England’s rich medieval history unfolds as you journey from The Borders to the bustling heart of London. Discover iconic strongholds, enchanting castles, and lavish Great Houses that speak of a time when England’s leaders fiercely guarded their realms against external threats and internal strife.
Explore historical residences first mentioned in the Domesday Book, the nation’s earliest public record commissioned in 1085. While traversing Derbyshire, tread the path of Jane Eyre, visiting cinematic landmarks and delving into the inspirations behind Charlotte Brontë’s literary masterpiece.
Witness the architectural prowess of Berwick-upon-Tweed’s Elizabethan defenses, the Roman origins of London’s City Walls, and the intricate design of the star-shaped Tilbury Fort. Immerse yourself in UNESCO-recognized wonders such as Durham Castle and Cathedral, the Tower of London, and the majestic Blenheim Palace.
Embark on this historical holiday in England alongside Professor Patrick Allitt, renowned for his Great Courses lectures. With an intimate group of just 13 enthusiasts, meander through England’s lesser-trodden paths and spend four enriching days exploring the grandeur of the Great Houses and regal palaces near London.
Cap off your educational tour with a stay at the 14th-century Langley Castle, now transformed into a luxury hotel.
Read the full itinerary below. If you have any questions, please contact us.
Depart for Edinburgh.
Arrive Edinburgh. Drive south to Berwick-upon-Tweed, overlooking the mouth of the River Tweed as it empties into the North Sea. Today it is the northernmost town in England. Its strategic position on the Anglo-Scottish border, along with its immense wealth due to the export of wool and grain to Flanders and beyond, led to more than 400 years of wars between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland. In the early 14th century, Edward I built town walls following his capture of the city from the Scots. And by 1560 under Elizabeth I, new defenses were erected. As a result, what still stands is one of the best-preserved examples of fortified walls in Europe. We will walk the town fortifications and view the bastions and Elizabethan ramparts. Continue to Chathill where we will spend two nights in the timeless elegance of Doxford Hall, a 200-year old English mansion house. (L/D)
The dramatic Norman castle of Bamburgh sits atop a towering dolerite outcrop. One of several fortresses defending the rugged Northumberland coastline, it has stood guard for over 1,400 years. In 1894, philanthropist William George Armstrong purchased Bamburgh and set about transforming it into his vision of the archetypal castle-palace. While there, we will meet privately with Graeme Young, director of the Bamburgh Research Project. Since 1996 archaeologists have been working to uncover the history of the castle and its environs, and Graeme will discuss the discoveries. Then it’s on to Lindisfarne Castle constructed as defense against attack from both the Scots and Norsemen. Located on Holy Island, Lindisfarne looks to be the perfect medieval fortress today. However, it is actually a 20th-century restoration of a Tudor fort. In 1902 publishing magnate, Edward Hudson, bought the property. Then he converted the Elizabethan fort into a fanciful castle as he wanted a comfortable vacation residence far from the stir of London life. Time permitting, we will stop by Preston Pele Tower, a small fortified keep. These defensive structures were built along the English and Scottish borders and are unique to the north of England. NOTE: This day’s itinerary will be dependent upon the tides as the causeway to Holy Island is underwater at high tide. (B/L/D)
Labeled the Windsor of the North, Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in the country. It has been the home of the noble Percy family since 1309. In the interior, the glorious medieval architecture is combined with splendid Italianate State Rooms. In addition, the Castle’s rich history overflows with drama, conspiracy, and extraordinary people. This includes medieval England’s most celebrated knight, Harry Hotspur. In recent years this astounding castle has been featured in Downton Abbey and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter films. After visiting, we will continue to Langley Castle, a superbly restored tower house that is our home for the next two nights. The construction of this castle began in 1350 for Sir Thomas De Lucy, one of King Edward III’s favorite knights. Thereafter, it offered protection for his family during times of war with the Scots. We will be served traditional afternoon tea when we arrive. And afterwards, we walk the battlements on a behind-the-scenes tour just for us. NOTE: Rooms confirmed here are ‘castle view’ that are in a building overlooking the castle. If you would like to upgrade to one of the limited number of stunning rooms within the castle. please call Far Horizons. These rooms are on a first come-first serve basis. (B/L/D)
We will have time to relax in this incredible fortified palace before we depart in the late morning for the short drive to Durham. The city is renowned for its UNESCO World Heritage Castle and Cathedral. Durham Cathedral, the Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St. Cuthbert of Durham, was built in 1093. The home of the Shrine of St. Cuthbert, the patron saint of Northumbria, the saint’s relics are enshrined behind the altar. Sitting opposite the sanctuary, Durham Castle was begun in 1072, shortly after the Norman conquest of England. William the Conqueror built the fortification to house the Bishop of Durham. Since 1837, the University College, Durham has occupied the space. We will tour both the Castle and Cathedral before returning to Langley castle for dinner and overnight. (B/L/D)
The history of Norton Conyers begins in the era of the Domesday Book, 1086. At that time, this estate was owned by the Bishop of Durham. However, in the 10th century, in exchange for their feudal pledge of service, the Bishop granted the manor house to the Norton family. And almost one thousand years later, descendants of the family still reside here. A pleasing blend of historic styles, the outside presents Dutch-style gables while the inside rooms are adorned with Georgian plaster work. Nearby is the estate’s lovely 18th-century walled garden surrounding an Orangery. Upon arrival, Sir James and Lady Graham will open their home and gardens for us for a privately arranged tour. While here, we will climb 80 steps to the attic to see the chamber where a madwoman is reputed to have been confined. She was thought to be the inspiration for Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre. In the afternoon, we continue to Markenfield Hall, safeguarded by a still working moat. To enter we will pass over a bridge secured by a 16th-century Tudor gatehouse. Markenfield is the seat of the Grantley family and the family home of the widow of the 7th Lord Grantley and her second husband. We will enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the house and grounds, normally closed to the public, and sit down to tea before departing. Our home tonight is The White Hart located in the center of Harrogate’s stylish Montpellier Quarter. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Bess of Hardwick, wife of Sir William Cavendish (and her second husband), began the design and construction of Chatsworth House in 1553. Since then, the estate has been passed down through sixteen generations of the Cavendish family. Today, it is the residence of Peregrine Cavendish, the 12th Duke of Devonshire, and his wife, Amanda Heywood-Lonsdale. Inside, we will gaze upon the priceless works of art that have been collected over the many centuries. Additionally, we will stroll through the gardens, covering more than 100 acres. In Fukunaga’s adaptation of the Jane Eyre movie, Chatsworth House is the setting for Jane’s first meeting with Edward Rochester. We then move on to Hardwick Hall, the last home of Bess of Hardwick after the death of her fourth husband. Hardwick is a leading example of the Elizabethan prodigy house. These eye-catching country houses were built by courtiers of Elizabeth I and other wealthy English. Architecturally the mansion is unique featuring huge glass windows. Inside is an exceptional collection of paintings, 16th century furniture, and a large collection of tapestries, lace, and needlwork, many fabricated by Bess herself. (B/L/D)
The imposing Peveril Castle stands high above the village of Castleton in the heart of the Peak District. The keep was erected by Henry II in 1176 and is one of the earliest Norman fortresses in England. It was recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086, and was the main caput, or settlement, of the feudal barony of William Peverel. We will climb the hill to explore the remains. Then we move on to Haddon Hall, a 12th century fortified manor. William Peverel held the property in 1087, according to the Domesday Book survey. For more than 200 years, from the reign of Queen Anne to the late 19th Century, the owners closed up the house choosing to live at their main seat, Belvoir Castle, Due to this hiatus, it is touted as being the most perfect house to survive from the Middle Ages. Inside, the untouched rooms display furnishings from the 14th century to early Elizabethan period. In 1996, Haddon Hall was the film location for Franco Zeffirelli’s Jane Eyre and most recently in the latest Jane Eyre film by Fukunaga. Dinner and overnight for two nights at the Wentbridge House, a graceful country mansion set in 20 acres of gardens. (B/L/D)
Our day begins at Bolsover, a fairy-tale 17th-century keep enclosed in an earlier fort. Originally founded in the late 11th century by William Peveril, the castle was allowed to go to ruin 300 years later. Then in 1612, Sir Charles Cavendish began the construction of ‘The Little Castle’ within the picturesque remains. Later, his son completed the fanciful retreat with vibrant wall paintings and exquisitely carved fireplaces. If available, we will see the magnificent indoor Riding School dramatically brought to life as the Cavalier Horses perform the precise movements of dressage. We move on to Newstead Abbey, founded as the Priory of St. Mary of Newstead. King Henry II of England funded the construction as one of many penances he paid following the murder of Thomas Becket. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, it was converted to private ownership and is best known as the ancestral home of Lord Byron. Inside the Abbey we will walk through the Victorian rooms and the poet’s private apartments. Our home for one night is the Bedford Swan overlooking the Great River Ouse in the market town of Bedford. (B/L/D)
On the outskirts of London, we will enter Tilbury, an artillery fort on the north bank of the River Thames. King Henry VIII constructed the earliest version to protect London from the seaward approach by the French. It was reinforced during the 1588 Spanish Armada invasion scare, and Parliamentary forces used it to help secure the capital during the English Civil War of the 1640s. Later it was enlarged to form a distinctive star-shaped defensive work, with bastions, a circuit of moats, and two lines of guns facing onto the river.
We then drive into the city to the Tower of London, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. William the Conqueror built this immense stone barbican at the center of his London fortress almost 1,000 years ago. Officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, this historic castle now houses the Crown Jewels. While in the area, we will observe the remains of the fortification walls first built by the Romans to safeguard the port town of Londinium. Return to Windsor for dinner on our own and overnight. (B/L/ )
Windsor, the oldest and longest-occupied palace in Europe. It was originally built in the 11th century to protect Norman dominance around the outskirts of London and to protect a strategically important part of the River Thames. In the 13th century, Henry III built a luxurious royal palace within the castle, and since that time it has been used as a royal court by the reigning monarch. The castle is part of the Occupied Royal Palaces Estate and is owned by Queen Elizabeth II. And over the years, the sovereign has used the castle as her weekend home. It is also often used for state banquets and official events. We will spend the day here. Lunch is on our own. (B/ /D)
Blenheim Palace, one of the largest mansions in England and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is our destination today. Built in the early 18th century, this Great House was a gift from Queen Anne to John Churchill for his decisive defeat of the French in 1704. The greatest artists and craftsmen worked on the elegant interior. The state apartments contain fine collections of paintings, tapestries, and furniture along with Churchill personal relics. The sixty acres of formal gardens were designed by Henry Wise and Capability Brown. And within the park, the Marlborough Maze celebrates that Duke’s victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. It ingeniously incorporates his trappings of war – cannonballs, trumpets and flags. and a V sign in honor of Winston Churchill, who was born at the palace in 1874. (B/L/ )
Today we explore Hampton Court. The original palace was begun by Cardinal Wolsey in the early 16th century. However, it soon attracted the attention of Henry VIII, and in 1529, the cardinal gave the palace to the king. The palace went on to become one of Henry’s most favored residences. Lunch is on our own. Dinner and overnight at the Raddison Blu Hotel at London Heathrow. (B/ /D)
Morning flight home. (B)
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.
Please remember that most castles are on mountain tops and to reach them means climbing stairs.As befitting the theme of the trip, Many of the meals and overnights will be in carefully chosen unique hotels, a castle, and elegant country mansions. Remember that hotel rooms in England – especially in city centers – are often smaller than those in the United States. There are a limited number of stunning rooms within Langley Castle; climbing stairs is necessary to reach them. If you would like to be upgraded to a larger room or suite at an additional cost, please contact the Far Horizons office. Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. Your understanding and flexibility in this matter is greatly appreciated.