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Kent & Sussex Literary Landscapes: Dickens, 'Bloomsbury Group,' 'James Bond' & Jane Austen


Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Ian Fleming & 'Bloomsbury Group' June departures can also feature the Broadstairs Dickens Festival

5 days/4 nights from London


Literary Landscapes in Kent & Sussex -- castles and gardens with a literary connection

Overviewicon Itineraryicon

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.



Day 1



We will depart our meeting point in London at approximately 09:00. A rare bit of motorway driving will bring us out into the luscious scenery around Lewes, East Sussex. From then on, never a shortage of ‘off the beaten track’ roads to explore!


‘Bloomsbury in Sussex’ is our goal today as we enjoy the homes of Virginia Woolf at Monk’s House, her final home, and that of her sister Vanessa Bell, Charleston Farm. Here we’ll visit the farmhouse that was the weekend getaway for Woolf, Lytton Strachey, EM Forster and TS Elliot among others. Entering these rooms is like stepping back in time. The gardens of Charleston are of the Arts and Crafts style infused with an Italian flair and certainly reflect the originality of its owners, featuring mosaic paving, original and classical sculptures and a variety of colorful plantings. Vanessa Bell described her creation as “a dithering blaze of flowers and butterflies and apples” while painter Dora Carrington wrote, “Never, never have I seen quite such a wonderful place!…What excellent things there will be to paint in that garden with the pond and buildings.”


Our overnight location for these two nights is in/near the charming town of Tunbridge Wells, a former spa town where Regency high society went to “take the waters,” as mentioned in various Jane Austen novels.


NIGHTSTOP: Royal Tunbridge Wells area

SUGGESTED PROPERTY: Royal Wells Hotel or similar http://royalwells.co.uk/

Day 2



Our first main destination is Charles Dickens’ Rochester. This gem of a city, with its cathedral and Norman castle, overflows with Dickens’s sites, such as plaques on the places mentioned in his books and ‘Mrs Havisham’s House.’ The man himself lived here for a time.


During our day, we can meander through Ashdowne Forest, well known to author AA Milne and his famed characters Winnie the Pooh, Christopher Robin and friends. The adventurous might fancy a game of Pooh Sticks off the bridge!


Also see the romantic setting of Groomsbridge Place, a moated manor estate featuring formal gardens and a bird of prey centre, an inspiration for authors, gardeners and artists since the 17th century. This top garden has connections to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his timeless creation ‘Sherlock Holmes’ plus a popular recent film version of Pride and Prejudice.


NIGHTSTOP: Royal Tunbridge Wells area, same property as above

Day 3



A full day of iconic sites today! Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicholson’s world famous garden of Sissinghurst will be our first main visit. You’ll have plenty of time to explore this intimate and intricate garden and to visit those parts of her home open to the public. Here, we’ll find a Tudor tower complete with Vita’s writing workshop, a walled herb garden, mixed border gardens, an oast house museum, a white garden and a cottage garden. Writer and friend to the Bloomsbury Group, Vita’s home also has Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s printing press on display.


Later, Dover Castle, where we’ll find a wealth of history from the mediaeval times of Henry V through to modern times with the WWII secret wartime tunnels. Dover Castle was used in the filming of Philippa Gregory’s novel The Other Boleyn Girl  – not that we really need an excuse to visit this wonderful attraction! Yes a photo opportunity of the famed White Cliffs of Dover during our time here is also on the agenda.


NIGHTSTOP: Canterbury area, Kent

SUGGESTED PROPERTY: Cathedral Lodge http://www.canterburycathedrallodge.org/ (subject to availability)

Day 4



This morning historic Canterbury, we can pay our respects much like Chaucer’s Pilgrims inside the wonderful Canterbury Cathedral. As this is our overnight location, we should miss the main and madding throng of ‘daytrippers’ from London.


The rest of our day can be spent enjoying Broadstairs and the coast - this is the area of inspiration for Charles Dickens & Ian Fleming for his 'James Bond' novels. Broadstairs is a lovely seaside resort town. This was the setting for Dickens’ Bleak House, and the town has held an annual Dickens Festival since 1937. June departures can enjoy the festival itself!

This area is also the place where Ian Fleming lived and found inspiration. Perhaps raise a glass in his honour at his favourite local pub! This pretty coast has history dating back to Julius Caesar. Royal St George’s Golf Club at Sandwich was Fleming’s own golf club, noted as the setting for the famous golf match in another novel/film, Goldfinger, and this coast was also the setting for parts of Moonraker.


The Charles Dickens Festival, a celebration of the author’s life and works, takes place annually in June and features a wide range of special events, Victorian costumed characters and the opportunity to mix with the locals. The 3rd Saturday in June is typically opening day, where you can experience the Grand Parade and Opening Ceremony.

Day 5



A leisurely Sunday to meander our way back into London via two lovely Kentish estates.


Goodnestone Park, the family estate of Edward Austen Knight’s in-laws, is our first oprt of call. Here is a charming Regency garden with a fragrant Walled Garden, a place where Jane Austen was a frequent visitor.


Considered a "Tudor gem," the double moated Hever Castle actually dates back to about 1270. It is most famously known as Anne Boleyn's childhood home. The most recent private owners were The Astors, who transformed the property and installed the gardens as what we see today. Inside the castle offers antique furniture, Anne Boleyn's prayer books, instruments of torture, and a large collection of Tudor paintings while the highlights of the extensive gardens include the famous yew maze, Tudor garden, rose garden and the Italian Garden, which was designed to display William Waldorf Astor’s collection of Italian sculpture.


We will arrive back to London early evening.



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.


What Your Tour Package Includes

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.


SGT is at your service!

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The Special Group Tours Advantage is our unique and intimate understanding of what you expect traveling in the UK and Europe. We have not only visited but have spent many years living in and loving the cultures you will experience down the ‘B’ Roads and off the beaten track. We have worked with local suppliers and our guide/companion team for over a decade, creating unique special interest itineraries. Special Group Tours offers our “insider” knowledge to you.


The SGT Small Group Touring Concept is traveling with just 4 - 14 guests per departure. It is our aim to introduce you to the 'real' country and its people, not just ticking the boxes of a standardized route and treating you as an individual and not a number. Our concept allows for a leisurely touring pace and flexibility to get off the beaten track to discover hidden gems. Of course you'll see the major sites but so much more too!


At Special Group Tours, it is our priority that you have the most enjoyable holiday possible. You deserve it!