Join Alison Weir and her team of historians for an unforgettable experience: a royal progress back in time to the 15th century to explore the history of King Richard III, England’s most contentious monarch. Since the discovery of his remains in 2012 beneath a car park in Leicester, there has been a huge upsurge in interest in Richard III and his much-debated role in the fate of the Princes in the Tower. In this unique tour we will visit a host of fascinating historic sites connected with him, including his birthplace at Fotheringhay, the site of his death at the Battle of Bosworth, and his new burial place in Leicester Cathedral. Along the way we will tour castles, abbeys, churches, battlefields and historic houses, and there will be a full enrichment programme of talks and debates by an array of historians, and specialist guided tours, with the privileged access for which Alison Weir Tours have become known. We will stay in beautiful luxury hotels, dine in historic venues, and tour through some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain, as we retrace the footsteps of one of the most controversial kings in history, the enigmatic Richard III.
Day 1: Saturday, 16th April
We gather at noon at the Kingsway Hall Hotel, London for welcome drinks, a buffet lunch, and an introductory talk by Alison Weir.
Afterwards our coach will drive us to Minster Lovell Hall, Oxfordshire, a romantic ruined manor house set beside a river in a tiny picturesque village. The Hall was once the residence of Francis, Lord Lovell, one of Richard III’s closest adherents and advisers. Lovell’s fate is central to the mystery and legend of Minster Lovell Hall. After fighting for Richard at the Battle of Bosworth, he fled, returning two years later to take part in Lambert Simnel’s rebellion against Henry VII. Then he disappears from the record. However it is said that in the early 18th century, during building work at the Hall, an underground room or vault was discovered. In this room was found a skeleton, sitting upright at a table, surrounded by books, paper and pens. Was this Lord Lovell? Perhaps we will never know as no underground room has ever been located since. The ruins of the Hall are quite extensive, the setting superb.
After exploring the ruins, we will drive to the nearby Old Swan and Minster Mill, our hotel for the next two nights.
The Old Swan and Minster Mill is a 5* boutique hotel that combines the charm of bygone years; it is both a Victorian mill with stylish, modern rooms, and a late medieval inn, both bursting with traditional charm, period features, and modern convenience, all in a romantic setting at the heart of the Old Minster village. Its history goes back almost 600 years. Surrounded by weeping willows and calm waters, the hotel stands on the banks of the River Windrush, which flows through pretty Cotswold towns and villages and some of the most beautiful countryside in England. There are both feature and modern rooms, stylishly decorated with luxurious fabrics. Many have scenic garden or river views. The on-site leisure suite features a mini-gym and tennis court. There is also a cosy bar and popular dining room, which features exposed beams and an outside terrace.
In the evening we will gather for welcome drinks and an included dinner at the Old Swan and Minster Mill. The Old Swan’s dining rooms and bars are a myriad of smaller heavily beamed, cosy quarters with open fireplaces, rugged flag-stone floors contrasted by quirky decorations. Expect superb fresh local ingredients crafted into hearty dishes served with gusto and panache.
Overnight: The Old Swan and Minster Mill
Day 2: Sunday, 17th April
In the morning we visit Berkhamsted Castle. One of the most important early Norman castles, Berkhamsted controlled the northern approach to London, only thirty miles away. It was here that William the Conqueror received the submission of the English after the Battle of Hastings. Around 1070, his half-brother, Robert of Mortain, built a timber castle in the classic Norman motte-and-bailey form, with a defensive conical mound and oval bailey. In 1155 Henry II granted Berkhamsted to Thomas Becket. As chancellor, he was the King's right hand man and enjoyed great favour. He rebuilt the castle to befit his new status and house his large staff. Becket's buildings probably included the huge stone curtain wall. Later in 1164, during his quarrel with the king, Becket was accused of embezzlement. He was disgraced and the honour of Berkhamsted was removed. Richard of Cornwall (the second son of King John) built grand apartments at the castle and made it the administrative centre of his estates in the 13th century. Edward, the Black Prince (1330–76), son and heir of Edward III, was given the castle as duke of Cornwall.
In 1469 Richard of Gloucester’s brother, Edward IV, granted Berkhamsted to their mother Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, who lived here for the last 26 years of her life. In her later years she suffered great tragedy with the deaths of Edward IV in 1483 and then the disappearance of her grandsons, the Princes in the Tower. Two years later in 1485 Richard III, her youngest surviving son, was killed at the battle of Bosworth. She died at Berkhamsted in 1495.
After a tour of the castle ruins, we move on to the university city of Oxford, where there will be free time for an independent lunch
In the afternoon we will visit Magdalen College, Oxford. Richard III visited here during his progress of 1483. He stayed three days, and on the last day he toured the university of Oxford, as we will do today, on a walk guided by Sarah Gristwood, an alumna of the university. Much has survived from Richard's time at Magdalen College (and in Oxford itself). The principal areas of the College that are normally open are the Hall, Chapel and Old Kitchen Bar. The latter two survive from Richard's day (as well as the Longwall,Cloisters and Library, which may not be accessible). In addition the gardens, grounds and parkland, including the water walks beside the River Cherwell are open. The Deer Park can be viewed from the path.
There will be free time during the afternoon for exploring Oxford.
We then return to our hotel. Dinner is independent tonight. Guests may opt to dine at the Old Swan and Minster Mill, or at one of the two other pubs in Minster Lovell, the Dovecote and the White Hart.
Overnight: the Old Swan and Minster Mill
Day 3: Monday, 18th April
In the morning we visit Tewkesbury Abbey, where we will have a guided tour. The Abbey is situated on the confluence of the rivers Severn and Avon, and is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Britain. It has survived through centuries almost untouched, and is the second largest parish church in England, larger than many cathedrals. The 12th-century tower of the Abbey is the tallest in England at 148ft. It was here that many fleeing Lancastrians sought sanctuary after the Battle of Tewkesbury, only to be dragged away and executed. The bloodshed caused the building to be closed for a month until it could be purified and re-consecrated. Here Edward of Lancaster, Prince of Wales, the only son of Henry VI, lies buried. George, Duke of Clarence, the brother of Edward IV and Richard III, and father of Margaret Pole, was also buried here with his wife, Isabella Neville; he was executed in the Tower of London in 1478 - probably, at his own request, drowned in a barrel of Malmsey wine.
Guests can visit the site of the battle, which can be seen from the Abbey grounds. During the battle Richard commanded the left wing. Two days after the battle, the Duke of Somerset and other Lancastrian leaders were dragged out of the Abbey, and were ordered by Richard of Gloucester and the Duke of Norfolk to be put to death after perfunctory trials. Among them was a man in holy orders, the Prior of the Order of St John. The Abbey was not officially a sanctuary, although if it had been, it is doubtful whether this would have deterred Edward IV. It had to be reconsecrated a month after the battle, following the violence done within its precincts.
Afterwards there will be free time in Tewkesbury, during which guests may like to visit Tewkesbury Museum, which displays relics of the battle and a diorama of the battlefield.
Nearby is Gupshill Manor, where, in May 1471 Queen Margaret of Anjou and Richard III’s future wife, Anne Neville, are said to have spent the night before the Battle of Tewkesbury, aware that the Yorkist forces under Edward IV were closing in and would seek engagement the following day. The 'Bloody Meadow' lies to the immediate north-west. Gupshill Manor is now an inn, where we will have an included lunch. The building dates back to the 13th century, but today this fine inn boasts a state-of-the-art kitchen and contemporary design, and features comfortable sofas, cushions, a mixture of old pictures and contemporary artwork and original features such as old beams, fireplaces and exposed stonework. The menu features mainly local produce.
In the afternoon we visit Kenilworth Castle. The vast medieval fortress of Kenilworth is the largest castle ruin in England – and one of the most spectacular. Immortalised by Sir Walter Scott in his 19th-century novel, this mighty castle was once the residence of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, father of Henry IV and one of the greatest magnates of medieval England. The castle was Crown property in the 15th century and both Edward IV and Richard III spent money on its maintenance. Richard stayed here on his 1483 progress, and is said to have given the architectural surround of a stone doorway to the owner of nearby Maxstoke Castle.
Alison Weir will guide the group around the ruins. John of Gaunt's ruined great hall at Kenilworth (below, left) has been described as one of the most beautiful rooms in England. Here he brought his celebrated mistress, Richard III’s ancestress, Katherine Swynford, whose story you will hear at the castle. Here also Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, created an ornate palace to impress his beloved Queen Elizabeth I in 1575. The newly re-created Elizabethan Garden, lost for 400 years, is now open to visitors once more.
After our visit we drive to Stratford-upon-Avon, where we check into the Arden Hotel, our base for the next two nights. This is a stunning boutique hotel in the very heart of Shakespeare Country. Situated opposite the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre, The Arden Hotel offers a central location in historical Stratford-upon-Avon. Elegant and contemporary, all the rooms feature beautiful furnishings, king-sized beds, modern en-suite luxury marble bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, luxury bathrobes and free designer toiletries. Some have scenic views of the River Avon. The stylish Waterside Brasserie offers an exceptional dining experience, while the chic Champagne Bar serves classic cocktails in sophisticated surroundings. The exclusive Club Bar features a private riverside terrace, and serves a light menu. The Arden Hotel has a guest lounge with comfortable sofas and an open fireplace, and there is also a garden with a terrace. Free Wi-Fi is accessible throughout the hotel.
Dinner is independent tonight. There are many restaurants in Stratford-upon-Avon, and the hotel is just around the corner from historic Sheep Street, where you will find several, including The Opposition and Lamb's. You may also wish to take in a performance by the world-famous Royal Shakespeare Company (advance online booking essential), whose three theatres are just opposite, or a short walk from, the hotel.
Overnight: The Arden Hotel
Day 4: Tuesday, 19th April
After breakfast, our coach takes us to the historic town of Ludlow, Shropshire, where we will enjoy a guided tour of Ludlow Castle.
The picturesque old town of Ludlow is dominated by the massive ruins of its ancient castle, once a stronghold of the Mortimers, one of England's most prominent noble families, and the ancestors of the House of York. The Castle, firstly a Norman fortress then extended over the centuries to become a fortified royal palace, has ensured Ludlow's place in English history. Originally built to hold back the unconquered Welsh, it passed through generations of the de Lacy and Mortimer families to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. In 1459 the young Richard III spent several months at the castle while his father, York, made it his headquarters for an abortive attempt to gain the crown. In October a Lancastrian army captured Richard, his mother, his brother George and his sister Margaret. In 1461, the castle returned to Yorkist hands and became Crown property. It remained a royal castle for the next 350 years. In the 1470s the Council of the Marches was formed, with responsibility for the Government of Wales and the border counties. Here, the future Edward V was sent with his tutors and household to learn the art of governing his principality of Wales. It was here, in 1483, that he learned of his father Edward IV's early death, whereupon he set off on his fateful journey to London, during which he would be intercepted by Richard of Gloucester.
Afterwards, there will be free time in Ludlow for exploring this ancient, picturesque market town - an architectural gem in a beautiful setting. It is surrounded by the unspoilt and beautiful hilly countryside of south Shropshire and the Welsh border country, known as the Welsh Marches. We will have a guided tour of the medieval Church of St Laurence, where the heart of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, the son of Henry VII, is said to be buried; the church was the scene of his obsequies and has a modern stained-glass window commemorating him. The 19th-century glass in the west window includes representations of Edward IV, Edward V and Prince Arthur.
In recent years, Ludlow has acquired an international reputation for the quality of its food and drink. Some good restaurants can be found here, supported by the area's abundance of top-quality food and drink producers and suppliers. There will be free time for an independent lunch.
*For guests who would prefer a free afternoon in Stratford instead of an afternoon site visit, AWT will lay on a courtesy coach from Ludlow, departing after lunch.
In the afternoon we visit Ludlow Castle Lodge, a medieval, Tudor and Elizabethan house close to Ludlow Castle. It has some of the finest oak panelling in England and dates from the early 13th century, being much rebuilt in 1580. In Tudor times it was the home of Elizabeth I's Master of Requests and was once used as a prison. The Council of the Marches sat here in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the house was used by two princes of Wales, the future Edward V and Arthur Tudor.
After our visit we return to the hotel to get ready for tonight’s gala dinner, which will be held in the magnificent Great Hall of St Mary’s Guildhall,
Coventry, which is located next to the ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral. St. Mary's Guildhall is one of the finest surviving medieval guildhalls in England, an unexpected treasure in the narrow, winding lanes of Coventry's historic 'Cathedral Quarter', and an oasis of historic charm and tranquillity in the bustling city. The Great Hall was first built in the 1340s for the merchant guild of St Mary; it was enlarged between 1394 and 1414 and extensively embellished at the end of the 15th century. The building still occupies a central role in the civic calendar, being the venue of choice for high-profile conferences, civic banquets and other ceremonies, as well as a regular filming location and highly regarded venue for weddings and prestigious receptions. Inside the Guildhall historic rooms offer an insight into Coventry's past, with collections of early arms and armour, furniture and artworks. The main attraction is the magnificent Great Hall, with its medieval stained glass, a ceiling of carved angels and, dominating an entire wall, one of the rarest and most important late-medieval tapestries in the country.
Overnight: The Arden Hotel
Day 5: Wednesday, 20th April
After breakfast we drive north to Yorkshire, arriving in time for an independent lunch in the ancient city of Ripon. Ripon is a hidden gem. An unspoilt cathedral city, its rich history goes back over 1300 years. Georgian and medieval buildings surround the ancient market place. The past and present intertwine wherever you go.
There will be time to visit Ripon Cathedral, which has a history stretching back almost fourteen centuries. The Cathedral was founded by St Wilfrid in A.D. 672. The only part of his church to survive is the ancient Saxon crypt which is arguably the oldest church building in England to have remained in continuous use. Much of the church you see today dates from the 12th century, though most of the nave was substantially rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries. For this reason, the building contains a variety of architectural styles. With is beautifully carved misericords in the choir stalls and its stonework grotesques and gargoyles, it inspired such luminaries as Lewis Carroll and Wilfred Owen.
In the afternoon we have booked a private visit to the delightful Markenfield Hall, once the home of Sir Thomas Markenfield, one of Richard III’s supporters, who was appointed High Sheriff of Yorkshire for 1484 and fought with Richard at the Battle of Bosworth.
Markenfield has been described as Yorkshire’s best-kept secret. Three miles south of Ripon, tucked privately away down a mile-long winding drive, stands one of the most astonishing and romantic of Yorkshire's medieval houses. Built defensively in 1310 by Edward II's Chancellor of the Exchequer John de Markenfield, it is still completely moated. The earliest part of the house was built c.1230. Its undercroft, consisting of the three surviving vaulted rooms, survives. This earlier house was bought and enlarged by Canon John de Markenfield, who received licence to crenellate the Hall in 1310 resulting in the distinctive outline that you see to this day. As the manor house was not the main residence of most of its owners from the 16th century onwards, the 14th-century buildings have survived remarkably intact. A 16th- century gatehouse gives access to the irregular courtyard. The L-shaped main block, constructed of limestone, stands on the north side of the courtyard. The main rooms of the manor house are situated on the upper floor. The Hall, originally reached by an external staircase (later demolished), has large windows with Gothic tracery. This houses the library and archive. The chapel is situated in the cross-wing and has a notable traceried east window and picscina. To the north is the medieval solar or great chamber. From the chapel an original spiral staircase leads up to the roof
Here we have arranged a specialised tour, followed by an afternoon tea with sandwiches, cakes, and scones served with strawberries and clotted cream.
On leaving Markenfield we drive to York, where we will check into the Cedar Court Grand Hotel and Spa in the centre of the City, where we will stay for three nights. The 5-star Cedar Court Grand Hotel & Spa, the finest luxury hotel in York, and the only 5-star hotel in Yorkshire, is a unique hotel with a rich, 100-year history. It is luxurious yet cosy, refined yet welcoming. From the sumptuous suites to the award-winning restaurant to the opulent Spa, each detail is designed to delight. The Grand is a historic hotel in a historic city.
The award-winning Grill Room at The Grand restaurant delivers a Yorkshire twist on a 5-star classic. Hand-picked produce combines with the best of world cuisine in a menu that changes constantly to showcase seasonal ingredients at their best. Sink back into the cosy beds; take cocktails in the bar; dine in Grill Room at The Grand or be pampered in the vaulted Spa, which has a 14-metre swimming pool, hot tub, sauna and steam room. There is also a modern fitness centre and elegant treatment rooms, offering face and body care treatments.. A modern British menu is available in the 2 AA Rosette-awarded Hudson's, while traditional afternoon teas are served daily in the HQ Restaurant. Bedrooms feature free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, bathrobes, slippers, Molton Brown toiletries and an evening turn down service. The historic city centre, picturesque Shambles and boutique shops are less than half a mile away.
In the evening we will drive to York’s splendid the medieval Merchant Adventurers’ Hall for a drinks reception in the Undercroft and an included dinner in the Great Hall. The Merchant Adventurers’ Hall is one of the finest surviving medieval guild halls in the world and provides a truly unique setting for events. Set in beautiful gardens in the centre of historic York, it is one of York’s medieval marvels, and remains a fully functioning hospitality venue and meeting place some 650 years after construction began in 1357. There are three main rooms in the Hall: the Great Hall, where the medieval merchants gathered to conduct business and to socialise and hold feasts; the Undercroft, which was used as an alms house to help the sick and the poor; and the Chapel. The Hall is home to many remarkable collections including silver, furniture and paintings, which provide a glimpse into its rich history and the people associated with it. A new exhibition explores the terrible events of the Wars of the Roses in Yorkshire, from the struggles between local families to pitched battles that left thousands dead. It tells the hidden stories of people who lived through these times, and explains how the wars continued in the region beyond the death of Richard III.
Overnight: Cedar Court Hotel, York
Day 6: Thursday, 21st April
In the morning, we drive through the Yorkshire Dales to Middleham Castle, Wensleydale, the seat of Richard of Gloucester, the future Richard III, and his wife, Anne Neville, daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker.
At the age of only 19, Richard of Gloucester was sent by his brother, Edward IV, to keep order in the north of England. Richard made the castles of Sheriff Hutton (between Malton and York) and Sandal (near Wakefield) his headquarters for his Council of the North, with York as his regional capital. Through his wife Anne, Richard inherited Middleham Castle and this was where he made his home. He was later named as viceroy in the north and is regarded as the only 'northern' English king.
Middleham is celebrated for its connection with Richard III, who lived in its magnificent Castle, which boasts the largest keep in the north of England, which provided palatial domestic ranges in its heyday. One of the most powerful previous owners of the Castle was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, also known as `the Kingmaker`; during the Wars of the Roses, he held both Edward IV and Henry VI prisoner at Middleham. It was in 1462 that a young Richard, then Duke of Gloucester came here to learn the skills of war in the charge of Warwick. It was here that Richard met his future wife Anne Neville, Warwick's daughter, whom he married in 1472. From then until 1483 it was his chief and favourite residence, and his power base while he administered the North on behalf of his brother, Edward 1V. Richard’s only son, Edward of Middleham, was born here in around 1476, and died here on 9th April 1484. According to tradition, the young Edward lived in the Prince’s Tower.
After a short tour of the castle, and time to explore further, there will be free time for an independent lunch – Middleham boasts five pubs and a tea room - and to visit Middleham Church. Dedicated to St Akelda, a Saxon woman murdered for her beliefs, it was embellished by Richard III. It was here, in 1477, that he founded a college, where priests were endowed to say masses for the House of York. Richard's college did not survive his death, but a college of canons under a different statute did continue, and was only brought to an end in the Victorian period. One of the last of these canons was the author Charles Kingsley. Buried in the church is the author and playwright Caroline Halstead who wrote an early biography of Richard III. The church has been the recipient of several gifts from the Richard III Society (or its predecessor, the Fellowship of the White Boar): a stained glass window portraying Saints Richard and Anne, a heraldic altar frontal bearing the Plantagenet and Neville arms, and replicas of Richard’s seal (below the window). An annual requiem mass is still said in Middleham Church on the anniversary of Richard III’s death.
Close to the castle is the base of the old market cross. Known as Swine Cross, it is a rather shapeless lump of stone today and thought to have been a statue of a boar, erected to commemorate a grant obtained by Richard of Gloucester in 1479 for Middleham to hold a twice yearly fair and market. However, it might equally have been a bear, the heraldic animal of the Nevilles.
After lunch we drive north to the historic market town of Barnard Castle, where guests will have some free time to explore. Barnard Castle is situated in County Durham in the north east of England, in a beautiful area known as Teesdale. The town grew up around the Norman castle of the same name, and is affectionately known to locals as "Barney".
Barnard Castle is the proud possessor of a strong connection to the last Plantagenet king, King Richard III. Before his accession to the throne Richard III, formerly Duke of Gloucester, had great and numerous connections with the north of England. His mother, Cecily, was brought up in nearby Raby Castle, Richard acquired the Lordship of Barnard Castle through parliamentary act in 1474 following his marriage to Anne Neville and from then on he had close dealings and association with the town. One building to look for is Blagraves House, the oldest house in Barnard Castle, which was given by Richard III to Joan Forest whose husband Miles Forest, Keeper of Kings Wardrobe, and John Dighton were reputed to have disposed of the two young Princes in the Tower of London. An extract from the Patent Rolls of Richard III dated 9th September 1484 states: "Grant for life to Joan Forest, widow, to the Kings servant, Miles Forest, and Edward her son, an annuity of five marks from the issue of the Lordship of Barnard Castle." On a south-facing wall remains the carved stone figure of a boar, Richard III’s badge.
We will visit the Church of St Mary, Barnard Castle, which has connections to Richard III. During his lordship he became a great benefactor to the church. From 1477 until his death in 1485 he carried out extensive alterations with the aid of a contribution of £40. The North and South Aisles were widened and the North Porch added (now a storage room). The walls of both arcades were heightened together with that of the South Aisle where the present windows were inserted. A chancel arch was installed and a newel staircase, which served the newly set up Rood loft. A vestry was built, with a chamber above for a priest. The chancel arch is decorated with Yorkist roses, and the portrait heads at left and right are believed to be those of Edward IV and Richard Duke of Gloucester. In the north transept of the church is a carved sculpture, thought to be 14th-century, of St Anthony of Egypt. He is depicted grasping his crozier in his right hand, a book in his left, with supporting boars at either side. The association of St Anthony with swine derives from a legend that a boar protected him from danger in the wilderness, driving away all beasts that threatened him. The boar came to symbolise St Anthony's own ascetic virtue and his rejection of pleasures of the flesh. It is intriguing that this sculpture (originally situated elsewhere in the town) is positioned in a church so closely connected with Richard III. Richard's own emblem was the 'blanc sanglier', the white boar, so chosen, it is thought, as a pun on 'Eboracum' the Latin name for York, Richard being of the House of York. Richard was also devoted to St Anthony; it has been suggested that his initial acquaintance with the saint could possibly have derived from the practice of calling the last and smallest pig in a litter 'the Tantony Pig'; smallest and youngest children too earned this epithet, and Richard was the last surviving child of Cecily Neville. Outside the church his badge, the Boar Passant, is carved to the left of the exterior of the east window of the South Transept. Richard had even greater plans for St. Mary's, Barnard Castle. On 21st February 1478 he obtained permission for licences to found and endow two collegiate chapels in the style of St George's at Windsor at Middleham and at Barnard Castle. These were to serve as perpetual chantries in which prayers would be offered for the souls of himself, the King and Queen, his brothers and sisters, his father, wife and son. The intention was for six priests to serve the college at Middleham, but that the college at Barnard Castle would be on a far grander scale, with twelve priests. In a private bill of the 1478 parliament the church at Barnard Castle was to be granted 400 marks per annum, against 200 per annum for Middleham; these amounts equalled the income of a lesser baron. As king, Richard was to plan for an even grander collegiate establishment in York (with 100 priests). Clearly Richard was devoted to St Mary's, Barnard Castle. His College there was never to materialise, as his death at Bosworth brought plans to a halt.
Moving on from the church we will visit Barnard Castle. These imposing remains of a Norman and 14th-century castle are set on a high rock above the River Tees. Barnard Castle was the stronghold of the Balliol family, taking its name from Bernard de Balliol, who rebuilt it in the 12th century. It includes a fine great hall and a dominating round-towered keep. Unsuccessfully besieged by the Scots in 1216, it was later confiscated when John de Balliol, briefly King of Scotland, was deposed by Edward I. Granted to Richard of Gloucester in 1475 as part of the Neville inheritance, the castle was one of his chief residences during 1476-8. Richard probably undertook some building here, as his boar badge can be seen on the slab over an oriel window which was once part of the Great Chamber, now approached by a flight of modern steps on the inside of the curtain wall just south of the Round Tower. In the north-east section of the curtain wall is the Brackenbury Tower, named after Sir Robert Brackenbury, Constable of the Tower of London in Richard’s reign. Unfortunately Barnard Castle fell into ruins after Richard's death.
We return to our hotel early in the evening. Dinner is independent tonight; there are numerous restaurants in York within walking distance of the hotel.
Overnight: Cedar Court Hotel
Day 7: Friday, 22nd April
In the morning we visit the small Yorkshire village of Sheriff Hutton, which has two sites connected with Richard III: the remains of Sheriff Hutton Castle and the Church of St Helen and Holy Cross.
Located in the grounds of a local farm, the castle is a ruin, with only a few turrets and the corners of the keep still standing. It is not open to the public, but the owner has granted us full access, and we will be able to see the Sounding Hall and the dungeon. (Please note that you visit the site at your own risk, and each person will have to sign a waiver for entering the ruins, as the owner does not have insurance.)
Richard III acquired the castle through his marriage and although he preferred to live in Middleham, in 1484 he designated it one of the two centres that housed the Council of the North. The other was at Sandal, another property of the House of York. This Council was the administrative structure that Richard established to govern the north following his accession as king of England. As an administrative entity, it survived into the 17th century. In 1484 Richard established a royal household at Sheriff Hutton for the young Edward, Earl of Warwick, son of George of Clarence, and John, Earl of Lincoln. In 1485, while awaiting the invasion of Henry Tudor at Nottingham, Richard sent his bastard son, John of Gloucester, his niece, Elizabeth of York, Edward, Earl of Warwick, and Lord Morley to the castle in the charge of his nephew, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. There they remained until after the Battle of Bosworth.
The local history society will be joining us for the visit, and afterwards they will be providing teas and coffees in the village hall.
There will then be time to see the Sheriff Hutton Church, which has many fine features, notably a child's sepulchre thought until recently to be the tomb of Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales, Richard III's only legitimate son, who died in 1484. The church identifies the boy as Edward. The shields around the tomb no longer bear their original charges, but old descriptions of them and the insignia on the tomb allege that the child was a prince of Wales, a Knight of the Garter, and a member of the families of Plantagenet and Neville. However recent research has proved that the tomb dates from the first half of the 15th century and therefore cannot be Edward’s. It may commemorate a child of the Neville family. The memorial is a cenotaph, not a tomb, as the body was buried elsewhere, and its present position in the north east corner of the church is not where it was intended to stand. From past records, it would seem that the monument has had several sites within the church. Made of alabaster, it has suffered over the years and during the 20th century it was twice restored.
Afterwards we return to York in time for an independent lunch, and there will be free time to explore this ancient City and be inspired by two thousand years of history. During his years in the north, and those of his kingship, Richard III visited York on many occasions. He usually stayed with the Augustinian Friars in Lendal (the building has long since disappeared but some of its foundations may be seen on the northeast bank of the River Ouse.) Many other surviving medieval buildings such as the city gates and churches would have been familiar to him.
Renowned for its exquisite architecture, tangle of quaint cobbled streets and the magnificence of York Minster, York is a city of contrasts and exciting discoveries, a place where the old encompasses the new. There is much to see, including the city walls and bars (or gates), including the famous Micklegate Bar, the old royal entrance, on which, in 1460, were displayed the severed heads of Richard III’s father and brother. It was through this entrance that Richard III and Anne Neville entered the City when they came in 1483 for the investiture of Edward of Middleham as Prince of Wales in York Minster. Richard stayed for three weeks during which time he received generous gifts, was hosted by the mayor and aldermen and was sprinkled with holy water at the entrance to York Minster. In the Chapter House there is an illuminated vellum commemorating Richard’s associations with the city and Minster, presented by the Richard III Society in 1966. The investiture of the Prince is commemorated by a plaque on the building in Dean’s Park, which was the 15th-century Archbishop’s Palace and is now the Minster Library.
There are new exhibitions: the Richard III Experience at Monk Bar and the Henry VII Experience at the Micklegate Bar, as well as a host of other sites of interest, among them the fascinating Castle Museum, Clifford’s Tower (the remains of York Castle), the Jorvik Viking Centre and the famous Shambles, a 900-year-old street with 15th-century buildings. Guests may also wish to visit the Minster, the adjacent St William’s College, or the Yorkshire Museum, where the famous Middleham Jewel is on display. This 15th-century pendant, decorated with a large sapphire and dating from c.1460, was found in 1985 near Middleham Castle. This jewel belongs to the period of Richard III and is almost certainly a reliquary containing perhaps a fragment of wood reputed to come from the Cross, or some other relic associated with Christ. In 1992 the Yorkshire Museum raised £2.5 million to acquire this world-famous Jewel and keep it in this country – it is one of the most exquisite pieces of English Gothic jewellery to survive.
Guests will be provided with maps, an AWT attractions guide, and Jorvik Group Passports enabling entry into the Richard III and Henry VII Experiences, the Jorvik Viking Centre, DIG and Barley Hall.
In the evening we are hosting a Medieval Banquet at Barley Hall. The year is 1483 and you are invited to dine at the home of William Snawsell, Alderman and the first Lord Mayor of York, for an unforgettable evening of medieval feasting and festivity.
Barley Hall is a stunning medieval house, once home to the Priors of Nostell and the Mayor of York. Until the 1980s the house was hidden behind the facade of a derelict office block and shops, and it was only when the building was about to be destroyed that this amazing medieval residence and its history were uncovered. Barley Hall has now been lovingly restored to its original splendour with a magnificent great hall, stunning ceilings, beautiful exposed timber frames, and possibly the only horn window in England. It has been decorated to replicate what it would have looked like in Richard III’s time, around 1483. Visitors to Barley Hall can experience how daily life was lived in a well-to-do household at the time of the Wars of the Roses
Guests will enjoy a welcome from our Medieval Host, the Steward of William Snawsell); a welcome drink of mulled wine or mead; private access to Barley Hall’s exhibitions; a Medieval 3 course meal including drinks; and Medieval background music. You are welcome to dress accordingly, but it is not obligatory, and please note that AWT cannot be responsible for the hire and return of costumes.
Overnight: Cedar Court Hotel
Day 8: Saturday, 23rd April
After checking out of Cedar Court Hotel, we drive south to visit Sandal Castle, which overlooks Wakefield Green where the Battle of Wakefield was fought in 1460. Here Richard III’s father, Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, and his brother, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were slain by the Lancastrians. York died fighting. His head was chopped off and taken to be displayed on the Micklegate Bar in York. Lord Clifford killed Rutland, who was sixteen at the time and was watching the battle with his tutor, Sir Robert Aspeal, from the Sanctuary Chapel near Wakefield Bridge. Despite his having surrendered, Lord Clifford murdered him, saying, 'Thy father slayed mine, so shall I slay thee.' This gained Clifford the name 'Bloody Clifford the Butcher’. Rutland's head was also spiked on the Micklegate bar. A cross built by Edward IV to mark the place where his father and brother died was destroyed by Parliamentary troops during the Civil War.
Sandal Castle stands in a commanding position, overlooking the River Calder. Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York had often stayed at Sandal Castle. On the death of Edward IV, the castle was inherited by his younger brother, Richard III, who visited in 1484 and ordered the construction of a new bakehouse and the keep's well (north) tower. In June 1484 he based his Council of the North at Sandal Castle, under the presidency of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. After Richard’s defeat at the Battle of Bosworth, Sandal Castle was inherited by Henry VII. Remains of the 13th- century stone castle and the fine motte bailey can been seen on site. Steps lead to the top of the motte where visitors are treated to superb views of the Calder Valley. A modern visitor centre features displays about the history of Sandal Castle and its owners.
We then move on to Pontefract Castle, which has had a long and colourful history since it was first built in the years following the Norman Conquest. Do not let the few sad ruins and remains of Pontefract Castle deceive you, for this was once one of the strongest castles in the British Isles. It was frequently at the centre of national events, acting as a fortress, a temporary residence of lords and kings, and a centre of local administration. It was also a prison and armoury up to its demolition in 1649. The first earth-and-timber motte-and-bailey castle was built by Ilbert de Lacy in the late 1080s. As a reward for his services to William the Conqueror, Ilbert received vast estates in Yorkshire. In the late 14th century it was a favoured residence of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and his third wife, Katherine Swynford. In 1400 Richard II was imprisoned and died at Pontefract, probably starved to death. Other famous prisoners included James I of Scots and Charles, Duke of Orleans, who was captured at the battle of Agincourt in 1415. The castle continued to act as a royal base for military activities in times of unrest. During the Wars of the Roses it was sometimes used as a Lancastrian stronghold, as in 1460, when the Lancastrian army marched from Pontefract to the Battle of Wakefield. Pontefract was Richard of Gloucester’s official residence as Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster. EarIy in 1483, before he took the throne, he had three of his political opponents – Anthony Wydeville, Earl Rivers, Sir Richard Grey and Sir Thomas Vaughan - executed in the castle.
We continue south to Grantham, Lincolnshire, where we have booked an included lunch at the historic Angel & Royal Hotel. Although the façade of the current building is a mere 600 or so years old, the inn dates back to 1203 and was built as a hostel for the Knights Templar. It stands on the route of the ancient Roman road, Ermine Street, and would have been a popular stopping point on the long journey from London to Edinburgh. The road later became the Great North Way, and is now Grantham’s bustling High Street, lined with cafés, antique shops, and boutiques. As the Angel Inn, the Angel & Royal had plenty of royal visitors. King John (of Magna Carta fame) held court here in 1213, and so did Richard III, Edward III, Charles I (as well as his enemy Oliver Cromwell) and George IV. ‘Royal’ was added to the name of the hotel until 1866, after a visit by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. This visit was finally considered to amount to royal patronage, and the old Angel Inn became the Angel & Royal Hotel.
Richard III occupied the King’s Room in 1483; here he received the Great Seal of England during his campaign to put down the Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion. The room is now the restaurant, and is located in the oldest part of the hotel; the stone walls, open fireplace and oriel windows with their elaborate carvings are as Richard would have seen them. It was here that he wrote a letter to the Chancellor demanding that the Duke of Buckingham be arrested on charges of treachery. The original letter is in the British Museum, and a copy of it is on display at the hotel. Buckingham was duly executed.
In the afternoon we drive west into Leicestershire to visit the Ashby de la Zouch Castle, once owned by William, Lord Hastings, whom Richard III summarily executed in 1483. Here we will have a guided tour.
Later in the afternoon we check into Kilworth House Hotel, Lutterworth, our base for the last two nights of the tour. At the end of a long, tree-lined approach, Kilworth House is an enchanting blend of Victorian opulence, fine food and contemporary luxury, set amid thirty-eight acres of landscaped South Leicestershire parkland. This grade II listed 19th-century country house retains its Victorian charm, and has two unique features: a stunning award-winning theatre set in a wooded glade beside the lake, and the hotel's ornate Victorian Orangery overlooking the parkland. Guests can enjoy delightful fine period rooms and ultra-modern comforts and amenities, or explore the gardens and woodland, where there is an abundance of wildlife, or relax amidst the antiques, artwork and period fabrics of the fine public rooms. The hotel’s natural timeless elegance draws in a broad range of business and leisure guests, who come for the modern conference facilities, beauty treatment rooms and mini-gym, the forty-four charming bedrooms, private dining rooms and two high-quality restaurants with imaginative menus. The ornate Wordsworth restaurant holds 2 AA Rosettes and offers high-quality dining in its chandelier-lit dining room. The more informal Orangery features a beautiful glass ceiling and offers cooked and continental breakfast as well as afternoon tea and a full dinner menu. The elegant bedrooms have en-suite facilities with bath-robes and complementary toiletries supplied. All enjoy stunning views of the grounds.
In the evening we gather for drinks and an included dinner in the Library Restaurant. Decorated in rich shades of red with gold and black, this room offers a luxurious ambience to complement the dining experience. The bookcases and Victorian fireplace create welcoming surroundings, overlooking the knot garden with access through double doors to the large water fountain.
Overnight: Kilworth House Hotel
Day 9: Sunday, 24th April
After breakfast we visit Kirby Muxloe Castle. It dates back to the 13th century and was once the home of the Pakeman family. Pakeman’s Place was the chosen position for a fortified mansion that was built for William, Lord Hastings. A man of considerable wealth, owning estates, offices and land, Hastings acquired the manor through marriage in 1474. An ardent supporter of Edward IV, he applied for a license to crenallate the house, which would permit him to erect a castle or fortify a residence. The plans of this quadrangular castle with four roughly equal sides forming a curtain wall and a tower domineering each corner, were discovered amongst the Hastings family papers. Comprehensive accounts detailed total expenditure and were inclusive of receipts. Work on the castle commenced in 1480. Kirby Muxloe was one of the earliest brickwork castles in England and is reportedly the last of its type. It was never finished because, in 1483, Hastings was dramatically seized and executed without trial on the orders of Richard of Gloucester. The ruins stand as stark testimony to an act of tyranny. We will explore the atmospheric moated remains of this picturesue brick-built mansion, including the fine gatehouse and a complete corner tower, which have been extensively conserved by English Heritage.
There will be time to have a drink, tea or coffee at the Castle Hotel overlooking the castle ruins before we depart for Leicester.
Leicester was a town that Richard had visited, both as duke of Gloucester and as king and which lay at the very heart of his kingdom. It was not perhaps where he expected to be buried but following his defeat at Bosworth his body was interred in the choir of the monastery of the Grey Friars, where it lay until it was discovered over five hundred years later, in 2012. Many of the buildings with which Richard would have been familiar have disappeared, but enough survive to make Leicester a worthwhile destination for history buffs.
Richard led his troops out of Leicester to Bosworth over Bow Bridge and his body was carried back over it after the battle. The present bridge dates from 1863. According to legend, an old woman prophesised that where his spur struck the bridge on the outward journey, his head would strike after the battle. A plaque, erected in 2005, close to the bridge, records that the old story that Richard's body was thrown into the River Soar from there has now been discredited. Castle Gardens is the location of a statue of Richard III at Bosworth by James Butler, R.A., presented in 1980. Within the gardens is the site of the castle that Richard would have visited, but which, by the 1480s, was in such disrepair that he stayed elsewhere in the town.
When we arrive in Leicester there will be free time for an independent lunch, for which there are several options near the Cathedral area.
After lunch we visit Leicester Cathedral to see the new tomb of Richard III. St Martin's Church, now Leicester Cathedral, was one of the larger Leicester churches in Richard's time, being built in the 11th century and then extended in the 14th and 15th centuries. Leicester was granted cathedral status only in 1927, and much of what is seen today is Victorian restoration. In 1982 a memorial stone to Richard III, located in the chancel floor, was dedicated.
Close by the Cathedral, between New Street and Greyfriars Street, are the remains of the Grey Friars’ monastery, where Richard was buried after the battle of Bosworth. In 2012 the archaeological quest for Richard's remains excavated three trenches in the car park of Leicester Social Services, and it was in one of these that the human remains, now confirmed as those of Richard III, were found. The car park is along New Street, which is opposite the Cathedral's main entrance in Peacock Lane, and about 20 metres on the right. Some medieval stonework can be seen to the left-hand side of the attendant's hut. Please note that the car park is privately owned and may not be accessible to the public. Nearby in Greyfriars Street a plaque, presented by the Richard III Society in 1990, is located on the wall of a former bank in recording that the church of the Grey Friars had stood nearby where Richard was buried.
On leaving the Cathedral we will visit the Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester: King Richard III: Dynasty, Death and Discovery. This Visitor Centre is located on the car park where Richard III’s remains were discovered in August 2012, and stands on the site of the medieval friary of the Grey Friars, where the king’s remains were buried over 500 years ago. The exhibition gives visitors a chance to learn more about the King’s life and death – and to understand the huge events that led to his hasty burial and eventual rediscovery. It reveals one of the greatest archaeological detective stories ever told and features the first-ever genome sequencing of ancient DNA. Visitors will be able to see the exact place where Richard’s remains were discovered, which has been transformed into a glass-floored contemplative space for visitors. The new Visitor Centre is the centrepiece of a series of regeneration projects including Cathedral Gardens – a new area of open green spaces, paths and artwork between Leicester Cathedral and the Visitor Centre.
On the ground floor of the Visitor Centre, Dynasty tells the much debated story of the king’s life and times in a medieval England racked by decades of fighting in the Wars Of The Roses. Visitors will be able to discover the story behind Richard’s rise to power as the last king from the great house of Plantagenet and the reforms he made during his short reign. Death gives visitors the chance to learn about the Battle of Bosworth and how betrayal led to the king being cut down in the thick of battle while defending his crown and his return to Leicester. On the first floor, Discovery unearths the astonishing story of the archaeology, science and analysis carried out to discover and identify the long-lost remains of the King. Exhibits include both a partial and the full facial reconstruction, giving visitors the chance to see the work in progress and the final reconstruction of Richard. There is also a replica of Richard’s skeleton, printed using 3D technology. The skeleton clearly shows his curved spine, as well as his battle injuries, including the fatal blow. Through interactive displays, visitors will be able to match up DNA and discover the process used to identify the remains. A suit of armour is also on display and those visiting the exhibition will be able to learn how it protected the wearer. Visitors return to the ground floor to complete their experience with a visit to the site of King Richard’s burial, preserved in a quiet, respectful setting and with a contemplative atmosphere, fitting for the last resting place of a slain warrior and anointed monarch.
Afterwards there will be time to visit Leicester Guildhall. The Guildhall is located next to the Cathedral and today is cared for by Leicester Museums. The building, part of which dates back to the mid-14th century, has enjoyed a varied and interesting history. Richard would have known its Great Hall with its three bays, and the later mid-15th-century west end. In his time the hall was used by the Corpus Christi Guild for meetings, and also provided accommodation for the Guild's chantry priests, who sang masses for Guild members in St Martin's Church (today's cathedral) next door. More recently the Guildhall was the venue for the joint press conference hosted by the City Council, the University and the Richard III Society to announce the discover of the Grey Friars human remains, and for the temporary exhibition telling the story of the discovery of Richard III’s remains.
We then return to our hotel to get ready for our farewell dinner, which will be held at Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and Country Park.
It was at Bosworth Field, or Redemore Plain as it was known at the time, that Richard III joined battle with the forces of Henry Tudor on 22 August 1485, and it was there that he was 'brutally slain', as one account describes his end. In the five hundred or so years since, there have been a number of proposed sites for the battle. Recently there have been three in contention, but it was at a site near to the traditional one, about twenty miles west of Leicester, and near to the village of Sutton Cheney, that archaeological investigations in 2009 showed where the battle was actually fought. This is in an area straddling Fenn Lanes, near Fenny Drayton and about three miles from the traditional site on Ambion Hill. On the hill the Leicestershire County Council have established a Visitor Centre, and a new trail between the Centre and the battlefield site (which is on private farmland) has been established.
The major features of the battlefield are Ambion Hill, held by Richard's Yorkist forces, and the cairn over a well or spring where traditionally Richard took a drink during the battle. At nearby Shenton, until recently, there was a so-called death stone, erected to mark the site where, by tradition, Richard was pulled from his horse and killed. The death stone has now been moved to the Visitor Centre since Sandford is now thought to be on the new battlefield site.
Our farewell drinks and dinner will be in the15th-century Tithe Barn.
Overnight: Kilworth House Hotel
Day 10: Monday, 25th April
Early in the morning we check out of Kilworth House Hotel and drive south to visit the site of Fotheringhay Castle, the birthplace of Richard III, and Fotheringhay Church.
Although only a small village, Fotheringhay boasts strong historic connections with the House of York. We will visit the mound where the keep, built in the shape of the Yorkist fetterlock, stood, and see the fragments of masonry that are all that is left of the palatial Yorkist residence of Fotheringhay Castle. Here, Richard III was born in 1452. He probably spent the first seven years of his life here. In 1587 Mary, Queen of Scots was executed in the castle. Despite Fotheringhay’s size and importance, it was allowed to fall into disrepair during the Elizabethan period. Today there is little to be seen apart from earthworks and a single block of masonry surrounded by railings.
We will then visit the beautiful collegiate church of Fotheringhay, of which only half now remains. The magnificent church of St Mary and All Saints dates from the 15th century. A college was founded here in 1411 by Edward, Duke of York, before his death at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Here lie buried (in Elizabethan tombs) Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York (below centre), the father of Edward IV and Richard III; his wife, Cecily Neville; their son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, killed with York at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460; and Edward, Duke of York, grandson of Edward III, who was killed at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The pulpit given by Edward IV can still be seen. Legend has it that Richard III was baptised in the church, though this event may have taken place in the castle chapel. He visited in 1476, when, as duke of Gloucester, he led the cortege that brought the bodies of his father, Richard, Duke of York, and brother, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, for reburial. At that time, the church extended further east and there was a college and cloister attached on the south, between it and the River Nene. The college was an institution for priests and choristers who daily prayed for the souls of the House of York, past and present.
With the Dissolution, the property was sold and the roof of the choir and the cloister was stripped of its lead, allowing the rain to get in and resulting in rot and collapse. Eventually, only the nave and tower were left. As the nave was the parish church, the roof had been left alone. In 1566, when Elizabeth I saw what had happened to the tombs of her ancestors - her paternal grandmother was Elizabeth of York - she gave money for them to be reinterred in the sanctuary on either side of the altar, where they lie to this day. The church is large, too large for the size of its present parish, and filled with light. The windows are huge and the medieval coloured glass almost completely gone. There is a modern window, the gift of the Richard III Society, which now provides a focal point for the 'Chapel of All Souls and the memory of the royal House of York', another gift of the Society. The window displays the heraldry of the first four dukes of York, their wives, and Richard III and his queen, Anne Neville.
The pulpit was restored in 1966 and it now glows with colour. It was the gift of Edward IV and bears the Plantagenet royal arms, flanked by a white lion, the black bull of Clarence, and the white boar of Gloucester, symbols of the Yorkist brothers. Hexagonal in shape, the pulpit stands in a narrow plinth.
We then drive south to London. A packed lunch will be provided.
In the afternoon we visit the Tower of London, where Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke will guide the group on a special Plantagenet-themed walk.
Her Majesty's Palace and Fortress of The Tower of London, founded by William the Conquerer in 1066-7, was the scene of some of the most remarkable events in England's history. It has long enjoyed a grim reputation as a place of torture and death: the ancient stones reverberate with dark secrets, the priceless Crown Jewels glint in fortified vaults, and ravens strut the grounds. The Tower held many famous prisoners, from the highest levels of society; some in astonishing comfort and others less so...
Henry VI, last sovereign of the House of Lancaster, was imprisoned in the Tower for several years, and was murdered here in 1471, Richard of Gloucester being at the Tower at the time. The royal palace (of which only some ruins remain) was a favourite residence of Edward IV. His sons, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York - the famous 'Princes in the Tower' - were imprisoned here by their uncle, Richard III, and never seen again. Their fate is one of the most debated mysteries in history, and we will be visiting the sites in the Tower associated with it. Bones buried in Westminster Abbey as those of the Princes were found in 1674 under a now-demolished staircase beneath the former forebuilding of the White Tower..
We will visit the Bowyer Tower, where Richard’s treacherous brother, George Duke of Clarence, is said to have been executed by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey in 1478, and the Royal Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where, in the chancel - buried beside two decapitated queens (Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard) - lie the remains of Clarence's daughter, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, whose closeness in blood to the throne was the reason why Henry VIII had her summarily executed in 1541. The White Tower was the scene of the fateful council meeting in 1483, at which Richard of Gloucester vowed that he would not dine until Lord Hastings’s head was off. Tower Green is the site of the brutal executions of William, Lord Hastings (1483) and Margaret Pole (1541).
Later that afternoon our coach will take us to the Kingsway Hall Hotel, where our luggage will be unloaded, and we will enjoy a Champagne Afternoon Tea.
The tour ends after tea.
PLEASE NOTE: Alison Weir Tours Ltd. reserve the right to make changes in the interests of improving the experience for our guests, or where circumstances are beyond our control.