"I am so excited to be offering this tour. I have always loved Christmas and everything leading up to it. I decorate extensively for the holidays and love to go see what others are doing in there homes, or castles for that matter! I love Christmas markets and caroling and making merry in every way! What better way to spend the days leading up to Christmas than traveling through the beautiful English countryside! I've tried to give a broad spectrum of what is available to see and do at this time of year and I think that the end result is fabulous! Please join us for this amazing holiday experience on a trip through Merry Old England that will live on in your heart forever!" - Shannon McDonald Tate
Day 1: Arrive into London's Gatwick Airport to start the tour. Our first stop will be Polesdon Lacey near Dorking where you can take a sleigh ride, listen to yuletide choirs and bands, indulge in seasonal treats in the restaurant, and look out for Father Christmas and discover the story of an Edwardian Christmas as you explore the house. After lunch, we make our way to the lovely market town of Marlborough, a place where coins were minted in Norman times, Tudor kings hunted for deer and where coaches heading west from London stopped to feed and water their horses. Today it is well know for its shopping! We then make our way to our accommodation for two nights. Welcoming Dinner and Overnight near Bradford-on-Avon. (L,D)
Day 2: This morning we take the train from Bradford to the Spa Town of Bath where the quaint streets and square between the stunning Bath Abbey and the internationally renowned Roman Baths are transformed into a Christmas Shopper's Haven - Bath Christmas Market. In the heart of Bath's main shopping district, more than 140 traditional wooden chalets adorn the streets, each one offering unique, handmade and unusual gifts, decorations and food items - everything you will need for the perfect Christmas celebration. We then return by train to Bradford for Afternoon Tea at the Bridge Tearooms. After tea, you can explore this delightful town before we return to our accommodation for an evening free. Overnight near Bradford-on-Avon. (B,L)
Day 3: We make our way toward Oxford today for a visit to Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill's birthplace. The Palace and its courtyards will be transformed into a winter wonderland and Christmas trees will greet visitors as they stroll through the Great Courtyards. And inside, glowing fires will provide a warm welcome to this unique Palace. Opulent decorations will adorn the Great Hall and Long Library adding to the traditional festive atmosphere. Beautiful green and gold garlands will be draped throughout the minstrels' gallery and over the magnificent mantelpieces, and miniature Christmas trees will continue the green and gold theme throughout the Palace. Christmas wreaths will add a touch of festive humour to Blenheim's stunning statues in the Great Hall and Long Library and in the Saloon, visitors can see the Marlborough Family's Traditional Christmas Table, which will be adorned with sparkling silverware, beautiful crystal, flowers, ribbons and baubles, complimented by a surprise festive centrepiece. We will lunch while at the property and as the festivities end, will make our way to our home for the night in the Cotswolds. Dinner and Overnight Cotswolds. (B,L,D)
Day 4: This morning we visit Rodmarton Manor near Cirencester. Rodmartin is the supreme example of a house built and all its furniture made according to Arts and Crafts ideals and was one of the last country houses to be built and furnished in the old traditional style when everything was done by hand with local stone, local timber and local craftsmen. Most of the furniture was made specially for the house, either in the Rodmarton workshops, or made by Sidney Barnsley, Edward Barnsley or Peter Waals. Some furniture was bought after the house was built but all pieces are directly or indirectly attributable to the original craftsmen or people who had connections with them such as Harry Davoll, Owen Scrubey, Oliver Morel. There is furniture and pottery painted by Alfred and Louise Powell, applique wall hangings designed by Hilda Benjamin (Sexton), leadwork and brass designed by Norman Jewson, and ironwork by Fred and Frank Baldwin and Alfred Bucknell. We will have Afternoon Tea at Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire before crossing the border into Wales. In 1535, King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, stayed here. Princess Mary, later Queen Mary I, also lived here for several years. Today, much still remains of the original 16th century building and is a great location for a relaxing afternoon. Overnight Kington, Wales. (B,L)
Day 5: This morning we visit one of my favourite places anywhere in the UK, The Hall at Abbey-Cwm-Hir. This 52 Room Victorian Revival Gothic Mansion sits in 12 acres of gardens overlooking the ruins of the 12th century cistercian abbey. Built in 1834 by Thomas Wilson the great Victorian improver, the house was doubled in size by the Philips family in 1869. There is probably nowhere else in the UK that has all its rooms decorated for Christmas! There is a tree in every room with the designs differing each year, with each of the Christmas trees and other decoration in rooms themed to colours or memorabilia. Christmas tree examples have been the gold tree, the transport tree,the glass tree, the hot air balloon trees, the knitted tree, the train tree, the shoes and handbag tree etc. We will lunch at the house before continuing our journey to Hay-on-Wye. Hay-on-Wye has become world famous for its secondhand and antiquarian bookshops. At present there are approximately thirty major bookshops in the town some specialising whilst others carry general stock. We then return to Kington for Dinner. Dinner and Overnight Kington. (B,L,D)
Day 6: On our way north today we stop in Montgomery, a historic market town. Montgomery is a pleasant place to explore with its mixture of timber-framed houses, cobbled streets and Georgian and Victorian architecture. Situated on the Welsh border, Montgomery grew up around its hilltop castle, built in the 13th century. From here we travel to Chirk Castle, built in 1295 by Roger Mortimer de Chirk, uncle of Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March as part of King Edward I's chain of fortresses across the north of Wales. For Christmas the State Rooms are decorated with their festive finery. Follow the trail to Father Christmas's Hideaway Cabin. Visit the Elves Workshop and add your Christmas dreams to the Wishing Tree. Peruse the country craft stalls and local festive foods with hot mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. We then make our way to the lovely town of Chester. Dinner and Overnight Chester. (B,D)
Day 7: We will take some time to investigate Chester and the Chester Rows this morning. This 2,000 year old historic city with its rows of unique covered walkways, houses a fantastic array of shops restaurants and Inns in unique two tired rows dating from the 13th Century. The city comes alive with lights, parades and decorations to get you in the Christmas mood! And it is a Christmas Shopping Heaven with most of it under cover! We then make our way to Tatton Park on the way to the Peak District. In December, Tatton Park becomes a Dickensian Christmas Mansion. Each of Tatton's Staterooms is individually decorated to reflect Dickens and characters from his most popular works. Enter the world of the author where books, quills, inkpots and Dickensian characters thread through the Mansion rooms amidst magnificent displays of foliage, flowers and garlands. Glimpse familiar scenes and references from favourite Dickens tales, including "A Christmas Carol", "The Christmas Tree" and "Great Expectations". We then make our way to our home for two nights. Dinner and Overnight Peak District. (B,D).
Day 8: This morning we visit Hardwick Hall in Chesterfield. Hardwick is an Elizabethan Masterpiece. It was the formidable Bess of Hardwick who first created Hardwick in the late 1500s. In the centuries since then her descendants, farmers, gardeners, builders, decorators, embroiders and craftsmen of all kinds have contributed and made Hardwick their creation. In December they open Two Floors of the Hall to celebrate a 1930s Christmas House Party. Visitors will follow the story of a guest arriving for the party; dressing for dinner, tucking into a sumptuous meal, after-dinner port and cigars for the gentlemen whilst the ladies enjoy coffee and a chance to gossip. This afternoon we take in Buxton, the Capitol of the Peak District. It is also the highest market town in England and the roads approaching Buxton, pass through the Peak District National Park with jaw-dropping views of the peaks and valleys beyond. Dinner on your own this evening. Overnight Peak District. (B,D).
Day 9: This morning we visit Chatsworth House, home of the Devonshire Family. Chatsworth is one of Britain's most celebrated and best loved historic houses and estates with world famous works of art and spectacular fountains to elegant shops and more than a hundred miles of walks. The house has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish Family. The house architecture and collection have been evolving for five centuries. Chatsworth has one of Europe's most significant art collections. The diverse collection has grown with each generation to live here, and the Devonshire Collection encompasses Old Masters, contemporary ceramics, artefacts from Ancient Egypt, modern sculpture and computer portraits to name but a few. We will visit resplendent in all its Christmas Glory! We will lunch at the house before we journey to Wirksworth to board the Eclesbourne Valley Railway train taking us through the Ecclesbourne Valley, one of Derbyshire’s most lovely and unspoilt valleys, stretching from the northern outskirts of Derby, at Duffield, to Wirksworth, an ancient market town known as the Gem of the Peak. Dinner in your own. Overnight Peak District. (B,L)
Day 10: Before leaving the Peak District behind, we visit Haddon Hall at Bakewell. Each Christmas Lord Edward Manners opens the doors of his magical home to offer a truly unique experience. Haddon glows with traditional decoration and lighting. There are open fires, Tudor music and the very best of festive hospitality and the atmosphere is enchanting. Haddon Hall is probably the finest example of a Fortified Medieval Manor House in existence. Present-day Haddon Hall dates from the 12th Century to the early 17th Century, whereupon it lay dormant for over two hundred years from 1700 until the 1920s, when the 9th Duke and Duchess of Rutland restored the house and gardens, and once again made it habitable. On our way further north, we stop in the lovely spa village of Harrogate in Yorkshire. We will have Afternoon Tea at Betty's of Harrogate, an English Institution. With its handsome historic buildings and verdant gardens, Harrogate is one of Yorkshire's most elegant destinations. Indulge in a bit of antique hunting, shopping or just relaxing after tea. Then off home our accommodation for a light supper. Overnight North Yorkshire. (B,L,D).
Day 11: We will enjoy all the delights of the Medieval Walled City of York today. Much of York's fortunes were founded on the chocolate trade and so we will discover the history of chocolate, find out what makes York chocolate so special and enjoy a range of delicious chocolate treats along the way at York's Chocolate Story. We'll go on a journey through the wonderful sweets and treats that came from the great city of York, seeing chocolate com to life, hear generations of chocolate secrets, explore from bean to bar and taste our way through York's Chocolate Story! We will Lunch at Mulberry Hall Tearoom before a tour of the Walls of York. You are then free to wander the Shambles, Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate and the lovely shops all around this amazing city and take in the city in all its Wondrous Christmas Glory. After a day of imbibing, you will have the evening free to just relax or find a light dinner. Overnight North Yorkshire. (B,L).
Day 12: On our way further north today, we stop at Castle Howard. With world-renowned collections, stunning architecture, fascinating tours and inspiring stories, Castle Howard impresses at every turn. Castle Howard is also a shopper's paradise with a charming selection of shops which include The Farm Shop where you can buy delicious Yorkshire produce, the Carriage House Shop for country inspired homewares and a large Garden Centre which is a gardener’s dream. See Castle Howard's dramatic 18th-century interiors transformed at Christmas time when the Honorable Simon and Mrs Howard decorate each room for the festive season. In rooms lit by fire and candlelight marvel at the giant Christmas trees, spectacular display of festive twigs, traditional decorations and floral arrangements. You can even chat to knowledgeable guides on hand to describe how Yorkshire's finest historic house gets ready for Christmas. We will visit Durham and Durham Cathedral on our way to our overnight stop in near Newcastle. Durham Cathedral is the greatest Norman building in England, perhaps even in Europe. It is cherished not only for its architecture but also for its incomparable setting. For this reason it was established as one of Britain's first World Heritage Sites. Dinner and Overnight near Newcastle-on-Tyne. (B,D)
Day 13: This morning you take the train from Newcastle to Edinburgh. It is a lovely journey along the coastline taking in spectacular scenery all along the way. Once in Edinburgh at Edinburgh Waverley Train Station we take a short walk to Princes Street and the Sir Walter Scott Tearoom for Lunch. After lunch we will head to the Royal Mile to pick up perfect Christmas gifts and exquisite decorations to add to your tree. Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe and the Nutcracker Christmas Shop bring the festive spirit to the city all year round. Take some time to explore the Christmas German Market is a popular one at the Mound Precinct with its steaming mulled wine, bratwurst, cheeses, roasted chestnuts, and other festive fare. There's also a crafty "Highland Village" set up in East Princes Street Gardens under the Edinburgh Wheel and the shorter Real Scottish Christmas Fair on Castle Street. After Dinner we will take in a Christmas Panto in the City. Dinner and Overnight Edinburgh. (B,L,D).
Day 14: This morning we will visit the Oldest Building in Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh Castle dominates Scotland's capital city from its great rock. Its story has helped shape the nation's story. Battles and sieges were fought over it, royalty lived and died within its walls, and countless generations have been and inspired by it. The castle has sheltered many Scottish monarchs. They include Queen Margaret (later St Margaret), who died here in 1093, and Mary Queen of Scots, who gave birth to James VI in the Royal Palace in 1566. In 1996, the Stone of Destiny, on which kings were enthroned for centuries, was returned to Scotland. It is now displayed in the Crown Room. After more shopping and on Princes Street and the Royal Mile and Christmas Markets and Fairs, we will gather for a Farewell Dinner and Christmas Party and time to say goodbye to new friends. Overnight Edinburgh. (B,D)
Day 15: This morning we head to the Edinburgh Airport for the journey home. (B) We are very happy to help with any before or after tour extended days in regards to accommodation, transportation etc. Scotland has some wonderful multi day Christmas packages if you wish to extend your stay through Christmas or you could return to London to take advantage of a Christmas package there.
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