Alison Weir Tours





Monday, 1st May 2023 to Wednesday, 10th May 2023

DAY 1, Monday, 1st May

11am: Welcome reception at London hotel

Buffet lunch at London Hotel

Afternoon: Visit the Temple Church, London to see the tomb of William the Marshal, ‘England’s greatest knight’.
‘This is the house of God, the very gate of Heaven.’ The beautiful Temple Church is steeped in the history of Christendom, this country and the whole Common Law World. In 1162, the Round Church was built to be London’s Jerusalem. In 1214, Magna Carta was negotiated in the Temple, and in 1219, its greatest hero, William the Marshal, was buried in the Church. From Sir Walter Raleigh’s expeditions through the colonial constitutions to the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the Temple was the birthplace of American Law. And to this day the Church serves the legal colleges Inner and Middle Temple, London’s residents, visiting jurists and travellers from all over the world with some of the most uplifting services, music and discussions in London.

Depart the Temple Church for Hever Castle

Check into the private Astor Wing of Hever Castle

Fourteenth-century Hever Castle, the family home of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, is romantic and double-moated, with a rich history stretching back over seven centuries. The Boleyns built the comfortable Tudor manor house within the earlier castle walls between 1462 and 1506. Henry VIII is said to have courted Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle and there are various artefacts in the castle connected with them both. In 1540, Henry gave Hever Castle to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, as part of their divorce settlement, and she sometimes stayed here before her death in 1557. The American millionaire, William Waldorf Astor, acquired Hever Castle in 1903 and spent a great deal of time, money and imagination restoring it. The interior walls are covered with magnificent carving and panelling. The rooms are filled with wonderful antiques and works of art, including a fine collection of Tudor royal portraits, including several of Anne Boleyn and most of Henry VIII’s other wives. Astor further enhanced the castle's romantic setting by creating glorious gardens. These include the unique Italian garden, the maze, the 35-acre lake and the rose garden, all of which are now fully mature and spectacular throughout the seasons. The Italian garden contains statuary and sculpture dating from Roman to Renaissance times, where it forms a magnificent sight among the glorious display of shrubs, flowers and plants. A Tudor herb garden close to the castle was opened in 1994. Visitors can also enjoy the Guthrie Collection of miniature model historic houses.

6.30pm: Guests gather in the Music Room for guided tours of Hever Castle.
Drinks reception in the Castle Courtyard or Inner Hall (depending on the weather).

Welcome dinner the Long Gallery of Hever Castle.

DAY 2: Tuesday, 2nd May

Morning: Visit Battle Abbey

This is the site of the most famous battle in England's history – the Battle of Hastings of 1066, which saw the victorious William the Conqueror taking the throne of England. You can explore the award-winning exhibition that brings alive the dramatic story of the Norman Conquest. The high altar of the abbey church was reputedly built on the spot where the Saxon King Harold died and is now marked by a special commemorative stone.  Little remains of the original abbey buildings, but the impressive fourteenth-century gateway dominates the south end of Battle High Street. The remaining cloisters, part of the west range, were leased to Battle Abbey School shortly after the first world war, and the school remains in occupancy to this day. 
   The Abbey was founded as a result of a vow made by William before he crossed to England, in which he promised to establish a monastery if God granted him victory. He endowed the Abbey to such an extent that it became one of the wealthiest religious houses in the country. 

Free time in the town of Battle. Located in what is now called 1066 Country, this beautiful town is built around the abbey that was erected on the site of the Battle of Hastings, and features Georgian and medieval cottages amongst a host of interesting shops, restaurants, historic pubs and tea-rooms. 

Lunchtime: Tour, lunch and wine-tasting at the Carr Taylor Vineyard, Sedlescombe

David & Linda Carr Taylor established this vineyard, in the picturesque Sussex countryside just north of Hastings, more than 30 years ago and quickly gained international recognition for their award winning English wines. We will take a tour of the vineyard, visit the winery and bottling room, sample some of the wines and enjoy lunch. There is a well-stocked gift shop. 

Afternoon: Visit Bodiam Castle

Set in the heart of an historic landscape, with spiral staircases, battlements and a portcullis, fourteenth-century Bodiam Castle is one of Britain's most picturesque and romantic ancient monuments, set in the heart of a historic landscape with spectacular views. Such was Sir Edward Dallingridge’s vision when he built the castle in 1385. The approach to the castle with towers rising majestically from the moat is awe inspiring. This is a place where medieval England comes to life, because enough of its ruins survive to give a vivid impression of aristocratic life in the Middle Ages.

Evening: Drinks and dinner at the Brickwall Hotel, Sedlescombe

The Brickwall Hotel is a charming sixteenth-century Tudor mansion overlooking the pretty award-winning village green of Sedlescombe, near Battle, in the heart of the beautiful East Sussex 1066 countryside. Originally erected for the local ironmaster in 1599, and partially rebuilt after a fire in 1951, the hotel has been privately owned and run by the same family for over 35 years, and has consistently offered excellent standards of service from its welcoming, friendly and experienced team.

DAY 3: Wednesday, 3rd May


Visit Dover Castle

Scenic Dover Castle, spectacularly situated high on the famous White Cliffs and known as 'The Key to England', boasts over 2000 Years of History, having evolved from an Iron Age fort, Roman lighthouse and Saxon church to the extensive castle that survives today with its massive Great Tower, built by Henry II. It is one of the greatest and most famous of European fortresses, and its position as a frontier defence has secured it an important place in British history. Strategically sited, it guards the nearest landing point to mainland Europe, and was thus an emphatic statement of medieval royal power, highly visible across the Straits of Dover. Its unbroken active service as a castle and fortress stretches over more than nine centuries, from the invasion of William the Conqueror to the age of the nuclear missile. The mighty keep – the Great Tower – has been splendidly refurbished to look as it did in the time of Henry II and his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. You will hear about the great siege of 1216-17, and there will be time to visit the other attractions at Dover Castle, including the darkly atmospheric Secret Wartime Tunnels with their vivid recreation of the Dunkirk evacuation, complete with dramatic projections of swooping Spitfires and film footage.


Morning: Visit Rye and the Ypres Tower Museum

A medieval citadel huddled against invaders and the sea, idyllic Rye was granted to the Abbey of Fecamp in Normandy in 1017. It was reclaimed by Henry III in 1247 and blossomed as a Cinque Port, vital to England's defence. You will see landmarks like the Ypres Tower or Rye Castle, the Landgate, the Monastery and the famous Mermaid Inn. Rye is home to a myriad of art, curiosities, shops, cosy pubs, boutique hotels and contemporary restaurants serving the best Sussex has to offer. Built on smuggled secrets and timeless tales, it has nooks and crannies to explore and distant views across Romney Marsh to ponder. It’s been a magnet for artists and authors. Paul Nash, the Great War artist, lived and painted here. Henry James penned The Wings of the Dove in the gardens of Lamb House. Comedian Spike Milligan, writer E F Benson, Johnny Depp and Vic Reeves have all been residents, and Paul McCartney lives nearby.

Free time in Rye and time for an independent lunch.

Afternoon: Visit Great Dixter

Great Dixter is an historic house, a glorious garden and a place of pilgrimage for horticulturists from across the world. It was the family home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd, the focus of his energy and enthusiasm, and it fuelled over 40 years of books and articles. The first glimpse of Great Dixter, its great tiled and timbered bulk reclining comfortably on the gentle slope of the hill, suggests that here is a building of great antiquity, surely completed by the end of the Middle Ages, and as much a part of the history of the Sussex Weald as Bodiam Castle or Northiam Church. Appearances are deceptive, however, and the present Great Dixter is actually three houses, one built here in the mid-fifteenth century with slightly later additions, the second a yeoman’s house built in the early sixteenth century and moved here from Kent in 1910, and the third combines the two with additional accommodation, completed in 1912.

Evening: Included dinner at a local pub.

DAY 4: Thursday, 4th May


Visit Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court is one of the finest palaces in the world. Over 500 years of history can be explored through this magnificent complex of state apartments, whose previous owners include Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. All Henry VIII’s wives came to Hampton Court; it was here, in 1537, that Jane Seymour died after bearing his long-awaited son, the future Edward VI, and here too that Katherine Howard was arrested on suspicion of treason in 1541. One of the most impressive sights is the Great Hall built by Henry VIII for Anne Boleyn; it was England`s last and greatest medieval royal hall and is still hung with Henry’s priceless tapestries. His Chapel Royal boasts a superb blue and gold ceiling. Hampton Court Palace also contains the largest surviving Tudor service complex, and many important paintings and portraits from the Royal Collection. The palace is surrounded by sixty acres of glorious formal gardens. Here you will find the world`s most famous maze, where whispers of the past haunt every step, and William III`s Privy Garden, now restored to its 1702 glory.


Morning: Visit Chartwell

For forty years, Chartwell was the family home of Sir Winston Churchill. Filled with treasures from every aspect of his life, the house provides an opportunity to explore the home of one of Britain’s greatest leaders. The site had been built upon at least as early as the sixteenth century and Henry VIII is reputed to have stayed in the house during his courtship of Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle. The original farmhouse was significantly enlarged and modified during the nineteenth century. It now houses the largest collection of Churchill’s paintings and is filled with treasures from every aspect of his life. The rooms remain much as they were when he lived there. The hillside gardens reflect his love of the landscape and nature, including the lakes he created, the kitchen garden and the Marycot, a playhouse designed for his daughter.
Visitors can explore the house, see his painting studio and enjoy the landscaped hillside garden with the breathtaking views that inspired Churchill to buy Chartwell.

Afternoon: Visit Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Sissinghurst Castle garden was created by the poet and writer Vita Sackville-West and her diplomat and author husband, Harold Nicolson. In the 1930s, they transformed the ruins of this Elizabethan mansion and gardens. The castle tower dating from the sixteenth century is virtually all that remains of the grand Manor House. People come from all over the world to see the garden which is divided into a series of rooms filled with informal arrangements of plants around a theme: the White Garden, the Purple Border, the Rose Garden, the Herb Garden, the Lime Walk, and the Cottage Garden. The architectural planning of these rooms, and the colourful, abundant planting in the gardens by Vita, reflect the romance and intimacy of her poems and writings.
   Sissinghurst Castle Garden was the backdrop for a diverse history; from its astonishing time as a prison in the 1700s, to becoming a home to the Women’s Land Army in the Second World War. It was also a family home to some fascinating people who lived here or came to stay. Don’t miss Vita's writing room and take time to climb to the top of the tower.

Evening: Included dinner at a local pub.

DAY 5: Friday, 5th May

At Hever Castle.

We will be offering a programme of presentations, workshops, tours, indoor and outdoor activities and games, to be announced.

Evening: Murder Mystery Dinner at Hever Castle

DAY 6: Saturday, 6th May


Visit Winchester for a guided walk around the ancient, historic city, once the capital of Anglo-Saxon England. One of England’s smallest but finest historical cities, it is steeped in the past, offering rich pickings for visitors looking to uncover Britain’s past.

Visit Winchester Cathedral.

One of England's largest cathedrals (it has the greatest overall length of any cathedral in Europe), Winchester Cathedral is the magnificent gothic centrepiece of a historic city. It's also the final resting place of author Jane Austen. In 1554, Winchester Cathedral witnessed the wedding of Mary I to Philip of Spain, one of many historic events that took place in a history spanning more than 1000 years. Discover the beautiful illuminated Winchester Bible, twelfth-century wall paintings, medieval carvings, contemporary art, the tomb chests of the Saxon kings, and the awe and wonder of this glorious building.

Visit Winchester Castle, the Great Hall and Queen Eleanor’s Garden

The Great Hall is all that remains of Winchester Castle, originally built by William the Conqueror. It is one of the finest surviving aisled halls of the thirteenth century, and contains the greatest symbol of medieval mythology and chivalry, King Arthur's Round Table, dating from the reign of Edward I. 

Situated outside the south door of the Great Hall is a recreation of a medieval herb garden named after Eleanor of Provence, queen of Henry III, and her daughter-in-law, Eleanor of Castile, queen of Edward I. It was opened by the Queen Mother in 1986 as part of the Domesday celebrations. Turf seats and bay hedges surround a herbarium featuring a fountain, a camomile lawn, a tunnel arbour and stone seats, where one can sit and admire.

Free time for an independent dinner in Winchester.


Morning: Visit Scotney Castle Garden and the Victorian mansion

The romantic gardens at Scotney surround the ruins of a fourteenth-century fairy-tale castle. They have spectacular displays of flowers, and rambling roses cover the ruins in summer. There are good walks in the grounds with wonderful viewpoints and vistas. The estate covers over 700 acres. The ‘new’ Victorian mansion is also open to the public. There, you can learn about the history of the property, its secrets and stories, and see its rooms set out in the Victorian style.

Lunchtime: Board the Kent and East Sussex Railway for a vintage steam trip through the countryside, with lunch on the train.

This picturesque line weaves between Tenterden and Bodiam for 10.5 miles, journeying through the beautiful Wealden countryside. England's finest rural light railway enables visitors to experience travel and service from a bygone age aboard beautifully restored coaches and locomotives dating from Victorian times.

Afternoon: Visit Smallhythe Place

Smallhythe Place is the former home of Victorian actress Dame Ellen Terry and is a beautiful sixteenth-century cottage with its lovely gardens. The interiors showcase Terry memorabilia and historic theatre costumes. Smallhythe was built sometime shortly after 1514, probably as a Port House or Harbour Master's offices for the shipyard nearby. The house is a beautiful timber-framed building with a tiled roof. It is two stories high, with crown-post construction. It was already three hundred years old by the time its most famous owner, actress Ellen Terry bought the property. Terry first saw Smallhythe in 1890, but it was not for sale, and she had to wait until 1899 before she could purchase it..
   Ellen Terry was one of the most famous actresses of the age before films and television. She was probably comparable in terms of popularity with a modern Hollywood film star. She was nicknamed 'The Queen of the Theatre', a tribute to her compelling stage presence. She did not inspire only theatre audiences; author Oscar Wilde wrote no less than three sonnets for her. She travelled widely and used Smallhythe as a peaceful refuge from the rigours of her professional life. After her death in 1928, a thatched barn in the garden was converted into a theatre. The Barn Theatre is now a public venue for the performing arts and hosts regular stage performances. Surrounding the house and thatched theatre is an informal cottage
garden and grounds containing an orchard, a small nuttery, and a rose garden.

Free time in Tenterden for shopping and an independent dinner

DAY 7: Sunday, 7th May


Visit Canterbury

Canterbury's skyline is dominated by its stunning Cathedral, the oldest in England. But the cathedral is only part of the story; the ancient ruins of St Augustine's Abbey and St Martin's Church form Canterbury's UNESCO World Heritage Site, while other ancient ruins, such as the castle, are reminders of the city's history, heritage and culture. Although Canterbury is a place steeped in tradition, it is also a modern and vibrant city. Its array of shop windows beckon with a kaleidoscope of colours; many of the high street names are here as well as a delightful range of independent retailers. Travelling on foot is always a good way to explore the city. Walking trails or guided walks will help you make the most of your time here and to enjoy the winding lanes and streets, appreciating Canterbury's finest historical architecture set against outstanding, scenic views.

Visit Canterbury Cathedral for a guided tour

Christ Church Cathedral Canterbury in Kent, a breath-taking mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, has been the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Church of England, for centuries. Following the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 A.D. and his subsequent canonisation it became a foremost place of pilgrimage, as told most famously in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The Cathedral’s history began in 597 A.D. when Augustine, a monk sent by Pope Gregory the Great, arrived as a missionary and established his seat (or ‘cathedra’) in Canterbury. It houses a Romanesque crypt dating back to the eleventh century, a twelfth-century Gothic quire and a fourteenth- century Perpendicular nave. The beautiful medieval stained glass windows illustrate royal connections, Bible stories and miracles and stories associated with Thomas Becket. Here lie buried the famous Black Prince, King Henry IV and Queen Joan of Navarre.

Visit Eastbridge Hospital, St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church, the oldest church in England.


Visit Alfriston for an independent lunch

Alfriston is a must-visit village. On the banks of the Cuckmere River, at the foot of the beautiful South Downs and situated within the boundaries of the new National Park, there is so much here to interest visitors that it has often been said that this is probably one of the most visited destinations in the country. There is much to admire - the medieval narrow, twisting High Street has a surprising wealth and variety of shops, among them cookshops, jewellery and fashion boutiques, shops selling antiques, gifts and souvenirs, and an art gallery. With many places to eat and drink ranging from cosy teashops and elegant restaurants to friendly pubs, you're sure to find something to suit all tastes.
   Minutes from the High Street is the Tye village green, the medieval Clergy House (the first ever property bought by the National Trust) and the imposing St Andrew's Church, known as 'the Cathedral of the Downs'.

Afternoon: Visit Charleston Farmhouse

Charleston is something of a hidden treasure, tucked behind an excess of foliage and lush trees, its weathered tiles rising among narcissus and dahlias. For much of the early 20th century, it served as a place of escape, creativity and conviviality for a revolving cast of effervescent artists, writers and intellectuals, from famed members of the Bloomsbury Group such as Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster to associated figures including T.S. Eliot, the economist John Maynard Keynes and the composer Benjamin Britten. Though it served as a permanent home for its artist owners Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant from the outbreak of World War II until their respective deaths, its beauty is the result of collective creativity, filled as it is with artworks, murals and mementos that reflect an astounding group of friends and lovers, coming together to write their own shared history.

Historians at Home
You are invited to a drinks party at Medley Court, Hever Castle, hosted by your tour historians.

Dating back to 1903, Medley Court is a luxurious holiday cottage forming part of the Astor Wing of Hever Castle. The charming, double-moated Hever Castle and surrounding formal lawns provide a stunning backdrop. Although Medley Court is now just over one hundred years old, its appearance is that of a Tudor house, the standard of decoration and comfort is outstanding, and it still retains the warm, relaxed feel of a family home.

Evening: Chef's Table Barbecue at Hever Castle

DAY 8: Monday, 8th May


Visit the Tower of London

Her Majesty`s Palace and Fortress of The Tower of London is Britain`s leading historic visitor attraction. This ancient fortress was founded by William the Conqueror in the eleventh century, and almost a thousand years of British history have been played out within its walls. Standing guard by the River Thames, The Tower is an impressive London landmark. Its stones are steeped in history, and its walls house many secrets, as well as the world-famous Crown Jewels. Several people lost their heads in the Tower, which held many famous prisoners. Among them were two of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, and Lady Jane Grey. Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn stayed here before their coronations. The Queen’s Lodgings in the royal palace were expensively renovated for Anne Boleyn; later, they became her prison. Anne’s daughter, the future Elizabeth I, was also held prisoner here.


Morning: Visit Ightham Mote

Ightham Mote is a picture-perfect fourteenth-century timber-framed manor house, standing on its own little island, surrounded by water. Built nearly 700 years ago, it has seen many changes and been owned by medieval knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high-society Victorians. The house has connections with Elizabeth Wydeville, queen of Edward IV, and with Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII; in 2013 the BBC drama The White Queen was filmed here. The house also has a sinister legend of a body walled in in the great hall, which features in Anya Seton’s historical novel Green Darkness. The gardens at Ightham Mote are as equally diverse as the house - a formal lawn, flower borders, secret glades and a sweetly scented cuttings garden; there are walks and views taking in lakes, an orchard, ancient bluebell woodland and Kentish farmland.

Independent lunch in Sevenoaks

Sevenoaks has everything from busy markets to pretty streets and a former archbishop’s palace to discover. There are restaurants, shops and other places to visit, and plenty of green space for getting outdoors and into nature.

Afternoon: Visit Knole

Sitting proudly within Kent’s last medieval deer park, Knole offers something for everyone. Immerse yourself in the vast estate and follow in the footsteps of tourists who have visited Knole’s showrooms for 400 years. Originally built as an archbishop’s palace, Knole passed through royalty to the Sackville family, who still live there today. Take in the scale and magnificence of this 600-year-old estate by exploring the grand courtyards and tranquil Orangery. or wander the winding paths in the parkland, still populated by wild deer. Inside the house, art lovers will find paintings by Reynolds, Gainsborough and Van Dyck, and many royal portraits. Textiles enthusiasts can marvel at the seventeenth-century tapestries and furniture that make the collection internationally significant. You can also climb the spiral staircase to take in panoramic views from the rooftop.

Evening: Chef’s Table buffet at Hever Castle

DAY 9: Tuesday, 9th May


Morning: Visit Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle was the dower palace of six medieval queens of England. Set in a lake amid 500 acres of beautiful parkland, it has been called ‘the most beautiful castle in the world’. A former royal palace begun in the twelfth century, Leeds has been owned by a succession of monarchs. Over nine hundred year,s the castle has withstood sieges, hosted the medieval and early Tudor royal courts, been a prison for witches, kings and prisoners of war, a munitions store and a hospital; and it has welcomed some of the key figures in English history, from Henry VIII to Winston Churchill.
   From 1278 the castle belonged to the crown. In that year, Edward I began building the barbican and the unusual fortified mill. He gave Leeds Castle as a dower gift to both his wives, Eleanor of Castile and Margaret of France, thus starting a tradition that led to the castle being owned by subsequent queens of England, among them Isabella of France, Joan of Navarre, Anne of Bohemia, and Katherine of Valois. In 1321, despite the castle being under royal control, Isabella, queen of Edward II, was refused entry by the constable. The King had to besiege the castle to wrest it from the constable's power. He also wrested the constable's head from his shoulders! From that point Leeds seems to have gained a reputation as being a ‘ladies’ castle’.
   Leeds has always been a palace to entertain and impress, with every generation leaving its mark. Today’s beautiful interiors are the result of the massive refurbishment by top European designers throughout the 1920s and 30s for its last private owner, Lady Baillie.

Afternoon: Depart from Maidstone on the Kentish Lady for a cruise to Allington Castle.

The Kentish Lady offers an exclusive and unique excursion for groups to experience the scenic River Medway combined with a guided tour of Allington Castle’s beautiful gardens, courtyards and also its impressive Great Hall. Departing from our mooring adjacent to the Archbishops' palace in Maidstone, the Kentish Lady Cruises downriver (with commentary) to a private mooring at the castle estate. Here passengers disembark and are met by castle staff to begin their guided tour, the tour takes approximately 90 minutes and is predominantly a walking tour. At the end of the tour, it’s back on-board the Kentish Lady for tea, coffee and cakes before heading back to Maidstone.

Please Note: This excursion involves steps, slopes, uneven and grassed areas.

Allington Castle is a medieval twelfth-century stronghold that lies about three miles north-west of Maidstone in Kent. It is fully furnished in character with its medieval origins, with tapestries, antique furniture and Great Hall in which Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn dined with Sir Thomas Wyatt around 1530. All that remains of the original castle is a section of wall and the kitchen fireplace built in 1174. The castle was converted into a mansion house in 1491 when the Wyatt family acquired the property. It was severely damaged by fire in the late sixteenth century and was abandoned until 1905. The castle was then purchased and partly restored by Sir Martin Conway. Between 1951 and 1999. the castle was home to a convent of the Order of Carmelites.


Morning: Visit Rochester Cathedral

Rochester Cathedral has been celebrating Christian worship since 604 A.D. Its history and heritage is reflected in its stunning architecture. It is England's second oldest cathedral and the present building dates back to 1083. The glorious Norman architecture of the nave, parts of the crypt, as well as one of the finest Romanesque facades in England all survive. The Cathedral is blessed with some fine examples of later Gothic styles as well as the magnificent fourteenth-century Chapter Library door. The Cathedral became a major place of pilgrimage in the 13th Century, following the death of William of Perth, a Scottish baker who was murdered nearby. His body was brought to the Cathedral and at his shrine, of which no trace remains, miracles were reported. Modern pilgrims who journey to the Cathedral still climb the Pilgrim Steps, now worn by the many thousands of medieval pilgrims visiting the shrine, often lighting candles at the William of Perth prayer-station in front of the oratory.

Independent lunch in Rochester

The ancient cathedral city of Rochester was place cherished by the Victorian novelist, Charles Dickens, who lived in the area as a child and returned as a successful author.  Dickens’ most impressionable childhood days were spent in Medway. Historic Rochester inspired him so much that he featured it in his work more than any city other than London.  Many of the buildings of which he wrote can still be seen today.  These include Restoration House, used in Great Expectations as the home of Estella and Miss Havisham, The Poor Travellers House, immortalised in a Christmas short story and the impressive Guildhall Museum of local history.

Afternoon: Visit Rochester Castle

There are breath-taking views from the top of one of the tallest keeps in England at the magnificent Rochester Castle, which was built on the highest part of Rochester’s Roman city wall, to defend the crossing of the River Medway. This imposing fortress has a complex history of destruction and rebuilding. Today it stands as a proud reminder of the history of Rochester, along with the cathedral and cobbled streets.
Its Norman tower-keep of Kentish ragstone was built about 1127 by William of Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury, with the encouragement of Henry I. Consisting of three floors above a basement, it still stands 113 feet high. In 1215, garrisoned by rebel barons, the castle endured an epic siege by King John. Having first undermined the outer wall, John used the fat of 40 pigs to fire a mine under the keep, bringing its southern corner crashing down. Even then the defenders held on, until they were eventually starved out after resisting for two months. Rebuilt under Henry III and Edward I, the castle remained as a viable fortress until the sixteenth century.

Evening: Drinks, tour and gala dinner at Penshurst Place

Penshurst Place is one of England's finest historic houses, set in the Weald of Kent's peaceful rural landscape. The medieval house with its magnificent Baron's Hall dates from 1341 and is one of the finest examples of fourteenth-century architecture. Later additions have seen Penshurst Place grow into an imposing fortified manor house containing state rooms filled with a remarkable collection of tapestries, paintings, furniture, porcelain and armour. Penshurst has been the ancestral home of the Sidney family since 1552 and successive generations have shaped its development. Penshurst's most famous son, Sir Philip Sidney, the chivalrous soldier poet, was a symbol of loyalty and bravery in the Elizabethan era. The garden is one of the oldest in private ownership. The earliest records are dated 1346, and much of the garden remains as it was in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who visited Penshurst on many occasions. The room where she gave audiences is called the Queen Elizabeth Room in her honour.

DAY 10: Wednesday, 10th May

Morning: Visit Runnymede

Seen by many as the birthplace of modern democracy, this open landscape beside the Thames was witness to King John's historic sealing of the Magna Carta on 15 June 1215. Today Runnymede is an ideal place to relax outdoors, or to pause and reflect on the history of the struggle for freedom. As well as a monument to the democratic legacy of the Magna Carta, you will find memorials to President John F. Kennedy and the Commonwealth Air Forces.

Independent lunch in Windsor

Afternoon: Visit Windsor Castle and St George’s Chapel, Windsor

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and the Official Residence of Her Majesty the Queen. Its rich history spans almost 1000 years. The Castle covers an area of 13 acres and contains magnificent State Apartments furnished with priceless treasures from the Royal Collection. There will be free time to see the State Apartments, as well as Queen Mary's Dolls House, a masterpiece in miniature; and the Drawings Gallery featuring an annual exhibition of pictures and artefacts from the Royal Collection.

St George's Chapel, within the precincts of Windsor Castle, is one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings in England. The present building was begun by Edward IV in 1475 and was completed by Henry VIII fifty years later. It is the Chapel of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Britain's highest order of chivalry, which was founded by Edward III in 1348. Members are selected by The Sovereign and include foreign monarchs and previous Prime Ministers. Henry VIII and Jane Seymour are buried in the choir.

Farewell drinks and canapes at London hotel

The tour ends.

All site visits are subject to availability.