Downton Abbey & England’s Stately Homes
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- Partake in an exclusive private group tour of Highclere Castle, followed by a glass of Champagne
- Explore the finest stately homes the south of England has to offer
- Admire the exquisite collections at Blenheim Palace, former home of Winston Churchill
Lovers of period drama, rejoice — this tour of England's scene-stealing stately homes is all about the drama. Our sites have a strong televisual pedigree, having held starring roles in classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Cranford, Lark Rise to Candleford, Downton Abbey, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and even the Harry Potter films. Beginning in the picture-perfect village of Bampton, we wend our way — from our base in Witney, just west of Oxford — through Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, and Gloucestershire.
From the monumental World Heritage Site of Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Winston Churchill, to the surreal and spectacular Sezincote, a Neo-Mughal-styled residence in the heart of Gloucestershire complete with minarets and peacock-tail windows, there's plenty to discover. Downton Abbey fans in particular are in for a treat with an exclusive private tour of Highclere Castle (which serves as the Abbey in the phenomenally popular series) complete with Champagne in the saloon afterwards — cheers!
The first day of our tour begins with our group departure from London, starting as we mean to go on with lunch in a charming village pub en-route. Our destination is Bampton, a picture-postcard Oxfordshire village, most recognisable to Downton Abbey fans as the location of the programme's outdoor scenes. After a look around, we continue to our accommodation for the next five nights: the Oxford Witney Hotel. Dinner is included here this evening.
Our first full day begins with a visit to the National Trust property of Basildon House, near Reading. This beautiful Palladian mansion is a star in its own right, but will be uncannily familiar to those who've seen the 2005 film adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
After lunch in Basildon Park, we are treated to an exclusive private group tour of Highclere Castle. On arrival, we have the opportunity to visit the gardens and gift shop before being welcomed into the castle's saloon for a glass of Champagne. After this sparkling sojourn, we return to our hotel — where dinner is included — for the evening.
This morning sees us depart for the picturesque town of Lacock. Its lime-washed, half-timbered stone houses, dating from the 13th century, make the town a natural choice for discerning location scouts, made evident by its appearances in Pride and Prejudice, Cranford, and Wolfman. After a look around the town, we head to Lacock Abbey, a National Trust site on the outskirts of the village. The abbey was founded in 1232 and converted into a country house around 1540, and will be a real treat for eagle-eyed Harry Potter fans — keep an eye out for locations used in first film The Philosopher's Stone, including the distinctive vaulted ceilings of Professor Snape's potions classroom.
After our visit to the abbey, we depart for Iford, where we enjoy lunch on arrival. We then go on to the award-winning Italian gardens of Iford Manor, featuring beautiful classical statuary and architectural fragments, steep flights of steps linking terraces with pools, fountains, and colonnades, to magical effect. Later, we visit the historic city of Bath, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site home to some of Europe's finest architectural sights, inclding the Royal Crescent, the Circus, and Pulteney Bridge. Afterwards, we retire to our hotel for dinner.
Today, we travel north through the pretty villages of the Cotswolds before arriving at the site of our first visit of the day: Bourton House Gardens. In 1983, the house's then-new owners took on the herculean task of transforming the neglected wilderness they fount there into a garden fit for its setting among ancient Cotswold stone buildings.
After lunch here at Bourton House, we make our way to Sezincote, site of our next visit. This remarkable dwelling was designed in the Mogul style of Rajasthan, with a distinctive central dome, minarets, peacock-tail windows, and a curving orangery framing the 'Persian Garden of Paradise'. After exploring this fine example of the Picturesque style, a little slice of southeast Asia in the home counties, we return to our hotel for dinner.
This morning, we depart for Chavenage House, an Elizabethan manor house used as the filming location for the BBC's Lark Rise to Candleford, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and, most recently, Poldark. After our visit to Chavenage, we are free to explore the lovely town of Tetbury, on whose outskirts the manor house stands, at our leisure — after a group lunch, of course. After a wander, and a thorough exploration of the town's antique shops — of which there are 25 — we return to our hotel, where dinner is included this evening.
Today is a day for visits of grand proportions. We head, first, to Blenheim Palace, one of the greatest stately homes in England, and the birthplace of one of its greatest citizens: Winston Churchill. From the imposing Great Hall to the beautifully intricate State Rooms, the Palace balances delicate details with ambitious architecture. Stunning portraits, tapestries, and exquisite furniture await around almost every corner.
After lunch, we bid farewell to Blenheim, and depart for Waddesdon Manor. This National Trust property was used as the exterior of the fictional Haxby Park in Downton Abbey's second series. Boasting fantastic views over the Vale of Aylesbury, the house was vuilt in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French château for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild as a weekend residence for entertaining.
Sadly, this is our final visit of the day, and after wrapping up at Waddesdon Manor we must make our way back to London, where we part ways.
- Five nights' accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis at the comfortable Oxford Witney Hotel
- Five dinners (with wine); six lunches
- Coach travel throughout
- Visits to Bampton, Basildon House, Highclere Castle, Lacock, Lacock Abbey, Iford Manor, Bath, Bourton House Gardens, Sezincote, Chavenage House, Tetbury, Blenheim Palace, and Waddesdon Manor
- Exclusive private group tour of Highclere Castle, including glass of Champagne in the castle's saloon
- Services of a Brightwater Holidays Tour Manager
- Water on the coach
Supplements per person
- Single room supplement: £320