Our explorations will feature the beautiful stately homes, castles and gardens throughout the Heart of England and around the Capitol, all stunningly beautiful in their own right and almost all with Tudor connections.
The grand finale to our week will be a day to explore Henry VIII’s pleasure palace and amazing gardens at Hampton Court. Our tour includes a full day ticket to the famed RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, as an extra special treat for gardens lovers.
This is an itinerary we hope is a fun twist to the usual ‘homes and gardens’ tour!
- Tour Date: 1 – 9 July
- Tour Rate: $2699 USD per person; $400 USD single supplement
- Early Booking Special - Book by 31 December and save $100 USD per person.
- This tour begins and ends in London.
Day 1, 1 July: Welcome to London! You have the day free to recover from your flight and explore as you wish. Perhaps you will choose to go around on the “Big Bus”, the best introduction to the iconic sites of the Capitol. Hop off when you want then hop back on - a fun way to start your holiday! There are heaps of iconic London sites with a Tudor connection. Elizabeth I is buried along with her grandfather Henry VII, half sister ‘Bloody’ Mary and a host of other British monarchs and historical figures in Westminster Abbey. You can also explore the sinister history, hearing the terrible, fated tales of Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn, step-mother Katherine Howard, cousin Lady Jane Grey and many others in The Tower of London. Alternatively, London has a wide array of public parks and gardens of all shapes and sizes. The Royal Gardens at Kew is a popular choice. Spoilt for choice in the Capitol! Overnight: London, BB (accommodation included in package).
Day 2, 2 July: Departing London at about 10:00 am, our first destination is Hatfield, where Elizabeth I spent most of her childhood. The deer park here was then owned by Henry VIII, who used it as a home for each of his legitimate children, Mary, Elizabeth and Edward. This parkland once held the lavish Theobolds Palace, now destroyed, the initial stop on Elizabeth’s 1575 summer progress. We are beginning our very own ‘summer progress’ with the place where Queen Elizabeth I began her reign, it was in Hatfield that Elizabeth learned of her accession to the throne in 1558. We will explore Hatfield West Gardens featuring a scented garden, herb garden and the famous knot garden.
Later today enjoy Kirby Hall, another of England’s great Elizabethan and 17th-century houses. Begun by Sir Humphrey Stafford in about 1570, it was purchased six years later by Sir Christopher Hatton, one of Queen Elizabeth’s ‘comely young men’ and later her Lord Chancellor. Kirby Hall’s richly decorated Great Hall and state rooms remain intact. In the 17th Century, the 4th Sir Christopher Hatton added the gardens, then described as ‘ye finest garden in England.’ These gardens are now partly restored and laid out in an elaborate cutwork design. Overnight: Oakham area, DBB.
Day 3, 3 July: As we’re near, we’ll have a visit this morning to the perfectly preserved town of Stamford. Many who have enjoyed English costume dramas will find the streets somewhat familiar as the BBC and others have used the town extensively for location shoots recreating the 18th century. The day's first jewel house, Burghley is the largest and grandest house of the first Elizabethan Age. Built by William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Elizabeth I, this gem is still a family home for his descendants to this day.
Eighteen State Rooms contain unique and important collections of porcelain, art, furniture and textiles. This stop is guaranteed to bring gasps of amazement to even the most travelled amongst us! Bosworth is a Tudor place of interest which marks the demise of the House of York and the ascendancy of the Tudors to the British throne. It was on this battlefield back in 1485 that Henry Tudor (Elizabeth’s grandfather) slew Richard III, an event brilliantly retold by Shakespeare on stage, Richard’s pleas of ‘my kingdom for a horse’ not being quite enough. If there’s interest among the group, we will have a guided walk of the battlefield.
Imagine you’re a noble or wealthy land owner in 1575 and the Queen is traveling through your area. The Queen’s visit to your home could mean much prestige, further wealth and perhaps even a title so surely dozens of invitations were received by Elizabeth…but how many did she actually visit? Researchers of Middleton Hall near Tamworth have been arguing the evidence that the Queen stayed here for 2 nights between well documented stays in Kenilworth and Lichfield.
Did she or didn’t she visit? Middleton Hall has a rich and interesting history and, just like our Virgin Queen, their schedule permitting perhaps we will be able to have visit by special appointment. Dependent upon our route to our nightstop location, we may pass through charming Harlaston village, the often time winner of “Best Kept Small Village in Staffordshire.” The winding main street offers several Elizabethan buildings including the timber framed Manor House built around 1540.
Overnight: Lichfield area, DBB.
Day 4, 4 July: Today, we’ve a leisurely day to explore greater Staffordshire, where Elizabeth spent approximately 3 weeks enjoying hunting and country pursuits in 1575. We’re a bit spoilt for choice as there are many things to see and do in the area. The group can decide priorities in consultation with your guide.
We will begin our day with time in the market town of Lichfield, which offers a lovely cathedral, the birthplace of Dr Johnson (writer of the very first dictionary) and St John’s Hospital and Chapel, called one of the finest 15th Century brick buildings in the country featuring wonderful stained glass. There are some lovely Tudor buildings to admire as well as a charming high street to meander.
Later, we can choose one of the several lovely stately homes or castles in the area. Tamworth offers a Norman castle with a Tudor Great Hall. Alternatively, in Wolverhampton there is Mosley Old Hall, an Elizabethan farmhouse with connections to King Charles II. The garden here has several varieties of plants and a striking knot garden following a 17th-century design. Nearby is David Austin Roses, displaying a national collection of English roses. This may be a must if we’ve rose lovers aboard since there are over 800 varieties to see! Overnight: Lichfield area, as above, DBB.
Day 5, 5 July: Kenilworth Castle was the most important stop on Elizabeth’s 1575 progress and she is reported to have been entertained here for 19 days, an almost never-ending series of lavish feasts, music, hunting and plays. Rumor has it that one William Shakespeare was a participant and that the events he witnessed that July inspired his Midsummer Night’s Dream. This was Queen Elizabeth’s 4th visit to Kenilworth, home to her favorite Robert Dudley. Today, Kenilworth is a magnificent ruin with immaculately re-constructed Elizabethan gardens, as originally designed by Dudley for the Queen’s 1575 visit. Imagine yourself ‘Royal’ as we walk in Elizabeth’s footsteps through these gardens!
Stratford-upon-Avon is our next destination today, the home town of the Bard. Our visits can include Shakespeare’s burial site in the local church, his mother Mary Arden’s home with its bird of prey centre and the well-known Birthplace. These Shakespeare houses are iconic sites to visit but also a wonderful opportunity to learn a bit about daily life during the late Tudor period. Dinner is not included tonight so you have the option to attend an RSC performance. Overnight: Stratford/Cotswolds area, BB.
Day 6, 6 July: The Cotswolds region is another top spot for modern visitors due to the charming, honey-thatched cottage villages and wide range of lovely gardens. This was an important source of wealth throughout the Tudor period as a sheep farming region. We will have a bit of a meander through the area, in true off the beaten track style, discovering a few local treasures that those on big coaches miss. Nearby Stratford is Coughton Court, home of the Throckmorton family since 1409. Framed by an Elizabethan half timbered courtyard are the gardens, described as “breathtaking” by the Royal Horticultural Society. Surely a place very worthy of our time!
Sudley Castle has connections running through the Tudor Dynasty and court circle. It was home to three queens, houses the marble tomb of Katherine Parr (the wife of Henry VIII who survived him) and a place where scandal left its impression on the young mind of the future Queen Elizabeth I. She later re-visited the residence during more than one of her progresses, including in 1575. Here we’ll find seven enchanting gardens including a Tudor Knot garden with water features and a delightful mosaic. Overnight: Stratford/Cotswolds area, as above, DBB.
Day 7, 7 July: We’ve yet another fantastic day to enjoy even more beautiful homes and gardens – you won’t believe we are so close to the sprawling metropolis of London! Elizabeth spent a night or two in the charming village of Woodstock in 1575. Nearby Woodstock is the stunning Blenheim Palace, a fitting inclusion on our homes and gardens theme despite its lack of a Tudor connection.
This incredible treasure house was given to Winston Churchill's ancestor John, 1st Duke of Marlborough and the gardens were designed in part by Capability Brown. Oxford is a destination on almost any English itinerary, with good reason! This is the jewel in the literary crown (Lewis Carroll, Tolkien and connections to modern creations Inspector Morse and Harry Potter) but it is the ‘dreaming spires’ which is the main draw. Many of the colleges here were endowed during the Tudor period by Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII.
During a walking tour, we will see Christchurch, originally known as ‘Cardinal College’ then ‘King Henry VIII’s college’ among other highlights. The conclusion of the ‘summer country progress’ portion of our tour will be in the very building that Queen Elizabeth I concluded hers, Fawsley Hall, now a luxury hotel and where we will enjoy an afternoon tea together. Overnight: London, BB + Afternoon tea.
Day 8, 8 July: Hampton Court Flower Show. Our grand finale is a full day to enjoy Henry VIII’s masterpiece Hampton Court Palace, the sumptuous backdrop for the largest annual flower show! You’ll have ample time to explore the castle interiors, the grounds and gardens as well as the special flower and plant displays, marketplaces and workshops of the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. Along with the Tudor Kitchens, Henry VIII's State Apartments are the most popular attraction inside the palace.
The Great Hall is the palace's largest and most impressive room, with an ornate carved-wood ceiling and a collection of Flemish tapestries that date back over 500 years. Hampton Court Palace is set in over 60 acres of gardens and parklands along the scenic River Thames. You won’t want to miss the Great Vine (planted by Capability Brown,) the rose gardens, Privy Gardens inspired by William of Orange, the Tiltyard and the famous Yew tree hedge Maze. There is one of the few ‘real’ tennis courts to be seen here too! One transfer will be provided to Hampton Court in the morning and one transfer back to your hotel in the evening.
You are welcomed to come and go from the show as you please using public transport. Your ticket to the flower show is valid from opening until closing. Dinner is not included tonight for flexibility’s sake and the option to attend the theatre. We highly recommend an evening out at the re-created Elizabethan age theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside. Nearby is a replica of the Golden Hinde, the ship of the Elizabethan hero Sir Francis Drake. Overnight: London, as above, BB (accommodation is included tonight).
Day 9, 9 July: Your tour package concludes after breakfast this morning. Make your way to the airport for your flight home or we are happy to assist you with extending your stay, as you wish. Why not extend your stay in London and explore more of the city’s Tudor heritage? We can assist you with scheduled or private day tours in and around London to these attractions if you prefer not to ‘do it yourself’. Please discuss options with us.
What about Windsor, where perhaps you’ll meet some “merry wives?” Merry Wives of Windsor is said to have been commissioned especially by the Virgin Queen, who enjoyed the plays of Shakespeare and wanted to see more of the character Falstaff. Windsor Castle is over 900 years old, having begun construction under William the Conqueror, and is still the main Royal residence for the Monarchy. This was Henry VIII’s favorite residence, especially for hunting. He is buried on the grounds in St George’s Chapel alongside his 3rd wife, Jane Seymour, the mother of his only male heir.
Elizabeth spent much time here too, regarding it as a safe haven "knowing it could stand a siege if need be". There is also the Palace of Lambeth, called “the only place in London where, right from the road, you are confronted by Tudor London” Though the palace itself is not opened to the public, the Palace Gardens, among the oldest and largest gardens in London, are open year round. Further along the river, there’s Eltham Palace in Greenwich. The medieval Great Hall here is where a young future Henry VIII spent many of his formative years. Certainly spoilt for choice as to what you can see and do on the Tudor theme in and around London!
Please note: All attraction opening times are correct at time of printing this website. While we will do our utmost to include all of the properties mentioned as central visits, we reserve the right to change an attraction should it become impossible to deliver a planned visit due to changes in opening days or times that we could not have been aware of at the time of loading this tour to our website.
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