2014 Best of Britain 9 Days/8 Nights
Start your tour at Heathrow Airport with a transfer to your hotel in Windsor. At 2:30 pm depart your hotel to visit Windsor Castle, residence of The Queen and the largest inhabited castle in the world. See the lavishly decorated State Apartments and courtyards. In the evening meet your tour director and trip participants over a welcome drink to discuss your itinerary before dining in your hotel and take a brief walk around the town afterwards.
Head out into the English countryside today and travel through the delightful Cotswolds. This region was important in the Middle Ages when the wool produced was vital to the economy. Most of the villages date back centuries and are built in the local warm-toned stone. Stop in one of the villages to take photos before driving to Stratford-upon-Avon. Here visit Shakespeare's Birthplace to see an exhibition about his life and work. Then enter the house where he was born to see rooms furnished as they would have been in his day. Drive north to Yorkshire and check in to your charming traditional hotel in central Harrogate.
Drive to nearby York for a walking tour through medieval streets to see black and white half-timbered houses. Stroll along the Shambles, one of narrowest alleyways where the overhanging upper floors almost form an arch across the street. Tour the stately York Minster, which towers over the old city and is renowned for magnificent stained glass windows. Travel north through the Northumberland National Park and pause in Jedburgh to view picturesque abbey ruins. Continue through the hilly countryside of the Scottish Borders to Edinburgh where your hotel is set in spacious grounds a few miles outside the city. Enjoy a lively Scottish Evening with dinner and entertainment.
Explore central Edinburgh this morning, starting in the 200-year-old “New Town” with its planned streets and elegant Georgian houses where many famous writers and inventors lived. See the Royal Mile where the medieval houses are clustered closely together with homes high as 11 floors. Tour the massive Edinburgh Castle to see the Crown Jewels of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny and enjoy great city views. The afternoon is free for independent activities. You may like to visit some of the many museums or browse in the little shops along the Royal Mile. On August 03 to 17 departures watch the spectacular Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the Castle Esplanade.
Stop in Gretna Green, the first village across the border from England where eloping couples used to cross into Scotland to be married at the Old Blacksmith's Shop. It is a popular shopping stop for quality Scottish goods. Drive through the Lake District, a region associated with Beatrix Potter. See stunning views of lakes, gentle hills and valleys. Stop in Grasmere where William Wordsworth penned some of his popular lines and you can see his grave in the village churchyard. Continue to Liverpool to visit The Beatles Story where you can hear their music and learn about their lives and work. Check in to your centrally-located hotel and after dinner you may head to the world-famous Cavern Club.
Drive south through Shropshire, one of the most unspoiled parts of rural England and close to the Welsh border. Stop in Ludlow, a town that can trace its origins back 900 years, to see the huge castle and old black-and-white houses. Continue south through the lovely Welsh countryside to visit the picturesque ruins of Tintern Abbey, founded in 1131. It was a prosperous Cistercian abbey which thrived until it was dissolved in 1536 by order of King Henry VIII. In the 18th century it became a popular haunt of the poet, William Wordsworth. Continue to Cardiff, the youngest and fastest-growing capital city in Europe. Visit Cardiff Castle, which dates back nearly 2,000 years. See the 19th century fairy-tale apartments with ornate decorations and then enjoy a great Welsh banquet right in the Castle.
Take a panoramic tour around the highlights of Cardiff including the older buildings as well as the iconic Wales Millennium Centre. A short drive will bring you to the spa city of Bath, popular for its natural hot springs with the Romans 2,000 years ago and again in the 18th century Regency period. Visit the Roman Baths and Pump Room, wonderfully preserved after two millennia, with hot springs still sending out healing waters. At Salisbury Plain marvel at the prehistoric circle of vast monoliths of Stonehenge and learn about the primitive builders who managed to create such an enduring monument. Continue into London and check in to your hotel.
Today explore London on an independent open-top sightseeing bus tour - you have a choice of routes around London's famous landmarks so you may get on and off wherever you wish. There is also a walking tour and a River Thames cruise. Visit either the Tower of London to view the magnificent Crown Jewels or Kensington Palace, home of Princess Diana. There is no shortage of great things to see and do and the bus routes go through many popular shopping districts, if you wish to buy souvenirs. In the evening you are free for dinner.
Take a transfer to Heathrow Airport in time for check in formalities. Transfers to Gatwick Airport can be arranged at additional cost.
B: Breakfast; L: Lunch; D: Dinner