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A Journey to the Literary Heart of England


Day 1

Fly Hometown to London

Welcome to England and the grand old city of London. Upon arrival this morning, we will be met by our local guide and transferred to our hotel. This afternoon we join our guide and begin our journey to discover the literary heart of England. The iconic writers that lived and gained inspiration by all that was English are legendary: William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen, the Oxford writers, Tolkien and Lewis, the Bronte sisters and so many others that are now part of the collective culture of the English speaking world. Their stories, in all sorts of formats - books, films, television series and even ebooks - entertain generation after generation -- seeing their birthplaces, schools, writing rooms, and final homes will be fascinating.

Our afternoon tour will take us to London’s famous landmarks. We visit the colorful "West End" with its well-known shopping streets and elegant parks. We travel on through both the City of Westminster and the City of London, the oldest part of the capital and home to the financial district. During the course of the tour, we will see all the highlights of the city, Buckingham Palace and the Mall, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square with Nelson's Column, Number 10 Downing Street, The Houses of Parliament & Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

This evening we join our group for a fun welcome dinner at the historic and charming Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Tavern where back in the day Goldsmith, Twain, Tennyson and even Charles Dickens were known to be “regulars.”

Meal Plan Dinner
Duration3 Nights
Day 2

London

We begin our literary immersion with a visit to the Charles Dicken’s Museum, the author's only surviving London home where he lived for two years while writing Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist.

The museum holds an important collection of paintings, rare editions, manuscripts and furniture relating to Dickens. Our next stop is to the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Though technically located between 237 and 241 Baker Street, the museum proudly de declares its address as 221b Baker Street in honor of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective. This homage to one of literature's most famous sleuths can be found just off the southwest corner of Regent's Park, and fans of all things Holmes will enjoy the small museum filled with period exhibits, Holmes memorabilia, and a mock-up of the detective's study looking onto the street.

Our next stop is to the world-renowned British Library where will meet our expert guide for a visit to see some of the Libraries most beloved treasures. With more than 150 million items in its collection, including manuscripts that date back 4,000 years, the British Library is the second largest library in the world, behind the Library of Congress. Our guide will take us to the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, just to the right of the main entrance, to view the Library's stunning archival collection, which includes the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, original copies of Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, Jane Eyre, and Shakespeare's First Folio, and select works from Jane Austen to the Beatles. We then get to go behind the scenes to see the Conservation Studio and view the highly trained conservators at work. And then it is time to relax and join together for a traditional ‘afternoon tea’ at the Library in the midst of literary genius.

Our final visit today is at Westminster Abbey. The list of famous people interred in Westminster Abbey is lengthy, to put it mildly, and Poets' Corner in the South Transept serves as a kind of literary hall of fame. Geoffrey Chaucer's tomb was placed here in 1556 as a kind of happy accident (he was recognized for his service as Clerk of Works, not as an author) that created Poets' Corner, which has since served as a memorial to Britain's greatest cultural contributors. Henry Francis Clay, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Laurence Olivier, Edmund Spenser, and Alfred Tennyson are all interred here, and there are also several monuments commemorating famous writers whose remains are elsewhere, most notably Shakespeare, who is buried in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Our evening is free to explore London on our own.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 3

London

After breakfast this morning we transfer to Bloomsbury, a neighborhood steeped in literary history where we meet our guide for a fascinating stroll along quiet streets. Our first stop is at Bloomsbury Square garden which was a meeting place for writers during the 1920s and '30s known as the Bloomsbury Group, a highly influential group of writers that counted Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, and E.M. Forster as members. W.B. Yeats, Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot, and Bram Stoker all lived in the area at one point.

From Bloomsbury it is a short walk to the British Museum where we have the rest of the morning to explore the galleries and halls of this world-renowned institution.

This afternoon we are off to Keats House on the edge of Hampstead Heath.

John Keats lived in this house with his friend Charles Brown for almost two years, where he is said to have written “Ode to a Nightingale.” Keats moved to Italy in 1820 as his tuberculosis deteriorated, leaving his fiancée Fanny Brawne in England, and the house was inhabited by various London celebrities throughout the rest of the 19th century. We have time to visit the Keats Museum which is housed in the adjacent coach house and showcases a collection of Keats' letters, the engagement ring Keats gave Brawne, and a copy of the poet's death mask.

Tonight a special double treat with dinner and a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
In a city full of landmarks, the Globe Theatre is one of London's most iconic spots. While the modern reconstruction is not even 20 years old, the recreation of the 1599 theatre has been painstakingly modeled after the original space that Lord Chamberlain's Men called home. The original Globe caught fire in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII and was rebuilt the following year, before the Puritans shuttered it in 1642.

Meal Plan Breakfast and Dinner
Day 4

London - Oxford - Salisbury

From Bloomsbury it is a short walk to the British Museum where we have the rest of the morning to explore the galleries and halls of this world-renowned institution.

This afternoon we are off to Keats House on the edge of Hampstead Heath. John Keats lived in this house with his friend Charles Brown for almost two years, where he is said to have written “Ode to a Nightingale.” Keats moved to Italy in 1820 as his tuberculosis deteriorated, leaving his fiancée Fanny Brawne in England, and the house was inhabited by various London celebrities throughout the rest of the 19th century. We have time to visit the Keats Museum which is housed in the adjacent coach house and showcases a collection of Keats' letters, the engagement ring Keats gave Brawne, and a copy of the poet's death mask.

Tonight a special double treat with dinner and a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
In a city full of landmarks, the Globe Theatre is one of London's most iconic spots. While the modern reconstruction is not even 20 years old, the recreation of the 1599 theatre has been painstakingly modeled after the original space that Lord Chamberlain's Men called home. The original Globe caught fire in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII and was rebuilt the following year, before the Puritans shuttered it in 1642.

After lunch we hop back on board our coach and head to Stonehenge for a tour of one of the ancient wonders of the modern world. From here it is a short drive to Salisbury with its magnificent cathedral home of the Magna Carta. Salisbury also has many literary connections with Thomas Hardy, Dickens, Rutherford and Golding.

Meal Plan Breakfast and Lunch
Duration1 Night
Day 5

Salisbury - Chawton - Winchester

A leisurely drive this morning takes us along winding country roads to the village of Steventon, the birthplace of Jane Austen. We will see the church where her father preached and the remains of the vicarage where she lived.

Chawton Village is a haven for Jane Austen fans, with her childhood home now an extensive museum that we take time to explore. The village church contains the graves of both her mother and sister and is situated next to her brother’s beautiful manor house. Jane published four of her most famous novels while living in Chawton - Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were also written while she lived there but published posthumously. Our overnight is in Winchester once the capital of England under Alfred the Great and the final resting place of Jane Austen. Here we will visit her grave and view King Arthur’s round Table in the Great Hall.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Duration1 Night
Day 6

Winchester - Bath - Cotswolds - Stratford

Our first stop this morning is in the Georgian city of Bath, a world heritage site and an architectural gem with the highest concentration of ‘listed’ (meaning historically significant) buildings in the British Isles. Our guided walking tour will reveal the secrets of the Circus, Royal Crescent and the Roman Baths. We will also visit the Jane Austen Centre with exhibits highlighting her time spent in the city. We continue our journey passing through the picturesque villages of the Cotswolds with its gorgeous hamlets, atmospheric churches and quintessentially English countryside for which the Cotswolds are so well known. Our final stop for the day is in Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home town. Anne Hathaway was the bard’s wife and her cottage is a classic English country thatched cottage which we will explore before arriving at our hotel. Tonight is a free night or why not take in a performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theater.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Duration1 Night
Day 7

Stratford - Knutsford - Haworth - Yorkshire

After an early breakfast, we check out of our hotel and leave Stratford en route to Knutsford. Originally a Viking town, Knutsford is now a shrine for those who love the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell such as Cranford. We tour the town and see her home and some of the sites mentioned in her novels. From here our next stop in Haworth and home of the The Brontë sisters - Charlotte (Jane Eyre), Emily (Wuthering Heights) and Anne (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall) - their dissolute brother Branwell and their father, Anglo-Irish clergyman, Patrick, all lived and wrote in the Parsonage of the Yorkshire West Ridings village of Haworth. The house, now open to the public as a museum, will give us a sense of the claustrophobic and reclusive atmosphere the Brontës inhabited. No wonder their only escape was through the overwrought romanticism of their fevered imaginations.

From Haworth we continue north passing the windswept moors that the Bronte’s brought so vividly to ‘life’ in their novels on our way to Yorkshire and the town of Thirsk where we make a short visit to the Veterinary Clinic where James Herriott practiced before writing ‘All Creatures Great and Small.’

Meal Plan Breakfast
Duration1 Night
Day 8

Yorkshire - Lake District

A day of filled with romance and imagination! We cross the stunning Yorkshire Dales passing isolated farming communities James Herriott described in his books and arrive in England’s idyllic Lake District.

If, like the 19th-century Romantic poet William Wordsworth, the sight of a field of golden daffodils has ever cheered your lonely hours, our visit to Dove Cottage in Grasmere will be a highlight. Wordsworth lived there for eight years with his wife Mary and sister Dorothy. It was on a walk with Dorothy in the Lake District countryside nearby that he spotted the famous field of nodding flowers that inspired his poem, Lonely as a Cloud, known by most people simply as The Daffodils. While at Dove Cottage, Wordsworth was visited by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and other figures in the 19th-century Romantic Movement. The modest cottage is part of a complex that includes a museum and a research center containing the poet's archives which our guide will explain on our informative tour. Our final stop before arriving at our hotel is at Hill Top, the idyllic rural retreat of Beatrix Potter deep in the heart of the Lakes. In the nearby village of Hawkshead her husband’s office has been made into the Beatrix Potter Gallery displaying many of her drawings of characters such as Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher and Jemima Puddleduck.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Duration1 Night
Day 9

Lake District - Edinburgh

This morning we enter the Southern Highlands of Scotland with our first stop in Abbotsford, the home of Walter Scott. We take time to view the immense collection of historic relics, weapons and armour and over 9,000 rare books. We also take time to visit the 15th century Rosslyn Chapel filled with carvings and masonic symbols. It first came to literary prominence in a poem by Walter Scott and more recently featured as the resting place of the Holy Grail in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. From here it is just a short drive to Edinburgh for our2 night stay.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Duration2 Nights
Day 10

Edinburgh

Edinburgh, has been designated a UNESCO city of literature so what better way to end our journey in a place with a wealth of literary associations. We begin at Edinburgh Castle, the formidable fortress at the top of the Royal Mile for a guided tour. Then we wind our way down from the castle to the Writers Museum for an up close look at the life and times of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Along the way, we will also view important historic sites that have made Edinburgh one of the most fascinating cities in the world. No literary tour to Edinburgh would be complete without a stop at the Elephant Café where J.K. Rowling created Harry Potter. And then there are the recognizable sights associated with Murial Sparks, Miss Jean Brodie and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes that we cannot miss.

After a full day of Scottish literary immersion, we end our day and our time in the UK with a sumptuous ‘farewell’ dinner at a popular local restaurant.

Meal Plan Breakfast and Dinner
Day 11

Depart Edinburgh

We transfer to the airport to connect with our flights home.

Meal Plan Breakfast

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