We check in to the Jurys Inn Cheltenham in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager.
Tuesday: Sudeley Castle & Stanway House
Our day begins with a visit to Sudeley Castle. With royal connections spanning a thousand years, this Tudor castle played an important role in England’s turbulent 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. After our visit, we enjoy lunch here.
Next stop is Stanway, a fine example of a Jacobean manor house built from mellow Cotswold stone, where we enjoy a guided tour. Home to the Earls of Wemyss, the house is noted for its beautiful architecture including Jacobean mullions and gables, and its furniture, much of which has been in the house since it was made. The house is surrounded by ancient parkland and an 18th-century water garden, one of the finest in England, with a cascade and pyramid folly, a single-jet fountain (at 300ft the highest fountain in Britain), and the tallest gravity fountain in the world.
After dinner this evening, we enjoy an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Wednesday: Moreton-in-Marsh, Sezincote, Broadway & Gloucestershire Warwickshire
We start the morning in Moreton-in-Marsh, a traditional Cotswold market town dating back to the Saxon era, and a former coaching station with elegant 17th and 18th-century inns and houses. Highlights here include the White Hart Royal Hotel – the former manor house where Charles I stayed during the Civil War.
We continue on to Sezincote, where we enjoy a guided tour of this unique and exotic palace. 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.
Next, we head to the quintessential Cotswold village of Broadway, often referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Cotswolds’, with its picturesque High Street lined with honey-coloured stone buildings.
From here we board our train on the heritage Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway and embark on a nostalgic journey to Toddington, travelling through the spectacular scenery of the Cotswolds with lovely views of sleepy hamlets and villages along the way. The line was only extended to Broadway in 2019 with the help of fundraising spearheaded by Pete Waterman OBE.
Thursday: Rodmarton Manor & Chavenage House
We head first to Rodmarton Manor, one of the last country houses to be built and furnished according to the ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement. The house is filled with fine examples of handmade furniture and we enjoy a guided tour with the owners, plus free time to explore the beautiful gardens.
Afterwards we visit Chavenage House, an Elizabethan era manor house constructed of grey Cotswold stone and largely unchanged for 400 years, where we enjoy a guided tour followed by afternoon tea. The house has a rich history and many Civil War associations as well as an interior packed with stunning period furniture, historic tapestries and fascinating relics from the Cromwellian era. The house and grounds have been used as a TV and film location on many occasions, including epics such as Poldark and Wolf Hall.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.
Please note: the itinerary order is subject to change.