THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII
Day 1: Sunday, 14th July
At noon, we gather at the Bloomsbury Hotel in Great Russell Street in London's West End (see below, under Day 9) for an included welcome buffet lunch and drinks, served in the Chapel and Library. This will be followed by an introductory talk by Alison Weir: The Six Wives of Henry VIII
After lunch, we depart from the Bloomsbury Hotel by a new luxury coach for Hever Castle, where we check into the luxurious Astor Wing – the ‘Tudor Village’ built by William Waldorf Astor in the early 20th century, which adjoins the castle and enjoys a stunning setting in the private grounds. There are 21 individually styled guest rooms (examples are shown below), and we have exclusive use of the whole wing during our 3-night stay. We have exclusive use of the Astor Wing, and guests are welcome to relax in the Music Room and the Billiards/Pool Room, or enjoy the open-air swimming pool and croquet lawn, or Hever’s beautiful gardens.
Thirteenth-century Hever Castle, the family home of Henry VIII’s second wife, 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 c.1462 and c.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.
Joining us at Hever and the Tower of London will be historian Dr Linda Porter, author of Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr.
Later in the afternoon guests are invited to watch Red Rose Chain performing their brilliantly reviewed play, 'Fallen in Love: The Secret Heart of Anne Boleyn', in the Astor Wing Dining Hall, Hever Castle.
The year is 1536. The woman who changed the world forever by capturing the heart of a King, faces trial with her brother George on charges of adultery, incest and treason. Witness a nation irreversibly transformed as the most passionate and decisive events of England’s history unfold in the tense and treacherous crucible of the royal court.
At 6.30pm, Alison Weir will guide the group around Hever Castle. The tour will be followed by a drinks reception in the Inner Hall (below left) or the Castle Courtyard (depending on the weather). Dr David Starkey O.B.E. will be joining us for drinks and dinner.
At 8pm, we gather in the Castle Dining Hall (above right) for a sumptuous welcome dinner.
Over coffee, Dr David Starkey will be our after-dinner speaker, taking as his subject: 'Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard: The Queen who did and the Queen who didn't'.
Overnight: Hever Castle
Day 2: Monday, 15th July
In the morning, our coach takes us to Hampton Court Palace, where we will spend the day. Linda Porter will accompany us.
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 Henry VIII’s 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. Henry VIII’s Chapel Royal boasts a superb blue and gold ceiling. Hampton Court Palace also contains 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.
In the morning, Alison Weir will guide our group around the Tudor kitchens, then Siobhan Clarke will lead a tour of the beautiful gardens, the Great Vine and the Royal Tennis Court
There will be free time for an independent lunch, for which we can suggest several options locally or in the palace itself. You may also like to visit Hampton Court's excellent gift shops.
In the afternoon, Siobhan Clarke, wearing authentic Tudor dress, will guide the group with Alison Weir around the Tudor state apartments where Henry VIII and his queens once held court. Afterwards, there will be free time in which to tour the other state apartments with Alison Weir and visit the shops before departing by coach for Hever Castle.
In the evening, there will be an included dinner at the King Henry VIII Inn at Hever (above), a traditional English pub situated in the tiny attractive village of Hever opposite the gates of Hever Castle. The King Henry VIII Inn promises a warm and friendly welcome to all. It is a beautiful "olde English" pub full of traditional character. Under various names there has been a pub on the site of the King Henry VIII Inn since 1597. The present structure dates back to 1647.
Our guest speaker after dinner will be the historian Elizabeth Norton, who will speak about Henry VIII's mistress, Elizabeth Blount.
Overnight: Hever Castle
Day 3: Tuesday, 16th July
In the morning, we depart for the Tower of London, where we will spend the day.
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 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. 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 a prisoner here.
On arrival, Alison Weir will lead an orientation tour, then there will be time to see the Crown Jewels. After lunch, Alison Weir will lead a walking tour around the sites connected with Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, and we hope to enjoy some privileged access to the Royal Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where these unfortunate queens were buried after their executions.
There are various options in or near the Tower for an independent lunch.
After lunch, guests are free to join Alison Weir for a tour of some of the Tower's other historic sites, including those connected to Lady Jane Grey and the Princes in the Tower, or explore at leisure. There is much to see, including the White Tower, where Henry VIII’s armour is on display; the Martin Tower, where Anne’s brother, George Boleyn, may have been held; the Bloody Tower, where Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned; the various other towers with their displays of historic artefacts and inscriptions carved by prisoners; the Medieval Palace; the wall walk; the Yeomen of the Guard (or `Beefeaters`); the famous ravens, the instruments of torture exhibition and the infamous Traitors’ Gate.
The historian Sarah Gristwood now joins the tour.
Later in the afternoon, we return to Hever Castle. In the evening, our coach takes us to the picturesque ancient village of Mayfield in Sussex for an included dinner at The Middle House, a sixteenth-century inn with a reputation for excellent cuisine.
The Middle House, which dominates the High Street, is Grade 1 listed and is described as ‘one of the finest examples of a timber framed building in Sussex'. It is a wonderful example of Elizabethan architecture. Once owned by Sir Thomas Gresham, a keeper of the Privy Purse to Elizabeth I, it is now an elegant old-world inn incorporating a small but luxurious hotel. A private residence until the 1920s, it retains a fireplace by master carver Grinling Gibbons, wattle-and-daub infill, and a splendid Elizabethan oak-panelled restaurant, incorporating a private chapel.
Mayfield is a beautiful village with. buildings of nearly every period. The High Street alone contains 40 buildings officially listed as being of special historical or architectural importance. Mayfield finds it easy to mix folklore and history and The Middle House has numerous tales of its own - from secret priest holes and prison cells to murders and suicides. More importantly, The Middle House is also well known for its exceptionally good food and ambience.
Joining us for the evening is our guest speaker, Dr Tracy Borman, who will speak about 'Elizabeth's Stepmothers: The women who shaped the Virgin Queen
Overnight: Hever Castle
Day 4: Wednesday, 17th July
After checking out of our rooms at Hever Castle, we depart for historic Windsor Castle.
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. You can also see St George's Chapel, one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings in England and the burial place of ten monarchs, including Henry VIII; 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..
In the morning, we will visit the Castle precincts and the State Apartments.
After free time for an independent lunch, Alison Weir will lead our group around St George’s Chapel, Windsor (below), where Henry VIII and Jane Seymour lie buried in the Choir.
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.
While at Windsor Castle, guests may wish to visit the new exhibition, Royal Paintbox: Royal Artists Past and Present. Members of the British Royal family have been inspired to paint, draw and sculpt for generations. On display at the exhibition are examples of their handiwork from the last 350 years.
We then depart from Windsor for Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire, where we will stay for 3 nights.
Thornbury Castle was built by Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, but left unfinished at his execution in 1521, when it was appropriated by the Crown. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn once walked these rooms and grounds, for they stayed here during the progress of 1535.
Thornbury Castle resonates with history and is the only Tudor castle in England to be open as a hotel. Step behind the heavy oak doors and you'll find a magnificent house with roaring fires, delicious modern cuisine and sumptuous bedchambers, beautiful oriel windows, Tudor hall and historic parkland - a truly special setting for your stay. There has been a vineyard within the castle walls for over 500 years, from which Thornbury Castle wine is still produced. Enjoy a regal night's sleep and wake up to a view of the oldest Tudor gardens in England - the Privy Garden and Goodly Garden.
In the evening, we will gather for an included welcome dinner in the castle (above, left).
After dinner, Alison Weir will give a presentation on the portraits of Henry VIII's wives.
Overnight: Thornbury Castle
Day 5: Thursday, 18th July
We spend the day at the picturesque old town of Ludlow, which is dominated by the massive ruins of its ancient castle. Ludlow has been described as ‘the loveliest town in England’. With over 500 listed historic buildings, mainly Georgian or half-timbered, Ludlow is a feast for the eyes.
On arrival, we will visit the medieval Church of St Laurence, where the heart of Prince Arthur is said to be buried; the church was the scene of his obsequies and has a modern stained-glass window commemorating him.
Ludlow is also famous as ‘the gastronomic capital of Shropshire’, and there will be free time for an independent lunch, to enable you to sample its many restaurants and cafes. Above, the renowned La Becasse (left)
If it is open, guests might also like to visit Ludlow Castle Lodge (above), where Katherine of Aragon stayed in 1502 during her marriage to Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales.
In the afternoon, we will have a guided tour of Ludlow Castle, the chief residence of Katherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur during their brief marriage, before his death in 1502.
Ludlow is one of England’s finest ruined medieval castles, set in glorious Shropshire countryside, at the heart of a beautiful and bustling black-and-white market town. The Castle, firstly a Norman fortress, then extended over the centuries to become a fortified royal palace, has ensured Ludlow's place in English history, It was originally built to hold back the unconquered Welsh, and passed through generations of the de Lacy and Mortimer families to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. It became Crown property in 1461 and remained a royal castle for the next 350 years, during which time the Council of the Marches was formed with responsibility for the Government of Wales and the border counties. Abandoned in 1689 the castle quickly fell into ruin, described as 'the very perfection of decay' by Daniel Defoe.
Later in the afternoon, we return to Thornbury Castle. Dinner is independent tonight. Thornbury Castle has always been renowned for its fine food and is the recipient of many prestigious awards. Alternatively, there is a good range of restaurants in the village of Thornbury nearby.
Overnight: Thornbury Castle
Day 6: Friday, 19th July
In the morning , we tour Acton Court, where the little-known Renaissance-style apartments built for the visit of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1535 are a remarkable survival of Tudor 'antick' decoration.
In 1535, Henry VIII came to stay at Acton Court with Anne Boleyn, while on his summer progress around the West Country. The owner of Acton Court, Nicholas Poyntz, wanted to impress his sovereign, so for Henry’s pleasure he built a magnificent new East Wing onto the existing moated manor house. The new wing was a splendid testament to Nicholas Poyntz’s loyalty to his King. He went to immense trouble and expense to impress Henry, decorating the state apartments lavishly and fashionably. Today, the East Wing, which was built in just nine months, comprises most of what remains at Acton Court. It offers a rare example of 16th-century royal state apartments and some Antick Renaissance decorations that are said to be the finest of their kind in England.
We continue to the ancient Saxon town of Winchcombe (above) for an independent lunch. Winchcombe is situated in a beautiful Cotswold valley. The inns, restaurants, tea rooms and shops on its three main streets are full of historic character (above).
After lunch, we visit Sudeley Castle (above and below), the last home of Katherine Parr, who died there in 1548, and whose Victorian tomb may be seen in the chapel. Henry VIII stayed here with Anne Boleyn in 1535. Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Cotswold Hills, Sudeley Castle is steeped in . With royal connections spanning a thousand years, Sudeley has played an important role in the turbulent and changing times of England's past. Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, Queen Elizabeth I and Richard III have all played a part in Sudeley’s story.
The sixteenth-century west wing, which houses the exhibitions and coffee shop, St Mary’s Church, where Katherine Parr lies buried, the award-winning gardens, the Pheasantry and the soaring medieval ruins are open to the public.
The Queen Katherine Parr Exhibition displays unique relics and personal items belonging to Henry VIII’s sixth wife. Rare copies of original books written by Katherine Parr can be seen for the first time. Follow the tale of tragedy and treason in a film presented by David Starkey - ‘The Life and Loves of Katherine Parr, Queen of England and Mistress of Sudeley’, which is shown throughout the exhibition and in the South Hall, and visit Katherine's Privy Chamber. The sixteenth-century west wing also houses replica Tudor costumes associated with David Starkey’s TV series ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’. Visitors may also learn about Henry VIII's visit with Anne Boleyn in 1535 and see a piece of lace work said to be by Anne Boleyn as well as information about Henry's six wives.
We then return to Thornbury Castle, where dinner is independent tonight.
Overnight: Thornbury Castle
Day 7: Saturday, 20th July
In the morning, we check out of Thornbury Castle and depart for Kimbolton Castle, Cambridgeshire, where Katherine of Aragon died in 1536.
All that remains of the earliest known castle in Kimbolton - a wooden motte and bailey fortress, dating from Norman times - is a low mound. A manor house was built on the present castle site in the 13th century, but nothing survives from this period. By the 1520s, the castle belonged to the Wingfield family, who had it rebuilt as a Tudor manor house. Parts of this building can still be seen behind a glass panel in the wall of the Red Room and in the corridor near the Chapel.
In May 1534, after her divorce from Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon arrived at Kimbolton. She spent the last months of her life as a semi-prisoner in her rooms in the south-west corner of the Castle, attended by a few loyal servants, and it was here that she died. We can only guess what the rooms looked like at the time: their present appearance dates from the 18th century, when the house was remodelled. Our private tour will take us to the parts of the castle connected with Katherine.
We continue to the nearby village of Buckden, where there will be free time for lunch. There are good options in the High Street, including the Lion Hotel (centre, dating from 1492) and the George Hotel and Brasserie.
After lunch, we visit Buckden Towers, where Katherine of Aragon was held under house arrest after being banished from court. Here we will enjoy a private tour and tea, coffee and biscuits.
Buckden Towers has a rich history spanning over 900 years. For much of that time, as Buckden Palace, it was home to the bishops of Lincoln. It is listed in the Domesday Survey of 1086, but the existing buildings date from the 12th century. The tall brick tower was added in 1475. Katherine of Aragon was imprisoned here for nearly a year, from 1533 to 1534, after her marriage to Henry VIII was annulled. Little now remains of the bishops' moated palace except the great tower, the inner gatehouse, part of the battlemented wall, which used to surround the inner court within the moat, and the outer gate and wall. The stained-glass window below is in the chapel, and the mosaic depicting Katherine's pomegranate symbol is in the Knot Garden.
We then depart for Peterborough Cathedral, where Katherine of Aragon is buried.
Peterborough Cathedral is one of the finest cathedrals in England, with one of the most dramatic west fronts in the country. The stunning Romanesque interior is little altered since its completion 800 years ago and the whole building has recently undergone cleaning and restoration following a dramatic fire in 2001. The scene of over 1,350 years of Christian worship, this is a treasure-house of religious and historic artefacts. Highlights of any visit include Saxon carvings from the earlier buildings on this site, the unique painted nave ceiling, amazing fan vaulting in the 'new' building, elaborately carved Victorian Choir stalls, and the burial places of two queens, Katharine of Aragon and, for a short time, Mary, Queen of Scots. There is an excellent exhibition in the North Nave Aisle, telling of the history of the Abbey and Cathedral, chronicling its building and its role as a major medieval abbey. The abbey was closed in 1539 on the orders of Henry VIII, but instead of being demolished, like so many monasteries, it was re-launched as the Cathedral of a brand new diocese in 1541 and is still the seat of the Bishop of Peterborough..
From Peterborough, we drive to The George Hotel of Stamford, Lincolnshire, our base for the next two nights.
The George Hotel of Stamford offers luxury accommodation and fine dining of the highest order. It stands on the site of a medieval inn, dating back 1000 years. The magnificent building features original gateways, passageways and the remains of an old chapel.The boutique-style bedrooms are individually designed with modern art and rich fabrics. Many rooms have original features, and all have a luxurious bathroom, and a work desk. Guests can enjoy traditional cream teas in the elegant lounge or courtyard garden. The oak-panelled restaurant serves a creative modern menu, and York Bar offers real ales and light lunches. Guests can enjoy high-quality, traditional and imaginative English cuisine, an outstanding wine list, and 4-star bedrooms with free Wi-Fi. Opposite the hotel is the church where William Cecil, Lord Burghley is buried, and the almshouses he founded.
Stamford has been called the finest stone town in England. Captured in time by its conservation status, this once major wool town has retained much of its old world charm and prosperity. Many of the buildings are constructed from old Lincolnshire limestone, hence the town's distinguished appearance and popularity with tourists and movie directors alike. The town boasts 11 churches, 30 pubs, 20 restaurants and an array of individual shops. Most amenities are within convenient walking of The George Hotel.
In the evening, we gather for an included dinner in the oak-panelled London Room (above, centre) at The George of Stamford.
Joining us will be our guest speaker, best-selling author Mavis Cheek, author of Amenable Women, a novel that gives original insights into the life of Anne of Cleves. Mavis's talk is entitled: 'Loved, despised, loved: The Great Survivor, Anna of Cleves, Fourth Wife of Henry VIII'.
Overnight: The George Hotel of Stamford, Lincs.
Day 8: Sunday, 21st July
In the morning, we visit Gainsborough Old Hall for a guided tour - and step back into the past. This magnificent medieval manor is one of the best in the country and is an evocative reminder of days gone by. It has welcomed several illustrious royal visitors. Both Richard III and Henry VIII were guests of the Burgh family, who originally built and lived in the building. Katherine Howard (whose gown has been recreated, above) came here on progress with Henry VIII in 1541, and is said to have committed adultery here with Thomas Culpeper. Katherine Parr, Henry’s sixth wife, lived here during her first marriage; the Holbein drawing above may depict her in youth. John Wesley worshipped within Gainsborough's walls. The Great Hall with its splendid, arched, wooden roof and oriel window remains at the core of the building and continues to inspire visitors. The kitchens remain virtually unchanged since they were built and those who climb to the top of the brick built tower can enjoy the magnificent vista of both the manor lands and the river Trent.
After the tour, historian Marilyn Roberts (above) will give a short presentation in the West Wing on Katherine Howard's associations with Gainsborough Old Hall, after which she will lead guests up the tower and (if they wish) take them on a short tour of the exterior of the Hall.
From Gainsborough we continue to the great medieval cathedral city of Lincoln.
Lincoln is a delightful and enchanting small city steeped in history, much of it dating back to Roman times. Henry VIII brought Katherine Howard here during his northern progress of 1541. The best-known attraction and landmark is Lincoln Cathedral, closely followed by the Castle and Steep Hill, but beyond that this wonderful city boasts the very fine medieval Bailgate area with ancient buildings: this was the core of the medieval town.
There will be free time to explore the medieval Bailgate, with its shops, inns and cafes, or to walk down quaint Steep Hill to see two rare survivals of twelfth-century Norman houses. There are many options for an independent lunch.
In the afternoon, we will visit the Bishop’s Palace, Lincoln
Begun in the late 12th century, the palace's most impressive feature is the undercrofted West Hall, completed in the 1230s. The artist's impression above shows the hall as it was when Henry VIII and Katherine Howard dined there in 1541. The chapel range and entrance tower were built in the 1430s. Henry VIII stayed here with Katherine Howard during his royal progress to the north, and it was during this visit that Katherine secretly carried on her illicit affair with Thomas Culpeper. The palace was sacked by Royalist troops during the Civil War. Built on hillside terraces, the palace also boasts one of the most northerly working vineyards in Europe, and the Contemporary Heritage Garden, its form inspired by the cathedral's medieval vaulting and the curves of the vines, with trees shaped to echo spires.
Afterwards, there will be free time, and guests might like to accompany Alison Weir for a walk around Lincoln Cathedral, following in the footsteps of Henry VIII and Katherine Howard, who worshipped here in 1541.
Lincoln Cathedral is one of the most important medieval cathedrals in England, if not in Europe. Situated on top of a high hill, it is a prominent landmark visible for miles around. It was first built in 1072 by William the Conqueror. In 1185, an earthquake caused structural damage to the existing building. St Hugh of Avalon, Bishop of Lincoln from 1186 to 1200, rebuilt the Cathedral in the Gothic style, with pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses. This gave it the elegance and sense of space we see today, and made possible bigger windows for stained glass and larger roof spans. The famous Angel Choir – where Henry VIII’s ancestress, Katherine Swynford, lies buried (above, right) - was consecrated in 1280. At 271’, the central tower remains the tallest cathedral tower in Europe without a spire. Visitors will be inspired by the splendour of this imposing building.
Later in the afternoon, we return to The George Hotel of Stamford.
Our guest speaker tonight is David Baldwin, who will tell us about the fascinating life of Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, the woman who just might have become Henry VIII's seventh wife.
Dinner is independent tonight. The Oak Panelled Restaurant offers fine dining, the Garden Room Restaurant offers a more informal and relaxed experience, while the York Bar offers high-quality pub food. There are also many restaurants and inns in Stamford itself, within a short walk of the hotel. Overnight: The George Hotel of Stamford, Lincs.
Day 9: Monday, 22nd July
After checking out of The George Hotel of Stamford, we drive eastwards into East Anglia, where we enter the county of Norfolk, the ancestral heartland of the Boleyns. village as early as 1318, only coming to prominence in the fifteenth century. Later in the morning, we have arranged a private tour of Blickling Hall, the probable birthplace of Anne Boleyn.
Blickling Hall is one of England's greatest Jacobean show-piece mansions. It is a beautiful place, surrounded by woods, farms, sweeping parkland, and gardens that were old in the fifteenth century, and which once surrounded the fifteenth-century moated manor house of the Boleyn family, the predecessor of the present building. That house is long gone, but it was in its day the cradle of a remarkable dynasty; and here, in those ancient gardens, and within the mellow, red-brick gabled house, in the dawning years of the sixteenth century, Anne Boleyn was born and spent her early childhood. Her great-grandfather, Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, had purchased a medieval house on the site in 1452. He rebuilt it, and his house in turn was incorporated into the present Jacobean mansion One of England’s great stately homes, Blickling is famed for its spectacular long gallery, superb plasterwork ceilings and fine collections of furniture, pictures and tapestries. Here we are arranging a guided tour. The gardens are full of colour throughout the year and the extensive parkland features a lake and a series of beautiful walks.
There will be time for an independent lunch, either at the Courtyard Café in the grounds of the Hall, or at the nearby Buckinghamshire Arms, an old inn serving good food.
After lunch, we drive south to London’s West End and the four-star Bloomsbury Hotel, our base for the last night of the tour.
Situated near Covent Garden, and not far from the West End, the Bloomsbury Hotel is a magnificent neo-Georgian listed building designed by the renowned British architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. Lavishly refurbished, and recently restored to its original glory and grandeur, it blends the high end of contemporary design with traditional elegance. This is a classic location from which to explore the myriad of treasures of Bloomsbury, whether it's the British Museum (which is literally around the corner), the shopping haven of Oxford Street, the West End theatres and night life, the bustle of Covent Garden or the nearby magnificent Georgian terraces and tree-lined squares of Bloomsbury, which makes The Bloomsbury Hotel the perfect London hotel.
At 7pm, we depart for Embankment Pier, where we embark for an included farewell drinks reception and luxury Bateaux London dinner cruise on the River Thames – a great way to see the historic sights of London, illuminated by night.
Offering the freshest food, breath-taking river views, live entertainment and professional service, a Thames dinner cruise with Bateaux London provides the perfect indulgence. Specialising in modern British cuisine, guests on board dinner cruises experience the energy and enthusiasm of the Bateaux London team reflected in all aspects, from the quality and presentation of the food to the professional and friendly service. A platter of musical delights is performed during the dinner cruise by the resident band, which comprises of some of London's finest musicians. The highlight of our dinner cruises is the after-dinner dancing with music spanning five decades. Cruising past some of London's famous attractions whilst dining on board either the Symphony or Naticia, a Bateaux London dinner cruise is a memorable experience not to be missed when visiting London. (Please note that smart formal dress is essential, with jackets and ties for gentlemen.)
Overnight: Bloomsbury Hotel
Day 10: Tuesday, 23rd July
The Tour ends after breakfast.
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