Sunday, August 20: Arrival (departures from the U.S. on August 19)
On arrival at Heathrow airport, a private transfer will take you to our overnight hotel, the Macdonald Windsor Hotel. In the evening you are invited to join the group for a welcome drink, followed by dinner.
Monday, August 21: Highclere Castle
After breakfast, we journey to the world-famous Highclere Castle, residence of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon and filming location for the much loved Downton Abbey television series. Entrance includes access to the Egyptian Exhibition in the cellars of the castle, which explores the achievements of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922.
From here, we travel to Derbyshire and the Priest House Hotel where we stay for the next two nights.
Tuesday, August 22: Renishaw Hall and Chatsworth House
We start the day with morning coffee and a guided tour of Renishaw Hall, home to the Sitwell family for nearly 400 years. Still very much a family home, Renishaw reveals a real sense of the history of the generations who have lived there, with a stunning collection of art and furniture. We also visit the gardens that won the 2015 HHA/Christie’s Garden of the Year Award.
We then visit Chatsworth House where we enjoy an introductory house tour. This magnificent pile is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and has witnessed sixteen generations of the powerful Cavendish family and boasts grandiose interiors, wonderful grounds and a superlative art collection. Chatsworth also appeared as Pemberley in the film Pride and Prejudice. We finish our visit with a Devonshire Cream Tea.
Wednesday, August 23: Hardwick Hall, York and Fairfax House
Our first visit is to Hardwick Hall. Ordered in the 16th century by Bess of Hardwick, England’s richest woman after her Queen, Elizabeth I, Hardwick is a striking Elizabethan treasure. The lavish number of windows (at a time when glass was a luxury) inspired the neat phrase, ‘Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall’.
We then travel north to the historic city of York. Here we visit Fairfax House, a stunning Georgian town house that’s been returned to its former glory, providing a perfect time capsule of life in Georgian times with a richly decorated interior and a fine collection of English 18th-century furniture. We enjoy refreshments here after our visit.
Afterwards, we make our way to our hotel for the next two nights, the Wood Hall Hotel.
Thursday, August 24: Fountains Abbey and Beningbrough House
This morning we go to the largest monastic ruin in Britain, Fountains Abbey, where we enjoy a guided tour. Nestling in the Skell Valley, the ruin is surrounded by some 800 acres of gorgeous countryside, including the Georgian Studley Royal Water Garden with its wonderful views, cascades, follies and statues, and a medieval deer park.
Our next stop is Beningbrough Hall. This imposing Georgian pile contains a famous art collection; an imaginative collaboration between the National Trust and the National Portrait Gallery in London. Outside are magnificent grounds including a wonderful Victorian Walled Garden and labyrinth.
This evening, we enjoy a fascinating talk by a guest speaker.
Friday, August 25: Castle Howard and Shandy Hall
Designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, Castle Howard has twice appeared as Brideshead in film and television adaptations of Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel. Home to the Howard family for over 300 years, this magnificent 18th-century residence offers world-renowned collections and stunning architecture, all set within 1,000 acres of breathtaking scenery. We enjoy a private guided tour followed by coffee.
We then make a stop at Shandy Hall, former home of the 18th-century novelist Laurence Sterne. Now a museum, the rooms are filled with books, paintings, manuscripts, prints and ephemera relating to the history of the house and its famous inhabitant.
Later, we check in to the Linden Hall Hotel, our base for the next two nights.
Saturday, August 26: Alnwick Castle and Cragside
Still home to the Duke of Northumberland and his family, Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in England. Inside the medieval walls are lavish State Rooms filled with an eclectic array of furniture, ceramics and art collected by the Percy family over hundreds of years, which we discover on our guided State Rooms tour. Alnwick Castle has also featured in Downton Abbey and Harry Potter.
We enjoy a scenic coastal drive to Cragside, built high into the rock above the clear waters of Debdon Burn. Once the home of Victorian inventor Lord Armstrong, this imposing house is packed to the rafters with fascinating gadgets from the era. It was also the first house in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity and in 2014, a fully-working Archimedes Screw was installed, once again producing enough energy to light the house.
Sunday, August 27: Nostell
Priory Today we visit Nostell Priory, an 18th-century architectural masterpiece which has been the home of the Winn family for 300 years. Set in landscaped parkland, Nostell is also home to England’s best documented collection of Chippendale furniture, designed especially for the estate.
Later, we check in to the Tankersley Manor Hotel, where we stay overnight.
Monday, August 28: Blenheim Palace
We travel south and visit Blenheim Palace, undoubtedly one of Britain’s greatest houses. Seat of the Dukes of Marlborough and the birthplace of Winston Churchill, Blenheim was designed on an awe-inspiring scale by Vanbrugh and is set in over 2,000 acres of beautiful parkland landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown. We enjoy afternoon tea after our visit.
From here we travel to Hartwell House Hotel, where we enjoy a farewell dinner together.
Tuesday, August 29:
Departure A private transfer will take you back to Heathrow airport for your return flight home.
Please note: As this tour travels from the Home Counties to the north of England and back, some days will involve fairly long journeys