2016 Downton Abbey and Jane Austen: Stately Homes and Country Villages

July 31st–August 7th, 2016

Explore Britain's High Society from the Regency era through the 1920s in Hampshire, Oxford & the Cotswolds

7 days/7 nights beginning and ending in London

INCLUDES VISITS TO HIGHCLERE CASTLE, CHAWTON HOUSE LIBRARY, CHAWTON COTTAGE, BLENHEIM PALACE, GREYS COURT, BASILDON PARK, CLIVEDEN, BAMPTON, SWINBROOK and MORE…

On this adventure into the ‘World of Downton Abbey’ we will visit film sites, places immediately recognizable from the show, but also highlight places that would have been a part of the world of the Crawley family. See stately homes, stunning gardens, classical British sites like Oxford and Winchester. Explore what life was like in the time period of Downton, through the Great War, the Suffragette Movement, the rise of ‘new American money’ families and the emerging art and writing communities like The Bloomsbury group. Along the way, see ‘Jane Austen Country’ in the lovely county of Hampshire, enjoy sumptuous afternoon teas, country pub meals and time in the ever evolving capital city of London, a favourite of every age!

Still a ‘small group experience’ off the usual tourist route, please note that this departure is a slightly larger group of 20 – 25 guests.

Day 1              Sunday 31 July, 2016

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 easiest way to see the main icons and get orientated in London. Hop off when you want then hop back on – a fun way to start your holiday! SGT highly recommends a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral during your time in London. Their 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, if you wish or how about the Royal Palaces Pass? Heaps of options, ask us for full details. What to do? The choice is yours!

Optional airport transfers available on individual basis for a supplemental cost: $175 Heathrow per vehicle (1 – 3 guests) or $275 Gatwick per vehicle (1 – 3 guests)

Optional London tour tickets and transportation passes available on an individual basis, please ask us for full details.

ON London (accommodation included in tour package)  Kensington Close Hotel or similar

 

 Day 2              Monday 01 August, 2016

We depart our London hotel at 09:00, our destination being ‘Jane Austen Country.’ The county of Hampshire is a timeless place, one of the oldest regions in England, full of historical places of interest and the home setting for several great writers. Should we manage additional time today or tomorrow, there are many lovely gardens and countryside villages to meander through as we choose.

Jane Austen’s home at Chawton is now open as a museum. It was in this quaint village that she spent the majority of her later years and where she wrote or completed most of her most famous works, Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice amongst others. Once inside the house, we are in her world. We’ll also enjoy the village itself and the cottage gardens that Jane and her sister lovingly tended.

By special appointment, we’ll also visit the Chawton House Library, the one time home of Jane Austen’s brother Edward. The main collection here focuses on works written by women in English during the period 1600 to 1830.

Later explore the ancient Saxon capital of Winchester. Our time here will include a guided walk around the city, seeing the cathedral where Jane Austen is buried, one of England’s most famous public schools, places associated with the legends of King Arthur and the place Jane last called home, where she passed away in 1817.

ON Winchester area, Hampshire  Chilworth Manor or similar. Dinner included in the hotel

 

Day 3              Tuesday 02 August, 2016

Visit iconic Salisbury. Here pay our respects inside the stunning gothic cathedral and see one of the greatest pieces of writing, the Magna Carta – which celebrated its 800th ‘birthday’ in 2015.

Wilton House is a great choice on our theme and truly one of the country’s treasure houses. Here, experience nearly 500 years of history as you wander through its magnificent rooms, marvel at its architecture, soak in its fine paintings and spectacular gardens. Wilton House is often used as a location for period films thanks to its sumptuous interiors. Fans may recognize some rooms as “Pemberley” from the 2005 Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice. The ‘double cube room’ is particularly popular, also appearing in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry LydonMadness of King George, Judi Dench favorite Mrs Brown and Young Victoria.

ON Winchester area, Hampshire  Chilworth Manor or similar. Dinner included in the hotel

 

Day 4              Wednesday 03 August, 2016

Sandham Memorial Chapel — Called ‘Britain’s answer to the Sistine Chapel’ by some, this modest red brick building is home to stunning interior murals by Sir Stanley Spencer. Built to honour the ‘forgotten dead’ of the First World War, those who were not remembered on any official memorials, the series was inspired by Spencer’s own experiences as a medical orderly and soldier, thus peppered with personal and unexpected details. This is the only National Trust property dedicated to the First World War.

Highclere Castle, perhaps the most well known setting for Dowton Abbey, is one of England’s most beautiful Victorian castles set amidst 1,000 acres of spectacular parkland. The Carnarvon family has lived at Highclere since 1679, and the current castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which was built on the foundations of the medieval palace owned by the Bishops of Winchester for some 800 years. Visitors follow a route exploring a bit of the worlds ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs.’

Group afternoon tea at Oakley Hall Built in 1795, Oakley Hall Hotel has a distinguished past. Formerly owned by the Bramston family, close friends of Jane Austen, it is mentioned fondly in Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra at the turn of the 19th Century. Afternoon Tea includes finger sandwiches, home-made scones with clotted cream and jam, home-made cakes and a pot of tea of your choice.

ON Winchester area, Hampshire  Chilworth Manor or similar. Dinner included in the hotel

 

Day 5              Thursday 04 August, 2016 

Sewn into a Tudor mansion is a mid 20th-century interior, with an 18th-century tweak. All edged with a medieval parkland, Greys Court is a rich patchwork of styles and stories. Greys Court provided a magical backdrop for a decadent family picnic scene during filming of series three of Downton Abbey. Chosen for its atmospheric setting with a country house backdrop, the house, maze and gardens are well worth visiting in any case!

Basildon Park is an impressive Georgian mansion, surrounded by glorious parkland, which was lovingly rescued from ruin by Lord and Lady Iliffe in the mid 1950s. The house you see today is a re-creation and restoration of the 18th Century mansion. Basildon Park lit up the small screen in the Downton Abbey Christmas special 2013 as ‘Grantham House,’ the Crawleys’ London residence. After an orientation chat with your guide, guests have free time to explore the estate independently.

Group dinner at Eagle & Child Pub, once the meeting place for the writers group ‘The Inklings,’ members included JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. Yes, this is where Alice, The Hobbits and other well known literary characters were first discussed!

ON Oxford  Malmaison Oxford or similar

 

Day 6              Friday 05 August, 2016

Today see the incredible treasure house and garden estate Blenheim Palace, given to Winston Churchill’s ancestor John, 1st Duke of Marlborough. The superb collection here includes fine paintings, furniture, bronzes and the famous Marlborough Victories tapestries. In addition to the opulent palace itself, see the amazing gardens, designed in part by ‘Capability’ Brown.

During time at Blenheim, enjoy a private chat about life at the palace during the Great War and through the 1920s.

The rest of our day will be spent wandering through the wonderful Cotswolds villages. This region is famed for many things including quaint, thatched roof cottage villages, ancient market towns, charming antique and tea shops and, of course, a wondrous literary heritage. See ancient parish churches and market towns unchanged over the centuries focusing on the villages of Bampton & Swinbrook, each used as locations for Downton Abbey.

The lovely Cotswold village of Swinbrook, a quintessentially English village where time has stood still, hosted the elopement of Lady Sybil with the family chauffeur Branson in the second series of Dowton Abbey. Here too are connections to the notorious Mitford sisters, until recently it was owned by Debo, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire.

The ancient market town of Bampton, one of the oldest towns in England, has many pleasant 17th and 18th Century houses, a few inns and a Italianate Town Hall. Certainly to be recognizable as many outdoor scenes of Downton Abbey are filmed here, most notably St. Mary’s Church and the library, which serves as the entrance to the cottage hospital.

Dinner is not included this evening so guests may explore more of Oxford at their leisure. This being a ‘university town,’ Oxford offers a vibrant nightlife, heaps of fine theatre, music and dining options! http://www.oxfordcityguide.com/ee2/index.php?/SeeDo/theatre/

ON Oxford  Malmaison Oxford or similar

 

Day 7              Saturday 06 August, 2016

This morning explore the ‘city of the dreaming spires’ Oxford. See Christchurch College with its Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland and Inspector Morse connections; yes this is also where our Lord Grantham read Philosophy! One of the epicentres for the Suffragette movement, Oxford was among the first to provide higher education opportunities for women and, from the early 1920s, women finally won the right to obtain degrees. A walking tour of the colleges will introduce you to these highlights and others. Entrance to Christchurch College is included.

The Astor family’s magnificent country gardens at Cliveden is our next destination. Follow in the footsteps of dukes, earls and royalty as you explore this formal series of gardens that include topiary, colorful seasonal planting in the Long Garden plus the celebrated parterre offering breathtaking views. Now a luxury hotel, for more than 300 years Cliveden was the glittering hub of high society, home to aristocracy and royalty and visited by many famous friends.

Group afternoon tea this afternoon. Enjoy a fine selection of finger sandwiches, warm scones with home-made jams and clotted cream, a selection of miniature cakes, pastries and delicacies. There is also a wide selection of teas. We plan to hold our group afternoon tea at Cliveden.

ON London (accommodation included)  Kensington Close Hotel or similar

 

Day 8  Sunday, 07 August

Your tour package concludes after breakfast this morning. Make your way to the airport or extend your stay in England independently.

Optional airport transfers available on individual basis for a supplemental cost: $175 Heathrow per vehicle (1 – 3 guests) or $275 Gatwick per vehicle (1 – 3 guests)

 

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.

 

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.

 

Toll Free Tel: 1 866-725-5250
specialgrouptours@yahoo.com

$2999.00 USD per person twin/double; $700.00 USD single supplement (minimum of 20 guests and maximum of 25 guests)

INCLUDED IN TOUR PACKAGE:

-6 touring days with step-on guide and coach with driver; all vehicle and driver/guide expenses such as petrol, tolls, tax, parking

-Chawton Cottage group entrance

-Chawton House Library, special entrance, chat and light lunch buffet

-Winchester Cathedral group entrance

-Wilton House group entrance

-Salisbury Cathedral group entrance

– Highclere Castle special group entrance

-Sandham Memorial Chapel special group entrance

-Afternoon Tea at Oakley Hall

-Cliveden guided garden walk

-Cliveden or similar afternoon tea

-Greys Court entrance with history theme guided walking tour guide

-Basildon Park group entrance

-Dinner at historic Eagle and Child Pub Oxford

-Touring lower Cotswolds villages Bampton and Swinbrook

-Blenheim Palace entrance with private themed chat by local guide

-Christchurch College group entrance

-Guided walking tour of Oxford colleges