Tudor Heritage, English Gardens, Stately Homes & Castles
8 days from London
Follow in the Footsteps of Queen Elizabeth I
This is a suggested tour itinerary for private departures, adjustable to best suit your specific wishes. Price based on how many travelers, your chosen package inclusions and your chosen level of accommodation.
This tour begins and ends in London.
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.
Also on the Tudor theme, 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, Lambeth 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. 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 and around the capital!
Departing London at about 10am, our first destination is Hatfield, one of the Treasure Houses of England and where Queen 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. 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
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 for films of Jane Austen works and others.
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! Jane Austen fans may recognize Burghley as “Rosings” from the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice.
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.
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
Today, we’ve a leisurely day to explore greater Staffordshire, where Elizabeth spent approximately 3 weeks enjoying hunting and country pursuits in 1575. There are several lovely stately homes or castles in the area. You can decide priorities in consultation with your guide and visit accordingly.
Begin the 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. Tamworth offers a Norman castle with a Tudor Great Hall, so well worth some time.
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 (subject to availability.)
OVERNIGHT: Lichfield area
Mosley Old Hall is 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 good detour if you are a rose lover, since there are over 800 varieties to see!
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 will be our base for the next few nights. Subject to theatre schedules, staying in this charming town gives the option of attending the RSC in the evenings.
Our whole day will be spent in Stratford-Upon-Avon itself, so you have ample time to discover the charming town and Shakespeare connections. 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. You’re spoilt for choice here – visit the local church, burial place for the Bard, his mother Mary Arden’s home with its bird of prey centre as well as the well known iconic sites such as his Birthplace. You will have free time to wander the cobbled streets, shopping, theatre and relaxing as you wish. Your guide will be on hand for a possible walking tour, advice and assistance but the day is yours to spend as you decide.
The Cotswolds region is a 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.
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 I spent a night or two in the charming village of Woodstock in 1575. Nearby 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 & 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.
In Windsor, our base tonight, perhaps meet some “merry wives?”
A full day out and about on our finale day!
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." 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.
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. In the palace itself, the Tudor Kitchens and Henry VIII's State Apartments are the among the most popular sections. 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.
Your tour concludes this evening, you can stay tonight in your choice of Windsor, London Heathrow or central 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 beyond our control.
Please note that your final day to day itinerary may fluctuate to accommodate variable opening times/days for listed attractions, special events and places of interest. Please discuss your needs with us for an individual itinerary with rate quote.
Oft imitated, never duplicated! This is an original SGT itinerary, property of Special Group Tours and to be used only with express permission/in conjunction with SGT.
This is a suggested tour itinerary and can be modified to best you your individual wishes.
Suggested tour package includes: # of touring days with vehicle & exclusive services of your driver/guide/companion, your accommodation for # nights while on the tour including full breakfasts, all taxes and tips other than those you may wish to give your guide. Your price also can include dinners and/or entrance fees to attractions or these items can be left out of the up front package/to be paid directly for maximum flexibility. Airport transfers, accommodation pre and post tour, scheduled city day tours/attraction passes/transport passes or theatre/event tickets can be added to your package as you wish, subject to availability.
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