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image courtesy of Back-Roads Touring Company

Back-Roads" is a unique small group touring concept. We offer memorable and flexible tours through the UK & Europe, taking you behind the tourist façade to discover local charms, local heritage and history. If you are travelling as an individual, in a couple, with friends or family members, we offer a relaxing alternative to a large coach tour or self-drive holiday, instead we travel in comfortable mini-vans that can access small country lanes and narrow cobbled streets.

We believe travel is not about seeing new destinations, it is about experiencing them. We travel in small groups of no more than 16 per departure, travelling through the charming regions in Europe with a specialist driver/guide. We include more entrance fees and meals than most, and stay in local friendly accommodation that is charming, traditional and unique in character. We have designed our tours to offer more flexibility and free time, where you can relax and absorb your local surroundings and discover the local culture, delicious cuisine, and ancient architecture. We believe you can learn more about a country in 15 minutes on the Back-Roads Touring tour than you can in two hours on the freeway.”


Scheduled tours
Hampton Court Flower Show 4 days Monday 7/4/2011
The Chelsea Flower Show & The Homes and Gardens of Kent and London 7 days Saturday 5/21/2011
Heart of England - 2011 4 days 4/11 - 10/17
Corners of Cornwall - 2011 7 days Alternate Fridays 4/15 - 10/14
Historical Kent & Sussex 4 days Alternate Mondays 4/25 – 10/24
Northern England - Lakes and Dales 5 days Alternate Mondays
4/18 - 10/3
King Arthur's West Country 4 days Fridays - 4/8 - 10/14







Hampton Court Flower Show
The magnificent setting of Hampton Court Palace is a fantastic backdrop for the world’s largest flower show. Packed with ideas on how to grow your own, how to nurture the environment and make the most of your garden, the show combines quality, innovation and creativity, featuring spectacular show gardens and stunning horticultural exhibitions. And to make your visit special, we have designed a delightful tour around this iconic event, taking you to some of the best homes and gardens in London and Kent.

Day 1 Monday 4 July - Kent
Today we head out of London to the world-famous gardens at Wisley, home of the Royal Horticultural Society and a trailblazer in garden design, innovation and cultivation techniques. Every type of garden is featured, and there are beautiful water features and woodland walks. This afternoon we head out into Kent, our highlight being the wonderful Hever Castle. The childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s ill-fated second wife, this is all that a real castle should be, from its gateway and courtyard to its surrounding moat. The garden comprises 30 acres of classical and natural landscapes, including the Italian Garden and the Rose Garden. You can stroll through the Tudor Garden, the Rhododendron Walk and along Anne Boleyn’s Walk.

Day 2 Tuesday 5 July - Kent
We head to Sissinghurst to see Vita Sackville-West’s world-famous home and garden. The grounds have a formal structure with extensive views, but a sense of privacy has been achieved by dividing the garden into separate enclosures including the White Garden, the Rose Garden, the Orchard and the Cottage Garden. We are also able to visit those parts of the house open to the public. Next on to Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home. The house contains a wonderful collection of paintings, photographs and memorabilia, while in the grounds there are beautiful rose and water gardens, a restored vegetable garden and wonderful countryside walks offering stunning views.

Day 3 Wednesday 6 July - West London
Today we spend much of the morning exploring the world-famous Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew, an absolute must on any garden tour. Kew, which has just celebrated its 250th anniversary, is responsible for the world’s largest collection of living plants, more than 30,000 species in all. And the herbarium, also the largest in the world, has over 7 million plant specimens. There are many gardens and stately homes along the banks of the Thames, but for our afternoon visit we have chosen Ham House, a magnificent Stuart mansion with lavish interiors. The beautiful gardens include the famous Cherry Garden, the 17th century Orangery and formal avenues of more than 250 trees.

Day 4 Thursday 7 July - The Hampton Court Flower Show

Our last day is devoted to the Show, Hampton Court Palace providing a spectacular backdrop for what is the world’s largest flower show. There is something for everyone to enjoy, and you can spend the day amidst the fine show gardens and horticultural exhibitions. After a wonderful day our tour finishes back in London.

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The Chelsea Flower Show & The Homes and Gardens of Kent and London

The highlight of the gardening year, the Chelsea Flower Show, is the centre piece of our garden-themed touring program. This 7-day tour includes some of London's most iconic gardens, an escorted day at the Chelsea Flower Show and an exploration into the homes and gardens of Kent. Take inspiration from the gardens, learn of their history from our passionate guides and enjoy this truly unique and fascinating tour.

Day 1 (Saturday 21 May) Wisley RHS and Chartwell
Our 2011 tour begins with two of the most popular and iconic of England’s homes and gardens. Leaving London we head first to Wisley, the world-renowned home of the Royal Horticultural Society, where you will have plenty of time to explore the spectacular and varied gardens. We will see the stunning Glasshouse, housing over 5,000 varieties of tropical plant, the Fruit Orchard, the dramatic Rock Garden and a myriad of fascinating horticultural innovations. Winston Churchill's home of Chartwell requires no introduction. What makes it such a memorable visit is not only the view from the garden which inspired his painting, but the fact that the interior is almost as he left it. You can almost smell the cigars! Churchill loved the house, especially the view over the Weald of Kent, and he transformed the grounds with new lakes and brickwork built with his own hands.

Day 2 (Sunday 22 May) Ightham Mote and Scotney Castle
Ightham Mote is deservedly one of the most popular small gardens in the region. Here you can explore 650 years of history in one of the most complete examples of a medieval moated manor house. Those of you interested in historical novels might remember it as the setting for Anya Seton’s “Green Darkness”. The house is surrounded by a beautiful garden with lakes and woodland, and the constant sound of running water creates a charming experience. Then on to Scotney Castle which has been termed England's most romantic garden, with Victorian terraces covered in a riot of colored shrubs overlooking a 14th century moated castle. The estate, covering some 770 acres, is a delightful mix of woodland, park and meadows and colorful displays can be found through most of the seasons.

Day 3 (Monday 23 May) Groombridge Place, Hever Castle and Sissinghurst
Our first visit today is Groombridge Place, whose beautiful and award-winning gardens provide a fascinating mix of traditional heritage garden and ancient woodland. The formal walled gardens are set against the romantic backdrop of a medieval moat. In complete contrast, on a hillside above lies the Enchanted Forest, where quirky and mysterious gardens have been imaginatively developed. Hever Castle is certainly a highlight today. Hever is many people's idea of what a “real” castle should be, from its gateway and courtyard to its surrounding moat. Though dating back to 1270, and being the family home of one of Henry VIII's ill-fated wives (Anne Boleyn), it also has a relatively contemporary feel provided by the Astors, who took over and restored the castle in the early part of the last century. With a 30-acre garden, including a unique Italian garden filled with roses and statues, there's plenty to admire here. Then we travel on to the fabulous Sissinghurst Castle and Vita Sackville-West's world-famous garden, which requires no introduction to garden enthusiasts. You'll have plenty of time to explore this intimate and intricate garden and to visit those parts of her home open to the public.

Day 4 (Tuesday 24 May) Merriments, Great Dixter and Pashley Manor
This region is blessed with delightful homes and gardens. Merriments Gardens is, in the words of the RHS Garden Finder, “one of the best show gardens in England”. It is a stunningly beautiful four acres of densely-planted borders, where the plants grown in the nursery can be seen in an imaginative garden context. Another icon is Great Dixter, the largest half-timbered house in England. But it is the garden that really grabs the attention with its wild meadows and famed Long Border. A fabulous mix of yew topiary, meadow flowers, natural ponds and the wonderful Exotic Garden, it is one that cannot be missed. Then on to Pashley Manor, the very essence of an English Garden. Surrounding a wonderful timber-framed Tudor house dating from around 1550, the gardens are a fabulous blend of romantic landscaping, imaginative plantings, fine trees, fountains and springs, displaying many eras of English history.

Day 5 (Wednesday 25 May) Kew Gardens and Ham House
Our London day concentrates on some of the gardens and stately homes that run along the banks of the Thames to the west of the city like a string of pearls. We'll begin our day in the famed Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew, which is responsible for the world’s largest collection of living plants. These living collections include more than 30,000 different kinds of plant. A world heritage site, the gardens and magnificent glasshouses are located in 121 hectares of stunning vistas, set in a beautiful landscape beside the Thames. A short distance away, under the watchful eye of Richmond Hill, sits Ham House. This magnificent Stuart mansion, with its lavish 17th century interiors, can boast one of the last-remaining formal Dutch gardens. The extensive and beautiful gardens include the much-photographed Cherry Garden, pots and tubs, colourful flower borders and an Orangery.

Day 6 (Thursday 26 May) Chelsea Flower Show
The world famous CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW is our central feature of the day.

Day 7 (Friday 27 May) Savill Garden and Cliveden
Today we visit the Chilterns, a region of the UK that can truly be described as a hidden secret. The Savill Garden near Windsor is one of Britain’s greatest ornamental gardens, enjoyed by horticulturalists and enthusiasts alike, who come to explore its 35 acres of contemporary and classically-designed gardens and exotic woodland. Then on to Cliveden, known particularly for its links with the Astors, with its magnificent series of formal gardens overlooking the River Thames, each with its own style and character. The spectacular estate features roses, topiary, statuary, water gardens, formal parterres, with woodland and riverside walks. And glimpse the famous balustrade which graces the terrace of the house, acquired by the Astors from the Villa Borghese in Rome. Our tour then concludes in London

This tour will start at 08.30am from: The Lancaster Gate Hotel 66 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3NA
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Heart of England
Historic heroes, ancient sites and regal castles meet with picturesque villages and towns on this insightful introduction to southern England's most engaging people and places. This leisurely small group tour explores historical region away from the crowds. We enjoy Shakespeare's Stratford, magnificent of Oxford and the Georgian city of Bath as well as visiting some of Britain’s best known historical sites, including Stonehenge the well preserved castle at Windsor and Churchill's Blenheim Palace. There is no better introduction to England for first time or returning travelers, and Back-Roads offer a unique experience as we travel along the country lanes and stay in traditional accommodation so you can really absorb this country’s cultural heritage.

Day 1 Cotswolds
Check out of the hotel and make your way to the Hyde Park Inn, 66 Lancaster Gate for an 8:30am departure. Relax as we travel through the beautiful English countryside on our journey to the famous university city of Oxford where we walk through the impressive sandstone buildings as we wind our way to Christ Church, Oxford’s grandest college. This afternoon is a feast for literary enthusiasts as we visit Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon to discover the Ye Olde England of the Bard’s birth and his final resting place. We then enjoy a short drive to Anne Hathaway’s cottage en route to our delightful Cotswold accommodation. Dinner is included tonight.

Day 2 Bath
Today we explore the Cotswolds and its honey coloured, picture postcard villages littered with atmospheric churches, traditional country inns and lovely thatched cottages. Our day will start with a visit to historic Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and the current home of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. We then traverse through the gentle timeless rolling hills of the Cotswolds, stopping at some of the exquisite village gems on our way to the splendid city of Bath.

Day 3 Bath
Listed as a World Heritage Site, Bath is truly one of Europe’s most attractive cities and can boast the highest concentration of listed buildings anywhere in the UK. Spend the morning exploring this Georgian city, visit the recently restored Roman Baths, the towering 11th century Abbey and Georgian stone crescents. Literary enthusiasts may choose to visit the engaging Jane Austen Centre, which offers a snapshot of life during Regency times and explores how living in this magnificent city affected Jane Austen’s life and writing. During the day, we take a journey to the nearby picturesque village of Lacock. Both the village and its Abbey have been used in TV and film productions such as Pride and Prejudice, The Other Boleyn Girl and Harry Potter. Tonight we return to Bath for a delicious local evening meal.

Day 4 Stonehenge/Windsor Castle
We say farewell to Bath and look forward to more spectacular sights as we wander through the back roads to visit the great mystical construction of Stonehenge, then on to the glorious city of Salisbury to admire Britain’s tallest cathedral spire. Our final destination is a regal exploration to discover Europe’s largest occupied fortress, Windsor Castle, the favorite home of the Queen. At the conclusion of a marvelous day we return to London arriving at Hyde Park at approximately 5:30pm.


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Corners of Cornwall
Gourmets will love the fine food, history buffs will relish the architecture, literature lovers will delight in scenes straight from the printed page and breathtaking views will impress absolutely everyone. This is the tour that has it all, but even its busy schedule allows ample scope to embrace the back roads and add a few adventures of your own.

Day 1 Dorset
Check out of the hotel and make your way to the Hyde Park Inn, 66 Lancaster Gate for an 8:30am departure. We travel out of London along the old stage-coach route towards England's West Country to visit the glorious city of Salisbury and its magnificent 13th century cathedral and chapter house, which holds one of the few remaining copies of the Magna Carta. We continue along the old Roman route to the traditional county town of Dorchester, made famous by Thomas Hardy's novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge. With its elegant 18th century houses, broad walks and bustling shopping streets, Dorchester has much to offer the visitor. Just south of the town we visit the largest prehistoric hill-fort in Britain, home of an Iron Age tribe that lived in the area before the Romans arrived. This afternoon's drive will take us along the UNESCO World Heritage ‘Jurassic Coast' to the home of fossils, Lyme Regis. This unspoiled seaside resort was once an important early port and still retains its early medieval harbor wall called the ‘Cob' where Meryl Streep gazes out to sea in the film The French Lieutenant's Woman. Overnight is in Dorset and dinner is included.

Day 2 Cornwall
Our route this morning takes us through Devon to the lovely south Cornish coast. Here we visit the impossibly quaint fishing village of Polperro where some of the streets are so narrow you can touch both sides while standing in the middle. The region enjoys a temperate climate and the British love of flowers and plants is demonstrated by the number of wonderful sub-tropical gardens in the area. This afternoon we visit one of the best, the Lost Gardens of Heligan, a 19th century paradise re-discovered and restored to its former glory. Our afternoon drive winds its way along the coast down country roads that show off our ability to reach places that other tour companies cannot, as we travel towards our accommodation in a lovely Cornish village.

Day 3 St Ives
This morning we visit one of Cornwall's largest fortresses, Pendennis Castle, built by Henry VIII to guard this coastal region from Spanish or French attack. Next, the lovely gardens of Trebah that border the tranquil Helford River. Why not enjoy lunch in the award winning café before we make our way to today's highlight, St Michael's Mount. Legend says this fairytale island was once the home of a giant. Discover its medieval castle and delve into the history of the fortress, its priory, and harbor. Depending on the tide we follow its cobbled causeway or take a small boat to the island from the little Cornish town of Marazion. From here we take a short drive to our base for the next three nights, in picturesque St Ives. Dinner tonight is included.

Day 4 St Ives
Today is yours to explore this delightful town at your own pace. Being on a peninsula and surrounded by sandy beaches, St Ives offers some great walking opportunities and wonderful views of the stunning coastal scenery. St Ives has always attracted artists for its light. A host of galleries have sprung up; the most famous include the Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Gallery, both well worth a visit. Even if you do not have a passion for art, you will find plenty to occupy you here in the tangle of streets around the old fishing harbor. Food lovers will enjoy the vast array of local produce, including the famous Cornish Pasties and traditional Cornish cream teas.

Day 5 St Ives
More Cornish delights unfold as we admire the stunning scenery and wide vistas of sparkling blue sea on our coastal drive towards Land's End, situated on the westerly point of Britain and surrounded by spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. Our journey takes us through this uniquely Cornish colored landscape, where we visit historic market towns, attractive fishing villages and picturesque riverside hamlets. Although it seems hard to imagine now, Cornwall was once a cradle of the Industrial Revolution and its mining sites are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is still possible to spot ancient antiquities, such as stone circles and remains of Iron Age villages between Land's End and Penzance, whilst Celtic crosses still dot the Cornish countryside.

Day 6 Dartmoor
Today we glimpse the rugged north coast of Cornwall. We will see several more fishing villages including the picturesque Port Isaac, featured in the television series, Doc Martin and gastronomic Padstow, the home of Rick Stein's restaurant. We head inland across windswept hills to the old capital of Cornwall, Launceston, where we visit Cornwall's grandest medieval castle, supposedly the ‘White Castle' of Arthurian legend. Our scenic drive takes us back towards Dartmoor for tonight's accommodation. Dinner is included tonight.

Day 7 London
This morning we explore the high lanes and sunken lanes of Devon's Dartmoor, keeping our eyes open for the wild ponies and daft sheep that have right of way on many of the roads up here. We have time for a few ‘Back Roads' stops before driving to our last major highlight of the tour, the cathedral city of Wells in Somerset. This is the smallest city in England and is often said to have the most beautiful cathedral. It may also have the best preserved medieval precincts of any cathedral in Europe. Your guide will make sure that you see both and you will also have some free time to explore the local shops, or perhaps a coffee before our return to London, Hyde Park at approximately 5:30pm.

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Historical Kent & Sussex
Explore one of England’s loveliest regions, the ‘Home’ counties of Kent and Sussex, where the prosperity of London meets a pastoral landscape that goes back a thousand years and more to the origins of England and beyond. Charismatic Kent (the ‘Garden of England’) and its neighboring county of Sussex boast a plethora of fascinating sites, beautiful English countryside, dramatic coastline and medieval towns and cities.

Day 1 Kent
We leave London to enjoy a day of two pedigree places. First is Canterbury, home to the Church of England and to the Archbishops of Canterbury for 1400 years. Once the most important pilgrimage destination in Britain, this busy little city with its tangle of medieval streets is mirrored in its complex and enchanting cathedral, both evocative of an England depicted in Geoffrey Chaucer’s late 14th century Canterbury Tales. After visiting the cathedral, there is time for lunch and to wander through the city before our short journey to Dover Castle. This icon of Fortress-Britain has a military history that starts with a Roman lighthouse and includes the Second World War tunnels from which the Dunkirk evacuations and the Battle of Britain were directed. We tour the tunnels and visit the Norman Keep in which Henry VIII and other English kings stayed on their way to and from European wars. Before leaving we take time to see this castle of castles from below, from where it seems to perch, challenging all aggressors, above Dover’s world-famous white cliffs. Then sit back and relax as we enjoy a Back-Roads journey through the fruitful fields of Kent en route to our characterful hotel for the next two nights.

Day 2 Kent

Today we drop a gear or two as we travel down country roads and car-width lanes to the charming town of Rye. This once important medieval port has been fossilized by the silting of its river and, in the last century, has attracted writers and artists wanting a picturesque backwater in which to work and live. Unlike other pretty towns, Rye has an old-fashioned feel to it and will both spark your interest and satisfy your nostalgia for a timeless England long imagined. Next, a stop that will surprise many of you! We visit a boutique winery and learn more about the local viniculture (akin to that of the Champagne region) and more importantly, taste their award-winning wines. Our next destination will be a highlight for many of you - Sissinghurst Gardens. Imagine a moated castle that, over centuries, is added to, altered, and then reduced to a ruin. Then, imagine an artistic lady from the English aristocracy rebuilding disparate parts of the home for her bohemian family and connecting these with a ground-breaking garden. You have conjured Sissinghurst. Vita-Sackville West was that lady and the world she created is still here and preserved by the National Trust for those who want to recapture the rose-tinted England of the early 20th century.

Day 3 Brighton
Our guide takes us on a walking tour of the historic town of Royal Tunbridge Wells to explore its charms, including its most interesting quarter, the Pantiles, where Tunbridge began, as one of England’s most fashionable spa resorts. We hear tales from England’s profligate 17th and 18th century life before being taken forward in time to the days of the Jungle Book & the British Raj and the Tudor manor house (Batemans) that Kipling made his home in the 1920s. From here we drive to the Sussex coast to view the Seven Sisters cliffs. Forget about Dover, these are the real cliffs to see, their pristine white contrasting with the cropped green turf above. Then a change of pace as we head to Brighton and visit the incredible Royal Pavilion, a Regency palace built for the profligate George IV in an Indo/Chinese style, so that it looks to belong in one of Kipling’s stories. From a small fishing village 200 years ago, Brighton has grown into Britain’s biggest seaside resort, a city on a beach that has something for everyone. Tonight, eat in one of its hundreds of restaurants, perhaps enjoying some local seafood. For the less gastronomic minded, this is the place in the South to have fish and chips.

Day 4 London
This morning we have some free time to enjoy the laid back city of Brighton. Maybe enjoy a leisurely stroll to the ever popular Brighton pier, with its kiss-me-quick-hats and penny amusements, or wander through The Lanes - the old village of Brighton now full of alleyways and quaint shops. We then drive north and cross the South Downs, site of numerous prehistoric camps to make our way through Winnie the Pooh’s Forest on to Hever Castle. This is a castle to be lived in. Anne Boleyn and her sister did when Henry VIII came courting. Some years after executing Anne he ensconced his discarded 4th wife, Anne of Cleves, in the confiscated castle. In the 20th century William Astor bought Hever on emigrating to Britain from America, which he thought ‘no longer fit for a gentleman to live in’, and turned Hever into a place where an English gentleman could. As well as seeing all the rooms in this miniature palace you can explore the extensive gardens that Astor created, including a maze and an Italian garden adorned with ancient classical sculpture. From Hever we return to London, from where the English countryside we’ve travelled through over the past four days will quickly seem like a green dream – a true miniature England.

Tour departures
This tour departs 0830am from and returns approx 5.30pm from: Lancaster Gate Hotel 66 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3NA
Northern England - Lakes and Dales
Our Lakes and Dales itinerary is designed to introduce you to the very lakes and hills that so inspired William Wordsworth and other Lakeland poets and authors, including Beatrix Potter, John Ruskin and the landscapes of J W Turner. We also explore the Lancashire and Yorkshire dales, specifically the area known universally as Bronte Country in memory of the three Bronte sisters.

Day 1 Lake District

Departing the world’s first industrial city of Manchester, we head north to the Lake District - a treasured corner of England with sweeping vistas and idyllic glades. We travel through this stunning scenery to Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm, which remains as she had left it and where she invented some of her best loved characters. We then travel to one of the finest stately homes in Cumbria, Levens Hall. Converted from a medieval peel tower to a gentleman’s home in the 1590s this house offers a fantastic insight into aristocratic life. We enjoy a tour of the house to view its luxuriant rooms before roaming through its grade I listed garden dating from 1694, incorporating a small orchard of apple trees, a nuttery and herb garden, a rose garden, herbaceous borders and a fountain garden. More of the region unfolds as we travel through to the nearby town of Hawkshead where you might choose to visit Beatrix Potter’s Gallery or the Old Grammar School Wordsworth once attended. The school’s museum retains much of its original character and the ground floor classroom still has the original desk where this great poet once sat. It’s a slight change of scenery as we travel to the heart of the Lake District and visit England’s largest natural lake, Lake Windermere. Here we enjoy a ferry ride across the lake to admire its breathtaking panorama. If time permits, there should be an opportunity for a captivating drive to Langdale, which has some of the best scenery in the Lake District, before arriving at our Lakes hotel, our base for the next two nights.

Day 2 Lake District
We begin our adventurous day by calling in at Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage, where he spent some time during his most productive years. We gain a fascinating insight into his life as we explore both the house and adjoining museum. We then enjoy a relaxing drive through some of England’s most rugged landscape and really immerse ourselves in the breathtaking natural beauty of the Lake District. We travel past Ullswater Lake and over the Kirkstone Pass where we may visit the second highest pub in England. At the end of another wonderful day we stop in the market town of Keswick nestled on the shores of Derwentwater, where you can explore its wide array of local shops, galleries and unique museums at leisure. We visit the nearby mystical Neolithic stone circle at Castlerigg before returning to our accommodation.

Day 3 Yorkshire Dales
Today’s journey takes us from the drama of the Lakes to the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales landscape. We pass through ancient villages wrapped in rolling hills and the moorland wilderness of the Pennines. This landscape is rich in monastic heritage and our stop at the World Heritage Site of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal will offer plenty of opportunity for you to explore its impressive grounds, which boast the largest abbey ruins in England and the magnificent Georgian Water Gardens. If time permits we should be able to pass through the old fashioned town of Thirsk which inspired James Herriot’s popular veterinary tales. Then on to our charming accommodation before enjoying a delicious local evening meal.

Day 4 York
Truly a day of contrasts, we start by making the trip over the heather-carpeted North York Moors to the coastal town of Whitby and Captain Cook country. This is the location of Bram Stoker’s Dracula as well as being famous for its picturesque harbor, fine beaches and brooding Abbey. We recall the glory days of steam with an optional train trip from the station made famous by the Harry Potter films. After an evocative time travel experience we continue our journey to decorous Castle Howard to meander amongst the sumptuous 18th century stately home and gardens of the Howard family. Tonight we arrive in the ancient stronghold of York.

DAY 5 Manchester
Our final day in Yorkshire is dominated by the splendors of York. This magnificent yet compact city encapsulates the whole of England’s history within its stone ramparts. York offers a feast of sights for all ages and interests, including England’s greatest cathedral and well preserved medieval streets. Following a walking and orientation tour with your guide, time is then yours to sample this city’s highlights before we make our way to our final destination. Crossing the moorland heights we enter more rugged landscape on our way to Hawarth, once home of the Bronte sisters. Here we spend our remaining time together exploring the lives and surroundings of Anne, Emily and Charlotte as well as discovering a little more about the talented yet tragic life of their brother Branwell. Our tour then concludes in Manchester.

This tour departs at 0830 and drops off at 1730 from: Willowbank Hotel 340 Wilmslow Road Manchester M14 6AF
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King Arthur's West Country
Relive Arthur’s reign and discover the tales of Camelot with a tour so magical even Merlin would be proud. Relive ancient legends and explore Britain’s heritage on this trail of intrigue and honor. Explore ancient castles, travel through Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen country and step inside centuries-old settings of romance as we pass through these ancient and untouched lands in the West Country.

Day 1 Dorset/Devon
Departing London, we drive south-west through Hampshire and to Thomas Hardy’s much loved ancient kingdom of Wessex. We stop in its capital Winchester, where a replica of King Arthur’s Round Table is on proud display in the only remaining part of its castle, The Great Hall. We take a gentle stroll to the city’s remarkable 7th century cathedral renowned for its architecture and hidden treasures, including 12th-century wall paintings, medieval carvings, the Winchester Bible and Jane Austen's tomb. Take time for a coffee before returning to the coach for our delightful journey into the lovely, quaint county of Dorsetshire. This is real Back-Roads country, where time has stood still amidst the little villages and towns. We visit the Cerne Abbas Giant before a warm welcome in the local town of Dorchester where Thomas Hardy spent part of his working life and based a number of his famous novels. From here we travel along the ‘Jurassic coast’, awarded World Heritage Site status and famous for its geology and fossil finds as we continue to our characterful accommodation for our welcome meal.

Day 2 Devon
This morning is a real highlight in our itinerary. We explore Jane Austen’s Lyme Regis where she based parts of her novel Persuasion and which was also the setting for John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant's Woman. Wander along its 18th century promenade, its famous Cobb and ancient harbor that continues to inspire writers and artists. We continue our journey along the south Devon coast, with its picturesque seaside towns and fishing villages. Make sure you don’t leave without sampling a traditional clotted cream tea! The landscape changes as we travel through Dartmoor National Park. Get your cameras ready as we meander through beautiful country lanes, over ancient stone bridges and through dramatic rolling countryside where ponies roam wild. Tonight we might stay in the heart of the arresting Dartmoor National Park or perhaps in Tavistock on the edge of the brooding moor.

Day 3 Devon
Our destination today is the rocky north Cornish coast where we visit Tintagel Castle, the reputed birthplace of King Arthur. The castle sits on top of the wild cliffs and is accessible on foot along the coastline or by four-wheel drive (additional cost). Later we visit one or two Cornish fishing villages for a famed “Cornish Pasty” or fish and chips down by the harbor. We finish our day with a visit to Cornwall’s ancient capital Launceston, with its legendary castle and narrow bustling streets, before returning to our accommodation in Devon.

Day 4 Somerset
As we head back towards London there are still a huge number of interesting sights in store. Our first highlight of the day is the mystical town of Glastonbury and its Abbey, the reputed site of Arthur and Guinevere’s burial and the “new age” capital of England with its esoteric collection of shops. We pop in to visit the tiny market city of Wells, known for its attractive cathedral and Vicar’s Close (the oldest continuously inhabited medieval street in Europe). From here we make our way to the amazing Salisbury Plain, littered with ancient burial sites and the remains of Iron Age hill forts, to the great prehistoric temple of Stonehenge. We have time to explore this ancient monument and listen to theories as to how it was constructed and its importance to the people in this region before our return to London this evening.

This tour departs 0830am from and returns approx 5.30pm to: Lancaster Gate Hotel 66 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3NA

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