We check in to the Bridgewood Manor Hotel in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Monday: Godinton House & Provender
This morning we enjoy refreshments and an exclusive private guided tour of Godinton House, a delightful Jacobean house incorporating a medieval hall and ornate carvings. Godinton is a comfortable, much-loved home where each room reflects the tastes of those who have lived here over the centuries. Our tour unravels 600 years of history and an excellent collection of furniture, art, porcelain and curios. We also have time to explore the 12 acres of tranquil gardens, surrounded by ancient parkland, followed by a light lunch in the old Billiard Room.
We continue on to Provender, home of Princess Olga Romanoff, daughter of Prince Andrew Romanoff, the eldest nephew of the Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Dating back to the 13th century, Provender is a fascinating record of English building traditions over seven centuries as adventurers, explorers, heiresses and princesses each re-fashioned the house to make it their own. A recent programme of careful restoration has revealed a wealth of historical and architectural detail which we discover on our exclusive private tour, led by the princess herself.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Tuesday: Hever Castle & Chiddingstone Castle
We head to Hever Castle, the childhood home of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. Dating back to the late 13th century, this double-moated castle originated as a gatehouse and walled bailey and is home to various historic artefacts which we discover on our private guided tour, including Tudor portraits and fine furniture, as well as two prayer books signed and inscribed by Anne Boleyn. The castle was lavishly restored and extended by American millionaire, William Waldorf Astor, in the early 20th century. The spectacular gardens feature peaceful walks, two mazes and are renowned for having their own Hever Castle Rose.
Our next stop is Chiddingstone Castle where we enjoy a light lunch on arrival, followed by a private guided tour. Set in 35 acres of informal gardens, the castle has undergone a number of architectural changes; from its beginnings as an early timber-framed Tudor dwelling to a rebuild to resemble a medieval castle in the early 19th century. Today it houses the amazing collections of the late antiquarian Denys Eyre Bower including Japanese lacquer, Ancient Egyptian treasures, Buddhist objects, Stuart paintings and Jacobite manuscripts. The Victorian kitchen, servants’ hall and a servant’s bedroom in the attic give a taste of the former 'upstairs downstairs' life of the house.
This evening, we enjoy a three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Wednesday: Leeds Castle & Lullingstone Castle
We start the day with a visit to the magnificent Leeds Castle, a quintessential moated castle set in 500 acres of glorious parkland. Dating back to the 12th century, it was once home to Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, as well as six of England’s medieval queens. The castle’s last private owner was Lady Baillie, an Anglo-American heiress who lovingly restored the castle to its former glory and created an elegant country retreat. We discover more of the castle’s fascinating history as well as its wealth of furnishings, paintings, tapestries and antiques on display on our private guided tour followed by refreshments.
Afterwards we travel to Lullingstone Castle where we enjoy a guided tour. Recorded in the Domesday Book, it is one of the oldest family estates in England. The present manor house was built in 1497 and has been home to the same family ever since. Altered extensively in Queen Anne’s time, the house boasts fine state rooms and beautiful grounds including a stunning 15-acre lake and the World Garden, home to thousands of rare plants collected from around the world by Tom Hart Dyke, the current heir, planted in their respective continents of origin.
We return to our hotel for a three-course dinner.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.