HISTORIC TOWNS OF ENGLAND– PRICES & PRACTICAL INFORMATION
- Description: day tour by private vehicle from London conducted by accredited driver-guide.
- Number of persons: Up to 7.
- Typical timings: 8am-5pm.
- Pick-up/drop-off: any central London hotel/residence.
- Price: 1-2 passengers = £600.00*; 3-4 passengers = £640.00*; 5-7 passengers = £680.00*.
*Not including entry fees. For some attractions it may be necessary for us to book standard tickets in advance.
What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare? (William H. Davies).
Our Historic Towns tours are perfect for those wanting a more singular tour experience. We take a fast-route out from London and focus on your chosen destination. It means less time spent in the vehicle, and more time to enjoy a place in hi-definition. You might prefer detailed tours of local attractions, or to relax over a leisurely lunch, or to have some time alone for a spot of shopping. Perhaps a combination of all three! The schedule is flexible so you can discuss your options with your driver-guide on the day. It’s your tour and your choice.
We have 10 historic towns to choose from. For each tour, your driver-guide will pick-you up from your central London hotel or place of residence at the specified start time. We recommended 8am. Each town is within a fairly comfortable driving distance of London (about 2 hours maximum), reached after an initial fast-route. Your driver-guide will also suggest appropriate lunch options on the day.
A DAY IN BATH
See how the Romans made their sandal-print on British history with a visit to the stunning Roman Baths unearthed at the end of the 19th century. In medieval times a magnificent cathedral was built nearby, it’s walls adorned with carvings including the famous ‘stairway to heaven’. With so much history, it’s not surprising that the whole city has been designated a World Heritage site. Bath is renowned for its naturally occurring thermal waters, the only hot water mineral springs in the country. The local university and college lend Bath a youthful chilled-out feel. There is a vibrant shopping centre, with all the British favourites on the main street plus alleyways of independents. There is also a great variety of places to eat. Take a drive along the Georgian streets: the whole city, entirely carved out of a local honey-coloured stone, reflects architectural achievements past and present. Fans of writer Jane Austen will discover a delightful museum dedicated to her. She wrote part of ‘Northanger Abbey’ here. Finish your day with an elegant afternoon English tea experience in the Victorian Pump Room, and try a glass of the famous water there.
A DAY IN BRIGHTON
One of the most famous English seaside resorts and very popular with holiday-makers and day-trippers. Visit the Royal Pavilion, the magnificent pleasure house built by the Regent Prince George, and future King George IV. The wayward prince installed his mistress and secret wife Mrs Fitzherbert in a house here in 1785. The house was converted into a villa, then in 1815, into a palace by the architect Nash. Mixing Hindoo, Gothic, Chinese, Rococo and Regency styles, it is a monument to frivolity. Finished in 1823, it was barely used, and sold to the local council by Queen Victoria. Quite bizarre! Brighton contains a vibrant shopping centre which includes the quaint ‘Lanes’ district, full of odd little shops. On the shore, we find the famous Brighton Beach, an original Victorian penny arcade, and a fun-filled amusement pier. Forget the diet for the afternoon, and indulge yourself with ice cream, candy floss, and of course, Brighton rock! Then we can go for a stroll along the old prom-prom, and hear the brass band play, tiddly-om-pom-pom! There are lots of things besides, that you might like to be beside, beside the seaside, beside the sea!
A DAY IN CAMBRIDGE
Centre of academic excellence, this famous university town is referred to by arch-rivals Oxford as the ‘Other Place’! Unlike Oxford, however, the academic communities sit comfortably with the locals, and there is a more symbiotic relationship between ‘Town and Gown’, so the whole atmosphere is much more relaxed. Visit one of the colleges, in all their gothic glory: among the most famous, Magdalen, Corpus Christi, King’s, Queens’, Jesus, Trinity and Gonville & Caius. Cambridge is a market town and the main square often bustles with traders’ stalls and carts. Visit some of its famous pubs, including the Eagle, a former coaching inn much used during WWII by air force pilots who burned their names onto the ceiling with lighters. A decade later, leading lights from the science community, Francis Crick and James Watson came and celebrated their discovery of DNA. Other highlights include the Fitzwilliam Museum for 18th & 19th century art and classical antiquities, and the Mathematical Bridge… how on earth was it put together? Students earn pocket-money punting boats along the River Cam, known as the ‘Backs’, so as alternative to all that walking, turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream…
A DAY IN DOVER
Since time immemorial, Dover has been recognised as the country’s front line facing across the English Channel. An invasion attempt by Julius Caesar was thwarted here, and later it became the main Roman fortification in the Saxon shore defences. Centuries on, both Napoleon and Hitler tried unsuccessfully to attack, but the famous white cliffs, made legendary in song, remained defiant. Perched above them is the remarkable Dover Castle. Simply packed with history, it is one of the best historical attractions in England. The Normans built the original castle, and current custodians, English Heritage, recently commissioned 150 master craftsmen to restore it to its former glory. It is now recognized as the most authentic medieval castle in the world. Strangely, Dover became the only castle in England built not to repel foreigners but to welcome them. King Henry II commissioned it as a residence for foreign dignitaries. It took 10 years to complete and was the most expensive secular building in Europe. In the 19th and 20th centuries, a warren of tunnels was built underneath and packed with defensive mechanisms to repel enemy forces A tour of these tunnels completes a fascinating historic experience.
A DAY IN OXFORD
Oxford, famous throughout the world as an ancient seat of learning. Your guide will explain the mysterious traditions of its university system, which sets it apart from other centres of academia, and the real world! With over 40 colleges, and numerous university buildings spanning the medieval to Georgian architectural spectrum, the city is stunningly picturesque. The poet Matthew Arnold famously described it as ‘That sweet city with her dreaming spires’. There is a variety of museums to visit in Oxford, including the renowned Bodleian Library and the famous Ashmolean Museum. There are fun elements too. Fans of Harry Potter will recognize the great hall at the famous Christchurch College, while fans of Alice in Wonderland will note a number of references. For a place to relax, there are many watering holes, including the famous Eagle & Child pub, where J. R. R. Tolkein, creator of the Lord of the Rings series, and C. S. Lewis, author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would often meet for inspiration. Alternatively, seek out the hidden pub where Bill Clinton allegedly ‘didn’t inhale’!
A DAY IN PORTSMOUTH
Portsmouth is home to the world’s oldest dry dock and is where many of the Royal Navy’s most famous fighting ships can be visited. Your ticket into the dockyard entitles your entrance to all museums and displays within the precincts, as well as a boat trip round the historic harbour, which features the very latest high-tech additions to the British Navy. See Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose, which sank in neighbouring waters during a battle in 1545 and was not seen again until it was famously raised from the seabed in 1982. Moving onto a couple of centuries, we can visit Admiral Nelson’s remarkably preserved flagship HMS Victory. Get below-deck to see how this elegant wooden dame morphed into a fearsome she-devil when the order came to ‘Beat to Quarters.’ We can also hop on board the awesome HMS Warrior, which, when completed in 1861, was the largest, fastest, most heavily-armoured warship the world had ever seen. A natural deterrent to all-comers which ensured Britain’s mastery of the ocean waves for the rest of the 19th century. This tour really is an amazing experience and is especially recommended for ‘the chaps’ or those with a nautical twist.
A DAY IN ST ALBANS
The Romans named St Albans Verulamium, and there are some extensive Roman remains that can be visited: a theatre, dated to around 130AD, a hypocaust (underfloor heating system), city walls and city gate. Nearby, the Verulamium museum features some of the finest Roman mosaics and wall plasters outside the Mediterranean. The town was renamed after the first British Christian martyr. Saint Alban was a local Roman soldier beheaded on the orders of the anti-Christian Roman authorities. He is said to have sheltered an injured priest and helped him to elude capture. St Alban was beheaded as a traitor. His severed head is said to have rolled down the hill from the execution site and into a sacred well. A Benedictine abbey was founded on the execution site. and the present building dates back to 1077. It was once the most important abbey in England and the first draft of Magna Carta was written here. A mediaeval market grew up around the abbey, and history continued to have an impact on the town. The town still features a medieval pub, The Fighting Cocks, one of the oldest in England, which can still be visited.
A DAY IN SALISBURY
Once a Roman garrison, Salisbury is now a thriving market town. In its centre is the stunning Salisbury Cathedral, the tallest medieval building in the world. It contains an original copy of the Magna Carta, the world’s earliest surviving written constitution. The cathedral’s environs were described by the writer Bill Bryson as the most beautiful place in England. Certainly, both Turner and Constable found it an inspiration for their paintings. Close-by is the former site of Salisbury: the deserted iron-age hill-fort of Old Sarum. Well worth a visit with spectacular views of the ‘new’ town that replaced it. Also nearby is Wilton House. It was once a nunnery, which was dissolved in Henry VIII’s reformation and given to the king’s brother-in-law, the Earl of Pembroke, via his last marriage to Catherine Parr in 1544. The second Earl of Pembroke was William Shakespeare’s sponsor and married the poet Philip Sidney’s sister Mary. The family later started the Wilton carpet empire. The house has been constantly remodelled. Highlights include Inigo Jones’s single and double cube room (with paintings by Van Dyck and furnishing by Kent and Chippendale), and the renowned gardens.
A DAY IN STRATFORD-UPON-AVON
At the very northern edge of the Cotswolds lies William Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford. The wonderful thing about it, is that over 400 years on, many of the places associated with his life are still standing and can be visited, such as his birthplace, school, and residences. The birthplace, right in the heart of the town, features a tour, exhibition and museum. It is close to the market square and there are a number of traditional shops nearby. Also recommended is a viewing of Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Traditionally built of ‘wattle, daub and thatch’, this was where Shakespeare, in his mid-teens, acted out his own Romeo role to woo Anne. The guides here tell an engrossing story: find out the fascinating origins of the phrases, ‘rule of thumb’, ‘gone to pot’, and ‘sleep tight’. A visit to the altar of the 14th century Holy Trinity Church where the Great Bard is buried is a must. The bust overlooking his tomb was an artistic portrayal of the playwright, and has become the definitive likeness. Then, follow in Shakespeare’s footsteps along the banks of the River Avon, with your guide pointing out the theatres and memorials now erected in his honour.
A DAY IN WINCHESTER
Once an old Roman town, Winchester became the capital of England during the Middle Ages. There are strong royal connections, harking back to the days of the legendary King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Some say Winchester was Camelot. It was the 9th century king Alfred the Great who made it the first capital of Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex. Winchester is home to one of the UK’s oldest cathedrals, built in 1097. Jane Austen is buried here. Nearby, Winchester College is the oldest public school in England founded in 1382 by William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester. The Hospital of St Cross is the oldest charitable organisation in England. It still hands out the ‘Wayfarer’s Dole’ to travellers if claimed – a drink and a slice of bread. Because of the historic nature and architecture of the city, it has appeared as a movie location many times, including the films, ‘The Da Vinci Code’, ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’, and ‘Pride and Prejudice’!