A sightseeing tour of historic Edinburgh with a local guide is the perfect place to begin any Scotland and England travel; enjoy an introductory tour to this city of cobbled streets, Georgian architecture and trendy lifestyles. Your tour includes a private visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland (if Her Majesty is not visiting), and a tour of famed Edinburgh Castle, built into rugged rock above the city skyline.
Following a free afternoon in Edinburgh and lunch as you please, join us this evening for a journey through the aromas and flavors that lead to the perfect Single Malt Whisky. At the “Scottish Whisky Experience,” you’ll learn the history of Scotland’s most famous export, hear the stories behind the craft, and enjoy a tasting and dinner. Journeys departing August 7 – 28 will attend an outdoor evening performance of the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. (B/D)
Departing Edinburgh, you’ll travel south through landscapes of forest, rivers, castles and country houses to Cumbria, England’s northwestern-most county, stopping at Birdoswald Roman Fort, the ruins of a fort along Hadrian's Wall, built by Roman emperor Hadrian to guard the border of the province of Britannia, representing the wild northwestern frontier of the Roman Empire. Here, you can see the longest remaining portion of the wall, which stretched 73 miles from coast to coast. In contrast to the long-ago scenes of skirmishes between the Scottish and British that once took place here, Cumbria today is a place of peaceful natural beauty.
Sparsely populated, it is best known as the home of England’s Lake District and many a charming town and village; enjoy lunch in a grand manor house surrounded by gracious gardens. Traveling on through landscapes of woods, hills and tranquil fields, you’ll have time for a brief stop in the village of Grasmere. As you please, enjoy the sights of this pretty village of pubs, cafes and the churchyard where England’s poet laureate, William Wordsworth, was laid to rest. Or visit tiny Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth wrote some of his most famous poems before continuing on to your Lake District resort, where you'll enjoy dinner tonight. Stay Two Nights: Langdale Hotel & Country Club (B/L/D)
Living sculpture inspires the imagination today at Levens Hall, a manor house on the banks of the River Kent. Fine furnishings and paintings adorn this stately home, a family residence throughout its history and one of the best preserved Elizabethan interiors in the UK. Best known for its gardens, Levens Hall is surrounded by an orchard, hedges, a pond, a willow maze, rose and herb gardens, and thousands of flowers – plus the most extensive topiary garden in the world.
Over 100 sculpted pieces, some several hundred years old, date back to their original planting in the 1690s, when this Dutch-style garden was all the rage (closed on Saturdays; alternate property is visited). Spend the afternoon at leisure at your country club hotel before going to a local pub to learn the finer points of pairing your favorite ale with pub fare and enjoy dinner. (B/L/D)
Huge, strong and first built by the Romans, discover the power of walls built to keep ancient invaders out on a visit to the small city of Chester, England. Strategically close to Wales and the Irish Sea, Chester is one of England’s best preserved walled cities. The town is nearly completely encircled by broad walls which still offer grand views from atop. Head to Colwyn Bay, a seaside resort town on the north coast of Wales where you’ll have time to get settled in at your hotel and take in the idyllic views.
Evening brings an outing to Furnace Farm, part of the Bodnant Estate in the Conwy Valley – a place of tranquil mountains, lakes and moorlands. The farm’s 18th-century buildings have been lovingly restored as a home for the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, whose artisan chefs are devoted to sharing the best of Welsh cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. Enjoy a Tauck-only cooking demonstration, followed by dinner (and stories) with the chef. Stay Two Nights: The Quay Hotel & Spa (B/D)
In the village of Shottery, you’ll visit the restored, timber-framed farmhouse and childhood home of Anne Hathaway, wife of William Shakespeare. Back in the Bard’s day, it was known as Newlands Farm and had more than 90 acres of attached land; today it’s a museum surrounded by gardens. From here, it’s a short distance to Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born and raised. You’ll visit his birthplace and have time to browse exhibits that tell the story of how his name came to be known around the world, as well as check out the surrounding town at leisure; Stratford-upon-Avon's favorite son is buried in the town's Holy Trinity Church.
Late afternoon, it’s off to the bookish world of Oxford, one of the world’s most famous university towns. A guided orientation walk introduces its cobbled streets, guarded quadrangles, celebrated libraries and archaic traditions of learning. Dine tonight at Oxford University before returning to your elegant hotel – the bar was frequently used as the film setting for television's famed detective Inspector Morse’s pondering crime conversations. Stay Two Nights: The Randolph Hotel (B/D)
A first stop at St. Martin’s Church in Bladon offers an opportunity to visit the gravesite of Sir Winston Churchill. He explicitly chose to be quietly buried here, near his parents’ graves. Then discover a world of Baroque contrast at Churchill’s birthplace, Blenheim Palace and Park. The 18th-century palace was built as a celebration of the English victory over Louis XIV’s French troops at the Battle of Blenheim. Since the early 1700s, it’s been a home to 11 Dukes of Marlborough (Churchill was the grandson of the seventh).
Your private guide will share the history and beauty of the palace and its extensive grounds. After lunch, choose between spending time here to explore further on your own, or depart for nearby Woodstock Village. There you’ll find the charm of the Cotswolds: dove-grey cottages, a church, a village green and a park said to have once been Henry II’s royal hunting grounds – and a place of seclusion for his mistress. Back at the hotel, enjoy the evening as you please. (B/L)
At Stonehenge, this morning’s self-guided walk around the famous ring of stone (bluestones from Wales and sarsens thought to be from the Avon River, some weighing as much as 50 tons) shares the mystery of its origins. Purposefully put into place some 5,000 years ago, Stonehenge was a massive undertaking requiring the labor of thousands. Bath, one of Britain’s most beautiful cities, is your next destination. Arrive in time for lunch (and live music) at the stylish Pump Room Restaurant, set within the city’s ancient Roman Baths complex.
Founded upon natural hot springs, the baths were built for bathing and socializing around 70 AD; they are among the world’s best preserved – as you’ll see on your included tour. Afterward, check in to your tastefully restored Regency-period townhouse hotel located on historic Queen Square, and enjoy dinner. Stay Two Nights: Francis Hotel Bath – MGallery Collection (B/L/D)