This tour begins in London and finishes in York. Guests have the option to extend their stay in York then take the train independently to London, Manchester or Edinburgh on the date of their choice. Alternatively there is the option to book an optional transfer with your driver/guide York to London. Please discuss options with us.
We recommend spending independent time in the fabulous capital city of ‘Roman Londinium.’ In addition to all of the city’s iconic sites, on our theme you may choose to visit the British Museum and Museum of London to see important collections and special displays of Roman London. There’s the Roman City Walls, Temple of Mithras and lesser known gem the Museum of Fashion and Textiles, where collections include textiles, fashion and dress as a social historical record. Never a loss of fine things to see and do in London!
Day 1 Tuesday Sussex
Leaving London at approximately 09:00 from our central meeting point, we drive south-west. Our first destination is Silchester, the ancient capital of the Celtic Antrebates tribe. Here hexagonal walls enclose 107 acres, and excavations in the 1930s produced the most complete Roman town plan known in Britain.
Many modern English city names give away their Roman origins; the suffix ‘chester’ is a corruption of the Latin ‘caestra’ meaning ‘fort.’ We’ll explore the city and immediate area around the pretty south coast city of Chichester. The highlights of our time in Sussex are sure to be the splendid Fishbourne Palace and the famed Bignor Villa.
Fishbourne was only discovered by accident in 1960. The site museum has fascinating artifacts from the excavations along with plans, reconstruction drawings and models. In the remains of the North Wing of the Palace can be seen the largest collection of in-situ mosaics in Britain, including the famous ‘Cupid on a Dolphin.’ Outside, the northern half of the formal garden has been replanted to its original plan as recovered by excavation. An attractive plant display area contains a range of plants known to have been cultivated by the Romans. By contrast, Bignor Villa has been a museum since 1815. It contains a wealth of interesting objects from everyday life found in excavations.
NIGHTSTOP Portsmouth area
Day 2 Wednesday Wiltshire
Turning west, our first port of call is Winchester. This was the ancient capital of the Saxons and the Roman point of interest here is largely the street layout. It’s a lovely city where you’ll also enjoy visiting the cathedral, burial place for Jane Austen, and the mediaeval hall.
We’ll certainly see Old Sarum. The Romans placed a staging fort in this Iron Age hill fort. Its commanding position made it popular for reuse by the Norman’s and later mediaeval builders of Salisbury’s first cathedral. It’s an impressive site. As time permits, we can also see Salisbury Cathedral.
NIGHTSTOP Bath The Kennard or similar, http://www.kennard.co.uk/
Day 3 Thursday Dorsetshire
A full day today out and about in the Dorsetshire countryside! Our main port of call on our theme is Maiden Castle, the largest hillfort in England extending 45 acres, dating from about 3000 BC. The name ‘Maiden’ comes from the Celtic ‘Mai Dun’, meaning ‘great hill.’ Maiden Castle was once a bustling town populated by the Durotriges Tribe prior to a Roman attack in 43AD. The remains of a Roman Temple are visible onsite.
Also today, as time permits, we have our choice of Thomas Hardy’s town of Dorchester, the lovely Wells Cathedral and/or King Arthur’s reputed burial place and England’s New Age capital of Glastonbury. Here is the setting for the ancient Celtic legends of Gwyn ap Nudd, King of the Fairies, and the magical Glastonbury Tor.
NIGHTSTOP Bath, as above
Day 4 ND Friday Full day to explore Bath at your leisure
The full day to explore Bath (‘Aquae Sulis’) the centre for Roman ‘R&R’ as you choose. The first Roman camp was established here in 44. The Roman town occupied less than 25 acres, but commanded a vital bridging point across the river Avon. Bath was later reconstructed as a Temple and bathing complex due to the healing springs, and it still contains some of the finest Roman remains in Britain today.
By spending the whole day, have ample free time to explore at your leisure. In addition to the Roman sites, Bath is home to the Jane Austen Centre , The American Museum featuring an interesting collection of quilts and the opportunity to wander the lovely tea rooms and antique shops.
Dinner is not included tonight for flexibility’s sake.
NIGHTSTOP Bath, as above
Day 5 Saturday South Wales
Just across the border in what is today Wales, discover the extensive remains of the great legionary fortress of ‘Isca’ and town of ‘Venta.’ Two thirds of the Roman armies were employed in securing their border and subduing the Welsh tribes. There’s an interesting amphitheatre at present day Caerleon, the legionary fortress of II Augusta, present day Caerwent, with its almost complete circuit of walls.
The rest of our day can be rounded out by seeing one of the Celtic remains in the area, charming castle town of Chepstow or the beautifully situated ruin of Tintern Abbey, inspiration for Wordsworth as we choose. Yet another beautifully scenic area!
NIGHTSTOP South Wales
Day 6 Sunday The Cotswolds
We can explore the superb Chedworth Villa and great Whitcombe in this region better known as ‘The Cotswolds,’ famed for quaint, thatch roofed cottage villages.
The county of Gloucester was one of the most important settlement sites for the Romans of the 1st and 2nd centuries. Nearby was another settlement, now known as Cirencester, the second largest Roman town outside of London. The Corinium Museum here is sure to be one of our day’s highlights.
NIGHTSTOP South Wales, as above
Day 7 Monday Wales into Chester
Dominating eastern mid Wales are the mountains called the Brecon Beacons. Here we’ll visit a well-reserved cavalry fort with remaining gates and standing walls of over 10’. This is a wonderful national park, so well worth some time in any case!
Next, travel to another site of fine Roman remains, Wroxeter. It’s one of the few examples of a Roman town that have not been built over and it, too, has some excellent high standing walls. What makes Wroxeter even more interesting are the continuing discoveries still being made in the region and one school of thought places Arthur’s Camelot here.
Day 8 ND Tuesday Full day to explore Chester at your leisure
Chester (‘Diva’), home of originally of the Legio II Augusta then later the XX Valeria Victrix, boasts the remains of an amphitheatre, part of a quay (it sits on a navigable river) and magnificent Grosvenor Museum. Chester’s real jewel is the amphitheatre, the largest stone amphitheatre in Britain. It could hold over 6000 spectators and was for training the legionaries in fighting techniques. See the Roman baths and Roman gardens. The whole day is free for guests to do as they choose so you can explore all of this pretty city, famed for its city wall, cathedral and mediaeval shopping ‘rows.’
Dinner is not included tonight for flexibility’s sake.
NIGHTSTOP Chester, as above
Day 9 Wednesday Lake District
Heading north, out first destination is the picturesque village of Ribchester, set in the beautiful countryside of the Ribble Valley. The Roman fort, called ‘Bremetennacum veteranorum’, was established during the late first century AD. Roman Ribchester is brought to life at the museum here by dramatic displays, which contain a life size cavalryman, Roman legionary and exciting interactive exhibits.
Next, our Roman theme offers an excellent excuse – if one were needed! – to tour through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the British Isles, the Lake District. Ambleside, one of the Lake’s atmospheric towns, is home to a minor Roman Fort, picturesquely situated on the northern edge of Lake Windermere. We’ll spend the remainder of our day exploring the scenic Lake District as we please!
NIGHTSTOP Lake District Willowsmere or similar, http://www.thewillowsmere.com/
Day 10 Thursday Hadrian’s Wall
Nearly 2000 years ago, in 122 AD, the Emperor Hadrian embarked on a huge undertaking: to mark the northernmost boundary of Roman Britain with an unusually long fortified wall. Skirmishing tribes were contained behind it for over 350 years and Hadrian’s name written indelibly into the history of this remote part of the UK. As a World Heritage Site, Hadrian’s Wall has been recognised for its international importance as an evocative monument to one of the world’s greatest civilisations. Large parts of the wall are still visible, peppered with a variety of forts, museums, reconstructions and fascinating visitor centres. Heaps to explore!
This afternoon, we drive to York. Our tour concludes in York, arriving by approximately 18:00. Accommodation only is included, guests are free to dine this evening and to tour York tomorrow as they choose.
NIGHTSTOP York The Churchill, Beech House or similar, http://www.churchillhotel.com/ http://www.beechhouse-york.co.uk/
We recommend extending your stay to see all that this wonderful walled city has to offer, take the train to London, Manchester or Edinburgh at your leisure. There is also the option to return to London via mini-coach transfer with your driver/guide. SGT is happy to assist you with your onward arrangements, please ask us for details.
York was the legionary fortress of the IX and later VI and also the military capital of Britannia Inferior. There is much to see on the Roman theme amidst the remnants of mediaeval building work in this splendid city. Find, for example, a remarkable expanse of painted plaster that has survived nearly 2000 years. There are long runs of city walls complete with towers and a bath house. York also offers the iconic shopping ‘Shambles,’ the Minster, the cathedral, a Viking Centre and several museums dedicated to interesting things such as quilting and Richard III. Well worth a full day or even a few if you have the time!
LOGISTICAL NOTE: This itinerary is a ‘sampler’ tour visiting several regions of England so involves a bit more driving than the ‘solo region’ itineraries but is still a Small Group Touring Experience, the longer drives are broken up and balanced by ample ‘off the beaten track’ explorations.
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.