Tuesday, October 3: Arrival (departures from the U.S. on October 2) 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.
Wednesday, October 4: Avebury Manor & Stone Circle and Bowood House
We head to the pretty village of Avebury where we discover the world-famous stone circle, one of the most important megalithic monuments in Europe. We also visit the 16th-century Avebury Manor where rooms have been recreated in five different styles; from Tudor to the 20th century, reflecting the lives of the people who once lived there.
We continue to Bowood House where we enjoy a guided tour followed by lunch. Family home of the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, Bowood houses a unique collection of historical artifacts and family heirlooms built up over 250 years; from Queen Victoria’s wedding chair to Napoleon’s death mask and an extensive art collection. Outside are 100 acres of beautiful parkland, designed by ‘Capability’ Brown.
Later, we check in to the Queens Hotel, where we spend the next five nights. The evening is free for you to make your own dinner arrangements.
Thursday, October 5: Chastleton House, Scenic Cotswolds and Cheltenham
We start the day with a ‘private view’ guided tour of Chastleton House. Built between 1607 and 1612 by a prosperous wool merchant, this rare gem of a Jacobean country house was owned by the same increasingly impoverished family until 1991, remaining essentially unchanged for nearly 400 years. With virtually no intrusion from the modern age, the house exudes an informal and timeless atmosphere.
Afterwards, we take a scenic tour through the Cotswolds, stopping in some of the prettiest towns and villages including Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-in-Marsh and Bourton-on-the-Water with its elegant low bridges and tree-shaded river banks.
Back in Cheltenham in the afternoon, we enjoy a guided walking tour where we learn about the town during its spa heyday and admire the Regency town houses, intricate ironwork balconies and painted stucco facades that line the historic Promenade, squares and terraces.
This evening, we enjoy dinner in a local restaurant with a great reputation for using quality local produce.
Friday, October 6: Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe, Wilson Gallery and Cheltenham Literature Festival
Our first visit is to Sudeley Castle where we enjoy an introductory talk with refreshments. With royal connections spanning a thousand years, this Tudor castle has played an important role in the turbulent and changing times of England’s past. The castle rooms contain many fascinating treasures, from ancient Roman times to the present day while outside are award-winning gardens. The castle was once home to Katherine Parr, the last of King Henry VIII’s six wives, and she is buried in the 15th-century church within the grounds.
After free time for lunch in the Cotswold town of Winchcombe, we return to Cheltenham to visit the Wilson Gallery, an outstanding museum and art gallery with a programme of temporary exhibitions and permanent galleries. Here we enjoy a guided tour of the gallery’s highlights.
Later we enjoy an entertaining talk at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, while the rest of the evening is free for you to explore the festival further and make your own dinner arrangements.
Saturday, October 7: Bibury, Chavenage House and Literature Festival
We visit the charming Cotswold village of Bibury, once described by William Morris as ‘the most beautiful village in England’. A picturesque row of National Trust owned weavers’ cottages built in local stone lie next to the River Coln and a water meadow provides an important habitat for water-loving plants and birds.
We continue on to Chavenage House. This Elizabethan era manor house, constructed of grey Cotswold stone, has remained largely unchanged for 400 years. The house has a rich history and many Civil War associations including the rooms where Cromwell stayed and an interior packed with stunning period furniture, historic tapestries and fascinating relics from the Cromwellian era, all of which we discover on our private guided tour by the owners, followed by refreshments. Chavenage has also been used as a film location including the BBC’s hugely successful Poldark TV series.
In the afternoon, we attend a couple of Cheltenham Literature Festival’s talks, with the evening free for your own dinner arrangements.
Sunday, October 8: Broadway, Ashmolean Museum, Chipping Campden, Snowshill Manor and Literature Festival
Broadway is another beautiful Cotswold village thanks to its wide main street lined with picture-perfect cottages, pubs and shops. Here we visit the Ashmolean Museum, a former 17th-century coaching inn which displays period furniture, ceramics and paintings from the 17th century to the present day; many on loan from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Our next stop is the beautiful Cotswold market town of Chipping Campden, a gilded masterpiece of limestone and craftsmanship.
We then travel on to Snowshill Manor. This Cotswold manor house was bought by Charles Wade for just one purpose; to house the extraordinary treasures he collected over his lifetime. Every room is filled with hundreds of objects, from the everyday to the extraordinary including Samurai armour, fine clocks and model boats, all maintained in an atmospheric setting of low lighting and few labels.
In the evening, we enjoy another interesting talk at the Cheltenham Literature Festival with free time for dinner.
Monday, October 9: Blenheim Palace
Leaving Cheltenham, we head to Blenheim Palace where we enjoy a guided tour followed by lunch. Seat of the Dukes of Marlborough and the birthplace of Winston Churchill, Blenheim is undoubtedly one of Britain’s greatest houses, designed on an awe-inspiring scale by Vanbrugh and set in over 2,000 acres of beautiful parkland landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown.
We then travel to back to the Macdonald Windsor Hotel, where we enjoy a farewell dinner together.
Tuesday, October 10: Departure
A private transfer will take you back to Heathrow airport for your return flight home.
Please note: Four of the seven nights on this tour are on a bed and breakfast basis. There are a good range of restaurants and cafés in Cheltenham and on the festival sites.
The line-up for the Cheltenham Literature Festival is not announced until close to the festival itself. We will hand-pick a selection of talks that will offer an entertaining and stimulating addition to the themes of your itinerary.