Day 1: Welcome to England
The beautiful Georgian city of Bath is a 90-minute train ride from central London. We'll meet at 4 p.m. at our hotel for a "Welcome to England" get-together. Then we'll take a short neighborhood orientation walk and get acquainted over a traditional Sunday roast dinner. Sleep in Bath (3 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: Roman and Georgian Bath
Our day begins with a walking tour of Bath's charming streets, including its medieval abbey square and the imposing sweep of its Royal Crescent. Next we're off to tour the town's remarkably well-preserved 2,000-year-old Roman Baths, where you'll have a chance to drink from these natural mineral springs in the Pump Room. The rest of the day is free to make your own discoveries in this historic town. You might visit the colorful Fashion Museum or — as Roman travelers did — bathe in a mineral spa. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 3: Glastonbury and Wells
Today we'll explore and learn about mystical Glastonbury, the legendary resting place of King Arthur, where we'll also enjoy a picnic in the shadow of the abbey ruins. Later we'll tour England's oldest completely Gothic structure — the graceful Wells Cathedral — before returning to Bath in the late afternoon. Bus: 3 hours. Walking: moderate.
Day 4: Stone Circles and the Cotswolds
This morning we'll take a walking tour through Avebury's mysterious, prehistoric stone circle. Then we'll drive north to Blenheim Palace, touring this gilded mini-Versailles that was the birthplace of Winston Churchill. We end our day in the charming, flower-boxed Cotswolds market town of Stow-on-the-Wold, where we'll sleep (2 nights). Bus: 5 hours. Walking: moderate.
Day 5: Cotswold Villages
Today we'll take a scenic Cotswolds drive, stopping to explore an ever-so-English village as well as tour Stanway House, home to the local aristocracy. This afternoon you'll have free time to explore more picturesque market villages on your own — or join your guide for a leisurely country walk past cottages and sheep, through fields and kissing gates. Tonight we'll enjoy dinner together at a country pub with the sounds of local folk musicians, where you can try a sip of scrumpy, the local farmhouse "hard cider." Bus: 2 hours. Walking: moderate.
Day 6: Wonderful Wales
We'll begin our day visiting Stokesay Castle, a fortified manor house, where we'll learn about the feudal system and the perks of the well-born. After a lovely cream tea we'll bid cheerio
to England and drive into neighboring wonderful North Wales to the castle-topped harbor town of Conwy. You'll have time to wander through town and walk the city walls overlooking the Irish Sea, before our dinner together. Sleep in Conwy (2 nights). Bus: 5 hours. Walking: light.
Day 7: Sheepdogs, Castles, and Highlands
This morning we'll head to the Carneddau Mountains, where we'll visit a working farm and get to know their talented sheepdogs. Then we're off to Caernarfon to tour the impressive Caernarfon Castle, part of the system of English garrison castles that Edward I built to enforce English rule over North Wales 700 years ago. After lunch, we'll drive up into majestic Snowdonia National Park for a walk through some of the most gorgeous scenery North Wales has to offer. The rest of your day is free to roam along Conwy's multi-towered city wall, historic houses, and laid-back harbor. Bus: 3 hours. Walking: strenuous.
Day 8: Gardens and Lakes
We'll begin our day by exploring the manicured lawns, terraced beds, and extensive botanical collection of Bodnant Gardens. Then we'll cross back into England and wend our way through the spectacular peaks and valleys of the Lake District, a favorite haunt of poets and painters. After an orientation of Keswick, we'll end the day feasting on fish and chips together at a traditional English chippy. Sleep at a family-run hotel in Keswick (2 nights). Bus: 5 hours. Walking: light.
Day 9: The Lake District
Today we'll explore the natural beauty of the Lake District. You can join your guide for a leisurely boat cruise on the island-studded Derwentwater — or strike out on a little expedition of your own 'twixt lakes and mountains, thanks to a wealth of hiking opportunities along well-marked trails. This afternoon, you'll have the chance to join your guide for a walk up to Castlerigg stone circle for sweeping views of the valley. Boat: ½ hour. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 10: Hadrian's Wall
We'll travel back in time today with a walk along Hadrian's ancient Roman wall, once considered the boundary dividing civilization and barbarity (though the Scots might disagree), followed by a tour of the Roman auxiliary fort, Vindolanda. We'll have lunch before heading to the bustling cathedral city of York. Upon arrival, we'll take a walking tour beneath the leaning, half-timbered houses of The Shambles in the city's marvelous medieval center. Tonight we'll indulge in England's favorite ethnic food with a tasty Indian dinner together. Sleep in York (2 nights). Bus: 5 hours. Walking: strenuous.
Day 11: York Minster and the Medieval City
We'll begin our day marveling at York Minster's stained glass windows on our tour of the largest Gothic church north of the Alps. You'll have the rest of the day free to enjoy more of this enchanting city. It's a great night to enjoy an ethereal evensong choir performance in the Minster. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 12: Westminster Abbey and Regal London
Today we'll board a train and make a beeline past the Midlands for London. Upon arrival, we'll enjoy an entertaining guided bus tour, hearing tales about Big Ben, the river Thames, St. Paul's Cathedral, and more. Then we'll visit Westminster Abbey with a local guide, where England's kings and queens have been crowned and buried since 1066. A thousand years of English history lie within its stained-glass splendor and under its stone slabs. Later this afternoon, we'll check into our hotel and get oriented to our neighborhood and London's Tube. Tonight is a perfect evening for the theater (book something in advance from the Colonies or pick up a ticket in London). Sleep in central London (2 nights). Train: 2 hrs. Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 13: Tower of London
This morning we'll begin our day of sightseeing with the medieval Tower of London (the first "skyscraper" of its time), where you can join a tour with a witty Beefeater, and get a close-up look at the UK's majestic collection of crown jewels. Then we'll take a panoramic cruise on the river Thames. We'll disembark at Westminster, where you'll be free to explore the Churchill War Rooms, tour the British Museum, or take a walk through one of the city's wonderful parks. Tonight we'll meet for a final group dinner together, where we'll share travel memories and toast new friends. Cheers! Boat: ½ hr. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 14: Tour Over After Breakfast
Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. Heathrow and Gatwick airports can be easily reached by Tube, train, or taxi from our London neighborhood. For those not ready to return home yet, London is a great jumping off point to Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, and many other exciting destinations.