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Traveling the English Countryside with Albion Tours

Chelcey Berryhill - Wednesday January 06, 2016 10:00

Fields of sheep grazing and purple heather as far as the eye can see – it doesn’t get more English than that. I had the pleasure of traveling with Albion Tours this past September on the “Brideshead Visited: Northern England’s Magnificent Mansions” tour and explored numerous National Trust sites with Royal Oak members. There were even a few privately-run, magnificent piles along the way. Travel

Before I recap my favorite sites, I must sing the praises of the tour company, Albion.

The hotels: charming and comfortable with tasty meals.

The tour leader: absolutely fantastic! Linda is an encyclopedia of knowledge and made the coach ride an additional stop on the itinerary. She was always two steps ahead of us with day’s stops and made sure each tour goer had a memorable experience!

And finally, the traveling companions: all devoted Royal Oak members and National Trust enthusiasts. It was such a treat to travel with fellow Royal Oakers who are just as passionate about the work of the Trust, experiencing the English countryside and eager to explore the next site.

I encourage you to peruse the 2016 itineraries and join The Royal Oak Foundation on one of these tours. It truly was a remarkable experience.

Here are some of the highlights:

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Ornate ceilings galore! Each room we visited was capped with a gilded or scrolled-plaster detailed canopy that hovered over the visitors. As if the paintings and the furniture were not enough, the ceilings reminded me to constantly look up.


L: Chatsworth House. R: Damien Hirst’s “Exquisite Pain.”

Chatsworth House

Visiting this magnificent estate was truly memorable. It was an interesting juxtaposition to visit a privately owned home open to the public, after seeing numerous Trust-run properties. What I enjoyed most about this site was the curated and expansive private art collection the family has meticulously enhanced for centuries. From the Devonshire family DNA installation by Jacob van der Beugel in the North Sketch Gallery, to the portrait of Georgiana as Cynthia from Spenser’s Faerie Queene, to the perfectly placed Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain by Damien Hirst in the monumental alabaster altarpiece, it was truly brilliant!

nostell priory

L: Medal cabinet in Nostell Priory’s library. R: Chippendale table in a stately bedroom at Nostell Priory.

Nostell Priory

This quickly became a favorite National Trust property. Throughout 2015, I marveled over the furniture collection at Nostell Priory as we promoted the appeal to support the Furniture Research and Publication Project. I knew the collection was remarkable, but seeing it in person surpassed my expectations. I was even able to get a sneak peek at the Chippendale medal cabinet in the library, which is typically kept closed to preserve the rich quality of the centuries-old wood.

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L: Remnants of historic wallpaper at Calke Abbey. R: Historic menus from National Trust properties.

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Dunham Massey.

National Trust’s Special Touches

As always, the National Trust never ceases to amaze me in their management and care for English heritage. Each site is so unique with their varied collections, revolving exhibitions, presentation of family heirlooms and current state of preservation and restoration.

The Albion tour was curated quite well with the first stop to Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. The house is presented to the public as it was found. The Trust chose to stabilize and repair the home, but leave it as it was presented to them when it was donated in 1985. The collection of specimens and taxidermy animals was delightfully quirky and paired well with the home’s ‘preserved-decay’ attitude.

After visiting Calke Abbey, I understood just how bad the state of disrepair could be in these massive stately homes. Moving forward, visiting repaired and restored estates by the Trust, which were always presented to the public with their heart and soul at the forefront, was extremely inspiring.

Dunham Massey was one of these homes that I thought did such a wonderful job in presenting its history. You may remember Royal Oak highlighting their instillation of WWI memorabilia and turning the home into a hospital as it was during the war. Placed actors around the home gave it a special touch, transporting you back in time and helping to set the scene.

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Taking a much-needed selfie at Nostell Priory.

If you’re considering a trip to the UK this year, make sure you add Albion Tours to your list of possibilities. I learned so much about the National Trust on this trip and made new life-long friends. More importantly, send us your most memorable experiences from an Albion trip. We’d love to feature them in our newsletter or online AngloFiles Magazine. Book Now

topics: Travel