Day 1: Welcome to London
Welcome to London! A Sights and Soul representative will meet you on your arrival in London (LHR or LGW airport) for your private transfer to our upscale hotel in central London. You can spend the afternoon resting after your journey, exploring the Chelsea and Kensington neighborhood with its Georgian architecture, or visiting the nearby Victoria and Albert Museum. In the evening, you will meet the other tour guests, as we enjoy our welcome dinner at an elegant Chelsea restaurant accompanied by an informal discussion about the lighter side of London.
Day 2: London: Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Afternoon Tea
We'll spend our first full day in England getting an appreciation for some of London's most iconic sights and experiences. We'll start with one of the city's most spectacular architectural gems, the Westminster Abbey, where a Blue Badge guide will share with us the history and secrets of England's coronation church. We'll continue with a historical overview tour of the Houses of Parliament and the Palace of Westminster. As we admire the architecture and the splendor of the richly decorated interiors, we'll learn about United Kingdom's past and current events that were shaped in these chambers. For lunch today, we'll enjoy a formal afternoon tea, a classic English meal with freshly prepared pastries, scones with clotted cream, finger sandwiches, and artisan teas.
Day 3: London: Tower of London, British Muesum, Thames Dinner Cruise
Today, we'll spend the day visiting more of the famous London landmarks. We'll start with a visit to the British Museum which boasts the world's most comprehensive collection of works documenting the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. Afterwards, we'll continue to the Tower of London, the powerful symbol of England's might which has awed visitors for over ten centuries. As the most secure castle in the land, the Tower guarded royal possessions and even the royal family in times of war and rebellion, but for 500 years monarchs also used it as a surprisingly luxurious palace. After all this history, we'll get to relax in the evening, as we take a Thames dinner cruise, enjoying a gourmet dinner, as we glide past brilliantly lit London landmarks, seeing them from a totally different viewpoint.
Day 4: Seven Sisters Cliffs, Bodiam Castle and Sissinghurst Gardens
This morning, we'll set out from London to explore some of the highlights of southern England. We’ll begin with a visit to the dramatic Seven Sisters Cliffs formed underneath the sea millions of years ago and now presenting a unique and fragile environment. We’ll take a walk along the cliff tops to enjoy views of the sea and the spectacular white chalk cliffs before continuing to the moated medieval Bodiam Castle, built during the Hundred Years’ War with France. After some free time for lunch here, we'll continue to Sissinghurst Castle Gardens created by the literary legend Vita Sackville-West and her diplomat husband, Harold Nicolson, and what now is one of the most famous gardens in England, exalted for its beauty and diversity. After all this excitement, we'll return to London in the evening for a relaxing dinner at a traditional English pub.
Day 5: London to Bath: Highclere Castle
After breakfast, we'll leave London, and travel through the "fairytale come alive" English countryside to arrive at the splendid Highclere Castle, better known for its portrayal of the cinematic Downton Abbey. This Jacobethan estate in Hampshire was built by Charles Barry, who was also the architect of the Houses of Parliament in London. We'll tour the castle, then have some time for a stroll in its enchanting gardens. Afterward, we will stop for a quick lunch in a charming village before arriving at our Bath hotel in the late afternoon, shortly before dinner.
Day 6: Bath
Today, we'll explore our new surroundings of the city of Bath. Founded by the Romans in the first century, then redesigned during the Regency period, the Georgian Bath, with its doll-house design of perfectly lined honey-colored townhouses and its literary associations offers both history and entertainment to be savored. We'll start with an in depth guided walking tour of the town, visiting the Bath Abbey overlooking the Avon River, the Palladian Pulteney Bridge, the Georgian Circle and the Royal Crescent, following in the footsteps of Jane Austen. After a lavish English lunch at the storied Pump Room, we'll continue our exploration with an award-winning audio tour of the Roman Baths, built as Aquae Sulis on the site of (still active) hot springs and Minerva Temple. The afternoon will be free to pursue our individual interests in Bath, be it a Roman style relaxation session at Thermae Bath Spa, a stroll in the Prior Park Landscape Garden or a visit to some of the city's museums or art galleries.
Day 7: Stonehenge, Avebury and the Neolithic Sites
This morning, we'll travel back in time to the Neolithic times. Our first stop will be Stonehenge, considered by many to be the most important prehistoric monument in the world. Composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones, Stonehenge is the central feature of a dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, including several hundred burial mounds. We’ll continue our prehistoric time-travel with a visit to Avebury to view the Neolithic stone circles and the Avebury henge, before traveling to see the Uffington Horse at Dragon Hill, an exquisite Bronze Age art form and a tribal symbol, also seen on 2,000 years old Celtic coins. It is located on Dragon Hill which is believed to be the site where St. George, England's patron saint, slew the dragon. We'll return to Bath and to modern times in late afternoon and discuss today's discoveries over an elegant dinner.
Day 8: The Cotswolds: Highgrove Gardens, Castle Combe and Lacock
Our journey this morning will take us to the cinematographic Cotswolds of pretty, honey-colored villages, miniature canals, streams and open meadows, castles, manor houses, and hunting lodges. Our first stop will be the Highgrove Gardens, which surround the private estate of HRH King Charles. We’ll take a guided tour of both the landscaped and the wild gardens, which reflect King Charles' passion for gardening and organic principles. Afterwards, we'll have time for a drink or a snack at the Orchard Tea Room, before continuing to the chocolate box perfect village of Castle Combe, complete with the movie version of Doctor Doolittle's house, the village of Lacock, recognizable from both Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice movies, and the town of Corsham, featured in several movies, among them the Poldark series. In the evening, we’ll dine on English culinary specialties and toast our English adventures during our farewell dinner.
Please Note: Since the Highgrove Gardens are HRH King Charles's private residence, this tour may be canceled at the last minute. Should this occur, it will be replaced with a tour of another garden estate.
Day 9: Bath to London Heathrow - Departures
This is our last day in England. Today, we'll say good-bye to London and the English Countryside, and take with us memories to last a lifetime. We'll be leaving Bath after breakfast to arrive at the Heathrow International Airport at 10AM, so please schedule your return flight no earlier than 12 noon. If you're extending your stay in England, the Tour Director will assist you with getting back to central London and planning your time.