June 9: Arrival
(depart U.S. on 6/8)
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.
June 10: Windsor Castle, Windsor and Chartwell
We enjoy an audio guided tour of Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and one of the Queen’s official residences. Established in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, it has been remodeled by successive kings and queens and is regularly used for ceremonial and State occasions. The magnificent State Apartments are furnished with some of the finest works of art from the Royal Collection while St George’s Chapel is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England and was the recent venue for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s marriage. Afterwards, we enjoy a guided walking tour of Windsor. Lying on the south bank of the River Thames, this ancient royal town, which grew up around the castle, has a rich mix of culture and history. The Old Town retains its picturesque medieval appearance with cobbled streets, winding alleyways and lovely halftimbered houses. Later, we travel south east to Kent where we pay a visit to Chartwell, Sir Winston Churchill’s beloved home from 1924 to the time of his death. The house is set in a stunning location and is still home to many of the great statesman’s personal and political mementos, including an amazing collection of gifts he received from other world leaders and his personal painting studio hidden away in the colorful grounds. After our visit, we travel on to the Chilston Park Hotel where we stay for the next four nights. Tonight we enjoy dinner together at the hotel.
June 11: Sissinghurst Castle Garden and Bodiam Castle
This morning we head to Sissinghurst Castle Garden where we enjoy an exclusive ‘early bird’ garden tour. Created in the 1930s by novelist Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson around the picturesque ruins of an Elizabethan manor house, these world-famous gardens are laid out as a series of enchanting, individually-planted ‘rooms’ including a fragrant Herb Garden and Rose Garden. We then discover Bodiam Castle, one of Britain’s most picturesque and romantic ancient monuments. This archetypal 14th-century moated castle with a ruined interior gives us a glimpse of medieval splendor and boasts an original wooden portcullis, spiral staircases, tower rooms and battlements. In the evening, we head to a traditional local pub where we enjoy dinner together.
June 12: Hever Castle and Chiddingstone Castle
We head to Hever Castle, the childhood home of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, where we enjoy a guided tour. Dating back to the late 13th century, this double-moated castle is home to various historic artifacts including Tudor portraits and fine furniture, as well as two prayer books inscribed by Anne Boleyn. The castle was lavishly restored and extended by American millionaire, William Waldorf Astor, in the early 20th century. The spectacular gardens feature peaceful walks, two mazes and are renowned for having their own Hever Castle Rose. Next is Chiddingstone Castle where we enjoy a guided tour. Set in 35 acres of beautiful grounds, the castle has undergone a number of architectural changes; from its beginnings as an early timber-framed Tudor dwelling to a rebuild to resemble a medieval castle in the early 19th century. Today it houses the collections of the late antiquarian Denys Eyre Bower including Japanese lacquer, Ancient Egyptian treasures, Stuart paintings and Jacobite manuscripts. The Victorian kitchen and servants’ hall give a taste of the former ‘upstairs downstairs’ life of the house. After dinner back at the hotel, we are treated to a fascinating talk by a guest speaker.
June 13: Canterbury, Canterbury Cathedral and Godinton House
We start the day in Canterbury. The city has a fascinating history which we learn about on our guided walking tour. We also enjoy a guided tour of 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. Our next stop is Godinton House, a delightful Jacobean house incorporating a medieval hall and ornate carvings. Godinton is a comfortable, much-loved home where each room reflects the tastes of those who have lived here over the centuries with an excellent collection of furniture, art, porcelain and curios which we discover on our guided tour. We also have time to explore the 12 acres of tranquil gardens, surrounded by ancient parkland. We enjoy dinner together back at the hotel tonight.
June 14: Down House and Leeds Castle
Our first stop today is Down House, home of scientist Charles Darwin and his family for 40 years. Several rooms have been recreated as they appeared when he lived here including the study where he wrote ‘On the Origin of Species’. The house is surrounded by extensive gardens; Darwin’s ‘outdoor laboratory’. Before leaving Kent we visit Leeds Castle, a quintessential moated castle set in 500 acres of glorious parkland, where we enjoy an audio guided tour. Dating back to the 12th century, it was once home to Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. The castle’s last private owner was Lady Baillie, an Anglo-American heiress who lovingly restored the castle to its former glory. We discover more of the castle’s fascinating history as well as its wealth of furnishings, paintings, tapestries and antiques on display. We then return to the Macdonald Windsor Hotel, our base for the last three nights of our stay. Later, we enjoy dinner together at the hotel.
June 15: Blenheim Palace
We spend the day at Blenheim Palace, set in beautiful parkland landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown, where we enjoy an audio guided tour. As the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough, the palace is synonymous with the Churchill family and is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. A permanent exhibition commemorates the life of this famous wartime Prime Minister, while the magnificent State Rooms reveal a superb collection of tapestries, paintings, porcelain and furniture. The evening is left free for you to make your own dinner arrangements. June 16: Hampton Court Palace Our destination today is Hampton Court Palace, former royal residence of Henry VIII. Here we discover the State Rooms, the Great Hall (England’s last and greatest medieval hall), the vast Tudor kitchens and the Chapel Royal with its sumptuous ceiling decoration. Outside, the formal gardens cover over 60 acres and highlights include the Great Vine planted by ‘Capability’ Brown, and the Hampton Court Palace Maze which consists of half a mile of winding paths surrounded by towering yew tree walls. Tonight, we enjoy a farewell dinner together at our hotel.
June 17: Departure
A private transfer will take you back to Heathrow airport for your return flight home.