(depart U.S. on 9/15)
On arrival at Heathrow airport, a private transfer will take you to our overnight hotel, the Woodlands Park Hotel. In the evening you are invited to join the group for a welcome drink, followed by dinner.
September 17: Lyveden New Bield and Oundle
This morning we visit Lyveden New Bield, an unfinished Elizabethan summer house owned by the National Trust, set in the heart of rural Northamptonshire. The ‘New Bield’ was started by Sir Thomas Tresham to provide him with a retreat where he could adhere to his Catholic faith, thus the use of religious symbolism throughout the house. We also discover the mysterious garden lodge and Elizabethan garden with its spiral mounts, canals and terracing. En-route to our next hotel, we stop in Oundle, a delightful market town dating back to the Iron Age. Delightful limestone buildings and Georgian streetscapes are typical and a visit to St Peter’s Church with the tallest spire in Northamptonshire a must. Afterwards, we make our way to the Stapleford Park Country House Hotel where we stay for the next four nights. Tonight, we enjoy dinner together at the hotel.
September 18: Bolsover Castle and Hardwick Hall
Rebuilt in the early 17th century under Charles of Hardwick, Bolsover Castle is a spectacular Elizabethan mansion perched on a ridge high above the Vale of Scarsdale. The reconstruction was overseen by mason John Smythson, son of renowned Elizabethan architect Robert Smythson, and they both had a strong influence in the final design, which we learn about on our guided tour. The exquisite ‘Little Castle’ served as a retreat for Hardwick’s son Sir William Cavendish to throw lavish parties and entertainment and this is reflected in the remarkable wall paintings, rich paneling and elaborate fireplaces. We then make our way to Hardwick Hall where we enjoy a guided tour. 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 dine together back at the hotel this evening.
September 19: Belton House, Wollaton Hall and Nottingham
Built in the 1680s, Belton House is a classic example of an English country house estate, surrounded by formal gardens and a 1,300 acre deer park. Inside Belton, its wealth is evident with grand display rooms and impressive collections of porcelain, paintings and over 11,000 books amassed by the Brownlow and Cust families, which we discover on our guided tour. We then pay a visit to Wollaton Hall, a stunning Elizabethan country house set in a 500 acre park and home to Nottingham’s Natural History Museum. A visit of the Upper House, the Prospect Room above the Great Hall and the refurbished original Tudor kitchens offers an insight into the house behind the scenes while the stunning Cassandra Room focuses on Wollaton after Cassandra Willoughby’s arrival, aged just 17 years, as its new mistress. the city of Nottingham, linked to the legendary Robin Hood, where the evening is left free to make your own dinner arrangements.
September 20: Burghley House and Stamford
This morning we visit Burghley House, cited as England’s greatest Elizabethan house. We enjoy a guided tour which includes the house’s historic collection of paintings, ceramics and works of art, many of which still stand where they were first recorded in 1688. Burghley also boasts 18 dramatic State Rooms and is surrounded by magnificent parkland. We follow our tour with refreshments in the Loggia conservatory. After our visit, we pay a visit to picturesque Stamford on the banks of the River Welland, an extremely well-preserved stone town with over 600 listed buildings including five stunning churches, each one a gem. Stamford’s narrow alleyways and hidden courtyards are home to a variety of independent shops, fine jewellers and quirky tearooms. After dinner at the hotel, we are treated to a fascinating talk by a guest speaker.
September 21: Kirby Hall and Hatfield House
One of the great Elizabethan houses of England, Kirby Hall, once owned by Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor to Queen Elizabeth I, is now for the most part an unoccupied ruin. It was built to display social status, wealth and patriotism of the age. Christopher Hatton lived in hope of a royal visit and kept his house updated with a view to impress his monarch. Sadly, this visit never materialised. Despite the fact that the mansion is partly roofless, the walls show the exceptionally rich decoration that proclaims that its successive owners were always at the forefront of new ideas about architecture and design. Next we travel to Hatfield House, a site closely associated with Elizabeth I as she spent a good part of her childhood here including the period when Queen Mary came to throne in 1553 and she was effectively placed under house arrest. On our guided tour, we discover superb examples of Elizabethan craftsmanship such as the Grand Staircase with its elaborate carving and the rare stained glass window in the private chapel, while the State Rooms are rich in paintings, fine furniture and tapestries. In the late afternoon, we arrive at the Guildford Harbour Hotel where we enjoy a farewell dinner together.
September 22: Departure
A private transfer will take you back to Heathrow airport for your return flight home.