Alison Weir Tours

The White Rose

 

ITINERARY
 

DAY 1 Wednesday, 16th May

After a welcome buffet lunch at the Bloomsbury Hotel, London, we depart for the Lygon Arms Hotel in the beautiful Cotswolds village of Broadway, Worcestershire.

The Lygon Arms is traditional inn dating from medieval times, rich in history and charm, and an international-standard hotel with an enviable reputation for the finest cuisine and the best of 21st-century comforts. It has three acres of grounds which include lawns, flower gardens, croquet and floodlit tennis for the exclusive use of guests. The Lygon Arms also has its own spa.

In the evening there will be a gala welcome dinner in the State Dining Room at Warwick Castle, preceded by drinks in the Kingmaker Exhibition. Guests will also have a chance to see the state rooms.

Overnight: The Lygon Arms


DAY 2 Thursday, 17th May
Choice of itineraries

Group 1 will visit the historic town of Ludlow, Shropshire, where we will enjoy a guided morning tour of the medieval parish church of St Laurence, where the heart of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, 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 nineteenth-century glass in the west window includes images of Edward IV, Edward V and Prince Arthur.

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, which we will tour in the afternoon, was originally 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. 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.

In the morning, Group 2 will visit Little Malvern Court, a charming, well-preserved Prior's Hall of c1480, with its original monks' cells and outstanding medieval hall roof, as well as collections of vestments, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century embroideries, and paintings. It has been the home of the Berington family by descent since the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and stands in ten acres of former monastic grounds, newly landscaped in the early 1980s, with magnificent views over the Severn Valley.

Formerly attached to a twelfth-century Benedictine Priory, the adjacent Little Malvern Priory Church may also be visited. The glazing of the east window of the church of Little Malvern Priory is an outstanding monument of English late medieval glass painting in both its imagery and craftsmanship. Depicted are the family of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, including the future Edward V, one of the Princes in the Tower. Together with the ‘Royal’ window in Canterbury Cathedral, the Little Malvern glass is the only surviving monumental representation of the key Yorkist personalities in English fifteenth-century history. The patron, John Alcock, Bishop of Ely, was Chancellor of England and president of the royal council.

After free time for lunch in Worcester, Group 2 will visit Worcester Cathedral, which is blessed with one of the most picturesque locations of any English cathedral, standing on level ground beside the River Severn. It has been described as possibly the most interesting of all England’s cathedrals, especially architecturally. It was founded it in AD 680. St Oswald built another cathedral in 983, and established a monastery attached to it. St Wulfstan, who rebuilt the cathedral in 1084, began the present building. During Anglo-Saxon times, Worcester was one of the most important monastic cathedrals in the country. It was a centre of great learning, which continued into the later Middle Ages, when Worcester’s Benedictine monks went to university to study a variety of subjects, such as theology, medicine, law, history, mathematics, physics, and astronomy. Some of these medieval university textbooks still survive in the cathedral library today.

The monastery was dissolved by in 1540 by Henry VIII dissolved it, but some of the last monks became the first Dean and Chapter of the newly established Cathedral. The building was badly damaged in the Civil War, and major programmes of rebuilding were undertaken after the Restoration of Charles II and under the Victorians. The Cathedral houses two important royal tombs, those of King John and Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, as well as medieval cloisters, an ancient crypt, the chapter house, and magnificent Victorian stained glass. There is also a fascinating ancient library and archive, which houses the second largest collection of medieval manuscripts in any cathedral in the UK.

Dinner is independent tonight

Overnight: The Lygon Arms


DAY 3: Friday, 18th May
Choice of itineraries

In the morning, Group 1 visits Tewkesbury Abbey for 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.

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.
In the afternoon Group 1 will visit Sudeley Castle, formerly the residence of Queen Katherine Parr, who died there in 1548, and whose Victorian tomb may be seen in the chapel. Henry VIII stayed here with Anne Boleyn in 1535. Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Cotswold Hills, Sudeley Castle is steeped in history and has royal connections spanning a thousand years. It was the seat of the family of Eleanor, Lady Butler, and was twice owned by Richard III.

The sixteenth-century west wing, which houses the exhibitions and coffee shop, St Mary’s Church, where Katherine Parr lies buried, the award-winning gardens, the Pheasantry and the soaring medieval ruins are open to the public.

In the morning, Group 2 will visit Raglan Castle, a magnificent ruin in south Wales - a stunning statement of wealth and power. Raglan Castle is one of the last true castles to be built in Wales. Its construction began in the 1430s by Sir William ap Thomas, the Blue Knight of Gwent who fought at the Battle of Agincourt with King Henry V in 1415. He was responsible for building the Great Tower at Raglan, which became known as the Yellow Tower of Gwent. After his death, the castle passed to his son William who took the surname Herbert. Sir William Herbert was a supporter of the House of York and fought at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross in Herefordshire beside the future King Edward IV. In 1462, he became a Knight of the Garter, and in 1467 was chief justice of North Wales. In 1468, Sir William Herbert received the ultimate reward for his loyalty when King Edward IV dubbed him Earl of Pembroke for capturing Harlech Castle, the last Lancastrian stronghold in Wales. William followed in his father's footsteps by adding Raglan's gatehouse, stately apartments and machicolations atop the gatehouse and Closet Tower. Construction of the castle was finally completed in 1525. The beauty of Raglan Castle can be seen for miles around the countryside.

Raglan Castle features largely in Alison Weir’s novel A Dangerous Inheritance, which tells the story of Katherine Plantagenet, Richard III’s bastard daughter, who lived there after her marriage to William Herbert.

Group 2 then continues to Owlpen Manor, for a light lunch in the Cyder House Restaurant, a stunning stone barn built in 1446, before enjoying a private guided tour of the Owlpen Manor itself (pronounced Ole-pen). Located deep in a Cotswold valley, it has been described as ‘the most beautiful place in England’. The Tudor manor house is steeped in eight hundred years of history, with arts and crafts furniture and its own community of ghosts, and boasts magical gardens.

The nucleus of the manor is believed to be on an early medieval site. The manor house retains fabric from the medieval house of the de Olepennes, identifiably a timber beam dated by dendrochronology to 1294. In April 1471, Owlpen was drawn into the Wars of the Roses, when Edward of Lancaster, Prince of Wales, wrote from Weymouth to its owner, John Daunt, asking him to raise ‘fellowship’ and money for the Lancastrian campaign. His letter was preserved at the manor till the nineteenth century.

Owlpen tradition has it Margaret of Anjou spent the night of May 2 1471 here, en route to the fateful battle of Tewkesbury. John Daunt would have been proud to welcome the royal guest to his manor. The ghost of Queen Margaret is said to walk in the Great Chamber, a grey lady wearing a fur-trimmed gown and wimple – she is a quiet and apparently benevolent ghost, one of at least three recorded in the house.

In the evening we will all gather for drinks and dinner at the Lygon Arms

Overnight: The Lygon Arms


DAY 4: Saturday, 19th May
Royal Wedding Day: The marriage of H.R.H. Prince Henry of Wales to Miss Meghan Markle.

After breakfast, guests can gather in the Edinburgh Room for a private viewing of the Royal Wedding. we leave the Lygon Arms and travel north to Yorkshire for the next leg of the tour.

For those not wishing to watch the wedding, we have organised a morning drive through the beautiful Cotswolds, visiting the magnificent and historic St John’s Church, Cirencester, and the pretty town of Burford, where you will see the Great Almshouse founded by Warwick the Kingmaker, and St John the Baptist’s Church (built 1175-1500), one of the most visited churches in the country. You will return to the Lygon Arms in time for the celebration royal wedding buffet, which will be served at 1pm in the Edinburgh Room.

In the afternoon, we depart for the City of York and the northern leg of the tour. We will check into the Grand Hotel and Spa (formerly the Cedar Court Grand Hotel) in the centre of the City, where we will stay for four 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. The vaulted Spa 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.It is luxurious, refined and welcoming. From the sumptuous suites to the award-winning restaurant to the opulent Spa, each detail is designed to delight. The historic city centre, picturesque Shambles and boutique shops are less than half a mile away.

Dinner is independent tonight.

Overnight: The Grand Hotel, York


DAY 5: Sunday, 20th May
Choice of itineraries

In the morning, Alison Weir and the other tour historians will lead guided walking and orientation tours of the City of York.

This will be followed by 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 sixteenth century onwards, the 14th-century buildings have survived remarkably intact. Here we have arranged an afternoon tea with sandwiches, cakes, and scones served with strawberries and clotted cream, followed by a specialised tour of this beautiful ancient house.

Alternatively, you may choose to visit Fountains Abbey, for afternoon tea and time to wander around the spectacular ruins. The abbey was founded in 1132 by thirteen Benedictine monks from St Mary’s Abbey, York. Fed up with the extravagant and rowdy way in which the monks lived in York, they escaped, seeking to live a devout and simple lifestyle elsewhere. Thus they came to Fountains. Within three years, they settled into their new way of life and had been admitted to the austere Cistercian Order. They had also helped to revive the north of England, which had been laid waste by William the Conqueror.

Bad harvests hit the monks hard and in the fourteenth century, they also had to deal with Scottish raids and the Black Death. Despite its financial problems, the Abbey remained important until its closure in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII, when the Abbot, Prior and monks were sent away with pensions. The dramatic abbey ruins at Fountains are the largest monastic ruins in the country. Step back into a rich and dramatic past and imagine what life would have been like for the monks who first came here all those years ago.

Guests may also opt to spend the day exploring York, which encompasses two thousand years of history. You will be given information booklets, maps and passes to some of the many attractions.

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, Duke of York, and Edmund, Earl of Rutland. It was through this entrance that Richard III and Queen Anne Neville entered the City when they came in 1483 for the investiture of their son, 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 fifteenth-century Archbishop’s Palace and is now the Minster Library.

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.

There are exhibitions to visit: 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 fifteenth-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.

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, a welcome drink of mulled wine or mead, private access to Barley Hall’s exhibitions, a medieval 3-course meal including drinks, medieval minstrels and some lively entertainment. You are welcome to dress in costume, but it is not obligatory, and please note that AWT cannot be responsible for the hire and return of costumes.

Overnight: The Grand Hotel


DAY 6: Monday, 21st May

In the morning, we will visit the site of the Battle of Towton, the bloodiest battle ever to take place on English soil. On a snowy Palm Sunday in 1461, 100,000 men gathered close to Tadcaster. On one side were the Lancastrian forces of Henry VI; on the other the Yorkists, led by the man who would win the battle and claim the throne, 19-year-old Edward IV. On that day, up to 28,000 soldiers would die in the slaughter that lasted from dawn to dusk.

Nearby is the tiny chapel at Lead. It stands alone in the middle of a field filled with the bumps and furrows of earthworks that indicate the site of a medieval manor house, for which St Mary's was probably originally the chapel. Many men fled from Towton, and the Cock Beck, the little stream which you cross to get to St Mary's, is said to have run red with blood.

We next visit Sandal Castle, which overlooks Wakefield Green, where the Battle of Wakefield was fought in 1460. Here Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, and his son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were slain by the Lancastrians. York’s 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, the foundations of which survive today. 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, often stayed at Sandal Castle. On the death of Edward IV, the castle was inherited by 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 his nephew, 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 thirteenth-century stone castle and the fine motte and bailey can been seen.

We then visit the little Yorkshire town of Skipton for an independent lunch.

Settled by sheep farmers as long ago as the 7th century, Skipton was granted to the de Romille family in 1066. Their building of a fortress castle led to a regular market being established for local produce and trade, which continues to the present day. Skipton is an attractive and bustling market town, and prides itself on being known as the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales.

In the afternoon, we will visit Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England. Visitors can pass through the impressive drum-towered gatehouse to explore a fascinating building that was home to many figures involved in pivotal events during the medieval period, and that owes much of its appearance today to a formidable lady who lived there in the seventeenth century. For many years the castle belonged to the Clifford family. John Clifford, the 9th Baron de Clifford, known as ‘the Burcher’, was one of the supporters of Henry VI during the Wars of the Roses. John earned his grim nickname for the killing of Edmund, Earl of Rutland, after the Battle of Wakefield. He himself was killed in battle in 1461.

We then visit the ruins of Bolton Abbey and the nearby Barden Tower. Nestling in the heart of the glorious Yorkshire Dales on the banks of the River Wharfe, Bolton Abbey is set in stunning countryside. Here, you can explore the ruins of the medieval priory and discover a landscape full of history and legend.
The impressive ruins of Barden Tower, a Grade 1 listed building, offer superb views of the valley and surrounding hills. Barden Tower was one of six hunting lodges, and the principle seat of administration, for Barden hunting forest. Henry Clifford, the Shepherd Lord, rebuilt the hunting lodge in the late fifteenth century and made it his principle residence. In 1515, he built the Priest House next to the chapel. It is now a restaurant, with a fine reputation for excellent cuisine and service. Both the House and the Old Chapel are steeped in history and charm, retaining most original features such as real log fires, dark oak-beamed ceilings and paned windows.

We will enjoy a group dinner in the Old Chapel before returning to York late in the evening.

Overnight: The Grand Hotel, York


DAY 7: Tuesday, 22nd May
Choice of itineraries

In the morning, Group 1 will 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, and inaccessible on foot, although it can be seen from the road, the castle is a total ruin, with only a few turrets and the corners of the keep still standing. Richard 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 July 1484, 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 church has many fine features inside. Most important is a memorial possibly for a member of the Neville family; until recently this was thought 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 effigy dates from the first half of the fifteenth 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 twentieth century it was twice restored.

We then drive through the Yorkshire Dales to Middleham in Wensleydale, 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.

After lunch we will visit Middleham Castle, 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 later 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. 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. It 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 one of his chief power bases, 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.

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.

In the morning, Group 2 will visit Mount Grace Priory, a late fourteenth-century Carthusian monastery on the western fringes of the North York Moors. Mount Grace is unusual in several respects: not many Carthusian monasteries were founded in England, for the Order never gained the popularity of the Augustinans, the Benedictines or the Cistercians.

This may have been because the Carthusians were a very strict order. The monks wore hair shirts and lived their lives in isolation, echoing the lifestyle of early Christian hermits. Unlike other orders, which ate, drank, slept, and worked together, the Carthusians had private cells and lived in silence, devoting their whole existence to solitary contemplation and working in their garden plots. They did gather together for worship in the priory church three times a day, and ate silent meals as a group on Sundays and holy days, but much of their existence was solitary and silent.

The main Carthusian monastic house in Britain was Charterhouse in London; Mount Grace was really the only other major foundation. Most of the important monastic houses of England date to the twelfth or thirteenth centuries, but Mount Grace was founded well after the great flowering of monastic enthusiasm, in 1398, by Thomas de Holland, Duke of Surrey, nephew of Richard II. It is certainly the best preserved and gives a very good idea of a traditional Carthusian priory layout. This is really a fascinating site, unlike any other medieval monastery in England. The individual monk's cells around the Great Cloister are fascinating, and the site really gives a good idea of how the Carthusians lived, worked, and prayed.

We continue on to the old town of Helmsley for an independent lunch. Helmsley is the only market town in the North York Moors National Park, and is the perfect base for enjoying the wider area. There is plenty to see in the town, from fascinating attractions including the National Centre for Birds of Prey, Helmsley Castle, Helmsley Arts Centre and the Walled Gardens, to award-winning eateries and the town’s very own Brewery. Enjoy shopping in interesting and unique stores, galleries and boutiques – the town is even home to the winner of Britain’s Best Small Shop 2015.

In the afternoon, Group 2 will split. Some will visit Helmsley Castle, situated in the town. The medieval ruins of Helmsley Castle are surrounded by banks and huge double ditch cut from solid rock. The first castle on the site was built around 1120 and constructed of wood. In 1186, Robert de Roos, a relative of the original owner, started converting it into a stone building. The castle remained in the de Roos family until 1478, and in that time, they built the towers, gateways, chapel and defences, along with a dividing wall between the north and the south of the site. In the southern part they built a new hall and the east tower, which were used exclusively by the family; while the northern half with the old hall was used by the castle’s stewards and officials.

In 1478 the castle was sold to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III, although he preferred to stay at Middleham Castle. After his death, the castle was given back to the de Roos family and it was under Edward de Roos that the old hall on the north side was converted into a Tudor mansion and the chapel into a kitchen, the two being linked by a covered walkway. Edward de Roos demolished the new hall and converted the south barbican into comfortable living quarters.

The castle suffered damage during the Civil War and was slighted, with much of the eastern tower, its walls and gates being destroyed. The castle then passed through more hands, including those of the Lord Mayor of London in 1678, and after being handed down again though his family, it was left uninhabited to decay. It is now under the care of English Heritage.

Afterwards, there will be an opportunity to visit the adjacent Helmsley Walled Garden. Covering five tranquil acres, and stunningly located at the foot of the North York Moors and in the shadow of the historic Helmsley Castle, this 250-year old walled garden has been lovingly brought back to life from dereliction, and has now enjoyed more than twenty years as a visitor attraction.

The rest of Group 2 will visit Rievaulx Abbey. If peace and tranquillity is what you seek from a day out in Yorkshire, then the impressive ruins of Rievaulx Abbey are the perfect choice. The former Cistercian abbey, set in a remote valley in the North York Moors National Park near Helmsley, is one of the most complete, and atmospheric, of England's abbey ruins. The indoor museum has recently been transformed, featuring previously unseen artefacts, which tell the story of the rise and dramatic fall of the Cistercian abbey, while a new viewing window invites the abbey in. Enjoy the latest audio tour and learn about the monks in medieval times during your exploration of the ruins - how they devoted their lives to spiritual matters and at the same time established a thriving business to become one of the wealthiest monasteries in Britain. Pick up the family trail and hunt for clues of medieval life while a new visitor centre welcomes you with a sweeping view up towards the abbey itself.

In the evening we will all visit York’s splendid 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.

Overnight: The Grand Hotel, York


DAY 8: Wednesday, 23rd May

In the morning, we drive south from York towards Leicestershire, visiting Pontefract Castle on the way. The castle 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. 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.‚Äč 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 will have 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. But no one thought to add ‘Royal’ to the name of the hotel until 1866. What prompted the change – after 663 years in the hotel business – was 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, where we will have our lunch, 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 charming Donnington-le-Heath Manor House, which dates from the 13th Century and is one of the best preserved medieval manor houses in the area, although it is only a surviving fragment of a much larger building. It was modernised in 1618. Surrounding the Manor House, are period gardens and woodland planted as part of the development of the National Forest. The gardens, re-created in a 17th-century style, include flower and herb gardens, an ornamental maze and an orchard. The Manor House has been home to many families and was briefly owned by Sir Everard Digby, one of the Gunpowder Plotters. This rare and beautiful house is now a historic resource for the local community and for the whole country. It is partly furnished with original oak furniture from the late 16th to the 18th Century, and boasts a legendary oak four-poster bed. Tradition has it that Richard III slept in this bed while staying at the White Boar Inn on High Cross Street in Leicester on his way to the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. The bed was bought from the renamed Blue Boar Inn by the Herrick family and was housed for many years at Beaumanor Hall, Leicestershire. Although the rectangular frame from which the bed ropes are strung is possibly of late medieval date, most of the elaborately carved and inlaid structure of the bed dates from the 16th to 18th centuries with some later additions. In April 2014 amateur ghost hunters claimed that the voice of Richard III’s ghost had been recorded in the house.

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 2 listed nineteenth-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: Thursday, 24th May
Choice of itineraries

After breakfast, Group 1 will visit Kirby Muxloe Castle. It dates back to the thirteenth 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, and an ardent supporter of Edward IV, he owned estates, offices and land. He acquired the manor through marriage in 1474 and 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.

We then depart for Leicester, a town that Richard III 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 buried over 500 years ago and this poignant place 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 original 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.

In the morning, Group 2 will visit Rockingham Castle for a private tour. This historic castle and stately home stands in a glorious position overlooking the Welland Valley, giving views over five counties. Rockingham was built by William the Conqueror, who must have realized the strategic importance of the location, for he raised a motte here, set between two baileys. His son, William II, came here in 1095 for the Council of Rockingham, which attempted to reconcile the king to Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury. The castle was in royal hands for over 450 years and was essentially a very regal hunting lodge until the reign of Edward III. King John enjoyed the hunting at Rockingham so much that he came here almost every year of his reign. In 1221, the castle's constable, William de Fortibus, 3rd Earl of Albemarle, rebelled against the crown. Hubert de Burgh, who was essentially regent while Henry III was underage, sent royal troops to attack the castle. The 14-year-old Henry III rode with his troops, but he saw no action, for the garrison fled at their approach and Rockingham was retaken without a struggle. The core of the house was built by Henry’s son, Edward I, and his great hall survives as the centrepiece of the historic interiors.

Henry VIII leased the castle to Edward Watson in 1544, by which time it was in a very poor state. Watson converted the medieval residential ranges into a comfortable house, and for the next 450 years, Rockingham has remained the Watson family home. During the Civil War, it was held by a garrison of Roundhead soldiers. Royalist troops attacked the castle on several occasions, but the defences held. After the war, the castle's main defensive structures were destroyed by Parliament so that it could not be held against them. However, the residential quarters were allowed to remain.
Much of what we see today is Tudor, enclosed within the earlier Norman castle walls. William the Conqueror's castle motte has been levelled, and the southern bailey is almost gone; its location marked by a rose garden. Part of the curtain wall of the north bailey still stands, with its sturdy stone gatehouse. These surviving structures may have been built by King John, who spent £200 strengthening the castle defences. There is a wealth of historic furniture and artwork, including an extensive collection of twentieth-century art. Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor to Rockingham and based Chesney Wolds in Bleak House upon the castle.

Rockingham Castle is set in 18 acres of gardens. One of the most prominent garden features is the so-called 'Elephant Hedge', a 400-year-old circular yew hedge that cuts through the seventeenth-century formal terraced garden, following the line of the Norman motte and bailey. A nineteenth-century Wild Garden stands below the castle.Rockingham Castle has received numerous tourism awards over the past several years, including several citations as Best Small Visitor Attraction. There's so much to see at Rockingham that it is almost overwhelming. The combination of Norman, medieval, Tudor, and Victorian architecture is outstanding, and the gardens are a delight to wander through on a sunny day.

There will be an included light lunch in Walker’s House Tea Room, a historic annexe of Rockingham Castle.

After lunch, we visit Lyddington Bede House. Set beside the church of the picturesque ironstone village of Lyddington, Lyddington Bede House originated as the medieval wing of a palace belonging to the Bishops of Lincoln. Tradition says that a major fifteenth-century rebuilding was carried out on the orders of Bishop William Alnwick, but a final rebuilding took place at the end of the century under John Russell and his successor, William Smith. It is this last period of rebuilding which helped give the Bede House its current form. It is during this last phase that the fabulously carved cornice in the Great Chamber was installed.
In 1547 the palace was seized by the crown as part of the ongoing attempts by Henry VIII and his successors to subjugate the church in England. It eventually passed to the Cecil family of Burghley. By 1600 it had passed to Sir Thomas Cecil, son of Queen Elizabeth’s chief minister, who converted it into an almshouse for twelve poor ‘bedesmen’ over 30 years old and two women (over 45), all free of lunacy, leprosy or the French pox. Visitors can wander through the bedesmen’s rooms, with their tiny windows and fireplaces, and view the former bishops’ Great Chamber on the first floor, with its beautifully carved ceiling cornice.

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: Friday, 25th May
Choice of itineraries

Early in the morning we check out of Kilworth House Hotel. Group 1 will drive south into Northamptonshire to visit the The Prebendal Manor, Nassington,
a Northamptonshire Heritage Award Winner 2014. The Prebendal Manor and the church stand on a promontory overlooking the River Nene and the village of Nassington. The river and streams border the village on all sides. Facing the Manor is the church of St Mary and All Saints, which has Saxon stonework and the remnants of a Saxon stone cross. The Manor is a Grade-1 listed building and the earliest surviving dwelling in Northamptonshire, with a history dating back to the Anglo-Saxon period. Two of the prebendaries of this manor were closely connected to Richard III, only losing their positions in court on his death. The manor house forms the focus of a group of stone buildings, which includes a 16th-century dovecote, a large 18th-century tithe barn and a 15th-century lodgings building.
   Alan Titchmarsh described the gardens as a "stunning example of a recreated medieval garden". The gardens were established to represent both the practical and decorative features that could be found in a high status garden between the 13th and 15th centuries. They are best seen in late May and June.
   The Prebendal Manor is one of the hidden gems of Northamptonshire. Over eight hundred years old and with a huge history dating back to the Viking period, it offers a fascinating insight into medieval England.

We then drive for a few minutes to Fotheringhay Castle, the birthplace of Richard III. Sadly, Fotheringhay Church is closed for renovation, which is why we are visiting the Prebendal Manor, a late addition to the itinerary. .

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 enjoy an included three-course lunch with wine at the award-winning Falcon Inn, which nestles at the heart of the village of Fotheringhay. It was named after the House of York, whose heraldic shield depicts a falcon and fetterlock. A traditional English pub with a great reputation for serving good food, it was named Dining Pub of the Year 2011 and 2012. Lunch is booked in the conservatory, which affords views of historic Fotheringhay Church.

Group 2 will drive to the village of Grafton, Northamptonshire, where the local history society have organised a leisurely guided walk. We stroll through the village to the beautiful Church of St Mary the Virgin. You will hear stories of Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, Elizabeth I and other historical figures from the Tudor period en route. More events from village history, including the sacking of Grafton House during the Civil War, the creation of the dukedom of Grafton, and the discovery of the Grafton Portrait of Shakespeare, are recounted in the Church.

Guests will enjoy an included 3-course lunch with wine at the Boat Inn, Stoke Bruerne. Situated in the quiet, historically rich village of Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire, beside the Grand Union Canal and close to the Blisworth Tunnel, opposite the Canal Museum and by a working lock, The Boat Inn is an independent freehouse owned and operated by the Woodward Family since 1877.

After lunch, the main coach will take both groups back to London. At the Bloomsbury Hotel, your luggage will be unloaded, and we will gather for a farewell champagne reception.The tour ends afterwards.