Historic Castles & Stately Homes of Wales

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June 20th – June 29th, 2018- $5,140 per person
$4,990 for Royal Oak members *limited number of no single supplement spots available

We journey west to experience the romantic landscapes and rich history of Wales, a country steeped in myth and legend, with its own distinctive language and Celtic culture. We uncover an array of fairytale castles, splendid stately homes and beautiful ruins while discovering some of Wales’ most famous artists and writers along the way.

Day 1: Arrival 


On arrival at Heathrow airport, a private transfer will take you to our overnight hotel, the Macdonald Windsor Hotel. In the evening you are invited to join the group for a welcome drink, followed by dinner.

Day 2: Chavenage House & Tintern Abbey


Chavenage House

En-route to Wales, we visit Chavenage House, an Elizabethan era manor house constructed of grey Cotswold stone and largely unchanged for 400 years, where we are treated to an exclusive guided tour by a member of the family. The house has a rich history and many Civil War associations including the rooms where Cromwell stayed and an interior packed with stunning period furniture, historic tapestries and fascinating relics from the Cromwellian era. Chavenage has also been used as a film location on numerous occasions including the BBC’s Lark Rise to Candleford and the hugely successful Poldark TV series. After our tour, we enjoy lunch here.

Tintern Abbey lies in the beautiful Wye Valley, on the border between England and Wales. Built by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow in 1131, it was only the second Cistercian foundation in Britain, and the first in Wales. Falling into ruins after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, these atmospheric, romantic remains have inspired poets and painters ever since including Wordsworth and Turner.

Later, we check in to the St David’s Hotel & Spa in Cardiff, where we spend the next six nights. The evening is left free to make your own dinner arrangements.

Day 3: Cardiff, Cardiff Castle & Cardiff National Museum & Art Gallery


Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle

We begin our day with a walking tour of historic Cardiff, the capital of Wales since 1955, but with a fascinating history stretching back through the centuries. We then visit Cardiff Castle, where we enjoy a guided tour. The castle’s history spans over 2,000 years, although the Gothic Victorian fantasy castle we see today was created for the 3rd Marquess of Bute, one of the world’s richest men. We discover the lavish and opulent interiors, rich with murals, stained glass, marble, gilding and elaborate wood carvings.

After free time in the city to find lunch and explore a little further, we visit Cardiff National Museum & Art Gallery, home to one of Europe’s finest art collections. Alongside one of Europe’s best collections of Impressionist works, the museum houses 500 years of paintings, drawings, sculpture, silver and ceramics from across the world, and an important collection of Welsh art.

This evening is free for you to make your own dinner arrangements.

 

Day 4: Fonmon Castle & Dyffryn Gardens


We start the morning with a visit to Fonmon Castle. Built in 1180, this stunning medieval castle boasts beautiful Georgian interiors, art and antiques and is surrounded by extensive gardens. Owned by just two families in its 800 year history, it is one of the few medieval castles still lived in as a family home.

Next, we explore Dyffryn Gardens, an exceptional example of Edwardian garden design. Designed by eminent landscape architect Thomas Mawson, the gardens cover 55 acres and feature a stunning collection of intimate garden rooms, formal lawns and an extensive arboretum.

We then return to the hotel with the evening free for your own dinner arrangements.

Day 5: Dylan Thomas’ Birthplace at Number 5 Cwmdonkin Drive & Stradey Castle


This morning we travel to Wales’ second city of Swansea to visit the Uplands suburb that played a huge part in shaping the style and output of the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. We begin with a short walking tour, passing Dylan’s first school and many landmarks from his life, before visiting his birthplace. Dylan was born in the front bedroom of Number 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in 1914 and continued to live there until his parents moved out in 1937. The house has been fully restored to its 1914 condition when it was built as a new house by the Thomas family.

In the afternoon we visit Stradey Castle, home to the Mansel Lewis family since it was built in the 1850s. This stunning Victorian house has remained virtually unchanged since the 19th century and contains a fine collection of paintings by the current owner’s great-grandfather and his artist friends and contemporaries. The woodland garden contains a large collection of interesting trees and shrubs, many of which favour the mild climate and acid soil found here.

Back at the hotel this evening you are free to make your own dinner arrangements in Cardiff.

Day 6: Dinefwr Castle, Laugharne, Dylan Thomas’ Boathouse & Laugharne Castle


Dinefwr

Dinefwr

Our first visit of the day is to Dinefwr Castle, the ruins of which tell the story of battling Welsh noble families and their struggles with the English kings, which saw this 12th-century castle change hands across the borders many times. Set within the National Trust owned Dinefwr Park, we’ll also be able to visit nearby Newton House, built in the 17th century but given a fashionable Gothic facelift in the 1850s, with stone cladding and four impressive turrets.

In the afternoon we visit Laugharne, best known for its associations with the poet Dylan Thomas and thought to have been an inspiration for the fictional town of Llareggub in Under Milk Wood. We visit Dylan Thomas’ Boathouse where the poet lived with his family from 1949 to 1953. Now a museum, it contains memorabilia and much of the original furniture and offers wonderful views of the Taf estuary. There will also be a little time for you to explore the area further or to visit the romantic ruins of Laugharne Castle. Built in the 13th century by the de Brian family, the castle was later transformed into an Elizabethan mansion. During the Civil War it was partially dismantled by parliamentary forces, but these noble ruins continued to inspire Dylan Thomas and others.

The evening is free for you to make your own dinner arrangements.

Day 7: Castell Coch, Tredegar House & Caerphilly Castle


Castell Coch

Castell Coch

We start the morning with a visit to Castell Coch, a 19th-century Gothic Revival castle built on the site of an original 13th-century castle. The castle’s fairytale appearance, with its towers, turrets and elaborately decorated interiors, comes courtesy of the architect William Burgess, employed by the 3rd Marquess of Bute to create a rural retreat to complement the opulence of his main residence, Cardiff Castle.

Our next stop is Tredegar House, a late 17th-century restoration house surrounded by 90 acres of beautiful gardens and parkland. For more than 500 years it was home to one of the greatest Welsh families, the Morgans, later Lords Tredegar, and their fascinating narrative is told throughout the house.

We end the day with a visit to impressive Caerphilly Castle, built by Gilbert de Clare in the 13th century as part of his campaign to conquer Glamorgan. The second largest castle in Britain and the first truly concentric castle, the rings of stone and extensive water defenses are formidable even today. The Marquesses of Bute acquired the castle in 1776 and under the third and fourth Marquesses, extensive restoration took place.

In the evening we enjoy a traditional Welsh tasting menu at our hotel, featuring many local specialties, followed by an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.

Day 8: Llancaiach Fawr Manor & Hay-on-Wye


Before leaving Wales, we stop to visit Llancaiach Fawr Manor in the heart of the Rhymney Valley. Designed during the turbulent reigns of Tudor kings and queens on the site of an earlier medieval structure, it is one of the finest examples of a semi-fortified manor in Wales today. The manor is best known as the home of Colonel Edward Prichard who hosted a visit by King Charles I of England in 1645 and has now been restored and furnished as it would have been during Prichard’s tenure.

Our next stop is at a pretty little town which promises to be a treat for bibliophiles: Hay-on-Wye. Often described as “the town of books“, it is the National Book Town of Wales and home to over 20 independent bookshops selling second hand, antiquarian and rare books. Hay is also a town with bags of history and character, and promises to be a charming setting to while away a couple of hours.

We continue on to our overnight hotel, the Ellenborough Park Hotel, situated on the outskirts of the spa town of Cheltenham. Later, we enjoy dinner together at the hotel.

Day 9: Cheltenham, Wilson Gallery & Stonor Park


Stonor Park

Stonor Park

We spend time in Cheltenham this morning, with time to admire the Regency town houses, intricate ironwork balconies and painted stucco facades that line the historic promenade, squares and terraces. We also pay a visit to the Wilson Gallery, an outstanding museum and art gallery with an important collection of Arts & Crafts movement furniture.

As we travel east we visit Stonor Park, situated in a valley in the Chiltern Hills, where we enjoy a guided tour. Home to the Stonor family for 850 years, it is one of the oldest family homes still inhabited today. The house contains an impressive collection of art and artifacts amassed from across the globe. We can also view the work of St Edmund Campion, created when he was given refuge here in 1581. Highlights of the house include the Gothic revival hall, atmospheric 17th-century library and dramatic long gallery opening on to beautiful Italianate gardens. Within the sweeping grounds sits a perfectly preserved prehistoric stone circle!

We continue on to Hartwell House Hotel, one of the National Trust’s Historic Hotels, where we enjoy a farewell dinner together.

Day 10: Departure


A private transfer will take you back to Heathrow airport for your return flight home.

Please note: This tour involves a fair amount of walking on sometimes steep or rugged terrain and some of the historic castles we visit have a large number of stairs to climb. We would therefore recommend being able to undertake a good level of walking to benefit from the tour.

What’s Included

  • Airport transfers from London Heathrow*
  • 1 night at Macdonald Windsor Hotel
  • 6 nights at St David’s Hotel & Spa
  • 1 night at Ellenborough Park Hotel
  • 1 night at Hartwell House Hotel
  • Welcome drink and canapés
  • Full English breakfast each day
  • 4 dinners
  • Services of a tour director throughout your stay
  • Travel by comfortable motor coach
  • All entrance costs
  • Porterage

*supplement applies for transfers from all other airports

Special extras included in your itinerary

  • Guided tour and lunch at Chavenage House
  • Guided walking tour of Cardiff
  • Guided tour of Cardiff Castle
  • Guided tour at Number 5 Cwmdonkin Drive
  • Guided tour at Stonor Park
  • Welsh tasting menu dinner on one evening
  • Themed evening talk by a guest speaker

Your Hotel

All Nights

Night One – Macdonald Windsor Hotel, Windsor

Nights Two to Seven – St David’s Hotel & Spa, Cardiff

The contemporary St David’s Hotel & Spa, with its dramatic glass-fronted façade, boasts a waterfront position on Cardiff Bay. All the rooms feature luxury bathrooms, air-conditioning and floor-to-ceiling windows. The hotel also offers a bar and restaurant overlooking Cardiff Bay while the Marine Spa features an indoor swimming pool, spa pool and fully equipped gym. Spa treatments are available at an extra cost.

Night Eight – Ellenborough Park Hotel, Cheltenham

Night Nine – Hartwell House Hotel, near Aylesbury

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