Royal Castles, Stately Homes and Stunning Gardens - Centuries of Tradition
10 days beginning in Edinburgh and finishing in London
On the Trail of the Royal Britains
This tour begins in Edinburgh and finishes in London
A full day to explore the Royal Mile and iconic places in this ‘Athens of the North,’ the city of Edinburgh independently.
SGT recommends two major Royal residences. Perched on top of an extinct volcano at the top of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle was Scotland's chief royal castle in the Middle Ages. Now it is home to the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny, the famous 15th-century gun Mons Meg and the National War Museum of Scotland.
Holyrood Palace is the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, and best known as the former home of Mary Queen of Scots. Mary was married here and witnessed the brutal killing of her secretary in her private apartments here; also see the gardens and the Queen’s Gallery.
Another option is Royal Yacht Britannia. Discover what life was like on board Her Majesty's floating Royal residence. You can follow in the footsteps of world leaders such as Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Rajiv Gandhi visiting the Royals. See the State Apartments, the engine room and the bridge. This attraction has been named ‘Best of Scotland’ by Visit Scotland so well worth some time.
Evening free for an optional Literary Walking tour or whatever you wish!
ON Edinburgh (accommodation included in your tour package)
A Scottish Royal Day Out today! Your driver/guide will meet you at 09:00 at your hotel lobby. The route will go via Loch Leven, where Mary Queen of Scots was once imprisoned. See Falkland Palace, which was one of the main residences of the old Royal family of Scotland, the Stewarts/Stuarts. The village itself is worth some time, a quaint place full of old cottages and narrow winding streets.
Also today, the charming St Andrews, the ‘home of golf’ and where a young Prince William met schoolmate Kate Middleton at Britain’s third oldest university. St Andrew is the patron Saint of Scotland, and according to legend, his remains were washed up on this Fife coast. St Andrews is also home to a beautiful ruined castle perched on a cliff.
Later, meander one or two of the lovely fishing villages of Fife en-route back towards Edinburgh. Perhaps sample a portion of fresh fish and chips along the way, if you choose.
See Stirling Castle, an imposing fortress connected to Mary Queen of Scots, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. This tour route is classical, as described in Dorothy Wordsworth’s "Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland," a diary of her travels with her brother William. This is one of the most important sites in Scottish history.
Linlithgow Palace was built and added to over two centuries by the Stewart/Stuart kings. This impressive retreat, surrounded by peaceful gardens, was an ideal place for royals to break the journey between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. High towers look out over lush greenery and a loch brimming with wildfowl, which is today a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Several monarchs were born in this royal ‘pleasure palace’ including Mary Queen of Scots. Linlithgow Palace was used to stand in as the entrance and corridors of Wentworth Prison in several intense scenes in Outlander, where Jamie suffers great torture at the hands of Black Jack Randall, stands trail and is sentenced to hang.
Today we depart Edinburgh and head south into England via the scenic coastal route. Another treasure house today may look a bit familiar to film fans, as it has been the setting for both Harry Potter and Downton Abbey! Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in England after Windsor Castle, a Grade I Norman building that remains the home of the Duke of Northumberland. The spectacular gardens here include a treehouse, a bamboo labyrinth and the duchess’s world-famous Poison Garden, which opened in 2004 and has since inspired a series of children’s books, The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood.
A full day spent in York, one featuring York Minster, no adjective can adequately describe this truly awe-inspiring edifice! York is a fabulous walled city that has much to offer its visitors including a city centre castle, Roman museum, National Railway museum, Jorvik Viking Centre and the medieval shopping 'Shambles' to name a few highlights. This was the Royal city of King Richard III. You will have all day to explore as you please. Your guide will be on hand for advice, assistance and a morning orientation walking tour for those that wish it.
Today, head westward across the sometimes heather-covered North Yorkshire Moors. We’ve the opportunity to board a steam train (subject to schedules) at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, surely a treat to relive the nostalgia of the steam age. Harry Potter fans may find the station somewhat familiar - yes this is ‘Hogsmeade!’
Also today, visit what may just be the most spectacular stately home in Yorkshire, Castle Howard. This beautiful palace, recently used in the Brideshead Revisited film among others, is still lived in by the Howard family who built it in the 18th century. Enjoy some free time here to explore the house and grounds at your leisure.
From York we drive south to Lincoln, a city visited by far too few. Here discover the great cathedral spires and castle battlements dominating the hilltop above the ancient mediaeval, cobbled street of 'old Jewry'. The cathedral here was used as a ‘stand in’ for Westminster Abbey in The Da Vinci Code.
Sandringham House in Norfolk is one of the Queen’s favourite houses, and where she chooses to spend Christmas with her family. Since 1862, Sandringham has been the private home of four generations of monarchs and was once described as ‘The most comfortable house in England’. Sandringham House is set in 24 hectares of glorious gardens, perhaps the finest of all the Royal gardens. Every generation of the Royal Family has added something of their own times and tastes, from the peace of the woodland walks to the drama of the carrstone rockeries, from the formality of the North Garden to the intimacy of the Stream Walk. Surely something to delight all visitors!
ON Kings Lynn area
Today is our very own ‘tale of two cities’ as you discover the pleasures of Ely and Cambridge. Cambridge is a compact city in the country's quieter, more rural areas where the river Cam lazily winds its way through the university college grounds. The founders of the university chose the site because it was removed from the tensions of 'city life' in Oxford. The area has retained that feeling of solitude and peace amid the vibrancy of university life.
Ely towers impressively above the surrounding fenlands and has a rare octagonal lantern dated to 1322; once this was home to Oliver Cromwell and still houses some of the most magnificent stained glass you'll ever see. In the abbey, see an exact replica of the Coronation Chair, the 14th-century seat that’s been used for coronations since 1308. Ely Abbey is another fine attraction that ‘played’ Westminster Abbey, in the movie The King’s Speech.
On arrival into the capital, enjoy a panoramic orientation tour of Royal London. Follow the trail of the Royal Family, learn of historic tales of the Tudors, Queen Elizabeth II’s heroic service in the ambulance service in the Home Guard during the Blitz and where the Young Royals go out away from the madding crowds. Along the way see London icons a plenty!
Today is a full day to explore Royal London as you choose! Much of the Royal places of interest are concentrated around Westminster and Pall Mall; explore Parliament Square, Whitehall, St James’, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. The Royal Mews houses the state horses, carriages and vehicles. Subject to schedules, see the pomp and ceremony of the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace. Perhaps make the way across to the imposing Tower of London, where you can delve into the layers of a thousand years of British Royal heritage. Explore popular tourist haunts and also some delightful neighborhoods off the usual tourist route.
Perhaps you will choose to dine like a Royal. Take Afternoon Tea at either Kate Middleton’s favourite The Goring Hotel, or the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason if you choose. A day spoilt for choice!
A full day out and about on the finale day!
Windsor Castle is over 900 years old, having begun construction under William the Conqueror, and is still the main Royal residence for the Monarchy. Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor is said to have been commissioned especially by "The Virgin Queen," Elizabeth I. She also spent much time in Windsor Castle, regarding it as a safe haven "knowing it could stand a siege if need be." May, 2018 sees it as the setting for the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle!
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, Privy Gardens inspired by William of Orange, the Tiltyard and the famous Yew tree hedge Maze. There is one of the few ‘real’ tennis courts to be seen here too. In the palace itself, the Tudor Kitchens and Henry VIII's State Apartments are the among the most popular sections. 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.
Perhaps extend your stay in London independently to explore more of the wealth that the capital city has to offer!
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.
Tour package includes: 8 touring days with vehicle & exclusive services of your driver/guide/companion, your accommodation for 10 nights while on the tour including full breakfasts, entrance fees to listed attractions, all taxes and tips other than those you may wish to give your guide.
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!
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!
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