England’s Castles, Battlements, and Stately Homes
England Tour: Impregnable fortifications, fairy-tale castles, and opulent Great Houses
with Professor Patrick N. Allitt
July 21-Aug 3, 2023
Why Take This Tour of England?
- Led by Patrick N. Allitt, a Great Courses lecturer
- Cross the causeway to Holy Island, only accessible during low tide
- Enjoy a private tour of the excavations at Bamburgh Castle
- Special opening of Norton Conyers, a medieval manor house
- Private entry to the 14th century moat-enclosed Markenfield Hall,
- Spent two nights in Langley Castle, a refurbished 14th century tower house
- See three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Durham Castle and Cathedral, Tower of London, and Blenheim Palace
- Limited to 14 participants
Day 1: Depart the USA
Day 2: Arrive Edinburgh. Berwick-upon-Tweed’s Fortifications
Day 3: Bamburgh Castle. Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island
Day 4: Alnwick Castle & The Northumberland Collection. Langley Castle
Day 5: Durham Castle and Cathedral
Day 6: Norton Conyers. Markenfield Hall
Day 7: Peveril Castle. Haddon Hall
Day 8: Chatsworth House & Gardens. Bolsover Castle
Day 9: Hardwick Hall. Newstead abbey
Day 10: Tilbury Fort. Buckingham Palace.
Day 11: Tower of London, London walls. Hampton Court
Day 12: Full day in Windsor Castle
Day 13: Blenheim Palace and maze
Day 14: Depart for the USA.
Impregnable fortifications, fairy-tale castles, and opulent Great Houses await you while traveling from The Borders to the city of London. During the trip, relish England’s medieval history and its leaders’ struggles to protect themselves against foreign and domestic invaders. Enter manor houses and fortified palaces first recorded in the Domesday Book, Britain’s earliest public record, commissioned in 1085. While in Derbyshire, pursue Jane Eyre as we visit real-life locations spotlighted in films and learn about the inspiration for the ‘madwoman’ in Charlotte Brontë’s novel. See Berkwick-upon-Tweed’s Elizabethan Fortifications, London’s City Walls originally constructed by the Romans, and the superb star-shaped Tilbury Fort. Walk through Durham Castle and Cathedral, Tower of London, and Blenheim Palace, all UNESCO properties. And spend the night in the 14th century tower house, Langley Castle, now an elegant hotel.
Won’t you join Professor Patrick Allitt, of Great Courses fame, and only 13 others for this extraordinary venture through sometimes remote areas of England with four days spent visiting the magnificent Great Houses and royal palaces near London.
Patrick N. Allitt is the Cahoon Family Professor of American History, Emory University. He received his BA in British and European History, Oxford University, and both his MA and PhD in American History from the University of California, Berkeley. He held postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard Divinity School and Princeton University. Professor Allitt was honored with Emory’s Excellence in Teaching Award and in 2000 was appointed to the N.E.H./Arthur Blank Professorship of Teaching in the Humanities. A widely published and award-winning author, Dr. Allitt also is the presenter of 11 lecture series for The Great Courses, including The Great Tours: England, Scotland, and Wales (36 lectures), and Victorian Britain (36 lectures).
Itinerary for 2023 being revised
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 2: 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)
Day 3: 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)
Day 4: 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)
Day 5: 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)
Day 6: 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)
Day 7: 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)
Day 8: 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 needlework, many fabricated by Bess herself. (B/L/D)
Day 9: 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)
Day 10: 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. Continue to Buckingham Palace, the London residence and administrative headquarters of Queen Elizabeth II. Although we won’t be able to view all 775 rooms, we will admire the celebrated royal State Rooms, furnished with some of the greatest treasures of the Royal Collection. In the company of an expert guide, walk through these lavish rooms and learn the history of the crowned heads who designed them. Dinner is on our own to try one of London’s excellent restaurants. Overnight for three nights in the Radisson Blu Hampshire. (B/L/ )
Day 11: 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)
Day 12: 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/ )
Day 13: The Tower of London is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and where we begin our day. 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. In the afternoon, we move on to 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)
Day 14: Morning flight to USA. (B)
$10,595.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes all hotels, meals as noted, entry fees, gratuities to driver and guides, and all ground transportation. Price is based upon the exchange rate for the British pound not going over 1.38. If a fluctuation raises the pound, the final price may go up.
Single Supplement: $1,695.00. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement will be charged.
Cost Does Not Include: International flights to Edinburgh, Scotland and returning from London; a donation as outlined below; beverages or food not on regular menus; passport fees; necessary vaccines and tests; airport departure taxes; laundry; excess baggage charges and other items of a personal nature.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
Donation Checks: 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 projects, and museums 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 contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person and is made by check directly to the donation project. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable. We will be designating a donation project for this trip shortly.
A deposit of $750.00 and the separate donation of $150.00 are required along with your registration form. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information. Prior to the trip, we will send links to various websites of pertinent interest to the trip. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellations and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $450.00 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. Insurance recommended by Far Horizons can be seen here
International flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If you do not arrive or depart on the scheduled days, you are responsible for all transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. 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.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
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 onsite when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Note about Traveling on this Tour Itinerary
The itinerary is designed for energetic people in good health who like to be active and have a spirit of exploration. All group members must be physically active and able to walk independently and unassisted for distances that could exceed two miles or more each day. Please remember that most castles are on mountain tops and to reach them means climbing stairs. As a courtesy to your fellow travelers, you must be able to keep up with the group during the daily outings. If you are not physically strong, are walking with a cane, or have problems with climbing, please be aware that there will be no one to assist you. The adventurous nature of the itinerary makes it essential that participants be in good physical condition and have the ability to maintain a flexible attitude. A positive attitude, team spirit and a sense of humor are essential! If you have questions about your ability to handle this sort of challenge, please call us.
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.
THIS CASTLES TOUR TO ENGLAND IS LIMITED TO 14 PARTICIPANTS