​Sceptred Isle, England-Wales-Scotland sampler tour

16 Day ‘Sampler’ Highlight Tour

16 days

A Grand Tour of sixteen days, this is ideal for the first time visitor and for those who have been before but have perhaps not ventured far out of London or from one particular area. Britain is a fortunate island, blessed with a wealth of unrivalled scenic beauty, a depth that only five thousand years of history can provide, and a variety of cultures bequeathed by our numerous invaders. Pity about the climate! Still, our famous rain is what makes this such a pretty country. Our tour is designed to bring you the very best of Britain, from shimmering lakes to towering mountains, from thatched cottage villages to quaint harbours, from sheep covered rolling hills to medieval towns and cities. On leisurely days and fun evenings you’ll discover the people, the history, the landscape and our culture, and see why Shakespeare so unabashedly called it ‘this demi-paradise, this other Eden’.

TENTATIVE ITINERARY

DAY 1

Departing London we head Southwest, our first stop being at Jane Austen’s Chawton home. She spent the last eight years of her life here. The house, where she wrote ‘Sense & Sensibility’ and ‘Pride & Prejudice’ amongst others, is now open as a museum. Our next port of call is the ancient Saxon capital of Winchester. There’ll be time for lunch and for a guided walk around the city. Sights include the cathedral, one of England’s most famous public schools and the legendary ‘King Arthur’s Round Table’. If there is time, we will also visit the last monastery in England where pilgrims may still claim the ‘dole’.

NIGHTSTOP Salisbury area

 

DAY 2

This morning we visit Salisbury, where we will visit the cathedral (www.salisburycathedral.org.uk). If open, we will also see one of the original copies of the Magna Carta on display – this document is over 700 years old and was the cornerstone of English Law and Parliament. Leaving Salisbury behind us, we will now concentrate on pre-historic Britain, driving across the tomb covered Salisbury Plain to Stonehenge and later to the intriguing Avebury, a town built within a Neolithic temple. In the afternoon, a contrast – Georgian Bath where, after an orientation drive around the city, you will be free to explore, perhaps with a visit to the Roman Baths and Pump Room, a fabulous reminder of times past. From here we head over the Severn Bridge into Wales.

NIGHTSTOP South Wales

 

DAY 3

Today will be spent exploring the beautiful Vale of Glamorgan. We will drive through Cardiff, the capital of Wales on our way to visit the little market town of Cowbridge, where the actor Anthony Hopkins went to school. The Valley of Kings and Merlin’s school, rugged coastline and sandy beaches are also on this morning’s itinerary. After lunch there’s a 12th century castle with its very own stepping-stones across the River Ewenny. If we cross the stepping stones and follow the footpath, we’ll find ourselves in the picturesque thatched cottage village of Merthyr Mawr. A short distance away are the second largest sand dunes in Europe. We will also visit the Rhondda Valleys for which Wales is famous (‘How Green Was My Valley?’) and the Roman ruins at Caerleon. This evening there is an optional visit to a Welsh Cultural Banquet.

NIGHTSTOP as above

 

DAY 4

The Welsh Marches and English Borders. Due to the distance that we have to cover and the slower country roads, there will be quite a lot of driving time today. Our first stop is Chepstow Castle, the oldest stone castle in Wales with its magnificent position right on the river Wye. From here, we follow the picturesque River Wye Valley, briefly stopping at the impressive ruins of Tintern Abbey, before continuing north towards Monmouth, birthplace of Henry V. Our route today often crosses Offa’s Dyke, the 9th century man-made border between England and Wales. Continuing northwards we will lunch in the border town of Ludlow, home of one of the great Marcher fortresses. Ludlow also has a feast of old buildings, from Tudor through to Georgian. This afternoon, we’ll explore the beautiful Shropshire countryside, before heading back into Wales where a visit to Llangollen, home of the International Musical Eisteddfod, will end the afternoon nicely.

NIGHTSTOP Llandudno/Chester area

 

DAY 5

The breathtaking scenery of the Snowdonia National Park and the fabulous North Wales coastline is on today’s itinerary. We visit the enchanting Italianate village of Portmeirion. It was created by Sir Clough William-Ellis between 1925-1972 and stands in a stunning spot on its own wooded peninsula next to the tidal sands of Traeth Bach. We’ll also take a steam train ride.

NIGHTSTOP as above

 

DAY 6 ND

Today, you will have the whole day to relax and explore your surroundings at your leisure. Your guide will be on hand for an optional walking tour and advice for the day’s options but what you do today is totally up to you!

Llandudno is an elegant Victorian seaside resort. What’s to see and do? Plenty! The pier is a lovely place for a walk, dotted with cafes and a nice place to watch the boats go by. Then there’s a pier-side theatre, the wide, flower-filled promenade, the imposing Victorian buildings that face the sea and the covered shopping streets are all reminiscent of a bygone age. The town also boasts a funicular railway that you may choose to ride to the top of the Great Orme, where you’ll get splendid views of the Snowdonia countryside.

If you prefer to go a bit further afield, it’s just a short distance to the charming town of Conwy. Conwy’s wall was erected in the 12th century by Norman conquerors and with the massive castle dominating one corner, it makes this harbour town one of the most interesting in the UK. Alternatively, you can hop on a train and spend the day in the English town of Chester, another walled city, founded by the Romans along the River Dee. There’s plenty to enjoy here such as a fine cathedral, Roman remains including part of an amphitheatre and shopping opportunities in the unique mediaeval ‘rows.’

Dinner is not included tonight for flexibility’s sake.

NIGHTSTOP as above

 

Day 7

We’ll take a brief look at the walled town of Roman Chester before we head north, through the beautiful Lancashire dales, to the Lakes of Beatrix Potter and the Lakeland poets. Although we have a long drive this morning, the sights that await us in the Lake District are well worth it. There’s Windermere, the largest and most famous of the Lakes and the smaller Ullswater to mention just two. We’ll visit one of Wordsworth’s homes, see prehistoric stone circles and some unbelievable scenery.

NIGHTSTOP Cumbria

 

DAY 8

Bonnie Scotland! Land of Heather, tartans, whisky and bagpipes! Our first stop is at Gretna Green, famous for being the place to where young lovers would elope to be married. We’ll take a picturesque drive through the forests of the border country to the historic town of Selkirk, where we will have lunch. From Selkirk it is but a short drive to the impressive home of Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford. He bought the house in 1812 and died there twenty years later. We will have time to explore the house as well as the gardens and grounds. If time allows we’ll take a short visit to Melrose and its abbey before turning north to Edinburgh, our base for the next three nights.

NIGHTSTOP Edinburgh

 

DAY 9

Edinburgh, capital of Scotland. This morning there will be a panoramic tour of the major sites: Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, the Royal Mile, Prince’s Street and the New Town – all under the shadow of Arthur’s Seat. For the rest of the day you will be free to explore this exciting and vibrant city at leisure. Dinner is not included tonight to allow you to take advantage of theatre visits if wished.

NIGHTSTOP as above

 

DAY 10

The Royal Kingdom of Fife is the subject of today’s explorations. We’ll see the prison castle of Mary, Queen of Scots, located on an island in the middle of Loch Leven. We’ll visit the Royal Palace of Falkland, which contains the oldest Royal Tennis Court in Britain. Also on today’s itinerary is St. Andrew’s, home of golf. This is a fascinating seaside town and you will have time to explore the cathedral ruins, the castle, the town itself and perhaps even a visit to the golf museum. Later this afternoon we’ll explore the tiny little fishing villages, which hug this North Sea coast. This evening we’ll dine out and perhaps sample some of the wonderful locally caught fresh fish .

NIGHTSTOP as above

 

DAY 11

Heading south, our first stop is at Jedburgh where you will have time to visit the local woollen mill. We’ll also find abbey ruins, the castle jail and Mary Queen of Scots house, which is open to visitors. From here it is only a short drive to the English border. Here we’ll visit some Roman remains on part of the great wall, which the Emperor Hadrian built to protect England from the fierce Picts north of the border. The market town of Hexham once suffered frequent raids by the marauding Scots. Today it is a bustling town where we will lunch before continuing our journey south, through picturesque Northumberland to our farmhouse base on the North Yorkshire Moors.

NIGHTSTOP York/Yorkshire Moors

 

DAY 12

The fabulous Viking city of York. It has much to offer its visitors from the magnificent Minster to the medieval Shambles. After a walking tour, you’ll be free to explore at leisure. Dinner is not included tonight for flexibility’s sake.

NIGHTSTOP as above

 

DAY 13

Continuing our journey south, we travel via Ripon, Harrogate and Yorkshire mill towns to the Bronté sisters’ home at Haworth. Here you’ll have time to explore before we move on to the Peak District, a beautiful and much under-rated part of England. We’ll visit the spa town of Buxton in the ‘dark’ Peak.

NIGHTSTOP Peak District

 

DAY 14

Today we concentrate on exploring more of the Peak District. Our day will include visits to the Duke of Devonshire’s Stately Home at Chatsworth and the more modest, although equally stunning Haddon Hall* owned by the Duke of Rutland, rural Derbyshire villages, ‘well-dressing’ folk custom in season and the ‘blue john’ mining town of Castleton. (* not open in October).

NIGHTSTOP as above

 

DAY 15

On this, our final day, we head first for Stamford, ‘the prettiest stone town in England’ (and the setting for the recent TV series ‘Middlemarch’). We’ll take time to explore this fascinating town, whose history can be traced back as far as the time of Danish settlement. The university town of Cambridge is next and we’ll take a walking tour and visit one of the university colleges before you have some free time to explore at leisure. Perhaps you’ll even venture onto the river Cam and try your hand at punting! Then it’s back to London where you will be dropped off at our west London hotel base. Dinner not included.

NIGHTSTOP London

 

DAY 16

Alas, time to depart for home or choose to extend your stay in the Capital.

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