Day 1 Monday
We depart our London meeting point at approximately 09:00, our destination being Hampshire, ‘Jane Austen Country.’ We will travel to our first village of interest, Steventon, where Jane Austen spent her first 25 years. We will explore the small parish church where her father was a clergyman including the churchyard where her brother and his family lie. This quiet, peaceful place is like stepping back in time.
The Tudor manor house The Vyne, visited by King Henry VIII on at least 3 occasions, is also on the day’s agenda. The house is filled with an eclectic mix of fine furniture, portraits, textiles and sculpture. The attractive gardens feature an ornamental lake, woodlands and flourishing wetlands, a haven for wildlife and water fowl. This was the home of the Chute family, friends of the Austens, and Jane and her sister often visited for dances and to play cards. The dances held here would have been intimate affairs, ones of great contrast to the lavish balls Jane would later attend in Bath. We can see the portrait of the Chute’s adoptive daughter Caroline, said to be the inspiration for Fanny Price of Mansfield Park.
Next, Jane’s home at Chawton, 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.
NIGHTSTOP: Hampshire. PROPERTY: Chilworth Manor, Swan Alton or similar, http://www.bw-chilworthmanor.co.uk/ https://www.oldenglishinns.co.uk/our-locations/the-swan-alton
Day 2 Tuesday
Today we’ll 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 and the place Jane last called home, where she passed away in 1817.
We’ll also enjoy touring around the seaport of Southampton, where Jane Austen lived for 2 years following the death of her father. We’ll explore the ancient city walls, said to be a favorite walking spot for Jane, and a few local landmarks well known to her. It is thought that the Portsmouth scenes in Mansfield Park are modeled after her experience of local life in Southampton. Nearby, as time permits, we’ll visit a place or two enjoyed by Jane and her family as short getaways from the city – such as the abbey that inspired Northanger Abbey.
NIGHT STOP: Hampshire, as above
Day 3 Wednesday
During our day, we’ll visit in iconic Salisbury. Here we can pay our respects inside the stunning gothic cathedral and see one of the greatest pieces of writing, the Magna Carta.
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 Lydon, Madness of King George, Judi Dench favorite Mrs Brown and most recently in Young Victoria.
This afternoon, we will make our way to Bath, the city of Georgian splendor and Roman antiquity. Upon arrival, 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 amongst many other writers; 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. During our stay, you’ll have free time 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!
Dinner is not included tonight for flexibility’s sake.
NIGHT STOP: Bath. PROPERTY: The Kennard or similar, http://www.kennard.co.uk/
Day 4 Thursday
A big day spent in lovely countryside today, far from the madding crowd. Our journey will take us through areas well known to Thomas Hardy. The counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorsetshire are ones where time literally seems to have stood still since the days of Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy.
Lyme Regis is sure to be one highlight, a popular sea spa town and the site of many Austen family holidays. The town looks much as it did when Jane spent time here, and sites from Persuasion are recognizable.
Also today, Stourhead Gardens, featuring one of the world’s finest 18th Century landscape gardens including a magnificent lake, classical temples, enchanting grottos plus rare and exotic trees. The Temple of Apollo here was featured in a memorable scene between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy in the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice and should be recognizable to fans.
NIGHT STOP: Bath, as above
Day 5 Friday
Guests continuing as part of our ‘Week’ with Jane Austen to the Heart of England have the full day to explore Bath as you please. We highly recommend time in the Roman Baths and Pump Rooms, the Jane Austen Centre and perhaps the American Museum with its amazing display of quilts. You could simply wander the lovely tea rooms and antique shops – the choice is yours!
Dinner in not included tonight for flexibility’s sake.
NIGHT STOP: Bath, as above (accommodation included in your package)
Day 6 Saturday
This morning we depart from our base in Bath at approximately 11am. We will make our way to 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.
Abbey House Gardens is our next destination. Owned by the “naked gardeners,” this 16th Century Abbey House boasts an unusually large 5 acre town centre garden, nestled beside the historic Abbey in the lovely village of Malmesbury. Famed gardener Alan Titchmarsh said about Abbey House, “The Wow Factor is here in abundance!”(Note, at time of publishing, Abbey House is up for sale and it is unknown if potential new owners will keep the gardens opened to the public. If Abbey becomes unavailable, we will substitute accordingly.)
NIGHT STOP: Cotswolds, Holt Steeple Aston or similar
Day 7 Sunday
Our day will be spent meandering through the honey-thatch cottage Cotswolds villages famous in this region. Each is unique and pretty in its own right and there are many opportunities for a stop in a tea-shop or wandering the antique shops as we wish. With our small vehicle, we can get where larger coaches can’t and avoid the commercialized ‘honey-pots’ to discover the best of local treasures. There are a wide range of Cotswolds gardens too and we may call into one if time permits. Spoilt for choice!
For 400 years, Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire was the country seat of Jane Austen’s relatives, the Leighs. In 1806, Jane visited her cousin Reverend Thomas Leigh on the estate and was so inspired by Stoneleigh that she wove descriptions of the interiors, views of the grounds and cameos of the family into her novels. Stoneleigh Abbey has changed little since 1806, the rooms and much of the furniture are still as Jane Austen would have known them. The park and gardens at Stoneleigh reveal a long history of landscaping undertaken over four centuries at the behest of the Leigh family. There has been a settlement with gardens here from as early as 1154!
NIGHT STOP: Cotswolds, as above
Day 8 Monday
Today sees us visiting the Bard’s hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon to discover the charming town and Shakespeare connections. Our visit can include time in the local church, burial place for the Bard, and the iconic Birthplace.
Later, a rare bit of motorway driving will bring us to the Peak District. Jane Austen stayed in the area for 5 weeks in 1806 at the home of another cousin, Edward Cooper. Perhaps we will choose to route via Lichfield, a bustling market town with some lovely Tudor buildings visited by Jane for touring and shopping. Alternatively we might choose to route via Leicester Cathedral, for a brief stop to pay our respects to King Richard III, the man famously maligned in Shakespeare’s play. Skeletal remains of ‘someone’ with scoliosis and an arrow in the back, those matching reports of Richard’s death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, were found in a Leicester car park in Sep, 2012. Scratch the surface and England just ‘bleeds’ history!
NIGHT STOP: Matlock/Bakewell area, Peak District Rutland Arms or similar http://www.rutlandarmsbakewell.co.uk/
Day 9 Tuesday
We have a full day to enjoy the Peak District and the magnificent Pennine Hills scenery. Here, where the dry-stone walls make criss-cross patterns of the sheep covered hills, we may find ancient folk customs such as ‘well-dressing’ as we wander the rural Derbyshire villages such as favorite film location towns Bakewell and Longnor. Another possibility is Ashbourne, a town with connections to both Dr Johnson, author of the very first dictionary, and George Eliot, who described the church as “the finest mere parish church in the entire kingdom.” It is located nearby the lovely River Dove, a favorite spot for Wordsworth.
There are a few stately homes and treasure houses in this area which may seem familiar for fans of period films. These estates are often used as sets, most famously recent productions of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and The Duchess among others. We will visit as many as time will permit over our few days in the area.
A sure inclusion is the Duke of Devonshire’s stately home at Chatsworth, the real life home of Georgina, The Duchess of Devonshire and said to have been the inspiration for Jane Austen as her ‘Pemberley.’ It was here that most of the exterior sequences for Pemberley in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice were filmed as well as a few interiors including the sculpture gallery.
NIGHT STOP: Peaks, as above
Day 10 Wednesday
Another full day in the Peak District permits us the opportunity to explore even more stunning places. There’s the town of Hathersage, known as “Morton” in Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre. The town itself is an attractive, prosperous gritstone village of charm and character, perched rather picturesquely on a hillside. This whole area is well known to film crews, capturing real places of inspiration for classic literature. Nearby there’s the soaring Stanage Edge, a famous scene from the Keira Knightley Pride & Prejudice and connections to Little John from the Robin Hood legends.
The grand finale of our day is sure to be a visit to Lyme Park, used by the BBC for the hugely popular Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. Fans may recognize the lake as well as the house itself. Here, we’ll find the Palladian mansion surrounded by a medieval deer park of almost 1400 acres, an amazing formal garden and lavish interiors.
Our tour finishes in Manchester this evening. Accommodation is separate tonight, available for a supplemental fee.
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.