Sunday: Arrival (departures from the U.S. on Saturday)
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.
Monday: Cambridge and Blickling Hall
After breakfast we make our way to the historic city of Cambridge. Renowned for its world-famous university, the city is home to many architectural wonders and landmarks that we have the chance to discover as part of a guided tour. From punters on the River Cam to the majestic college buildings such as King’s College Chapel, we explore the many sights of this fascinating city.
Set at the heart of a magnificent garden and historic park and once home to the Boleyn family, Blickling Hall is one of the country’s finest Jacobean houses. In decorative terms it’s a wonderful house to explore because of its plasterwork and superb Long Gallery. However, there’s little doubt that Blickling’s Boleyn connections (not least tales of Anne Boleyn’s headless ghost) add hugely to the atmosphere here. We then travel on to our hotel for the next two nights, the Sprowston Manor Marriott Hotel & Country Club.
Tuesday: Norwich Cathedral and Sandringham
We start with a trip to Norwich, one of the most complete medieval cities in the country and home to some impressive period buildings. Here we visit the Cathedral*, a magnificent structure that befitted Norwich’s 12th century status as England’s second city and one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe.
The rest of the day is spent exploring the house, gardens and museum of the Sandringham Estate, the country retreat of Her Majesty the Queen. Built in 1870, Sandringham has been the private home of four generations of British monarchs. The interiors are home to many astonishing exhibits such as an important collection of oriental arms and armour while the walls are hung with family portraits by leading contemporary court painters. The mostly informal gardens include woodland walks, rockeries, magnificent sweeping lawns, lakes and streams and the more formal North Garden. The museum, housed in the former coach houses and stable block, holds extraordinary collections of Royal vehicles, rare ceramics, photographs and memorabilia. After our visit, we enjoy high tea.
Back at the hotel this evening, we enjoy a fascinating talk by a guest speaker.
Wednesday: Cromer and Oxburgh Hall
Our first stop is Cromer, a classic seaside resort on the north Norfolk coast famous for its tasty crabs and boasting wide open beaches and a traditional pier. The town also has a range of small independent shops, art galleries and cafés.
Next is Oxburgh Hall with its picturesque moat complete with swans. This romantic house has been home to the Catholic Bedingfield family since the 15th century. We enjoy an introductory talk about the house intricate embroidery crafted by Mary Queen of Scots while she was in the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Other fascinating features include the Catholic High Victorian interiors – some of the best remaining examples in Britain.
We continue on to the stunning Ickworth Hotel on the Ickworth Estate – a magnificent National Trust property and our base for the next three nights.
Thursday: Ickworth and Wimpole
We start the day exploring Ickworth in more detail with a private group tour. This Neo-classical mansion is most notable for its enormous central Rotunda commissioned by the 4th Earl of Bristol to house his priceless treasures. The impressive Italianate garden mirrors the house architecture, with box hedges and Mediterranean planting plus a Victorian stumpery planted with shade-loving ferns.
The unique working estate of Wimpole is still a hive of activity with a beautiful hall at its heart. The largest house in Cambridgeshire boasts some unique interior flourishes, including the graceful Yellow Drawing Room and Bath House. The wonderful library was specially built to house an enormous collection of books that went on to form the core of the early British Library. Outside there is a landscape park, colourful parterre garden, a walled kitchen garden and herbaceous borders to enjoy.
Friday: Constable at Flatford and Lavenham
Today we roam the Suffolk countryside with a guided walk to discover the locations immortalised by John Constable’s most famous paintings; created around the hamlet of Flatford in the heart of beautiful Dedham Vale.
We then pay a visit to picturesque Lavenham, a remarkably well-preserved Tudor village in Suffolk. On our guided tour, we learn about the woollen-cloth industry which turned the town into one of the richest in the country during the 15th century, and also visit the church of St Peter and Paul, a prominent ‘wool church’ built from the proceeds of local industry. Afterwards, there are plenty of small shops and quirky potent reminder of Lavenham’s former prosperity.
Saturday: Hatfield House
Leaving our hotel, we travel to Hatfield House, home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family. The estate has been in the Cecil family, one of England’s foremost political families, for 400 years. The house was completed in 1611 by Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury and superb examples of Jacobean craftsmanship can be seen throughout 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.
After our visit, we travel to the Audleys Wood Hotel, where we enjoy a farewell dinner together.
A private transfer will take you back to Heathrow airport for your return flight home.
*Please note: Norwich Cathedral may close at short notice for services and may not be available to visit.