SGT English Literary Festivals

Agatha Christie Festival Torquay & Jane Austen Festival Bath - “The Mystery Writer’s Trail” visiting Stately Homes, Gardens & Areas of Inspiration

8 days/7 nights

 Explore Hampshire, where Jane Austen spent most of her life, seeing her Chawton home, burial place in Winchester Cathedral and the countryside that inspired her. The English counties of Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and Somerset, collectively known as The West Country, also offer a rich tapestry of literary heritage. Here are the brooding settings for the mystery stories of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Miss Marple,’ the sea side intrigue of Rebecca, and the still charming landscapes of a time gone by. There are several opportunities to step into the author’s world, into the homes of Jane Austen, Agatha Christie and others, their novels springing to life from the page.

If you’ve enjoyed the stories of Jane Austen, Daphne du Maurier, Agatha Christie, Thomas Hardy and Arthur Conan Doyle then this is the tour for you, taking you through the inspirational landscapes for their novels.

While focused on literary heritage, this tour is not just for the literary minded as these regions have much to offer visitors. For lovers of countryside there are rolling downs, rugged seascapes, atmospheric moorlands and the lush, green fields that are so representative of England. Gourmets will die for the cream teas, real Cornish pasties, freshly caught seafood and farmhouse cooking. You’ll never forget the narrow country lanes where the hedgerows grow higher than the cars, the villages where it’s difficult for bicycles to pass let alone other motorized vehicles, the thatched cottage hamlets and small fishing harbors accessible only on foot. This is a true feast for all of the senses!

This tour begins and ends in London.

TENTATIVE ITINERARY

Day 1 Friday                         Lacock, Bath

We depart our London meeting point at approximately 9am, making our way via the old coaching route, through a few antique towns and interesting countryside into Bath.

Explore 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.

Next is the Georgian city of Bath. Your guide will be on hand for an orientation walking tour of Jane Austen’s city. This place was enjoyed by the social set of the 18th and 19th centuries, a setting for Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and many other writers. Austen fans should recognize several streets and squares from her novels such as Northanger Abbey and Persuasion and we’ll see places where the author herself lived. As this is our overnight location, you’ll have free time this afternoon and tomorrow to go as you please, choose to visit the Jane Austen Centre, the Roman Baths and Pump Rooms, Jane Austen Festival events or simply wander the antique, book and tea shops.

OVERNIGHT: Bath The Kennard or similar http://www.kennard.co.uk/

Dinner, bed and breakfast

  

Day 2 Saturday ND             Bath & Jane Austen Bath Festival Parade

Our entire day will be spent in Bath so we can enjoy this opening day of the Bath Jane Austen Festival. The most spectacular day each year is usually the first Saturday, when the festival officially ‘opens’ with the Regency Costumed Promenade through the streets of Bath. Promenaders from all over the world dress in 18th Century attire led by the Bath Town Crier and accompanied by soldiers and sailors adding extra ‘colour’ to the proceedings.

Specific event information will be announced as the information becomes available, expected in July, from festival organizers. http://www.janeausten.co.uk/festival/events.ihtml

Dinner is not included tonight for flexibility’s sake.

OVERNIGHT: Bath as above, Bed and breakfast

 

Day 3 Sunday                                   Wells, Glastonbury                                                

Our first destination today is a lovely place. Wells Cathedral has been called “the prettiest of England’s cathedrals.” Begun in 1180, this is a fine example of Early English Gothic architecture with the interior dominated by the very unique scissor arches.

Glastonbury is, according to legend, the burial place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Today it is the unofficial ‘capital of New Age England.’ This small city is associated with many Celtic legends, magical ley lines and fairy stories. We can explore the colourful legends as well as the quaint town shops, Abbey and mysterious Glastonbury Tor.

Over these next few days, we’ll be able to enjoy the area known as ‘The English Rivera’ and the events of the Agatha Christie Festival. The opening festivities usually include a local seaside village fete! Costumed locals should be on hand as the ‘Queen of Crime’ is celebrated. Special events will be on all week and our guests are welcomed to participate as much as possible – there are theatricals, murder mysteries, quizzes and contests all happening!

Our hotel for these few nights is where Agatha Christie spent her honeymoon! Situated on the seafront, overlooking the wide sweep of Torbay on one side and the resorts of Paignton and Brixham on the other, The Grand Hotel Torquay has been considered ‘the place to be seen’ since the end of the nineteenth century.

OVERNIGHT: Torquay Grand Hotel Torquay or similar http://www.grandtorquay.co.uk/

Dinner, bed and breakfast

 

Day 4 Monday                   Torquay Agatha Christie Festival & Greenways                      

Torquay is a popular seaside resort and has been host to dozens of holiday making authors over the years, but it is famous as the birthplace of one of the greatest mystery writers of all time, Agatha Christie. During our time here we can explore landmarks from both her life and settings for her ‘Miss Marple’ novels in addition to the special events of the Festival as we choose.

The atmospheric and dramatic Dartmoor Moors provides the opportunity to follow the trail of the great ‘Sherlock Holmes’ detective cases The Hound of the Baskervilles. We can explore novel inspirations and uncover the real life dark legend that inspired the best-selling novel as part of our “Mystery Writers Trail” in the West Country. If we’re lucky, we may see some of the famed Dartmoor ponies too!

We may choose to visit to the real Jamaica Inn. This is now a bit of a touristy stop, but fun none the less. Our route there would take us past Lauceston Castle, a Norman round tower with connections to another Daphne du Maurier novel, The King’s General.

OVERNIGHT: Torquay as above, Bed and breakfast

 

 Day 5 Tuesday                                 Fowey & coast                              

We have the day to wander the Cornish coastline around Fowey and Smuggler’s Cove area of Polperro to discover a bit about Daphne du Maurier’s life and times. Another famed dramatic setting will spring to life from the pages when we spy the property that inspired ‘Manderley’ from Rebecca. Recently a Fowey cottage Daphne rented in the 1940s was sold for the better part of £2m! This entire area evokes the timeless creations of her novels.

Our day will be spent touring along the scenic coast of the English Rivera, experiencing local treasures and more of the Agatha Christie Festival events as we choose.

OVERNIGHT: Torquay as above, Bed and breakfast

           

Day 6 Wednesday                           Dartmoor & Bodmin Moors

Our time in Torquay will surely include a visit to her nearby home Greenway too, now protected by the National Trust. We have another day to explore this scenic area and enjoy local festival activities as guests choose.

OVERNIGHT: Torquay as above, Dinner, bed and breakfast

 

Day 7 Thursday                               Lyme Regis, ‘Thomas Hardy Country’                

Lyme Regis is a popular sea spa town and the site of many Austen family holidays, which looks much as it did when Jane spent time here. Sites from Persuasion are recognizable. This is part of Britain’s ‘Jurassic Park’ where sometimes a fossil can still be found along the shoreline.

Through the remains of our day, we will delve into the world of Thomas Hardy. Dorsetshire was his canvas and our course will meander through this timeless countryside that was his inspiration. There is the village of Dorchester, his ‘Casterbridge,’ including the local church. Nearby is Hardy’s birthplace cottage, which we will visit subject to variable opening times.

OVERNIGHT: Dorchester area The Poachers Inn, Wessex Royale or similar http://www.thepoachersinn.co.uk/ http://wessexroyaledorchester.com/ Dinner, bed and breakfast

 

Day 8 Friday                                  ‘Jane Austen’s Hampshire’ – Winchester, Chawton    

We have even more lovely countryside and areas of inspiration for our final touring day! Hampshire is where Jane Austen spent the majority of her life. We’ll explore the ancient Saxon capital of Winchester on a guided walk around the city, seeing the cathedral where Jane is buried, the place Jane last called home, where she passed away in 1817 and one of England’s most famous public schools.

Jane’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 can enjoy the village itself and the cottage gardens that Jane and her sister lovingly tended.

Late afternoon we will make our way back into London, arriving approximately 18:00. Accommodation is separate tonight, available for the appropriate supplemental fee.

 

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.

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!

Oft imitated, never duplicated! This itinerary is an original SGT itinerary, property of Special Group Tours and to be used only with express permission/in conjunction with SGT.

 

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Toll Free Tel: 1 866-725-5250
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Cost based on how many travelers. Please ask us for a rate quote.

THIS TOUR IS A SUGGESTED ITINERARY FOR PRIVATE/CUSTOM DEPARTURES. It can be modified to best suit you. Please discuss your wishes with us!

Usual Package Inclusions: Appropriate # of touring days with your driver/guide/companion, accommodation for # of nights while on the tour including both full breakfasts and dinners. Your price also includes entrance fees to listed attractions, transportation, services of driver/guide-companion and all taxes and tips other than those you may wish to give your guide.