June 10: Arrival (depart U.S. on 6/9)
On arrival at Heathrow airport, a private transfer will take you to the Grand Harbour Hotel, where we stay for the next two nights. In the evening you are invited to join the group for a welcome drink, followed by dinner.
June 11: Westminster Cathedral and St Paul’s Cathedral
This morning, we head into London to visit Westminster Cathedral, the head of the Catholic faith in England and Wales. Built in an intricate neo-Byzantine style, this striking cathedral is crowned with four domes and a 284ft campanile from where there are magnificent views of London. The richly decorated interior follows the Byzantine tradition of beautiful mosaics and marble, and we discover more on our guided tour. Afterwards, we visit St Paul’s Cathedral, with its world-famous dome that remains an iconic feature of the London skyline. The present cathedral was the masterpiece of Britain’s famed architect Sir Christopher Wren, built between 1675 and 1710 in Baroque style. The cathedral has long been at the centre of national events from surviving the Blitz to state funerals and royal weddings. We have time to discover the spectacular interiors and the crypt with its tombs of historical British figures including Admiral Lord Nelson. Tonight we enjoy dinner together at the hotel.
June 12: Canterbury, Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine’s Abbey
Leaving our hotel, we travel to Canterbury. One of medieval Europe’s great places of pilgrimages and knowledge, the city has a fascinating history which we learn about on our guided walking tour. Next we visit Canterbury Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in England, dating back to Norman times. In 1170, Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the cathedral and ever since, it has been a site of Christian pilgrimage. The cathedral contains one of England’s largest collections of early medieval stained glass while its awe-inspiring architecture includes a sweeping Gothic nave and cavernous crypt. We then explore the impressive ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey, England’s first seat of learning, situated outside the city walls. After our visit, we travel on to the Chilston Park Hotel where we stay overnight with dinner included.
June 13: Ely Cathedral and Peterborough Cathedral
We head north to Cambridgeshire to visit magnificent Ely Cathedral. Founded as a monastery in 673, work on the present building dates from the early 1080s. A remarkable example of both Romanesque and Norman architecture, its most famous feature is the central Octagon Tower which, along with the West Tower, gives a unique exterior landmark that dominates the surrounding landscape. We continue on to Peterborough Cathedral, one of the finest Norman cathedrals in England. Founded as a monastic community in AD 654, it became one of the most significant medieval abbeys in the country. The present building was begun in 1118, consecrated in 1238 and the structure of the building remains essentially as it was on completion. Most significantly the original wooden ceiling survives in the nave, the only one of its type in the country and one of only four wooden ceilings of this period surviving in the whole of Europe. Later we check in to the Stapleford Park Hotel, our base for the next two nights. Tonight, we enjoy dinner together at the hotel.
June 14: St Botolph’s Church, Boston and Lincoln Cathedral
We begin our day in the market town of Boston to visit St Botolph’s Church, otherwise known as Boston Stump. The church is most notablefor its magnificent tower which, at 272ft high, is one of the tallest medieval towers in England. The church is particularly well known for its close ties to the Pilgrim Fathers and the foundation of America. Continuing north, we visit Lincoln Cathedral. Built in 1088, for over 200 years the cathedral could claim to be the tallest building in the world until the central spire collapsed. One of Europe’s finest Gothic buildings, the cathedral is filled with intricate detail and beautiful medieval decoration, which we discover on our guided tour. On returning to our hotel, we dine together this evening.
June 15: Coventry Cathedral and Stratford-upon-Avon
Today we head south west, stopping first in Coventry where we enjoy a guided tour of Coventry Cathedral. The cathedral is in fact two buildings; the ruins of the ‘old Cathedral’, a medieval parish church that was bombed during the Second World War, and the ‘new Cathedral’, designed by architect Sir Basil Spence and containing some of the finest examples of 1950s and 1960s Art and Architecture in the country. Our next stop is the charming town of Stratford-upon-Avon, forever associated with William Shakespeare, where we have time to explore at leisure. Fans of the bard can visit the house in which he was born, and there’s also the chance to wander the riverside gardens along the Avon or discover the town’s theatres, including the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. We continue on to Cheltenham and check in to the Queens Hotel where we stay for the next three nights. The evening is left free to make your own dinner arrangements.
June 16: Worcester Cathedral and Hereford Cathedral
We start with a guided tour of Worcester Cathedral which rises majestically above the River Severn. Built between 1084 and 1504, the cathedral represents every style of English architecture from Norman to Perpendicular Gothic and boasts royal tombs, medieval cloisters, a Norman crypt and magnificent Victorian stained glass. Built on a place of worship used since Saxon times, Hereford Cathedral has some of the finest examples of art and architecture from Norman times to the present day. The cathedral houses international treasures including the famous Mappa Mundi, the largest surviving medieval map of the world, and the largest surviving medieval chained library. After dinner back at the hotel, we are treated to a fascinating talk by a guest speaker.
June 17: Bristol Cathedral and Gloucester Cathedral
We head first to Bristol where we visit Bristol Cathedral. The origins of the cathedral lie in the abbey founded in 1140 by Robert Fitzharding. The remains of the abbey can still be seen in the stunning chapter house and Abbey gatehouse. The cathedral is one of the world’s finest examples of a medieval ‘hall church’, where the vaulted ceilings in the nave, choir and aisles are all at the same height. We then discover 1,000 years of history at Gloucester Cathedral. With centuries of craftsmanship on display, the architecture, stained glass and artifacts are some of the best examples of their kind in the country. Highlights include the 15th-century Lady Chapel, the tomb of King Edward II and the Great East Window. Installed in the early 1350s, it is one of the greatest landmarks of European stained glass. The medieval monastic cloisters are famous for their breathtaking fan vaulting as well as their appearance in the Harry Potter movies! We arrive in time to enjoy Evensong at the cathedral. This evening is free for you to make your own dinner arrangements.
June 18: Oxford
Leaving Cheltenham, we travel to historic Oxford, famous seat of learning. On our bespoke walking tour, we discover the history and many of the magnificent buildings of the city including Christ Church, one of the most famous colleges of Oxford University. Following our guided tour, we have free time to enjoy the city at leisure. The University of Oxford Botanic Garden, the Ashmolean (the world’s first public museum) and Bodleian Library are just some of the attractions here. Later, we enjoy a farewell dinner together at a restaurant in Guildford before staying overnight back at the Guildford Harbour Hotel.
June 19: Departure
A private transfer will take you back to Heathrow airport for your return flight home.