Stately homes and gardens - WAT18
Number of Days: 7
Destination: Great Britain
This is a fantastic tour, taking in a wide-range of historic and ancient places - grand houses, churches, forts and monuments - some of which are well known and others less so. Whether it's the architecture, the social history, the literary and political connections, the fashions of the day or just simply the atmosphere, each place will tell its own story. In short, we take you to a selection of some of southern England's great treasures, including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites at Blenheim Palace, a perfect example of an 18th-century princely house, and the Stonehenge and Avebury collectively among the most famous groups of megaliths in the world. And, although gardens may have faded from their high-summer splendour, there are still many a superb garden, delighted to impress the late-summer visitor, and we show off a few of these too. We spend most of our time in Wiltshire, but we dip into and out of neighbouring Oxfordshire and Somerset, touching upon the southern parts of the Cotswold Hills and the North Wessex Downs. And you won't be rushed away, there will be plenty of time for the story to unfold: like all our tours, we remain resolutely unhurried.
7 DAY ITINERARY
Tour commences Heathrow 14 September 2018
Day 1 | Fri 14 Sept: The Old Bell, Malmesbury, Blenheim PalacePick up this morning from the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, immediately north of Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport and, then we drive west, towards Oxford, for lunch and the afternoon at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire seat of the Dukes of Marlborough, home to the 12th Duke and, famously, birth place of Winston Churchill. Vanburgh's early-18th century masterpiece of English Baroque is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was gifted by Queen Anne to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, for his victory over the Franco-Bavarian army, at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.
We have time to explore Blenheim’s rich treasures, gardens and parkland before we continue to The Old Bell Hotel, our base-from-home for the week. Set in the centre of historic market town of Malmesbury, we will arrive there in good time to check-in and relax, before drinks and dinner in their dining room.
Day 2 | Sat 15 Sept: Bowood, Lacock, Corsham
We spend today, close to home, starting with a morning visit to Bowood House, home of the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, and home to the Lansdowne family since the 1st Earl of Shelburne purchased it in 1754. We visit both the house and the beautifully landscaped 'Capability' Brown park, before driving to Lacock Abbey, for lunch and the early afternoon exploring this house, its village and the Fox Talbot Museum of photography. Founded in 1232 by Ela, Countess of Salisbury, Lacock Abbey has enjoyed a rich and varied history, culminating in the world's first photographic negative being made, in August 1835, in the South Gallery, by William Henry Fox Talbot, a pioneering scientist and keen mathematician, who had moved into Lacock in 1827.
Our final visit of the day is to Corsham Court, its gardens and art collection. Corsham dates to 978, as a summer palace for the Kings of Wessex, and subsequently became part of the dowry of the Queens of England, until Thomas Smythe held the property and built an Elizabethan manor house. It came into the hands of the Methuen family, and remains the home of James Methuen-Campbell, the eighth generation of the Methuens to live here. We stay in Corsham for dinner at The Methuen Arm
Day 3 | Sun 16 Sept: Barrows, Hills, Henges, Stone Circles, Manor House
We spend today in and around Avebury World Heritage Site, starting with a visit to West Kenet Long Barrow, one of the largest and most accessible Neolithic chambered tombs in Britain (built in 3650 BC). Close by is the mysterious Silbury Hill, the largest man-made mound in Europe. It compares in height and volume, and is roughly contemporary, with the Egyptian pyramids. Probably completed around 2400 BC, it apparently contains no burial and, although clearly important, its purpose and significance remain unknown.
It is only a few minutes to Avebury, where we will have lunch, visit Avebury Manor and Garden, and explore Avebury henge and stone circle, one of the greatest achievements of prehistoric Britain. Built and much altered between 2850 BC and 2200 BC, the henge survives as a huge circular bank and ditch, encircling an area that includes part of Avebury village, and the largest stone circle in Britain - originally of 100 stones - itself enclosing two smaller stone circles. We return home for overnight and dinner at The Old Bell Hotel
Day 4 | Mon 17 Sept: Old Sarum, Salisbury Cathedral, Stonehenge
Our day starts with a visit to Old Sarum, a mighty Iron Age hill fort where the Celts, whose hill fort this was, followed by the Romans, the Saxons and the Normans who all left their mark, and none more so than the Normans, who built Salisbury's first cathedral within their fortifications. Later, Old Sarum was abandoned, in favour of a new site by the river, and the new Salisbury Cathedral (consecrated 1220), was built. Salisbury is one of the finest examples of Early English Gothic architecture in Britain and home to one of the four original Magna Carta. Enjoy a private guided tour of the cathedral. We will have lunch break in Salisbury and the opportunity to visit Mompesson House, in the Cathedral Close.
From Salisbury we retrace our steps north to spend the rest of the day at Stonehenge, the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe and one of the wonders of the world. It’s a subject of speculation and fascination since at least the early medieval period. The first monument, the circular earthwork enclosure of about 3000 BC, was transformed some 500 years later by the addition of the central stone monument, a massive construction project.
We dine tonight at the award winning Red Lion, East Chisenbury
Day 5 | Tues 18 Sept: Iford Manor, Bath, Roman Baths
We start the day outside Bath, for a private visit to Iford Manor and its tranquil, Italianate garden designed by the architect and landscape gardener Harold Peto. Peto, a contemporary of Edwin Luytens, lived at Iford from 1899 to 1933, and created this romantic hillside garden, with its steps, terraces, sculpture and magnificent rural views.
After a cup of coffee/tea we will leave Iford for nearby Bath, where you will have some free time to explore this fantastic, historic city, before meeting up for a light afternoon tea at the Georgian Pump Rooms - where the likes of Jane Austen and her contemporaries would have taken the waters - before visiting the Roman Baths, next door. We leave Bath late in the afternoon for supper at The Potting Shed, in Crudwell, en route home to Malmesbury
Day 6 | Wed 19 Sept: River Thames, Kelmscott Manor, Buscot Park
We tour today in Oxfordshire, at two very different properties either side the River Thames, immersing ourselves in the 'Arts and Crafts' movement at Kelmscott Manor, the wonderful country retreat of William Morris, his family and Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Morris thought Kelmscott was 'Heaven on Earth', as it provided a constant source of inspiration until his death in 1896.
After lunch, at Kelmscott, we cross the Thames for the afternoon at Buscot Park, the late-eighteenth century family home of Lord Faringdon, who looks after the property on behalf of the National Trust. As well as the family collection of pictures, furniture, ceramics and objets d'art - collectively, the Faringdon Collection, which is displayed in the house - we have time to explore Buscot's beautiful walled gardens, its extensive grounds and its delightful Peto water garden. We return to The Old Bell for a relaxing evening and our end-of-tour dinner
Day 7 | Thurs 20 Sept: Windsor Great Park, Savill Garden, Heathrow
Our final morning is spent in Windsor Great Park, the remnant of a once vast Norman hunting forest, which today still covers some 5,000 acres/2,000 ha of parkland, gardens and woodland. We will concentrate our efforts on the Savill Garden, named for its creator Eric Savill, and one of Britain's finest ornamental gardens. It is a true wonder and a garden for all seasons. After lunch, at the Savill Garden, we return to the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, for those of you departing from Heathrow for onward travel arrangements.
Sleeping & Eating: We return to the newly refurbished The Old Bell Hotel, Malmesbury, a wonderful establishment and one of several claimants to the title 'The Oldest Hotel in England'! We will dine in, at The Old Bell, on three evenings and dine out on three evenings, at The Red Lion, East Chisenbury, the current Good Pub Guide ' Wiltshire Dining Pub of the Year' award winners, at The Methuen Arms, Corsham, and at a personal favourite, The Potting Shed, Crudwell.
This escorted tour includes: Heritage and Garden tour, 6 gardens, Blenheim Palace, Buscot Manor, Stonehenge, Avebury, Iford Manor, Salisbury Cathedral, Historic Townhouse Hotel, Bowood House, Georgian Bath and Roman Baths, The Savill Garden
- $4,399 per person