We check in to the Tudor Park Marriott Hotel and Country Club in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager.
Monday: Hever Castle & Chiddingstone Castle
Our day starts at 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 such as Tudor portraits and furniture, as well as two prayer books signed and inscribed by Anne Boleyn. The castle was lavishly restored and extended in the early 20th century by American millionaire, William Waldorf Astor. We enjoy a private guided tour of the castle which is beautifully decorated for the festive season with fairy lights, welcoming log fires and twinkling Christmas trees.
This afternoon, we head to Chiddingstone Castle where we enjoy a private guided tour and some refreshments while soaking up the festive atmosphere and splendid decorations. Set in 35 acres of beautiful grounds, the castle has undergone a number of architectural changes; from its beginnings as an early timber-framed Tudor dwelling to a rebuild which resembles a medieval castle in the early 19th century. Today it houses the collections of the late antiquarian Denys Eyre Bower including Japanese lacquer, Ancient Egyptian treasures, Stuart paintings and Jacobite manuscripts. The Victorian kitchen and servants’ hall give a taste of the former 'upstairs downstairs' life of the house.
After dinner this evening, we enjoy an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Tuesday: Canterbury Cathedral & Christmas Market
We spend the day in spellbinding Canterbury, where we start with a guided tour of Canterbury Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in England, dating back to Norman times. In 1170, Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the cathedral and ever since, it has been a site of Christian pilgrimage. The cathedral contains one of England’s largest collections of early medieval stained glass while its awe-inspiring architecture includes a sweeping Gothic nave and cavernous crypt. With Christmas trees and a life-size nativity scene, the cathedral offers a magical atmosphere during the festive season.
Afterwards, we stroll across to Cathedral Lodge, a unique hotel set within the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral, where we enjoy a delicious afternoon tea before we explore the Canterbury Christmas Market. Perfect for innovative gift inspiration, and selling everything from local food and drink, candles, handmade stocking fillers, Christmas decorations and jewellery, it’s like stepping into a picture-perfect Christmas card, aglow with twinkling trees and warming glasses of festive cheer.
There is also time for dinner at leisure in Canterbury before we head back to our hotel.
Wednesday: Powell-Cotton Museum & Leeds Castle
This morning we head to the fascinating and unique Powell-Cotton Museum, nestled within the vast Quex Park. The museum was established in 1896 by Major Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton to house natural history museum specimens and cultural objects collected on expeditions to Asia and Africa. We explore an assortment of extraordinary treasures and dioramas which display mounted mammals within their natural habitats; all unique to the UK, stunning for their size and quality.
Later, we pay 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 has been a Norman stronghold, the royal residence of six medieval queens and was once home to Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Latterly, it became an elegant early 20th-century retreat for the influential and the famous. Our visit gives us a chance to explore the castle’s impressive state rooms which are lavishly decorated for Christmas, after we enjoy a festive lunch here.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.
Please note: the itinerary order is subject to change.