9 days / 8 nights including arrival day in London
Kent, Jane Austen's Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Stratford-Upon-Avon and the Lake District
You read the book - now have it come alive!
This is a feast for the bookworm, the literary-minded or those who just enjoy seeing and really learning about a country, not just 'photographing the sites' from a bus window. Here's the plot: our knowledgeable and entertaining guide takes you and a maximum of just 10 or so others, through some of the UK's prettiest landscapes, visiting author's homes, literary museums, towns and villages where stories are set, and places that obviously inspired the artist's muse.
Jane Austen fans: this tour will take you to some of the places that inspired Jane Austen, where she lived and wrote her most important works. Discover some 'hidden' treasures as well as her Chawton home and her final resting place in Winchester.
In addition to Jane Austen, this tour features areas of inspiration for Shakespeare, Dickens, Thomas Hardy, William Wordsworth, Tolkien and The Inklings, The Brontes’ Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights settings, Elizabeth Gaskill’s Cranford, Flora Thompson and her Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy...
We hope that by the end of the tour, you'll not only have had your favourite stories leap off the page, understanding their authors and backgrounds better, but also have been introduced to a few new writers who might have escaped your attention. This highlight tour is a ‘novel’ way to sample some of the best regions of England!
This tour begins in London and finishes in Manchester. International air is available from Manchester or you can take a no frills flight or train for your onward journey. Manchester is the ‘Gateway to the North’ so you may consider extending your stay.
2012 TENTATIVE ITINERARY
DAY ONE Thursday
Welcome to London! Today is free so you have the chance to relax, recover from your international journey and go sightseeing in the Capital 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.
SGT highly recommends a visit to St Paulﾒs Cathedral during your time in London. Their new included multi-media personal Ipod Touch tour guide brings hundreds of years of British history to life - literary at your fingertips! Avoid the queues/lines and pre-book your tickets via us. We can also assist you with pre-booking The Tower of London tickets too. Ask us for details.
Alternatively, the city of London has quite a rich literary heritage to explore. There’s the British Museum, home to many original manuscripts including Jane Austen’s and properties connected with Keats, Dickens, Carlyle and Dr Johnson. Possibly you’d prefer to just take a stroll through the areas rich in literary history, the Bloomsbury of Virginia Woolf, TS Elliot and Lytton Stratchey among others.
Then there’s the option to catch a play in the West End, at the Globe Theatre, where you can see how theatre in the 1500s was viewed or at one of London’s ‘off West End’ gems like The National, the Royal Court or the Donmar Warehouse. Spoilt for choice in the Capital!
Accommodation: Regency London or similar (accommodation is included in your package)
DAY TWO Friday
Our route from London follows the river via the old coaching road, tracing the path of Chaucer’s Pilgrims and others. This was an area of London well known to Shakespeare and Dickens. It's a rare opportunity of seeing ‘Olde' London and a real high street. One can easily imagine we're aboard a stagecoach from Charles Dickens' time, heading with Mr. Pickwick to Rochester…
It is Dickens' Rochester that provides our first stop. This gem of a city, with its cathedral and Norman castle, overflows with Dickens sites. There are places mentioned in his books, ‘Mrs Haversham's house’ is still here, and Dickens himself lived here for a time.
This afternoon, we’ll spend some time in historic Canterbury, paying our respects much like Chaucer’s Pilgrims inside the wonderful cathedral and the town itself. Later, time and interest permitting, nearby is a Regency style garden with connections to Jane Austen.
DAY THREE Saturday
We'll start our day exploring more of Kent and East Sussex's rich literary heritage. Certainly, we’re spoilt for choice. Ashdown Forest is sure to be on our agenda, the home of Winnie the Pooh and creator AA Milne.
Later, leaving East Sussex, we’ll take a scenic cross country route to ‘Jane Austen Country,’ with her home at Chawton being our main destination. It was in this quaint village that she completed most of her novels and once inside the cottage, now a museum dedicated to her life and works, we are in her world.
Accommodation: Chilworth Manor, Hampshire or similar
DAY FOUR Sunday
Today is our day to be totally immersed in that world, ’far from the madding crowd,’ of Thomas Hardy. We'll visit places where some of the most memorable scenes from his novels were set, towns and villages that are easily recognizable as the source of inspiration, particularly seeking out those smaller places with a timeless Dorsetshire air to them. We’ll certainly see Dorchester featuring Stinford Church and Hardy’s grave during our explorations.
We’ll spend some time in Winchester, Hardy’s ‘Wintoncester’ and the resting place of Jane Austen. We'll see her final home and pay our respects inside the cathedral.
Accommodation: Hampshire, as above
DAY FIVE Monday
We'll depart our Hampshire base and head north through the Thames Valley to Oxford. We’ll be passing through an area that inspired authors such as John Milton, Mary Shelley and TS Eliot. Jane Austen attended school nearby at the Reading Ladies Boarding School so this area surely would have contributed to her development as a writer. Our discussion as we drive through this literary landscape should bring many legendary characters to life.
Our morning brings us to our main destination for today, the 'city of the dreaming spires' Oxford. This is the jewel in the literary crown. The Dean of Mathematics at Christchurch College was one Charles Dodgson, better known as ‘Lewis Carroll’ and one finds 'Alice' everywhere here. See the ancient pub in the town centre where the Inklings (CS Lewis, Tolkien…) met to talk and drink. And, of course, contemporary literature is represented by Colin Dexter’s detective 'Morse' and there is Harry’s ‘Hogwarts’ to discover too. A walking tour of the city will introduce you to these highlights and to many others.
This afternoon, attention fans of Flora Thompson as we are traveling through Oxfordshire, where the author grew up and set her charming stories about rural life in the late 19th Century in her ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ series. If there are fans aboard, we can discover her real life local connections.
We’ll meander our way through the Cotwolds to our overnight location. Each village is unique and pretty in its own right and with our small vehicle, we can get where larger coaches can't, avoiding the commercialized 'honey-pots.'
Accommodation: Swans Nest, Stratford Upon Avon or similar
DAY SIX (ND) Tuesday
Our day will be spent in Stratford-Upon-Avon itself, so you have ample time to discover the charming town and Shakespeare connections. 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 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.
Dinner is not included tonight for flexibility’s sake.
The RSC recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a renovated theatre space, restaurant and viewing tower offering stunning views over Stratford’s landscape. Schedule permitting, there is the opportunity to attend a performance tonight and we are happy to assist you with tickets if you wish.
Accommodation: Stratford Upon Avon, as above
DAY SEVEN Wednesday
We will continue our way north today, with a rare bit of motorway driving this afternoon to speed our way. Firstly though, we can uncover some sources of inspiration for several popular works of fiction.
Birmingham is the place where we can explore Tolkien’s inspiration for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. An interesting stop, often neglected on the tourist trail as this area is the heart of industrial England. Our route will take through a landscape known for the textile industry. We recommend reading Martin Cruz ‘Rose’ as an entertaining way of learning about the harsh realities of Victorian life in the cotton towns. There’s also George Orwell’s ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ to read as a vivid description of the past in this area.
Getting inside another novel setting, we’ll have a walk around the Cheshire town of Knutsford, perhaps better known as Elizabeth Gaskell’s 'dear adopted, native town' of ‘Cranford.’ We’ll explore some of the real places that provided the source for many of the fictional town’s landmarks.
Later, we will arrive in the Lake District, the place where many authors chose as their home including William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin.
Accommodation: Willowsmere, Windermere, Lake District or similar
DAY EIGHT Thursday
Today we have a full day discovering and sharing the vistas that so inspired the literary tradition in the Lake District. We simply have to use the cliché 'breathtaking' to describe the spectacular scenery you'll be seeing as it is so very appropriate.
We’ll visit one of Wordsworth's homes, Dove Cottage or Rydal Mount, his last home with the grounds he lovingly landscaped. There’s the town of Grasmere, where, in addition to literary connections, we can sample the famous gingerbread, and the exquisite Coniston Water. We can wander a garden or two in search of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and take a lovely boat ride. In keeping with our literary theme, did you know that the graphite for pencils uniquely comes from the Lakeland?
Accommodation: Lake District, as above
DAY NINE Friday
This morning, we have some time to perhaps ‘potter’ a bit more around in the Lakes, then we'll take a beautifully scenic route through the Lancashire Dales, calling in at a town or two en-route to Haworth; there’s a few nice choices. Perhaps Ingleton, Settle or Mytholmroyd, if we’ve Ted Hughes fans aboard. Whatever our chosen route, the dramatic moorland we see today inspired the Bronte Sisters to pen their novels that are some of the classics of English literature. We will have the worlds of ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ leaping from the page.
Haworth is our main port of call today. In our explorations of this charming place, you'll be able to imagine the everyday lives of the Bronte sisters, walking around Haworth Church, village and the Bronte Parsonage Museum.
We will arrive into Manchester by early evening.
Accommodation: Willowbank Hotel, Manchester or similar
We recommend that you extend your stay in Manchester as this charming city has much to discover! The city has a rich heritage featuring a fine cathedral, historic Rylands Library and nearby Stockport Air Raid Shelter. Explore the activities of the rejuvenated docklands area, now full of theatres, music venues, sports centres and museums including the Imperial War Museum North. For any football/soccer fans on board, perhaps a tour of Manchester United’s stadium Old Trafford will be top of your list?
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.