Follow the trail of those who became the American Pilgrims, from Lincolnshire to Harwich, London and Plymouth
9 days from London
Explore the 400 year relationship 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
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.”
Hampton Court Palace, London
Your tour can begin either being welcomed from your international flight or from Central London.
Begin your touring adventure at nearby Tudor masterpiece Hampton Court. Henry VIII’s masterpiece Hampton Court Palace is set in over 60 acres of gardens and parklands along the scenic River Thames. You won’t want to miss the Great Vine (planted by Capability Brown,) the rose gardens and the famous Yew tree hedge Maze. There is one of the few ‘real’ tennis courts to be seen here too. Along with the Tudor Kitchens, Henry VIII's State Apartments are the most popular attraction inside the palace. The Great Hall is the palace's largest and most impressive room, with an ornate carved-wood ceiling and a collection of Flemish tapestries that date back over 500 years.
Later, continue to the London neighbourhood of Rotherhithe, 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.
We will enjoy a late lunch together in the Mayflower Pub Rotherhithe, which was well known to the crew of the Mayflower as The Shippe. We can see the original 1620 mooring point of the Mayflower and anyone with a personal connection to one of the passengers can sign the Descendant’s Visitor Book inside the pub.
We will then continue to our East Anglia base for these 2 nights.
STAY: Swan at Lavenham/similar
Harwich, East Anglia
Today’s first destination is Harwich, where the Christopher Jones, the Master of the Mayflower, lived and was twice wed. We will follow the Maritime trail and see the Ha’Penny Pier and Visitor Centre, St. Nicholas Church, the Guildhall and The Redoubt Fort, which was built in 1808 as a large circular fort to protect the harbor from a Napoleonic invasion.'
We will round out our day exploring some of the lovely ‘Suffolk Wool Towns,’ some of the best-preserved historic towns and prettiest villages in Suffolk. Step back in time to the era of the Tudors and Puritans, when the wool trade was at its peak and these towns were among the richest places in the country. Sudbury, once home to painter Thomas Gainsborough and the birthplace of Thomas Davies, whose signal to Paul Revere set off that famous ride, is one destination. We will particularly spend some time in our base town of Lavenham, often called ‘England’s Best-Preserved Medieval Village’, containing no less than 340 listed buildings! For any WWII or flight enthusiasts in the group, our hotel bar may be of interest as here was a hang-out for The Might Eighth!
STAY: Swan at Lavenham/similar
This morning we will visit Boston, a port town on the East coast. In 1607, a group of pilgrims had walked 60 miles from Scrooby to Boston to meet a ship to take them to Holland. They were betrayed and instead of a new life, they were arrested and taken to the Guildhall. We will see the cells where they were held and St. Botolph’s Church, known as “Boston Stump”, one of England’s largest parish churches. Rev. John Cotton urged members of his congregation to join the Massachusetts Bay Company, and he helped found the city of Boston in the 1630s. The Puritan Path leading to the church is in his honor.
We also can explore parts of the Lincolnshire Wolds as time permits. There’s the small parish church in Willoughby where John Smith was baptized, home to a magnificent stained-glass window telling his story, the one-time president of Virginia who mapped the New World's eastern shores. Nearby in Alford is the Five Sailed Windmill, one of the last original working windmills, often considered to be the finest in England. Spoilt for choice! We will continue to Lincolnshire, where we will be based for two nights.
Pilgrim Roots, Lincoln
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.
We continue to follow the Mayflower Pilgrim Trail in the tiny villages known to them, see Austerfield, Scrooby and Babworth.
The rest of the day will be spent discovering the local treasures in Lincoln. See the old town with historic Jewish heritage, the castle and a magnificent cathedral, featured in the Da Vinci Code film. More importantly, an original of the Magna Carta can to be seen at the castle. Should any guest have connections to the Pilgrims, perhaps a chance to do some ancestral research at the Lincoln Archives?
Stay: Lincoln/Lincolnshire, same property as above
Stratford-upon-Avon & Cotswolds villages
One of the best ways of learning more about the Pilgrim’s lives in England is to visit Stratford-upon-Avon, as Shakespeare (1564-1616) was their contemporary and spoke in a similar manner. In fact, Stephen Hopkins, one of the Mayflower passengers, was part of the 1609 Bermuda shipwreck that is said to have inspired The Tempest. We will tour Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Trinity Church.
This afternoon we will continue our way southwest, our route via a few of the charming Cotswolds villages. This was another important source of wealth throughout the Tudor period as a sheep farming region.
Full day in Bristol
Bristol’s past is awash with nautical goings-on! This is a perfect place to spend some time on our maritime theme.
Ever heard the saying ‘ship shape and Bristol fashion’? That goes back to when sailors here had to keep their cargo neat and tidy, on their impeccably crafted ships, to prevent them tipping over when the tide went out as Bristol has the second biggest tidal range in the world. The city's significance as a trading port goes back to Anglo-Saxon times, and since then its played host to some true characters of maritime history, from Samuel Plimsoll – a social reformer for safety at sea - to Blackbeard – a pirate who lit fuses in his hair to strike terror wherever he roamed – to the characters of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Bristol also boasts both Tudor and Georgian houses, and the lovely area of Clifton with its magnificent suspension bridge over the Avon gorge and John Wesley's original Methodist church.
There are several ships to explore during our time here. See Brunel’s handsome ss Great Britain, the world’s first great ocean liner. Imagine what it was like for the pioneering Victorian passengers sailing to Australia. Or hop aboard The Matthew, a replica of the ship John Cabot accidently sailed over to North America in 1497, landing at 'New Founde Land,' whilst trying to find Asia.
Modern Bristol is well known for its art galleries and street art, definitely something to check out during your stay! This evening, perhaps you will choose to dine on one of Bristol’s fine floating restaurants. There is also the option of taking a harbor cruise or an evening ‘Pirate’ walking tour. Another place where you’re spoilt for choice!
Stay: Bristol, same property as above
Charlestown & Plymouth
Today we make our way to the western coast. Attention fans of Poldark, we will visit Charlestown, which will be recognisable to fans! Here find the interesting Shipwreck Centre, built around the cave passages used to ship out trade to China and elsewhere. The tall ships and jetty may seem familiar, as this is a popular place for films and tv. As time permits we can route along the scenic coast, perhaps stopping in another fishing village Looe. The Jolly Sailor Inn was a favourite haunt of pirates and smugglers - 'haunts' indeed, legend has it that this is one of the most haunted pubs in the country!
Plymouth’s waterfront has been a port of call or point of departure for adventurers, emigrants, merchant traders, soldiers and sailors for over a thousand years. This is, of course, the departure point of The Mayflower, marked by the Mayflower Steps. We will explore the cobbled streets and have time in the Mayflower Museum. There is the local Plymouth Gin Distillery (with samples!) for those who wish too.
Dartmouth, Devon coast
After breakfast we will travel to nearby Dartmouth, which is where the Mayflower and the Speedwell had to dock for repairs. Dependent on schedules, we may be able to access the picturesque village via a lovely ferry ride. We will see places the Pilgrims would have recognized. This is a truly picturesque town combining a rich maritime heritage and a vibrant waterfront hosting an active sailing community; it is home to Britannia Royal Naval College. Also here is the 14th century castle and 16th century cove fort.
Later we will continue towards the charming town of Dorchester, stopping en-route as we choose at Jane Austen’s Lyme Regis, or perhaps scenic West Bay, made famous in the TV show Broadchurch.
Stay: in/near Dorchester
Southampton is steeped in maritime heritage and today is known as the ‘cruise capital of Europe.’ The city has a vibrant atmosphere, top shopping opportunities and a trail noting Jane Austen’s inspiration for her novel Mansfield Park. The Mayflower based here before continuing to Plymouth then across the Atlantic. Many of the buildings and streets familiar to the Mayflower Pilgrims then still exist today. The Mayflower is not the only voyage the city is well known for, The Titanic set sail from Southampton White Start Dock in 1912. The Dolphin Hotel has a long illustrious history and one of the earliest references is from 1454. Famous guests included Queen Victoria, Admiral Lord Nelson, and Jane Austen.
This afternoon, spoilt for choice yet again for where we may choose to stop en-route to London! There’s lovely ancient Winchester and some places of famous authors.
The tour concludes in London this 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/Reformation Tours itinerary, property of Special Group Tours and to be used only with express permission/in conjunction with SGT. Written and operated in conjunction with Reformations Tours.
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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