This afternoon we check in to the Crowne Plaza Basingstoke. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Monday: Highclere Castle & Henley on Thames
Today we visit world-famous Highclere Castle, residence of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon and filming location for the much loved Downton Abbey television series. Entrance includes access to the Egyptian Exhibition in the cellars of the castle, which explores the achievements of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922.
We then head onwards to Henley on Thames, well-known as the home to one of the world’s most famous rowing regattas, the Henley Royal Regatta, which was first held in 1839. This beautiful market town is situated on the River Thames in Oxfordshire, surrounded by the Chiltern Hills. The main street has many buildings with attractive Georgian frontages.
This evening, we enjoy a three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Tuesday: Wilton House & Heale House Gardens
This morning we venture to Wilton House. Home today to the Earl and Countess of Pembroke, this impressive property has foremost been a family home for over 450 years. Wilton House is set in 21 acres of landscaped parkland and is an excellent example of Palladian architecture with chief architectural features including the stunning 17th-century state apartments. This property has regularly been used as a filming location including for Pride and Prejudice (2005) starring Kiera Knightly, and for The Young Victoria (2009). Here we enjoy an exclusive private guided tour and an included lunch.
Our next stop is a guided tour of Heale House Gardens, a beautiful garden designed by Harold Peto in both Edwardian and Tudor styles, and situated beside the River Avon. Set in the grounds of historic Heale House, mostly unchanged since King Charles II hid there in 1651, these eight acres of beautiful gardens are a delightful mixture of styles and species through which trout-filled tributaries of the River Avon flow. On our tour, we discover the vegetable garden, walled garden, woodland garden and Japanese water garden with its authentic Japanese tea house and red Nikko bridge.
We return to our hotel for a three-course dinner.
Wednesday: Longleat House & Peto Garden
Longleat House is widely regarded as one of the best examples of high Elizabethan architecture in Britain. Substantially completed by 1580 and now home to the 7th Marquess of Bath, Longleat House is set within 900 acres of stunning Capability Brown landscaped parkland featuring a fine lawn, serpentine river, wooded hills and meandering pathways. Today we enjoy a private guided tour of the impressive house with its priceless antiques and ornate painted ceilings, followed by an included light lunch.
We then head on to the Peto Garden at Iford Manor where we are offered a welcome introduction from a member of the family and then enjoy a private guided tour. These Italian-style gardens were designed by Harold Peto, who lived at Iford Manor from 1899 until his death in 1933. The landscape is characterised by terraces, impressive sculptures and stunning views of the valley.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.