Tour England – The Cotswolds and Dartmoor Pre-Cruise Tour with Dick and Leslie West

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All about the Tour England – The Cotswolds and Dartmoor Pre-Cruise Tour with Dick and Leslie West.

Join Dick and Leslie West as we explore the beautiful Cotswold region from Windsor to Bath, and the Dartmoor National Park in Devon, before delivering you to the Sea Spirit at dockside in Plymounth. We will stay at remarkable historic “country houses”, and dine at unique and historic restaurants and pubs. We will visit Blenheim Palace, birthplace and summer home of Sir Winston Churchill; Sudeley Castle, home of King Henry the VIII and his sixth wife, Queen Catherine, who is buried here; and Bath, where 2,000 years ago the Roman Empire built an elaborate bath complex, complete with a temple, and aquaduct system. To cap off the exploration, we will stay at the elegant, 5-star Bovey Castle in Dartmoor National Park and site of an ancient Bronze Age settlement.



The tour package inclusions and exclusions at a glance
What is included in this tour?Items that are included in the cost of tour price.

Included –

  • Five nights in deluxe accommodations at unique, historic country manor boutique hotels
  • Five Breakfasts, Three Lunches, Five Dinners
  • Beer and wine with lunch and dinner
  • All transfers and transportation in private vehicles
  • Admission to all attractions and sites
  • Gratuities to guides and restaurants
  • Luggage handling for one piece per person

Whats not included in this tour.Items that are not included in the cost of tour price.
  • Airfare;
  • Visa and passport fees (if applicable);
  • Luggage and trip cancellation insurance;
  • Alcoholic beverages other than wine and beer with lunch and dinner
  • Personal expenses such as laundry and telecommunication charges;


    Welcome to England! You will meet your chauffeur in the arrivals hall after clearing immigrations and customs.

    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)


    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.

    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)


    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)


    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)


    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


    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)




Here is some information about the three unique hotels we will be staying at during our 5-night pre-cruise tour.

Everybody has a past and at The Oakley Court, ours includes royalty, spies, Napoleon and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

We weren’t always a luxury country house hotel in Windsor. Life began way back before the days of Dracula dining at our table and The Phantom staging his famous opera. But before we go any further, we promise you there’s no skeletons in our closet. You can put the cushions down – behind the scenes, our story is thriller-free.

The scene begins with a flashback, a Time Warp to our unique history. Dating back to 1859 before our movie career even began, a chap called Sir Richard Hall-Say built the house for his young wife and their three children. Sir Richard later sold the property, after his appointment as High Sheriff of Berkshire, to the rather well-connected Lord Otho Fitzgerald. It was during his time at The Oakley Court that famous names began to grace the stage including the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII!), Leslie Ward (The famed SPY artist of Vanity Fair) and Napoleon IV, the last survivor of the Napoleon dynasty – to name just a few.

After changing hands from a Sheriff to a founder of Avery Scales and then his son, it wasn’t until The Oakley Court was bought by eccentric Frenchman, Ernest Olivier, that the hotel became the famous backdrop for classic horror. Five films were made by Hammer within the grounds in 1949 including ‘The Man in Black’ starring a young Sid James. While shooting here Hammer found Down Place, later the home of Bray Studios, setting the stage for many more films to come.

After 1965, when Olivier passed away, the house was vacant – except for the film crews who made over 200 films on location. These include the world-famous Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and the original ‘Half a Sixpence’ (1967). In 1977 the house was granted Grade II heritage listing. The hotel opened in 1981 and has been used to film TV shows such as ‘Law and Order’ and ‘The Comic Strip Presents’. The hotel hosted Queen Elizabeth II in 2009 as she joined us for the annual swan upping. This marked the first time a reigning monarch had personally attended a swan upping and her Majesty, along with local school children enjoyed the festivities from the hotel grounds. We were later the official base of the GB Olympic rowing team, competing at the nearby Dorney Lake for London 2012.

Oakley Court is a Victorian Gothic country house set in 35 acres (140,000 m2) overlooking the River Thames at Water Oakley in the civil parish of Bray in the English county of Berkshire. It was built in 1859 and is currently a luxury hotel. It is a Grade II* listed building that has been often used as a film location.

The Court was built in 1859 for Sir Richard Hall Say who married Ellen Evans of Boveney Court in 1857. He was appointed High Sheriff of Berkshire in 1864 and Justice of the Peace in 1865. In 1874 Oakley Court was sold to Lord Otho FitzGerald, then to a John Lewis Phipps and in 1900 to Sir William Beilby Avery of Avery Scales. In 1919 Ernest Olivier purchased the property together with 50 acres (200,000 m2) of Berkshire woodland for £27,000.

In August 1949 Oakley Court became home to the famous British film production company Hammer Films. Hammer shot five films there, including “The Man in Black” and “The Lady Craved Excitement”, before moving to the adjacent Down Place – what subsequently became Bray Studios – the following year.

While the bulk of Hammer’s most famous horror movies were filmed at Bray in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the studio continued to make occasional use of Oakley Court as an exterior location, for example in The Brides of Dracula (1962), The Reptile (1966), and The Plague of the Zombies (1966).

Other films shot there over the years include “Witchcraft” (1964); And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973); the William Castle horror-comedy The Old Dark House (1963) (a remake of the original The Old Dark House, directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff); the cult independent horror film Vampyres (1974); the classic 1976 mystery farce Murder by Death; and the 1978 Peter Cook and Dudley Moore comedy, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Freddie Frances was inspired by Oakley Court’s exteriors and long wished to set a film there; his 1970 Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny, and Girly was written specially to take advantage of the unique landscaping and architecture.

It is perhaps best known as Dr. Frank N Furter’s castle (called The Frankenstein Place) in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).

In 1995, it featured as the ‘Laxton Grange Hotel’ in the British television series Pie in the Sky starring Richard Griffiths.







 The Greenway Hotel & Spa, a Luxury Country Hotel in Gloucestershire

Located on the outskirts of the Regency town of Cheltenham, The Greenway is a 16th century luxury Elizabethan manor house hotel and spa. The 21- bedroom hotel, with its warm Cotswold stone exterior, is the picture of English country charm.

The grandfather clock ticks as you enter through stone archways into a beautiful entrance hall with wooden floors, an open fire and a décor of soft golds and honeys.

The Greenway Hotel & Spa is a charming honey-coloured stone, 16th-century Elizabethan manor house set in eight acres of manicured gardens. With an award-winning restaurant, a spa, a hydrotherapy pool and the chance to enjoy a range of country pursuits, it offers both comfort and style in the heart of the Cotswolds.

On arrival at The Greenway Hotel & Spa, pass under the stone archways into the warm ambiance of the entrance hall with its rich wood floor and a glowing fire. The rooms and suites are decorated in a mix of traditional country house and boutique style with vibrant soft furnishings and lovely garden views.


Why Stay at The Greenway Hotel & Spa?

Well, it’s definitely because of the eight acres of stunning grounds with views over the rolling Cotswold Hills, our luxury bedrooms, not to mention the outstanding service of our friendly team.

Perhaps it’s our fabulous Elan Spa with its hydrotherapy pool, thermal suites, outdoor hot tub, Champagne nail bar and ESPA treatments. Could it be our 2 AA Rosette restaurant, headed up by our talented head chef Marcus McGuiness? Then there’s the relaxed lounge and bar with open stone fireplaces, perfect for relaxing with a cocktail and canapés after a day out at Cheltenham races.

Our proximity to Cheltenham with her rich history, upmarket boutiques and coffee shops is a definite pull for our guests, but it’s all of these elements combined that make The Greenway Hotel & Spa such a unique destination.






Welcome to Bovey Castle, Devon

Located in the heart of Dartmoor National Park in Devon, the 5 Red Star Bovey Castle rests in 275 acres of beautiful countryside and rolling valleys.

The house was built in 1907 to designs by Detmar Blow, for the second Viscount Hambleden (the son and heir of the Conservative politician and stationery magnate William Henry Smith).

By 1930 it had become a hotel operated by the Great Western Railway, known as the Manor House Hotel. In 1948 it was taken over by the British Transport Commission. It was expanded under new ownership in the 1990s, then purchased and refurbished by the entrepreneur Peter de Savary in 2003 and renamed ‘Bovey Castle’. In 2006 de Savary sold ‘Bovey Castle’ to Hilwood Resorts. In 2014 it was sold to The Rigby Group plc as part of their Eden Hotel Collection. In 2017 British diver Tom Daley and American screenwriter Dustin Lance Black got married at Bovey Castle.

First opened as a hotel and golf resort in 1930 by Great Western Railways, our luxury castle hotel boasts 60 fabulous bedrooms, 22 self-catering country lodges nestled in the grounds, not to mention two refurbished restaurants, the Elan Spa and our award-winning 18 hole championship golf course, designed by J F Abercromby.

Why stay at Bovey Castle Hotel?

Well, it’s definitely because of the luxurious hospitality of Bovey Castle, the attention to detail and outstanding service. It may also be to make the most of the simply glorious surroundings or to indulge in a treatment or two in the Elan spa.

Perhaps it’s the vast array of country pursuits, golf and activities available to experience or the wonderful choice of dining options, from afternoon tea to fine dining in the Great Western and the classic British menu in Smith’s Brasserie. The unrivalled location and views over the dramatic Dartmoor National Park play a part, but it’s all of these elements combined that make Bovey Castle Hotel such a unique destination time after time.

The History of Bovey Castle

In 1890, William Henry Smith (WH Smith, later to become Viscount Hambleden) purchased 5,000 acres of land from the Earl of Devon for £103,000. The estate consisted of several large ancient manors, including Moretonhampstead and North Bovey; almost thirty farms, extensive woodland and fishing rights on the rivers Bovey and Teign. It was his son, Frederick, who built the Manor House in a lavish neo-Elizabethan style as one of the family’s numerous country retreats.

The interior boasted a Jacobean style staircase, plaster ceilings, an oak panelled dining room, open fireplace with a carved stone chimney and an Adam drawing room. Frederick became involved in Devon life and was a subaltern in the Devonshire Yeomanry, leading the regiment in Gallipoli and Egypt in the First World War. During the First World War, the Manor House became a convalescent home for officers and as a military hospital when war broke out again in 1939.

The Hambleden family rarely visited the Manor House during the 1920s, but when they did venture down to Devon the villages of Moretonhampstead and North Bovey would turn out to watch the spectacle. Lord Hambleden died in June 1928. His estate, consisting largely of the entire ordinary shareholding of WH Smith and his properties, were valued at £3,500,000 but was liable for death duty of £1,000,000. North Bovey Manor House and its estate were almost immediately put on the market to pay the death duty, which was eventually auctioned to the Great Western Railway for conversion to a golfing hotel for reputedly only £15,000.

The hotel and golf course opened in 1930 and the hotel entertained many celebrities. Following several successful years, another 17 bedrooms, a cocktail bar, dining room and squash and badminton courts were added between1935-1936. From 1946 to 1983, it was returned to the Great Western Railway and re-opened as a hotel. It then changed owners again in 1991 when considerable expansion took place and the golf course became a top priority. The 18 hole championship course is now one of England’s finest.

The Manor House became Bovey Castle in 2003 and 22 estate lodges, a second restaurant, spa and pool were added, with further refurbishment of the bedrooms undertaken in 2008 by Annabel Elliot and her team.

Bovey Castle became part of the award-winning Eden Hotel Collection in June 2014, joining seven other sister hotels across five counties from Warwickshire down to Devon. Eden Hotel Collection completed a multi-million pound refurbishment of the public areas, spa and restaurants in 2015, and relaunched Bovey’s new look in June 2015.

In August 2016 Bovey Castle was awarded 5 stars by the AA.