(London, Minster Lovell)
When you think about quintessential England, the images that spring to mind may very well be much of what the Cotswolds has to offer. Indeed, it is the country's largest officially designated, "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty". With its gentle hillsides (‘wolds’), scenic countryside with river valleys, sleepy ancient limestone villages, and historic market towns, it is a place where time seems to have been suspended for 300 years. After exploring all that cosmopolitan London has to offer, slow the pace and watch the ever changing landscape on your train ride to Bath where you'll be met by your private driver-guide who will be your confidante for the next few days as you are driven around many of the highlights of the area. Take in the thatched cottages at Minster Mill, the ancient Roman baths in the City of Bath, abbeys, gardens, Shakespeare's stomping ground that is Stratford upon Avon, and England's largest stately home, Blenheim Palace, to name but a few things you'll see. Stay in a wonderfully English, cosy and well appointed hotel, sample some great food, and discover this wonderful pocket of England - all only a two hour train ride from London.
Meet your driver at Heathrow airport, and take a private transfer to your hotel.
A welcome package with a city map, train tickets (if relevant), and any other touristic information that we deem you may find useful will be waiting for you upon your arrival at your first hotel on your trip.
One of the world's great cities, vibrant London manages to shine in the grayest weather and its diversity defies a simple definition. This sprawling city has drawn people for centuries, looking for something and finding the unexpected. It's one of the world's most international cities and its influences blend to create something uniquely wonderful. Let your Guide know your particular interests and they will help you discover the city on your half day walking tour of central London. Learn how to take the "tube", explore the cobblestone streets, gardens, and markets, and be a Londoner for a day. Your Guide will meet you at your hotel. Please note that one should wear comfortable shoes and a hat; suitable for children. (No entrance fees included)
Consider having dinner this evening in the George Inn. Dating from the 17th century, this public house is London's last remaining galleried inn. It stands on the south side of the River Thames near London Bridge, which for centuries was the only bridge across the river. In olden days it was one of many such inns in the area, perhaps the most famous being the Tabard, where Chaucer began his 'Canterbury Tales' in 1388. It is tucked away in a cobbled courtyard just off Borough High Street. The exterior boasts a wealth of pretty lattice windows and oak beams. As for the interior, the ground floor is divided into several connecting bars while the Parliament Bar was the former waiting room for coachmen and passengers and has a rare Parliament clock. The Middle Bar was the Coffee Room, a haunt of Charles Dickens.
Meet your driver for a private train station transfer in London.
Enjoy a relaxing train ride from London Paddington Station to Bath.
Upon your arrival into Bath train station, you’ll be met by your local private driver-guide with vehicle. Start your discovery of the Cotswolds with a self-guided audio visit of the Roman baths.
The Roman Baths complex is a site of historical interest in the English city of Bath. The house is a well-preserved Roman site for public bathing.
The Roman Baths themselves are below the modern street level. There are four main features: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and the Museum holding finds from Roman Bath. The buildings above street level date from the 19th century.
Bath is a city in Somerset in the south west of England. It is situated 99 miles (159 km) west of London and 13 miles (21 km) south-east of Bristol. The city was founded, among surrounding hills, in the valley of the River Avon around naturally-occurring hot springs where the Romans built baths and a temple, giving it the name Aquae Sulis. The city became a World Heritage Site in 1987, and has a variety of theatres, museums, and other cultural and sporting venues, which have helped to make it a major centre for tourism, with over one million visitors.
Enjoy lunch in one of the local eateries in the area. Suggestions include the excellent Kitchen at the Roman Baths or a local gastro pub (http://www.ringobellswidcombe.co.uk/. (Not included).
After lunch continue with your driver-guide and sit back and take in the sights on your driving tour, stopping at opportune moments to take some picturesque shots and to stretch your legs. Take in the city views from the Skyline, Royal Crescent, The Circus & Lansdown Crescent.
Heading out of Bath, you’ll pass through Castle Combe (if you decided not to take an early lunch you could also have a lunch stop here) and a stroll around the village before moving onto Malmesbury. Visit the abbey and take in the stunning Abbey Gardens before arriving in Tetbury to view the Chipping Steps where the annual Woolsack Races are held. The day continues with a drive through Cirencester, the second city of Roman Britain and later a major wool trading town, with a late afternoon arrival in Bibury where you can take a walk along Arlington Row and it’s iconic Cotswold stone cottages which are possibly the most photographed and picturesque site in the Cotswolds. At day`s end, you’ll be dropped off at your accommodation in Minster Lovell.
Tonight you will enjoy dinner at leisure.
Set off this morning in the company of your driver-guide. You are in for a treat today as you hit some of the highlights of the region! Start off by visiting Stratford upon Avon (approx. 1hr 15 drive) for a self-guided visit at Shakespeare’s birthplace, before being driven to Hall’s Croft - a grand Tudor building, home to Shakespeare’s Daughter and doctor husband, finishing the Shakespeare connection at Anne Hathaway’s cottage - the family home of Shakespeare’s wife.
Moving onto Chipping Camden, you’ll have the opportunity to stop for lunch. A recommended spot for a bite is the Eight Bells www.eightbellsinn.co.uk, (not included) before walking along the elegant terraced High Street to the Market Hall which dates back to 1627.
Driving past the “wool church” of St James and the 17th century Alms houses of silk merchant Sir Baptist Hicks, you’ll make your way to Broadway. Drive through the town and maybe stop for a spot of light shopping or some window browsing. Moving on through Snowshill, enjoy a short stroll through this delightful unspoiled Cotswold village before photo stops at Upper and Lower Slaughter, as well as Bourton on the Water. At day’s end, you’ll be dropped back at your accommodation.
Departing the hotel this morning with your private driver-guide, your first port of call will be a visit to the local ruins of the Minster at Minster Lovell before driving to Swinbrook via Asthall, and Asthall Manor childhood home of the scandalous Mitford sisters. Arriving into Swinbrook, you’ll get to visit the Norman Church of St Mary with the magnificent Fettiplace monuments, and see the final resting place of four of the Mitford sisters in the churchyard.
Next stop is Stow on the Wold, known as the “antiques capital of the Cotswolds”, and historic market town.
You may like to stop for lunch at one of the many local establishments en route to Chastleton House, a rare gem of a Jacobean country house. (Open March – October). Continue driving through Chipping Norton, the highest town in Oxfordshire, before arriving at Blenheim Palace, the largest Palace in the country, home of the Dukes of Marlborough, World Heritage Site and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. You’ll be returned back to Minster Lovell late this afternoon via Woodstock.
Leave your accommodation this morning in the company of your driver-guide (and luggage!) for Oxford for a walking tour covering some of the great sites of the world famous University city. See the Sheldonian Theatre, Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera. Walk through the lanes seeing many of the thirty eight colleges and through the picturesque Christ Church Meadows. You’ll also get the chance to see the Great Hall of Christ Church and the Cathedral, and the famous Covered Market.
Bid farewell to your driver-guide at approximately 1pm this afternoon at the Oxford train station.
Enjoy a train ride from Oxford to London. The train takes around two hours.
Consider any number of shared or private tours such as a guided tour of the TATE modern museum, a city highlights tour, a hop on hop off city tour taking you to all of the main sights within the city and allowing you to get on and off as often as you like. For activities further afield, consider a day trip to Oxford and Blenheim palace or Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath. Please speak to your Sales Advisor if you would like more information on optional tours and activities that you could add to your itinerary.
Spring is probably the best time to visit, Kew Gardens but at any time of year, this 120-hectare expanse of lawns, formal gardens and greenhouses has delights to offer, As well as being a public garden, Kew is an important research centre, and it maintains its reputation as the most exhaustive botanical collection in the world. Its wonderful plants and trees aside, Kew has several specific sites within its borders. You will come almost immediately to a large pond overlooked by the enormous Palm House, a hothouse of metal and curved sheets of glass, and housing all sorts of exotic tropical greenery. Just northwest of Palm House is the tiny but irresistible Water Lily House, dating from 1852. If you head northwards, you’ll come to the stunning Princess of Wales Conservatory. Beyond that is the Kew Gardens Gallery bordering Kew Green, which houses exhibitions of paintings and photos. Heading westwards from the gallery you will arrive at the red-brick Kew Palace, a former royal residence once known as Dutch House. If you cut southwards from the palace across the lawns, you’ll pass a long lake running roughly west to east. To the southwest is Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, a wooden summerhouse used by George III and surrounded by bluebells in spring. Come out of the station and walk straight (west) along Station Rd, cross Kew Gardens Rd. and then continue straight along Lichfield Rd.
The English Tea Room at Rocco Forte’s Brown’s Hotel serves one of the most famous afternoon teas in London and was voted The Tea Guild’s ‘Top London Afternoon Tea 2009’. The sophisticated and stylish interior is a clever mix of both tradition - thanks to the original wood paneling, fire places and Jacobean detailed plaster ceiling and contemporary style, with Paul Smith lighting, fashionable fabrics and original artworks. Relax to the sounds from the Baby Grand Piano and indulge in a choice of 17 teas, including Brown’s own blend, along with a selection of succulent finger sandwiches, an assortment of delicate pastries, fruit and plain scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve, as well as a choice of freshly baked cakes from the trolley.
The Tube Stop is Hampstead.
Sprawling Hampstead Heath, with its rolling woodlands and meadows, feels like a million miles away- well approximately four- from the city of London. It covers 320 hectares, most of it woods, hills and meadows, and is home to about 100 bird species. It’s a wonderful place for a nice walk, and you can follow in the footsteps of luminaries such as the poets Coleridge, Keats and Pop as well as painters Hogarth and Constable who all lived around here. Constable studied the clouds and skies above Hampstead Heath, painting more than 100 ‘skyscapes’ that he would later match subjects in his most famous paintings.
If walking is too pedestrian for you, sections of the heath area are laid out for football and cricket. Walk up Parliament Hill or the hill in North Wood, an on a clear day you’ll be able to see all the way to Canary Wharf and the Docklands. Those of an artistic bent should make a beeline to Kenwood House but stop to admire the sculptures by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth on the way. If you work up a thirst, there’s no better place to quench it than at the atmospheric- and possibly haunted- Spaniard’s Inn which has fascinating history and a terrific beer garden.
There are some great restaurants in the West End of London.Here are a few suggestions: J Sheekey, an incredibly smart seafood restaurant, Mildred's, London's best veggie restaurant, Sketch, the trendiest place in London, specializing in some of the best French food you'll ever taste, or for those looking for something simple and cheerful, enjoy a nice meal out at Zipangu. Or try the amazingly stylish Corrigan’s Mayfair.
Meet your driver at your hotel and be taken to Heathrow Airport by a private transfer.
Internationally recognized interior designers have orchestrated The Mandeville Hotel bedrooms for the utmost comfort. Each bedroom exudes style and has been furnished with luxurious fabrics and wall coverings from some of the leading design houses. The Mandeville Hotel is based in the ever-fashionable Marylebone Village, within a few minutes’ walk of some of London's most exciting shops, art galleries and antique shops of Mayfair. The hotel is perfectly located near some of the world famous auction houses such as Sotheby or Christies and renowned Harley Street clinics, making this hotel an excellent choice for your leisure, cultural and corporate stay in London. The Mandeville Hotel prides itself on offering a highly personalized service under the direction of its expert management team. Great design is the key to the hotel, providing guests with a sophisticated and stylish environment.
At the heart of the Old Minster village and with a history going back almost 600 years, the Old Swan & Minster Mill couldn't be more quintessentially English. This is the perfect spot to escape the city and explore the Cotswolds, or alternatively, to simply relax, spa and dine. The Old Swan captures the charm of bygone years, with a good measure of modern convenience, and a laid-back atmosphere of a gastro-pub inspired dining room and log-fired bar thrown in for good measure.
Next door at the Minster Mill, you’ll find a slightly less posh country-cousin. A bit of an upstart; funky modern rooms, smaller and without the history but all with the familiar style and personal touches that the de Savary Family cram in by the bucket-load. Due to open mid 2013, the state-of-the-art Windrush Spa alongside the River Windrush will have an indoor and outdoor pool, sauna, steam and a full range of specialist treatments.
Vanessa Oquendo ,
April 21, 2014
"Melissa Field was extremely helpful! She was courteous, professional, knowledgeable, and friendly! She kept me updated on the status of everything and provided timely correspondence. She took ownership for any problems I had and remedied them. I had the most amazing time of my life in Iceland and Paris! I would not have experienced everything without the help of Kensington Tours."
Marilynn Weaver ,
April 21, 2014
"All of our guides were beyond fabulous! Our time in Dublin was much too short, would have loved to stay there at least one more full day. Would recommend extending this package to 15 days for any future visits. The train to Edinburgh was super! Beautiful scenery and great steak pies!"
Ann Saxon ,
November 06, 2013
"Our trip was fantastic!!! I cannot say enough good things. Lianne worked with our exact dates and time frame beautifully.Our drivers were prompt and friendly. The private guides were so knowledgeable. We left with an appreciation of the history, the culture, and the beauty of Andulasia. We were very pleased and will certainly recommend your company to friends and family."
Coby Scherr ,
November 05, 2013
"Everyone involved in our Portugal trip made it terrific. Exactly as advertised. Every event on time and most pleasant. Guides were well-informed, courteous and friendly. Really made for a great journey every time. Each hotel was clean, upgraded and staffed with knowledgeable and friendly folks. Breakfasts were complete -- almost too much to eat. It will always be a wonderful memory thanks to Kensington Tours."
Couples Dellinger & Hubbell ,
November 06, 2013
"We've been raving to everyone about the food, the friendliness of the people and the amazing history and sites in Turkey. Yes, we want to go back."
John Edstrom ,
October 22, 2013
"Overall, our tour in Spain was very enjoyable, and well planned and executed. Our private tour of the Alhambra was excellent. Virginia, tour guide for royal palace ruins outside of Cordoba, was also excellent. In Seville, we went to the Flamenco Show/dinner, and the Flamenco was outstanding!"
Kevin Wilshere ,
October 19, 2013
"Great trip to Spain! Thanks again for all your help, Lianne. The destinations, hotels, guides and everything were all top notch."
Chery Westlund ,
November 07, 2013
"My husband and I took a 3 week vacation to southern Europe and North Africa and had a great time. All the guides were very knowledgeable and bent over backwards to accommodate us. The arrangements made by Kensington went off without a hitch. This is our second trip with Kensington (we went to Peru in 2009) and we will certainly book with them again."
Randy Gramlich ,
October 07, 2013
"Thank you for your follow up, we both loved our time in Croatia. It’s really a beautiful place, especially the coast. Your choice of hotels was great. It was an incredible view from the Bellevue hotel in Dubrovnik and the Vestibule in Split was in the best possible location. We were able to relax in our room listening to the wonderful singers in the courtyard and its central location made it so easy to walk anywhere we wanted to see with ease. "
Jay Steffan ,
September 24, 2013
"We just returned from a 10 day trip to Paris and Normandy. We spent three nights in Paris and then enjoyed a seven night cruise on the Seine to Normandy with AMA Waterways. The time in Paris was well spent and has piqued our interest to return for a more thorough visit. Guide Wafaa Lankey was superb in our visit to Versailles. The Seine cruise was relaxing and beautiful. So many wonderful little towns and we wished we had more time in each one to explore and enjoy.
We traveled to Croatia and Slovenia using Kensington earlier this year which was a fantastic trip."
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