London, Suffolk, Cambridge, Essex and Lincolnshire
7 days from London
Explore the 400 year relationalship between England and America
This is a suggested tour itinerary for private departures, adjustable to best suit your specific wishes. Price based on how many travelers, your chosen package inclusions and your chosen level of accommodation.
This tour begins and ends in London - or do the Dutch extension, which would start in London and finish in Amsterdam. See below for full details.
Who were the Puritans? Puritans were extreme protestants in the time of Tudor Queen Elizabeth I, they believed that the Church of England needed to be ‘purified’ of the pomp and ceremony retained from Catholicism. Moderate Puritans petitioned Parliament to alter church law to their beliefs but remained official members of the Church of England. Many others became radical “Separatists,” religious dissenters who formed their own sects separate from the Church of England and therefore enemies of the Crown. To be a Separatist was to be guilty of treason. Eventually they had to flee to escape fines, prison, torture or even death. Some of the Separatists in the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire areas are those who became the “Mayflower Pilgrims” who sailed across the Atlantic to American shores in 1620. Unfortunately the brutal treatment they sought to escape from in England did not affect their equally brutal treatment of Native Americans in their “New World.”
Our adventure begins in London as we explore the Southwark area. Here is a leisurely but full day with much to discover! The 'Las Vegas' of its time, delve into this area well known to Shakespeare and later Charles Dickens, an area that provoked the wrath of the Puritans. On a walking tour of the area, see the crown jewel of this part of London, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. It is a stunning place, built using 'antique' Elizabethan building techniques, constructed entirely of English oak with mortise and tenon joints. Also on our route is the ancient prison The Clink and the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship The Golden Hynde.
Our walk will include Borough Market, one of London's largest and oldest food markets, where you'll have free time for lunch. There is an amazing variety of choice - traditional British specialties, meat and vegetarian sandwiches, salads, smoothies, organic fruits, veg, breads, cheeses, sweets; a true selection of foods from around the world.
Later, continue to the neighbourhood of Rotherhithe, also on the River Thames. It was from here that the Mayflower began its journey, and later ended it. Rumour has it that Captain Christopher Jones cunningly moored here to avoid paying tax further down the river. The Mayflower sailed to Southampton for supplies and to rendezvous with another ship called The Speedwell, but that vessel proved problematic and it was abandoned. On 6th September, 1620, Captain Jones, along with 102 passengers and approximately 30 crew members, The Mayflower set sail from Plymouth to what is now America. In Rotherhithe, see St Mary’s Church and a memorial to Capt Jones.
Also enjoy a dinner together in the Mayflower Pub. The only place in England where you can buy American postage stamps!
NIGHTSTOP Southwark area, London
Departing London, our first stop is in the pretty Chilterns area, where you can pay respects at the graves of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and his family. Here too is a Quaker Meeting House constructed from timbers of the actual Mayflower ship.
The remainder of our day is leisurely spent in Cambridge, a centre for the Separatist movement. In this sleepy, easily-walked medieval city, enjoy a brief walking tour with your guide followed by free time. See one of the colleges and possibly students punt on the backs of the River Cam. There’s the excellent Fitzwilliam Museum and great shopping available too, as time and interest will permit.
Continuing north, a stop in the perfectly preserved town of Stamford. Many who have enjoyed English costume dramas will find the streets somewhat familiar as the BBC and others have used the town extensively for location shoots recreating the 18th century for many films.
Later the jewel Burghley House, the largest and grandest house of the first Elizabethan Age. Built by William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Elizabeth I, it is still a family home for his descendants. Cecil was the most trusted adviser to the Queen and he greatly influenced the religious matters during her reign. Burghley House is 18 state rooms containing unique and important collections of porcelain, art, furniture and textiles. This stop is sure to bring gasps of amazement to even the most travelled amongst us!
Later arrive to our base, the charming city of Lincoln. See the old town with historic Jewish heritage, the castle and a magnificent cathedral, recently featured in the Da Vinci Code film. More importantly, an original of the Magna Carta can to be seen at the castle.
More time to explore Lincoln at your leisure this morning, as some may wish to do ancestral research at the Lincoln Archives.
This afternoon, a scenic drive through the Lincolnshire Wolds to the small parish church in Willoughby where John Smith was baptized. Here find a magnificent stained-glass window telling his story, one time president of Virginia who mapped the New World's eastern shores.
Today focus on those religious 'dissenters' who helped shape modern America. Visit the tiny villages of Babworth, Scrooby and Austerfield, discovering their connections with William Brewster, William Bradford, the Reverend John Robinson and the Reverend Richard Clyfton.
Also today, explore Gainsborough Old Hall, the mediaeval gem with direct connections to the Mayflower Pilgrims. This is one of the best-preserved timber framed manor houses in the UK. Owners from 1596, William Hickman and his mother Rose were ardent Puritans and evidence shows that they permitted their local Separatist congregation, some who would become Mayflower Pilgrims, to worship at Old Hall.
Today we concentrate on some early American settlers and their birthplaces. In Boston see the memorials in the Boston 'stump' to the five Boston men who became Governors of Massachusetts; also here in Boston Guildhall, the cells where Pilgrims were imprisoned in 1607. Explore King's Lynn, an ancient port and once home to George Vancouver and John Mason, founder of New Hampshire.
Also today Heacham, home of John Rolfe and later his wife “Rebecca,” birth name Pocahontas. There is a dedication in the local church to her legacy. We will discuss the true story of this brave woman, which does not resemble Disney in any way.
Our base this evening is the cathedral market town of Ely, once home to Oliver Cromwell.
More charming villages to meander today! Have a look around the historic market town of Bury St Edmunds. The most famous landmarks are its impressive abbey ruins and their adjoining gardens. Once a great monastery, the abbey was built around a shrine to Saint Edmund, which for centuries was a point of pilgrimage from peasants to kings.
Later, route via the impossibly pretty Lavenham, and Sudbury, birthplace of Thomas Davies, whose signal to Paul Revere set off that famous ride. We will return to London this evening, here our tour concludes.
OPTIONAL EXTENTION: Instead of returning to London, finish today in Harwich, where The Mayflower was built and where her Captain Christopher Jones once lived. There is an overnight ferry, scheduled 11pm Harwich/arriving Hook of Holland 08:00 the next morning. You can continue on a 3 day Dutch excursion that would include the highlights of The Netherlands including places of interest for the Mayflower Pilgrims, your 3 days would include:
Delftshaven, a neighborhood in Rotterdam where some early pilgrims lived prior to sailing to America. Rotterdam is one of Holland’s famed ‘art cities’ and is a major port
Leiden, another base for early pilgrims prior to America, also the birthplace of the artist Rembrandt
Delft, Den Haag/The Hauge and Amsterdam – top destinations for art, food and amazing culture
Arrival into Hook of Holland from the overnight ferry. The Hague/Den Haag is home to the Royal Family, the seat of Dutch government, the international criminal court, the Peace Palace and one of the ‘Holland Art Cities.’ On an orientation panoramic tour, we will see the fabulous medieval Parliament buildings, the ‘Lange Verhoot’ area with its spectacular homes and the almost hidden former servant houses. Later perhaps choose to go inside the world famous Mauritshuis, where you can explore works including Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ and ‘View of Delft,’ Rembrandt’s ‘Dr Nicolas Tulp.’
Delft is a place almost unchanged since Vermeer painted it in the 1600s, where you can visit the Vermeer Museum and the famed Blue Porcelain Museum as well as relaxing in the canal side cafes. Delft is popular with tourists but, by staying here you can miss the main and maddening throng.
Rotterdam is the first of the “Holland Art Cities” that we will visit. This is one of Europe’s largest seaports and the city is home to some of the most important buildings of modern architecture, due to the city being completely decimated by bombs in WWII. There is just one ‘nook’ of old Rotterdam that has been faithfully reconstructed, Delfshaven. This charming area lined with gabled houses along the historic waterfront comes complete with a still working mill and several galleries and cafes. It was here that many Mayflower Pilgrims lived as English refugees prior to their journey across to America.
Gouda is a charming Dutch market town made famous by its local cheese. There are often exhibitions of local professions such as clog making and buttermilk production plus the wonderful stained glass of St Janskerk to see. The market square itself is well worth some time!
Tonight, if you are so inclined, perhaps choose to try an Indonesian rice table dinner, now considered a typical Dutch dinner. A rice table consists of rice served with approximately 10-15 different spicy vegetables, pork, fish, chicken and beef dishes to sample.
Leiden is another beautiful Dutch town with charming canal lined streets and lovely architecture. The birthplace of Rembrandt and the current home to the oldest university in the country, this was also home to the original Mayflower Pilgrims for 12 years prior to boarding The Mayflower. Explore true history versus myth in the American Pilgrims Museum.
Later make the way into the capital city of Amsterdam. Enjoy an orientation tour with your guide, followed by free time to explore as you choose independently.
There’s simply so much to see and do in Amsterdam - the Anne Frank Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum for the finest collection of Dutch old masters such as Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Vermeer among others; there’s the flower market, Dam Square, a Maritime Museum, Rembrandt House, where the man himself lived, the Resistance Museum dedicated to the local culture and resistance movement during the occupation of WWII... Garden fans may enjoy the botanic gardens or the immaculate eighteenth-century garden at the Willet-Holthuysen Museum. Where to begin?! This is very much a walking city but there is also the option of a canal barge tour too.
Your tour concludes this evening in Amsterdam, where you are welcomed to extend your stay as you wish.
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.
Please note that your final day to day itinerary may fluctuate to accommodate variable opening times/days for listed attractions, special events and places of interest. Please discuss your needs with us for an individual itinerary with rate quote.
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. Written in conjunction with Bruce Cherry.
This is a suggested tour itinerary and can be modified to best you your individual wishes.
Suggested tour package includes: # of touring days with vehicle & exclusive services of your driver/guide/companion, your accommodation for # nights while on the tour including full breakfasts, all taxes and tips other than those you may wish to give your guide. Your price also can include dinners and/or entrance fees to attractions or these items can be left out of the up front package/to be paid directly for maximum flexibility. Airport transfers, accommodation pre and post tour, scheduled city day tours/attraction passes/transport passes or theatre/event tickets can be added to your package as you wish, subject to availability.
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