Wednesday, June 20: Arrival
(depart U.S on 6/19/18)
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. Thursday, June 21: Chavenage House and Tintern Abbey En-route to Wales, we visit Chavenage House, an Elizabethan era manor house largely unchanged for 400 years, where we are treated to an exclusive guided tour by a member of the family. The house has a rich history and many Civil War associations including the rooms where Cromwell stayed and an interior packed with period furniture, historic tapestries and fascinating relics from the Cromwellian era. After our tour, we enjoy lunch here.
Built by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow in 1131, Tintern Abbey was only the second Cistercian foundation in Britain, and the first in Wales. Falling into ruins after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, these atmospheric, romantic remains have inspired poets and painters ever since. Later, we check in to the St David’s Hotel & Spa in Cardiff, where we spend the next six nights. The evening is left free to make your own dinner arrangements.
Friday, June 22: Cardiff, Cardiff Castle and Cardiff
National Museum and Art Gallery
We begin our day with a walking tour of historic Cardiff, the capital of Wales. We then visit Cardiff Castle where we enjoy a guided tour. The castle’s history spans over 2,000 years, although the Gothic Victorian fantasy castle we see today was created for the 3rd Marquess of Bute. We discover the lavish and opulent interiors, rich with murals, stained glass, marble, gilding and elaborate wood carvings. After free time in the city to find lunch, we visit Cardiff National Museum & Art Gallery. Alongside one of Europe’s best collections of Impressionist works, the museum houses 500 years of paintings, drawings, sculpture, silver and ceramics from across the world, and an important collection of Welsh art. This evening is free for you to make your own dinner arrangements.
Saturday, June 23: Fonmon Castle and Dyffryn Gardens
We start with a visit to Fonmon Castle. Built in 1180, this stunning medieval castle boasts beautiful Georgian interiors, art and antiques. Owned by just two families in its 800 year history, it is one of the few medieval castles still lived in as a family home. Next, we explore Dyffryn Gardens, an exceptional example of Edwardian garden design. Designed by eminent landscape architect Thomas Mawson, the gardens feature a stunning collection of intimate garden rooms, formal lawns and an extensive arboretum. We then return to the hotel with the evening free for your own dinner arrangements.
Sunday, June 24: Dylan Thomas’ Birthplace at Number 5 Cwmdonkin Drive and Stradey Castle
This morning we travel to Swansea to visit the Uplands suburb that played a huge part in shaping the style of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. We begin with a short walking tour, passing many landmarks from his life, before visiting his birthplace. Dylan was born at Number 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in 1914 and continued to live there until his parents moved out in 1937. In the afternoon we visit Stradey Castle, home to the Mansel Lewis family since it was built in the 1850s. This stunning Victorian house has remained virtually unchanged and contains a fine collection of paintings by the current owner’s great-grandfather and his artist friends. Back at the hotel this evening you are free to make your own dinner arrangements in Cardiff.
Monday, June 25: Dinefwr Castle, Laugharne, Dylan Thomas’ Boathouse and Laugharne Castle
Our first visit is to Dinefwr Castle, the ruins of which tell the story of battling Welsh noble families and their struggles with the English kings, which saw this 12th-century castle change hands across the borders many times. Set within the National Trust owned Dinefwr Park, we’ll also be able to visit nearby Newton House, built in the 17th century but given a fashionable Gothic facelift in the 1850s. In the afternoon we visit Laugharne, best known for its associations with Dylan Thomas and thought to have been an inspiration for the fictional town of Llareggub in Under Milk Wood. We visit Dylan Thomas’ Boathouse where the poet lived with his family from 1949 to 1953.Now a museum, it also offers wonderful views of the Taf estuary. There will also be a little time to explore further or visit the romantic ruins of Laugharne Castle. Built in the 13th century by the de Brian family, the castle was later transformed into an Elizabethan mansion. During the Civil War it was partially dismantled by parliamentary forces, but these noble ruins continued to inspire Dylan Thomas and others. The evening is free for you to make your own dinner arrangements.
Tuesday, June 26: Castell Coch, Tredegar Houseand Caerphilly Castle
We start the morning with a visit to Castell Coch, a 19th-century Gothic Revival castle built on the site of an original 13th century castle. The castle’s fairytale appearance, with its towers, turrets and elaborately decorated interiors, comes courtesy of the architect William Burgess, employed by the 3rd Marquess of Bute to create a rural retreat to complement the opulence of his main residence, Cardiff Castle. Our next stop is Tredegar House, a late 17th century restoration house surrounded by 90 acres of beautiful gardens and parkland. For more than 500 years it was home to one of the greatest Welsh families, the Morgans, later Lords Tredegar, and their fascinating narrative is told throughout the house. We end the day with a visit to Caerphilly Castle, built by Gilbert de Clare in the 13th century. The second largest castle in Britain, the rings of stone and extensive water defenses are formidable even today. In the evening we enjoy a traditional Welsh tasting menu at our hotel, featuring many local specialties, followed by an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Wednesday, June 27: Llancaiach Fawr Manor and Hay-on-Wye
Before leaving Wales, we stop to visit Llancaiach Fawr Manor. Designed during the turbulent reigns of Tudor kings and queens, it is one of the finest examples of a semi-fortified manor in Wales today. The manor is best known as the home of Colonel Edward Prichard who hosted a visit by King Charles I of England in 1645 and has now been restored and furnished as it would have been during Prichard’s tenure. Our next stop is at a pretty little town which promises to be a treat for bibliophiles: Hay-on-Wye. Often described as “the town of books”, it is the National Book Town of Wales and home to over 20 independent bookshops selling second hand, antiquarian and rare books. We continue on to our overnight hotel, the Ellenborough Park Hotel, situated on the outskirts of Cheltenham. Later, we enjoy dinner at the hotel.
Thursday, June 28: Cheltenham, Wilson Gallery and Stonor Park
We spend time in Cheltenham this morning, with time to admire the Regency town houses, intricate ironwork balconies and painted stucco facades that line the historic promenade, squares and terraces. We also pay a visit to the Wilson Gallery, an outstanding museum and art gallery with an important collection of Arts & Crafts movement furniture. As we travel east we visit Stonor Park, where we enjoy a guided tour. Home to the Stonor family for 850 years, it is one of the oldest family homes still inhabited today. The house contains an impressive collection of art and artifacts amassed from across the globe. Highlights of the house include the Gothic revival hall, 17th century library and dramatic long gallery opening on to beautiful Italianate gardens. Within the sweeping grounds sits a perfectly preserved prehistoric stone circle! We continue on to Hartwell House Hotel, one of the National Trust’s Historic Hotels, where we enjoy a farewell dinner together.
Friday, June 29: Departure
A private transfer will take you back to Heathrow airport for your return flight home.
Please note: This tour involves a fair amount of walking on sometimes steep or rugged terrain and some of the castles we visit have a large number of stairs to climb. We would recommend being able to undertake a good level of walking to benefit from the tour.