales. Continuing the castle theme, our hotel for the next two nights is the converted Ruthin Castle, a section of which was destroyed during the civil war by Cromwell's men.
This morning you will visit the castle and town walls of Conwy which are the most impressive of all the fortresses. Built in an astonishing four and a half years between 1283 and 1287 by King Edward 1 to subdue Wales, it is the finest and most complete example of a fortified town and castle in Britain. In the afternoon you will visit the Naturalistic Garden at Bodnant, the most famous garden of its kind in Wales and one of the best in Britain. Situated on the River Conwy with a view of the Snowdonia Range, it was started in 1874 by Henry Pochin, a conifer enthusiast who planted a wide range of conifers plus underplantings of moisture loving plants creating a wild but natural garden.
In the evening you are invited to a four course Welsh Medieval Banquet where you may eat with a dagger, drink wine from pewter goblets, and mead from clay cups - a wonderful night of pageantry, laughter and superb Welsh music that you will always remember.
Depart Ruthin arrive Harrogate, North Yorkshire. This morning you will be driving northeast past the cities of Liverpool and Manchester towards your first stop at the city of Leeds and the Royal Armories - Britain's oldest Museum dating back to the reign of Elizabeth 1. Developed over a 400 - year period it houses much of England's history of war and weaponry through varying displays from the tournament Armour of Henry V111 to 20th Century weapons. crossbow.
Today, via the latest computer simulators, you can actually relive history and fight long ago battles.
Leaving Leeds you will visit Harewood House. The 1,000 acre parkland surrounding the home was shaped by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, a premier designer of English landscapes.
Our hotel tonight is in North Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate and it will be your home for the next three nights: the icy-covered 18th century Old Swan Hotel. (Agatha Christie loved this hotel and hid away here in the 20's)
Harrogate/North Yorkshire. Without doubt, one of the most attractive towns in the British Isles, Harrogate owes much to its seemingly endless acres of immaculate gardens, a blaze of color all summer long mixed with stunning architecture.
In 1571 the first mineral spring was discovered, resulting in the town rapidly becoming a world class spa. Experience a Victorian Turkish bath, built in the 1880's amidst surroundings that are pure Victorian. Enjoy a total leisure-experience enhanced by friendly, unobtrusive attention. This day will be a quiet, easy day: either a day for you to relax and explore on your own, or for those who wish to join us on a tour of the nearby city of York, with its Roman, Viking and Saxon history.
This morning you drive north a short distance to marvel at the spectacle at one of the few remaining "green gardens" to survive in its original form. Studley, created by John Aislabie in the early 1800's is the most impressive water Garden in Great Britain. Together with the backdrop of Fountains Hall and The Abbey (you will be amazed at these remains of a Cistercian monastery started in 1132 then closed some 400 years later by Henry V111) this will be one of the highlights of your journey.
On your return to Harrogate you will stop at Ripley Castle with its five acre Victorian Garden. The home of the National Hyacinth collection, the castle has been occupied by the same family for 24 generations. In the woodland there is a sweet chestnut tree - reputedly the oldest specimen in Britain - planted in the 1630's during the reign of King Charles 1.
Depart Harrogate arrive Cambridge. Today you will drive southeast which will give you the opportunity to see the home of the pilgrim father William Brewster who lived in the village of Scooby prior to his voyage to the Americas. Your next stop will be in the truly delightful Georgian town of Stamford where you will be able to stroll and explore. Before you arrive at your hotel in the university city of Cambridge you will be able to pay your respects at the American War Cemetery where 3,812 headstones, and a monument to a further 5,126 names who have no known graves, remind us of the sacrifices made by the young men & women during World War 11.
This evening your hotel is The Cambridge Garden House situated on the banks of the River Cam, why not take to the water in a punt and view this historic city from the river?
Depart Cambridge arrive London. After a morning of exploring the university city you will visit the National Trust property of Anglesey Abbey and Gardens - 100 acres of Gardens, featuring unique statuary and a working water mill - founded during the reign of Henry 1.
This afternoon at the abbey you will tour the newly opened US air force Museum at Daxford displaying 20 various kinds of aircraft including the U2, B52, F-100 and others.
On to central London where you will spend the next three nights at the Royal Trafalgar Hotel - an excellent West End location, a block from the National Gallery; within walking distance of Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, the theater, shopping and countless great restaurants.
Tonight dinner on your own - a pub, room service or London's best?
Your choice: a day exploring on your own or go with the tour guide to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. There is still something of the private garden about Kew, secured behind brick walls with the ha-ha separating it from the River Thames. The gardens were started in 1759 by Princess Augusta, widow of the prince of Wales and mother of king George 111. In 1841 the garden was presented by the Royal family to the nation. You will tour 300 acres of unrivalled beauty and tranquility. Lunch at Kew...Dinner on your own. This would be the perfect evening to attend a play or musical within walking distance of the hotel.
Today you have yet a further choice: Spend the day exploring London's shops , sights, museums and beauty on your own or join your guide on a four hour sight seeing drive, which will include The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, St Paul's Cathedral, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Horse guards, Houses of Parliament and more. Either way, we hope you join the group for a farewell dinner.
Transfer to London airport for return flight to North America.