This itinerary is also available for private groups, modified to your specific wishes, at the date of your choice – subject to vehicle and guide availability. Great for school groups!
This tour begins in London and finishes in Manchester
DAY 1 Monday Kent
We depart our Central London meeting point at approximately 09:00 and travel via the old coaching route, tracing the path of Chaucer’s Pilgrims. This was an area of London also well known to Shakespeare and Dickens. Our first stop is Charles Dickens’ Rochester. This gem of a city, with its cathedral and Norman castle, overflows with Dickens’s sites, places mentioned in his books such as ‘Miss Havisham’s house’ and Dickens himself lived here for a time.
Later, Dover Castle, where we’ll find a wealth of history from the mediaeval times of Henry V through to modern times with the WWII secret wartime tunnels. Interestingly, Dover Castle was recently used as a filming location for Philippa Gregory’s novel The Other Boleyn Girl.
NIGHTSTOP: Canterbury area PROPERTY: Canterbury Lodge (subject to availability) http://www.canterburycathedrallodge.org/
DAY 2 Tuesday Kent
This morning we will spend quality time in Chaucer’s mediaeval city of Canterbury. Meander the charming high street, filled with charming shops and cafes, and of course pay respects inside of the historic cathedral.
Later, visit Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicholson’s world famous garden of Sissinghurst. Here, we’ll find a Tudor tower complete with Vita’s writing workshop, a walled herb garden, mixed border gardens, an oast house museum, a white garden and a cottage garden. Writer and friend to the ‘Bloomsbury Group,’ Vita’s home usually has Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s printing press on display.
Spoilt for choice as to how we spend the rest of our day, Kent is steeped in literary heritage! In consultation with your guide, explore based on the particular interests of the individuals aboard. Local sites on offer include Henry James’ quaint fishing port of Rye, Kipling’s home or the Tunbridge Wells area with connections to Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen and Winnie the Pooh’s Ashdown Forest.
NIGHTSTOP: Canterbury area, as above
Day 3 Wednesday Hampshire
A full day today as we make our way west to “Jane Austen Country” the county of Hampshire. It was in the quaint village of Chawton that Jane Austen spent the majority of her later years, where she completed most of her most famous works, Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice amongst others. Once inside her cottage, we are in her world.
Winchester is a place well known to several authors – this is Thomas Hardy’s ‘Wintoncester’ and the final resting place for Jane Austen in Winchester Cathedral. A walking tour of this original Saxon capital of England will introduce you to the general sights, including England’s oldest public schools too.
NIGHTSTOP: Winchester/Southampton area, Hampshire PROPERTY: Chilworth Manor, subject to availability or similar http://www.bw-chilworthmanor.co.uk/
DAY 4 Thursday Salisbury, Bath
A day simply filled with classical British places! Salisbury is one port of call, where we can pay our respects inside the stunning gothic cathedral and see one of the greatest pieces of writing, the Magna Carta.
Bath, the city of Georgian splendor and Roman antiquity, is our base for tonight. Upon arrival, your guide will be on hand for an orientation walking tour of the highlights. This place was enjoyed by the social set of the 18th and 19th centuries, a setting for many writers; Jane Austen fans will immediately recognize several streets and squares from her novels such as Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. You can also see places where the author herself lived. The remains of the day is open so you can explore Bath as you please. We highly recommend time in the Roman Baths and Pump Rooms, the Jane Austen Centre or you could simply wander the lovely tea rooms and antique shops – the choice is yours!
NIGHTSTOP: Bath PROPERTY: Kennard or similar http://www.kennard.co.uk/
DAY 5 Friday Lacock, Gloucester
Our first destination is the medieval village of Lacock, which has hardly changed in the past 200 years. With its magnificent abbey, half timbered cottages and greystone houses, it provides a perfect setting. This lovely place, where TV ariels, telephone wires and advertising are banned, has been used as a film set for many popular films such as the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle production of Pride and Prejudice, the BBC series of Cranford and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The lovely, historic city of Gloucester has many wonderful literary connections. Gloucester Cathedral and the King’s School have enjoyed a recent surge in popularity since each was used as locations for ‘Hogwarts.’ Gloucester also features as a setting for Beatrix Potter and Humpty Dumpty can claim his origins here.
Evenings in Stratford-Upon-Avon provide the opportunity, dependent upon schedules, to attend the theatre at the RSC. There’s a wonderful viewing tower and highly rated restaurant so worth a visit even if not attending a performance! See what’s on at the RSC: http://www.rsc.org.uk/whats-on/
NIGHTSTOP: Stratford-Upon-Avon PROPERTY: Swan’s Nest Hotel, Falcon or similar http://www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk/SwansNest/accommodation/ http://www.legacy-hotels.co.uk/legacy-thefalcon/
DAY 6 Saturday Downton Abbey Cotswolds villages, Oxford
Our route will take us via a few of the quaint, thatch-roofed Cotswolds villages known in this region. Several places have literary and film connections, JM Barrie, Jane Austen, Flora Thompson’s Lark Rise to Candleford and Tolkien’s The Hobbit to name a few. We will explore two places that may be recognizable to Downton Abbey fans, Bampton, where many outdoor scenes are filmed, and Swinbrook, home to a wonderful pub with connections to the famed Mitford sisters, location in Downton for the elopement of Lady Sybil & Branson.
Spend time in 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.
NIGHTSTOP: Stratford-Upon-Avon, as above
DAY 7 Sunday (ND) Stratford-Upon-Avon — SHAKESPEARE 400
Our whole 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.
NIGHTSTOP: Stratford-Upon-Avon, as above
DAY 8 Monday Wedgewood Factory, Knutsford/”Cranford”
Continuing our way north, a rare bit of motorway driving will speed our way. We will be passing through areas of inspiration for popular works of fiction, the heart of industrial England and the landscape of the harsh life in the textile mills. From this world came parts of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, Martin Cruz’s Rose and George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier, vivid portraits of the past.
Stoke-on-Trent is home to the ‘potteries’ industry, fine china Wedgwood, Royal Dalton and Royal Worcester are crafted here. Learn how it’s made on a visit to the Wedgewood Factory.
This afternoon, get inside another novel setting, a guided walk around the Cheshire town of Knutsford, perhaps better known as Elizabeth Gaskell’s “dear adopted, native town” of Cranford.
Later, arrive in the Lake District, the place where many authors chose as their home including William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin.
NIGHTSTOP: Windermere PROPERTY: Willowsmere or similar http://www.thewillowsmere.com/
Day 9 Tuesday Lake District
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. 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?
NIGHTSTOP: Windermere, as above
DAY 10 Wednesday ‘James Herriot Country’ Yorkshire Dales
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 charming Yorkshire Dales National Park, the focus of the day. This is the area that so inspired local vet Alf Wight, better known as James Herriot, to pen the All Creatures Great and Small books. Certainly something to read prior to the tour! This lovely scenery was also recently featured in the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We can call into the old market town of Thirsk and Richmond, called one of the nicest towns in England, situated in the heart of the dales at Swaledale. Its castle dominates the town and the steep streets are around the pretty cobbled market square.
Our base for the next few nights is the historic city of York, filled with the heritage of the past – including Romans, Viking and King Richard III.
NIGHTSTOP: York PROPERTY: Churchill, Grange, Dean Court or similar http://www.churchillhotel.com/ http://www.grangehotel.co.uk/ http://www.bestwestern.co.uk/hotels/dean-court-hotel-york-83119/hotel-info/default.aspx
Day 11 Thursday Yorkshire Moors, ‘Harry Potter’ steam train, Whitby
Today, we head westward across the sometimes heather-covered North Yorkshire Moors. We’ve the opportunity to board a steam train (subject to schedules) at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, surely a treat to relive the nostalgia of the steam age. Harry Potter fans may find the station somewhat familiar – yes this is ‘Hogsmeade!’
Enjoy some time in the lovely town of Whitby. A wonderful place to sample the freshest of fish & chips, this was the home of ‘Captain Cook’ and legend has it that Bram Stoker created ‘Dracula’ here. Explore the local heritage that this seaside town has to offer.
NIGHTSTOP: York, as above
Day 12 Friday York, ‘Bronte Country’/Haworth
This morning, we have more time to explore the walled city of York, to meander the splendid Minster and the medieval shopping ‘Shambles’ as guests choose. Seeking a literary connection, York is the home town of poet WH Auden, Behind the Scenes at the Museum author Kate Atkinson and has been the inspiration for many including Dickens and Dafoe.
Later today, the lovely village Haworth. Imagine the everyday lives of the Bronte sisters, walking around Haworth Church, their home now the Bronte Parsonage Museum and the village itself. The dramatic moorland here inspired the 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!
Tour finishes by approximately 18:00, dropping off in Manchester.
We recommend that you spent time in Manchester as this charming city has much to discover! The rich heritage featuring a fine cathedral and historic Rylands Library. 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?
Alternatively, why not extend your stay in London? You can explore the capital at your leisure and see some of the city’s iconic sites or perhaps go on your very own ‘Literary London’ tour. You can choose to do it yourself or we can assist you with a custom day or multi-day tour extension. London accommodation, airport transfers, London city tours, London attraction passes and London transport passes are separate from our tour but can be added to your overall package as you wish. Please discuss options with us.
Jane Austen never lived in London but there are a few places of interest here for fans; she did visit her brother Henry at his London homes of 10 Henrietta Street and 23 Hans Place. Her cousin Eliza de Feuillide, often regarded as the model for the character ‘Mary Crawford’ in Mansfield Park, is buried in St John’s Hampstead. We recommend paying respects at Jane’s memorial plaque in Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey and a visit to the British Library to see her manuscripts. Another choice is the National Portrait Gallery, where among the many painting and photographs of famous Britons, you can see the sketch done by her sister Cassandra. This is the only undisputed portrait of Jane Austen.
There are London’s literary museums and houses to be seen, 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 neighborhoods of Bankside, an area well known to Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens or the Bloomsbury of Virginia Woolf, TS Elliot and Lytton Stratchey among others.
Prefer the iconic sites? Go around on the hop-on/hop-off bus, the best introduction to the city. Hop off when you want then hop back on. SGT highly recommends a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral. 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.
For your evenings, we recommend London’s fantastic theatres – West End, Shakespeare’s Globe or one of the modern ‘off West End’ gems like the Royal Court or the Donmar Warehouse. Spoilt for choice in Literary 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 that we could not have been aware of at the time of loading this tour to our website.
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.