Arrive in London and transfer to our hotel. Meet in the afternoon and get to know your fellow travellers over a welcome dinner and a glass of wine at a local restaurant.
Today we will familiarise ourselves with the old city while enjoying a guided walking tour of Shakespeare’s and Dickens’ London, stopping in at literary and historical sites associated with their lives and works. After a brief visit to St Paul’s Cathedral, we will head across the Millennium Bridge to Southwark – a parish that has links to both William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. After lunch in the 1000-year-old ‘foodie heaven’ of the Borough Market, we will head to the nearby Globe Theatre for a guided tour, followed by some free time to explore the Globe Exhibition. This afternoon will also include a guided tour of Bankside – dating back over 6000 years, it is one of the oldest settlements in Britain and also the original site of the well-known Tudor playhouses; The Rose, The Swan and The Globe. Some of England’s greatest writers and actors, including William Shakespeare, lived and worked in this area. This evening you are free to take off your walking shoes, relax and enjoy each other’s company.
This morning we will begin our day with a guided walk around the picturesque village of Hampstead, learning many fascinating details about its famous artistic, literary and intellectual inhabitants along the way. Former residents include; Lord Byron, Sigmund Freud, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Agatha Christie, T. S. Eliot, John Fowles, John Galsworthy, Enid Blyton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Daphne du Maurier, Evelyn Waugh, George Orwell, Robert Louis Stevenson, D. H. Lawrence and P.L Travers. After touring the village, we will visit the John Keats’ House Museum – home to the poet from 1818 until tuberculosis finally forced him to relocate to the warmer climate of Italy in 1820. The house, which inspired some of Keats’ most memorable poetry, is also the real-life setting for his meeting and romance with next-door neighbour, Fanny Brawne. (Jane Campion’s 2009 film, Bright Star, is based on their love-story but it was filmed at Hyde House in Bedfordshire rather than Keats House in Hampstead.)
After lunch in Hampstead we will head back into the city to spend the afternoon immersed in the ‘Treasures of the British Library’ exhibition. A specialist librarian will guide us through this impressive collection of valuable manuscripts which include: the Magna Carta; Da Vinci’s notebook; handwritten music from Handel, Beethoven and Chopin; lyrics from The Beatles; a letter from Churchill; elaborate religious scripts and original, handwritten texts by William Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. This evening you are at leisure to attend a show (pre-booking advised) or simply relax over a meal with your travel companions.
This morning we will be exploring Bloomsbury and its surrounds. Our personal guide will provide insight into the area’s history and development as well as its connection with well-known writers, artists and political figures. Some of London’s oldest and most notable squares are located here, as is Gray’s Inn (a setting for several of Dickens’ novels) and the Hall (where the first performance of Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors took place in 1594). As we wander the streets that were once inhabited by the legendary ‘Bloomsbury Group’, we will visit significant sites and houses associated with many other famous former residents. These include: Charles Dickens, E.M Forster, William Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, G. B. Shaw, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.
This afternoon you are at leisure – you may like to visit the Charles Dickens House or one of the other interesting museums located in this area, or you may choose to relax in one of Bloomsbury’s beautiful, character-filled squares.
This evening we will meet at The Swan, adjacent to Shakespeare’s Globe, where we will enjoy a pre-theatre dinner before attending a performance in the theatre.
Breakfast and Dinner
This morning we will board our private coach and depart for Yorkshire, where we will spend the next two nights.
On arrival, we will familiarise ourselves with the old village of Haworth, former home of the Brontë sisters and learn how their family, childhood experiences and locale helped shape their perspective of the world. Our guided tour will include: the exterior of the Brontë Parsonage and its adjoining cemetery; the Black Bull, made famous as the haunt of their hapless brother, Branwell and the Haworth Church underneath which all except Anne are buried.
This evening you are at leisure to explore the town’s historic centre independently, perhaps choosing to soak up the atmosphere further by dining in one of Haworth’s historic pubs.
This morning we will explore the Brontë Parsonage in order to gain further insight into the family’s everyday lives in the early 19th century. Our local guide will be on hand throughout our visit to point out specific items of interest and to provide more detailed information when required. Following our visit, our guide will lead us on a walking tour of the Yorkshire moors. Throughout the afternoon we will inhabit the rugged landscape that literally formed the Brontë sisters’ ‘backyard’, experiencing for ourselves the same paths and scenery with which they were so familiar two hundred years ago. The moors feature most notably in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and highlights of our walk will include;
- Top Withens (a desolate ruin which was reputedly the setting for the farmstead Wuthering Heights)\
- the Brontë Falls
- Ponden Kirk (thought to be ‘Penistone Crags’) and Ponden Hall (the manor house that inspired ‘Thrushcross Grange’)
- the Alcomden Stones (known as ‘the true playground of Cathy and Heathcliff’).
This evening you are once more at leisure to enjoy the village independently.
Haworth to IRONBRIDGE then to STRATFORD-UPON-AVON
This morning we will have an early start as we set off for the historic town of Ironbridge, widely known as ‘the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution’ and a UNESCO world heritage listed site.
On arrival, we will be met by a local guide and begin a walking tour of the historical sites directly related to the Industrial Revolution. Highlights will include: the Victorian ‘old town’, the iron bridge and tollhouse (built in 1779) and the Museum of the Gorge.
After lunch we will continue on to Stratford-upon-Avon. This afternoon we will have a few hours of leisure to explore the town before we meet for a pre-theatre dinner at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Tower Restaurant.
In the evening we will attend a performance of the RSC’s current production.
Breakfast and Dinner
Today we will explore the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon under the guidance of a local expert. We will begin with a visit to Shakespeare’s Birthplace before moving on to other significant sites associated with his early life. These include: Holy Trinity Church (in which he was baptised and is now buried); Anne Hathaway’s Cottage; Hall’s Croft (the Jacobean home of Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna, and her husband, the physician John Hall); the garden and site of Shakespeare’s ‘New Place’ (his family home from 1597 until he died in the house in 1616) and his former grammar school, the King’s School.
This evening you are at leisure to explore the town independently or perhaps visit the famous ‘Dirty Duck’ (also known as The Black Swan, and situated opposite the RSC theatres, this atmospheric pub has long been associated with actors, critics and theatregoers).
This morning we will attend a 3-hour private workshop conducted by experienced theatre practitioners from the Royal Shakespeare Company. The workshop will focus on teaching Shakespeare more effectively by using active approaches from the RSC rehearsal room. Participants will take part in learning and teaching activities that can be used immediately in their own classrooms and adapted to students of any age.
After lunch we will travel the relatively short distance to Oxford where we will spend the afternoon exploring the town and university on a private walking tour. A local expert will guide us through Oxford’s literary past and discuss its influence on generations of creative writers including; Percy Bysshe Shelley, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Evelyn Waugh, Gerard Manley Hopkins, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.
Our walk will conclude with a visit to the renowned Bodleian Library – one of the oldest libraries in Europe. First opened to scholars in 1602, it incorporates an earlier library built by the university in the 15th century to house books donated by Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester. For over 400 years students and scholars from all over the world have conducted research and study within these buildings.
This evening you are at leisure.
This morning we will attend a private 3-hour workshop conducted by the Department of Continuing Education at Oxford University. This practice-based, bespoke course is specifically designed to offer innovative approaches to teaching English to students of all levels.
After lunch we will travel to the UNESCO World Heritage listed City of Bath. This afternoon, as you wander Bath’s elegant Georgian streets on your own, you will appreciate how this stunningly beautiful town earned its National Heritage listing. In the early evening, we will head to Bath Spa for a relaxed, self-guided tour (audios provided) of the ancient Roman treasures, baths and temple complex. We will then meet at the Great Bath for a torchlight tour of the 2,000-year-old suite of bathing pools. Our day will conclude with a 3-course dinner in the Roman Baths Kitchen.
Breakfast and Dinner
Today we take a step back in time as we explore Bath’s fascinating history under the guidance of a local historian. Our walking tour will focus on British society during the Regency and Georgian periods - a time in which crucial decisions were made about the colonisation of Australia.
Jane Austen’s novels will also come to life as we see a number of places that feature as backdrops in both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Highlights will include: the exterior of No. 4 Sydney Place (the house in which Jane lived from 1801-1804); the spectacular Georgian terraces of The Royal Crescent and The Circus, Pulteney Bridge, Great Pulteney Street and the Bath Assembly Rooms.
After lunch you may choose to return to some of the locations that are definitely worth a closer look. These also include: Bath Abbey (the view from its tower is worth climbing the 212 steps), No.1 The Royal Crescent (a restored Georgian house now a museum), the Jane Austen Centre and the Fashion Museum.
Historians should also head to 19 Bennett Street, the house in which Governor Arthur Phillip lived from 1805 until his death in 1814 (his memorial is in Bath Abbey).
This evening you are at leisure.
To WINCHESTER, CHAWTON and LONDON
This morning we will travel to Winchester to for a tour of the famous cathedral in which Jane Austen is buried. On our way, we will stop briefly in the pretty village of Laycock – the setting for Meryton in the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice.
From Winchester we will head to Jane Austen's House Museum at Chawton. Austen lived here from 1809 until her death in 1817, writing, revising and publishing all her major works during this period. The restored house contains many personal objects, original letters and artworks that belonged to Jane and her family, providing a detailed picture of their everyday lives. We will then literally walk in the writer’s footsteps as we follow the pathway leading to nearby Chawton House – ‘a quintessentially English manor house that once belonged to her brother, Edward, and where she was a known to be a frequent visitor. Chawton House Library is now an internationally respected research and learning centre for the study of early women’s writing from 1600 to 1830. Access to the library’s unique collection is for the benefit of scholars and the general public alike.
This afternoon we will return to London where we will enjoy a farewell dinner.
Breakfast and Dinner
Our tour will conclude after breakfast.