UNITED KINGDOM – THE COTSWOLDS AND DARTMOOR NATIONAL PARK
On this special pre-cruise tour from London’s Heathrow Airport to the pier in Plymouth where we will board the Sea Spirit, we will visit enchanting places, staying in historically significant and charming country manors and even a castle! Leslie and I hope you will join us on this amazing trip of discovery to places like Blenheim Palace, pictured above, Bourton on the Waters, the Cotswolds, Sudeley Castle, Bath, and much more.
We have taken care to arrange the best possible experiences for our guests. We will visit interesting and charming villages and historical sites, while focusing on the unique and memorable. We have intentionally left out the “top” tourist attractions in an effort to provide a more personal, meaningful and stress-free experience. That said, when we visit Bath, we will do so in the morning, before the tour buses from London arrive.
DATES – May 17-22, 2019 – DURATION – 6 Days
FROM – London’s Heathrow Airport
TO – Sea Spirit pier in Plymouth
RATES – $3,895 per person, Double/$4,895 Single
Based on Minimum 10 guests at current exchange rate.
Day 1 – FRIDAY – 17th May 2019 – ARRIVE HEATHROW AIRPORT – LONDON
Meet your chauffeur in the arrival hall after clearing customs and immigration. You will be transferred to the charming Oakley Court, a former country estate, now a boutique four-star hotel just a few miles from Windsor. If you arrive early, you may wish to visit Windsor Castle. Or stay to explore the beautiful gardens and grounds directly on the River Thames. Tonight, we will have our Welcome Dinner where you will meet your fellow explorers. (D)
Day 2 – SATURDAY – 18th May 2019 – BLENHEIM PALACE – BOURTON-ON-THE WATER – GREENWAY HOTEL
After breakfast we shall depart for our first explorations of the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds is a rural area of south central England covering parts of 6 counties, notably Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. Its rolling hills and grassland harbor thatched medieval villages, churches and stately homes built of distinctive local yellow limestone.
Greenway Hotel and Spa
Our first stop will be at magnificent Blenheim Palace, the birthplace and summer “home” of Sir Winston Churchill. Blenheim Palace is a monumental English country house situated in the civil parish of Blenheim near Woodstock, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. It is the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough, and the only non-royal non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace. The palace, one of England’s largest houses, was built between 1705 and circa 1722. At the end of the 19th century, the palace was saved from ruin by funds gained from the 9th Duke of Marlborough’s marriage to American railroad heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. Blenheim Palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
After our guided tour of the palace, we will enjoy lunch at a 16th century pub near the palace – The Black Prince.
We continue to the quaint and picturesque village of Bourton-on-the-Water. Straddling the River Windrush, it’s known for its low bridges and traditional stone houses. The Cotswold Motoring Museum features vintage cars and a toy collection. Birdland is home to species including parrots, owls and king penguins, plus life-size model dinosaurs. The Model Village is a 1930s 1/9th scale replica of the village built in great detail, even including the model, itself.
We will arrive at our accommodations for the next two nights, the Greenway Hotel and Spa. With only 22 rooms, set on 5 beautiful acres, it is a quiet and charming retreat. We will have dinner at the hotel tonight. (B, L, D)
Day 3 – SUNDAY – 19th May 2019 – CHIPPING CAMPDEN – SUDELEY CASTLE
Chipping Campden is a small market town in the Cotswold district of Gloucestershire, England. It is notable for its elegant terraced High Street, dating from the 14th century to the 17th century. A rich wool trading center in the Middle Ages, Chipping Campden enjoyed the patronage of wealthy wool merchants (see also wool church), most notably William Greville (d.1401). Today it is a popular Cotswold tourist destination with old inns, hotels, specialist shops and restaurants. The High Street is lined with honey-colored limestone buildings, built from the mellow locally quarried oolitic limestone known as Cotswold stone, and boasts a wealth of fine vernacular architecture. At
its center stands the Market Hall with its splendid arches, built in 1627.
Other attractions include the grand early perpendicular wool church of St James – with its medieval altar frontals (c.1500), cope (c.1400) and vast and extravagant 17th-century monuments to local wealthy silk merchant Sir Baptist Hicks and his family – the Almshouses and Woolstaplers Hall.
We will lunch at another historic English pub – Eight Bells Inn – in Chipping Campden.
Sudeley Castle is located in the Cotswolds near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, England. The present structure was built in the 15th century and may have been on the site of a 12th-century castle. The castle has a notable garden, which is designed and maintained to a very high standard. The chapel, St. Mary’s Sudeley, is the burial place of Queen Catherine Parr (1512–1548), the sixth wife of King Henry VIII, and contains her marble tomb. Unusually for a castle chapel, St Mary’s of Sudeley is part of the local parish of the Church of England. Sudeley is also one of the few castles left in England that is still a residence. It is a Grade I listed building, and recognized as an internationally important structure. (B, L, D)
Day 4 – MONDAY – 20th May 2019 – BATH – DARTMOOR NATIONAL PARK – BOVEY CASTLE
After breakfast we will say goodbye to our friends at the Greenway, and head south to Bath. Bath is the largest city in the county of Somerset, England, known for its Roman-built baths. Bath is in the valley of the River Avon, 97 miles (156 km) west of London. The city became a World Heritage Site in 1987.
The city became a spa with the Latin name Aquae Sulis (”the waters of Sulis”) c. 60 AD when the Romans built baths and a temple in the valley of the River Avon, although hot springs were known even before then. A temple was constructed in AD 60–70, and a bathing complex was built up over the next 300 years. Engineers drove oak piles into the mud to provide a stable foundation and surrounded the spring with an irregular stone chamber lined with lead. In the 2nd century, the spring was enclosed within a wooden barrel-vaulted structure that housed the caldarium (hot bath), tepidarium (warm bath), and frigidarium (cold bath).
Bath Abbey was founded in the 7th century and became a religious center; the building was rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries. In the 17th century, claims were made for the curative properties of water from the springs, and Bath became popular as a spa town in the Georgian era. Georgian architecture, crafted from Bath stone, includes the Royal Crescent, Circus, Pump Room and Assembly Rooms where Beau Nash presided over the city’s social life from 1705 until his death in 1761. Many of the streets and squares were laid out by John Wood, the Elder, and in the 18th century the city became fashionable and the population grew. Jane Austen lived in Bath in the early 19th century. Further building was undertaken in the 19th century and following the Bath Blitz in World War II.
We will first enjoy a panoramic tour of Bath. Bath has many interesting and picturesque places to visit – all within easy walking distances. There are also many restaurants, featuring everything from Thai to Mexican to Italian – and, of course, pubs. And even more shopping opportunities. The Roman Baths feature self-guided portable ear sets giving information throughout the archaeological exhibit. Some could spend 3 hours here alone. With all the choices, you will have 3 hours to explore on your own, or with fellow travelers with similar interests, and to enjoy lunch on your own. Once back aboard our coach, we will bid farewell to the Cotswolds and head to Dartmoor National Park, and
Bovey Castle, our home for the next two nights. Dinner will be at a nearby historic pub. (B, D)
Day 5 – TUESDAY – 21st May 2019 – EXPLORE DARTMOOR NATIONAL PARK – CASTLE DROGO
Today we will explore Dartmoor National Park. Dartmoor is a moor in southern Devon, England. Protected by National Park status as Dartmoor National Park, it covers 954 km2 (368 sq mi). Visiting, as we are, during spring, we will likely encounter many young foals, lambs and calves with their mothers in the open fields.
The granite which forms the uplands dates from the Carboniferous Period of geological history. The moorland is capped with many exposed granite hilltops known as tors, providing habitats for Dartmoor wildlife. The highest point is High Willhays, 621 m (2,037 ft) above sea level. The entire area is rich in antiquities and archaeology.
The majority of the prehistoric remains on Dartmoor date back to the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age. Indeed, Dartmoor contains the largest concentration of Bronze Age remains in the United Kingdom, which suggests that this was when a larger population moved onto the hills of Dartmoor. The large systems of Bronze Age fields, divided by reaves, cover an area of over 10,000 hectares (39 sq mi) of the lower moors.
We will visit Grimspound – a late Bronze Age settlement, first settled about 1300 BC, situated on Dartmoor. It consists of a set of 24 hut circles surrounded by a low stone wall. The name was first recorded by the Reverend Richard Polwhele in 1797; it was probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon god of war, Grim (more commonly known as Woden, or Odin). In 1893 an archaeological dig was carried out by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee, which recorded many details of Grimspound as well as, controversially, making a reconstruction of the site.
We will also visit the last castle built in the UK and have a guided tour of Castle Drogo. Constructed between 1911 and 1930, it was the last castle to be built in England. The client was Julius Drewe, the hugely successful founder of the Home and Colonial Stores. Drewe chose the site in the belief that it formed part of the lands of his supposed medieval ancestor, Drogo de Teigne. The architect he chose to realize his dream was Edwin Lutyens, then at the height of his career. Lutyens lamented Drewe’s determination to have a castle but nevertheless produced one of his finest buildings. The architectural critic, Christopher Hussey, described the result: ”The ultimate justification of Drogo is that it does not pretend to be a castle. It is a castle, as a castle is built, of granite, on a mountain, in the twentieth century”.
The castle was given to the National Trust in 1974, the first building constructed in the twentieth century that the Trust acquired. Currently undergoing conservation (2013–2018), the castle is a Grade I listed building. The gardens are Grade II listed on the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
This evening we will have our final dinner together – before boarding the Sea Spirit, that is! (B, L, D
Castle Drogo – Dartmoor
Day 6 – WEDNESDAY – 22nd May 2019 – MID-DAY TRANSFER TO PLYMOUTH – BOARD SEA SPIRIT
Enjoy a relaxing morning. Perhaps walk through the beautiful grounds of Bovey Castle. Depending on the scheduled boarding time of the Sea Spirit, we expect to depart mid-day for Plymouth, going directly to the pier. (B)