On arrival at Heathrow airport, a private transfer will take you to the Macdonald Windsor Hotel, where we stay for the next two nights. In the evening, join the group for a welcome drink, followed by dinner.
Thursday: Windsor Castle, Ham House and Kew Gardens
We start our day with a visit Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world which is still one of the official residences of Queen Elizabeth II today. Established in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, it has been remodeled by successive kings and queens and is regularly used for ceremonial and state occasions. The magnificent State Apartments are furnished with some of the finest works of art for you to admire, beautifully decorated at this time of year. We find out more of the castle’s history on our audio-guided tour.
We continue to Ham House and Gardens, one of Europe’s greatest 17th-century houses nestling on the banks of the River Thames. This atmospheric mansion with fine interiors and historic gardens has remained virtually unchanged for 400 years. The atmosphere of a 17th-century Christmas is recreated during the festive season with decorations adorning the house and gardens.
Later, a festive treat awaits us at the world-famous Kew Gardens, where the iconic architecture and tree canopies are brought to life, drenched in Christmas color and sparkling with seasonal decorations. Discover an enchanting festive trail of lights that winds its way through the botanic gardens, before enjoying some tasty treats from one of the many enticing stalls.
This evening we enjoy a late dinner at a local restaurant.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Friday: Blenheim Palace and Greys Court
Today we visit Blenheim Palace, set in over 2,000 acres of beautiful parkland landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown. As the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough, the palace is synonymous with the Churchill family and is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. A permanent exhibition commemorates the life of this famous wartime Prime Minister, whilst the magnificent State Rooms are sumptuously dressed for Christmas and reveal a superb collection of tapestries, paintings, porcelain and furniture.
We continue on to Greys Court, a filming location of the hugely popular Downton Abbey TV series and film. Set in the rolling hills of the Chilterns, this picturesque Tudor mansion has a rich patchwork of styles, including 18th-century additions and 20th-century interiors. The house is still furnished as an intimate family home, having been occupied until 2003, and is beautifully decorated during the countdown to Christmas.
Later, we check in to Hartwell House & Spa, one of the National Trust’s Historic House Hotels, where we stay for the remainder of our tour.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Saturday: Oxford and the Ashmolean Museum
This morning we enjoy a guided walking tour of Oxford, known as the city of dreaming spires and famed for its world-renowned university colleges, some of which we visit during our tour. We take in the city’s highlights before visiting the Ashmolean, the world’s first public museum. Founded in 1683, the museum focuses on art and archaeology and the world-famous collections range from Egyptian mummies to contemporary paintings and sculptures. There is then time for a spot of retail therapy before indulging in a festive afternoon tea at the Randolph Hotel in the heart of the city.
Meals: Breakfast, Afternoon Tea
Sunday: Waddesdon Manor
Checking out of the hotel, we head to Waddesdon Manor, built by the wealthy Rothschild family in the style of a Renaissance château and filled with royal treasures. We have time to explore the interiors, given an extra sparkle around Christmas with lavish festive decorations, before enjoying a festive lunch at the Five Arrows, located at the gates of the manor. The Christmas theme continues into Waddesdon’s gardens with light trails and stunning illuminations, including the 30ft-high real Christmas tree with its magical fairy lights, as well as a charming Christmas Fair offering a range of yuletide treats.
Afterward, we check back in to the Macdonald Windsor Hotel where we toast the festive season with a farewell dinner this evening and enjoy a private carol singing performance, highlighting some of the traditions and customs during this special time of year.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
A private transfer will take you back to Heathrow airport for your return flight home.
Please note: the order of excursions is subject to change and guided tours are subject to restrictions.