We check in to the Mercure Bowden Hall Hotel in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Monday: Berkeley Castle & Dr Jenner’s House
This morning we visit Berkeley Castle which has remained in the Berkeley family since its construction in the late 12th century. This ancient fortress home boasts fine medieval rooms and magnificent collections amassed by members of the family throughout the centuries. It is probably best known as the scene of the brutal murder of Edward ll in 1327. The castle has also been used as a filming location including the hugely successful Poldark TV series and Wolf Hall.
We then travel the short distance to Dr Jenner’s House, also situated in the historic market town of Berkeley. Here we discover the elegant former home of the country doctor whose work changed the world. This is the house where Edward Jenner, pioneer of the smallpox vaccination, once lived and from where he told the world about his work. We learn more about his legacy on our introductory talk, before we have time to explore at leisure.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Tuesday: Sudeley Castle & Sezincote
Our first visit is to Sudeley Castle where we enjoy an introductory talk with tea, coffee and scones. With royal connections spanning a thousand years, this Tudor castle has played an important role in the turbulent and changing times of England’s past. The castle rooms contain many fascinating treasures, from ancient Roman times to the present day while outside are award-winning gardens. The castle was once home to Katherine Parr, the last of King Henry VIII’s six wives, and she is buried in the 15th-century church within the grounds. We also enjoy a light lunch during our visit here.
Afterwards we visit Sezincote, where we enjoy a guided tour of this unique and exotic palace, set at the heart of a traditional, family-run estate. In the early 1800s, Charles Cockerell, who had worked for the East India Company, commissioned his architect brother, Samuel, to design and build an Indian house in the Mogul style of Rajasthan. Assisted by the artist Thomas Daniell, the result is a unique combination of Hindu and Muslim architecture with a weathered-copper onion dome, minarets and curving orangery while outside is a romantic landscape of temples, grottoes and waterfalls designed by Humphry Repton.
This evening, we enjoy a three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Wednesday: Chavenage House & Painswick Rococo Garden
We start our morning at 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 including Poldark. After our tour, we enjoy lunch here.
Our final stop is to Painswick Rococo Garden, nestled in a hidden valley, where we enjoy a guided tour. Rococo describes a period of art that was fashionable in Europe in the 1700s. Initially designed in the 1740s as an English country gentleman’s pleasure garden and a venue for hosting intimate garden parties, it is now the country’s sole surviving complete Rococo garden with quirky features and fantastical designs.
We return to our hotel for a three-course dinner.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.