17-Day Castles & Cathedrals


DAY 01:  NORTH AMERICA / LONDON, ENGLAND.  Depart North America aboard our transatlantic jet bound for London.  

DAY 02:  LONDON.  Upon arrival at London Airport we are met by our tour escort and motor coach and transferred to our hotel in England's exciting capital city of London. The balance of the day is at leisure, dinner and overnight at our hotel.

DAY 03:  LONDON.  Our full day sightseeing tour of London will commence with the West End.  We will see Hyde Park, Marble Arch, Mayfair, Piccadilly, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard ceremony (if held).  A highlight will be a visit to impressive Westminster Abbey.  This afternoon we travel into the City of London, rich in history and for many centuries the leading commercial and financial centre.  We visit St Paul's Cathedral, the masterpiece designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and which is the final resting place of many renowned sailors, soldiers and painters.  We then continue to the infamous Tower of London which for 900 years has guarded the approach to London from the River Thames and has been a fortress, royal palace and prison. steeped in the nation's history it has been the scene of many executions including the beheading of Anne Boleyn, wife of Henry VIII.  We also see the Crown Jewels before returning to our hotel for dinner and overnight.

DAY 04:  LONDON / CANTERBURY / LONDON.  This morning we drive through the Kentish countryside to Canterbury, the traditional home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the most important religious city in England.   In 1170 Thomas A Beckett was murdered in his own cathedral by the knights of Henry II and shortly afterwards was canonized;  for centuries pilgrims flocked to his shrine - they have been immortalized in "The Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer.  We have a detailed visit to the Cathedral and also see some of the medieval walls of the city;  some time at leisure before returning to our hotel in London.  Dinner tonight is on our own, overnight at our hotel.

DAY 05:  LONDON / YORK.  This morning we drive northwards through central England to the medieval town of York, where we visit the Minster with its majestic towers and priceless stained glass windows. We also enjoy a brief walking tour through the city seeing the ancient streets where the supper storey's lean precariously across the roadways towards each other before visiting the Yorkshire Museum which celebrates 1000 years of the region's heritage and houses one of the finest archaeological collections in Europe. You will also discover the history of St Mary's Abbey, the ruins of which are situated in the grounds of the Museum. Dinner at our hotel, after which this evening we enjoy a ghost walk through the ancient streets of York.

DAY 06:  YORK / BOLTON / SKIPTON / MOLD. This morning we visit Bolton Abbey near Leyburn before driving to Skipton to visit the Castle, one of the most complete and well-preserved medieval castles in England. See the gatehouse which contains the Shell Roam decorated in 1620 with shells and Jamaican coral and the yew tree planted in the Tudor courtyard in 1659 by Lady Anne Clifford as well as the rest of the Castle. We then drive swiftly into North Wales and the small town of Mold for dinner and overnight.

DAY 07:  MOLD / CONWAY / HOLYHEAD / DUBLIN.  Drive this morning through Wales, land of the Red Dragon, to Conway where we visit the Castle, a masterpiece of military architecture built between 1238 and 1289 by Edward I and which helped to complete the conquest of the Welsh princes in North Wales.  We then drive to Holyhead where we board our ferry for the crossing of the Trish Sea to Dun Loaghaire; a short drive brings us to Ireland's capital city of Dublin for dinner and overnight.

DAY 08:  DUBLIN.  Our morning sightseeing tour of Dublin includes many of the highlights of this fascinating city.  We will visit St Patrick's Cathedral, see O'Connell Street, the historic Post Office and gracious Merrion Square and St Stephen's Square.  Also visit Trinity College to see the famous Book of Kells, Dublin Castle and Dublinia which tells the story of medieval Dublin. This afternoon we drive out to the Boyne Valley and Newgrange one of the most extraordinary prehistoric sites in Europe.  The bend in the River Boyne holds a megalithic cemetery over 4000 years old comprising three huge passage-tombs and a number of other graves, and at Newgrange the rising sun on Midwinter Day penetrates the darkness of the tomb for a few moments, symbolizing the notion of life after death.  We return to Dublin, where dinner this evening is on our own, overnight at our hotel.

DAY 09:  DUBLIN / BRU BORU / ROCK OF CASHEL / LIMERICK.   Leaving Dublin this morning we drive through the dairy lands of Tipperary to visit the Bru Boru National Heritage Centre. This cultural village is designed around a village green and is a home to the study and celebration of native Irish song, dance, theatre and Celtic studies. We also visit the Rock of Cashel; Cashel was the seat of the kings of what is now south Munster until 1101 when Nuircheartach O'Brien presented it to the Church. We next visit Holy Cross Abbey which stands out as one of the few shining examples of what has been achieved by determination and hard work as it has risen from its ruins when it was destroyed during the Reformation and is now the finest 15th century parish church in Ireland.  Our last visit today is to Hore Abbey en route to Limerick.  This evening we attend the Medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle, returning to our hotel for overnight.

DAY 10:  LIMERICK / WEXFORD.  Our morning orientation tour of Limerick, Ireland's oldest city, will show us St Marys Cathedral, the Treaty Stone and 13th century King John's Castle.  We then drive southwards to Cork where we see it's tiny shops, narrow streets and majestic churches before driving along the headlands of the southern coast through Youghal and Dungarvan to Wexford for dinner and overnight.

DAY 11:  WEXFORD / ROSSLARE / FISHGUARD / ST. DAVID'S / CARDIFF / BRISTOL. Drive the short distance to the seaport of Rosslare where we board our ferry for the crossing to Fishguard in Wales.  We drive the short distance to St Davids to visit the Bishop's Palace, an imposing medieval palace standing in a grassy hollow next to purple-stoned St David's Cathedral.  We then drive through Pembroke, past Carmarthen Castle and the seaport city of Swansea to the Welsh capital of Cardiff.  Here we visit the Castle, rebuilt in the 19th century as an extravagant and idealized vision of the middle ages for the third Marquis of Bute by the Architect William Burges.  We also visit the Museum of Welsh Life St Fagans, where you can experience Wales and Welsh life by traveling from a Celtic village of 2000 years ago to a miner's cottage in the 1980's; on the way you will find the bustle of a pre-war grocery, the chill of a Victorian schoolroom, a 19th century farmyard and the aroma of freshly baked bread from a working bakery.  A short drive brings us to our hotel in Bristol for dinner and overnight.

DAY 12:  BRISTOL / BATH / WELLS / GLASTONBURY / BRISTOL.  Our first visit this morning is to the beautifully preserved Georgian town of Bath, built by the Romans 2000 years ago and revived by fashionable Georgian society who came to Bath to "take the waters".  We visit the Roman Baths and the 15th century Abbey as well as seeing the charming squares and crescents and the River Avon and delightful Pulteney Bridge before driving to the small town of Wells where we visit the Cathedral, a 12th/13th century Gothic building with a magnificent 12th century West Front.  Our last visit is to the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, traditionally the oldest Christian sanctuary in the British Isles and legendary burial place of King Arthur; it was built to house the Grail brought here by Joseph of Arimathea and the thornbush that sprang from his staff.  We then return to our hotel for dinner and overnight.

DAY 13:  BRISTOL / OXFORD / LONDON.  We drive swiftly this morning to the world famous university city of Oxford where we visit Christ Church Cathedral (the smallest cathedral in England) and also the Ashmolean Museum which is the oldest museum open to the public.  Some time at leisure before joining the motorway system and driving swiftly to London for dinner and overnight.

DAY 14: LONDON / MUNICH.  Transfer to the airport for your flight to Munich, Germany.  Upon arrival we are met and drive to Linderhoff and Linderhoffs Castle - built by mad King Ludwig - a dazzling castle set high in the Bavarian Alps. Then on to Oberammergau, home of the world-famous Passion Play which is performed once every ten years. Dinner and overnight. 

DAY 15:  PASSION PLAY.   The entire day is devoted to attending a performance of the world famous Passion Play which is held once every ten years in this charming small Bavarian village.  Dinner and overnight.

DAY 16: OBERAMMERGAU / MUNICH.  This morning we return to Munich. Our sightseeing tour of Munich includes the gothic Rathdus (town hall) with its famous glockenspiel, the awesome twin-spired Frauenkirche, Marienplatz, imperial residence Alte Pinakothec and other principle places of interest.  Dinner and overnight at our hotel.

DAY 17:  MUNICH / NORTH AMERICA.  After breakfast we will transfer to the airport for our return the United States of America.  The end of a most enjoyable journey.