Britain abounds in these magnificent testaments to the skills of medieval masons and architects. Whether it is the mighty ramparts of Conwy Castle or intricate wood carving and stained glass windows of York Minster, this is where history comes close enough to touch. A tour of some of the most spectacular and atmospheric ancient buildings of Britain.
As with all Homemade Holiday tours, this is a suggested itinerary, which can be adjusted, adapted and altered to suit your requirements.
Day 1: Arrive in London. This first day is set aside for recovery and acclimatisation in London. If time and jet lag allow you could take one of the open topped bus tours around London to see some of the sites which would be heavy going on foot, and some which you can return to later.
Days 2-3: Two days to explore London. Beyond description in this small space. The sights, the museums, theatres and shops, the buildings and the people, make London a unique city to experience. this would be a good day to take an open top bus tour for a first look around, viewing some of the sights which would be heavy going on foot. Take a sail on the River Thames up to the Tower of London, visit St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, drop in to Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard, have a picnic in St. James’s Park with the pelicans. The list is endless.
Day 4: Heading out of London to Salisbury, and its 13th century Cathedral, with the tallest spire in England soaring over 400 feet. If you have an appetite for climbing church towers we can recommend the climb up this one. It gives an amazing insight into the building methods of the medieval masons. If time allows you could also visit Old Sarum. This hilltop settlement was occupied from 2nd century BC, with the hill fort enclosing the entire hilltop. It was the original site of the city of Salisbury, abandoned in 1220 for the location closer to the river Avon. Your target for tonight is your next base, a lovely old inn in the Mendip Hills of Somerset. In the valley just below the inn is one of the least visited stone circles in the country. A good place to stretch your legs and take in the fresh air of Somerset.
Day 5: Through the limestone chasm of the Cheddar Gorge to the Cathedral City of Wells. England's smallest city, and home to the magnificent 14th century Cathedral, adorned with over 300 statues and one of the oldest working clocks in Europe. Wells is one of the "hidden gems" of England. Off the normal tourist routes and always a delight to visit, to stroll around the gardens of the Bishops Palace, to lunch in the cathedral cloisters or just to soak up the atmosphere of this ancient corner of England. Then on to Glastonbury, reputed burial place of King Arthur and his queen Guinevere. Also an essential visit for anyone interested in “alternative theories” on just about everything. Its many bookshops specialize in the weird, wonderful and mysterious.
Day 6: Heading north to Gloucester. With its magnificent limestone cathedral, dating back to the 11th Century. The burial place of the tragic king Edward II. More recently used as one of the locations for the Harry Potter movies. Gloucester is at the head of the Severn Estuary and the old dock warehouses are now a maze of shops, restaurants and a rather good antiques market. The day ends in your next base, a grand Gothic Revival castle perched high on a hill overlooking the Welsh borderlands.
Days 7-8: Two days to explore the spectacular scenery of North Wales. A land of Castles, Legends, Dragons and an almost incomprehensible language! These days will give you the opportunity to a visit Conwy Castle, built in 1283 and still an impressive sight 700 years later, then onto Edward I’s other magnificent castles of Beaumaris, Caernarfon and Harlech. Built as part of the “Ring of Stone” following the defeat of the Welsh Princes in the 13th Century.
Day 9: Over the Pennines to York. A city dominated by its 13th century cathedral or minster as they call them in Yorkshire. This city was founded by the Romans and was the Viking capital of eastern England. It is reputed to be the most haunted city in England, and a “Ghost Walk” in the evening is a perfect way to meet some of the City’s previous residents.
Day 10: A full day to explore York, with its tangle of narrow streets, alleyways and markets. It also has one of the compulsary stops on the trip; afternoon tea at Betty’s Tea Rooms.
Day 11: North to Durham, Land of the Prince Bishops. Durham Cathedral completed in 1133 has been described as "one of the architectural
masterpieces of Europe", built high above the River Wear in a natural loop of the river. St.Cuthbert's tomb can still be seen in the present cathedral, as can the "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum", (The Ecclesiastical History of the English) an 8th century manuscript completed in 731 by the monk and scholar Bede.
Day 12: Alnwick. Alnwick castle is one of the great medieval fortresses of England. Principal residence of the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland since the early 14th cent. It stands above the river Aln amongst parkland created by Capability Brown. Yet another castle now famous for its Harry Potter links. Your overnight stay tonight is in a splendid Gothic revival castle in the Cumbrian hills. With literary connections to Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope, this is a lovely place to just relax and soak up the eclectic ambience of the Castle.
Day 13: This is an unplanned day. This is not because we cannot think of anything for you to do today. We always like to keep some days free, so that you can fit in some unforeseen delight, which may only become apparent as time progresses.
Day 14: Warwick. Warwick Castle is one of the most interesting Medieval castles in the country. It is in an ideal picturesque setting, on the banks of the Avon. The interior recreates life in the castle as it would have been for its original occupants. It is also home to the world’s largest trebuchet.
Day 15: Windsor. Dominated by the largest inhabited castle in the world. Established by William I. it covers 13 acres and is still a Royal residence. A visit to the Castle would be a fine grand finalé to your visit, as you walk through the sumptuous state rooms and soak up the atmosphere of 900 years of Royal history. Taking in the magnificent architecture of St.George’s Chapel. Home to the Order of the Knights of the Garter and burial place of many Kings and Queens, such as Henry VIII and George VI. You may also get time to have one last cream tea in a typical English Tea Rooms.
Day 16: Head back home with lots of memories and hundreds of photographs. This tour is also convertible to a “Self-Drive” tour.
Note: Please contact us with your thoughts and suggestions for variations to any of our tours. Our aim is to make a tour to fit you, not to make you fit into a tour!
- All accommodation with private facilities, on a bed and breakfast basis
Also see tour packages in:
Europe England History Whiz Archeology/History Cultural Journey