Palaces, Castles & Gardens of Southern England Tour

A 10 day trip to England 
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England's ancient opulence is preserved in its palaces, castles and gardens. A duke's indulgence lives on, the Monarchs' elegance spills through stately homes, and there's a hidden history that complements the heritage. Handcrafted to delight the regality inside any luxury visitor, this 10-day Southern England tour of palaces, castles and gardens reveals the astonishing architecture of England's royals. Welcome to a millennium of beauty, flamboyant tastes, and lushly landscaped gardens. 

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

London, Royal Opera House, Buckingham Palace (seasonal), Kew Gardens, Windsor Castle, St. George's Chapel, Queen Mary's Doll House, Hampton Court Palace, Hever Castle, Sissinghurst Castle, Canterbury, Penshurst Place, Highclere Castle, Oxford, Oxford University, Christ Church College, Magdalen College, Exeter College, The Bodleian Library, Blenheim Palace, Kelmscott Manor, Cirencester, Barnsley House, Hidcote Manor, Highgrove House (seasonal), Sudeley Castle

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: London – Regal Welcomes to a Famous Capital

Welcome to London, home of the Queen and center of England's millenniums of history. Westminster hangs over the Thames, Big Ben chimes, stern-faced guards change places outside Buckingham Palace. London can't help but deliver on its promise of famous sights. But after landing in the capital, there's a more relaxed way to get acquainted with the luxury. You'll be greeted at the airport and transferred to a five-star hotel in the heart of the city. Recuperate, reenergize with some high tea in the lavish restaurant and get dressed up for a night at the opera. The Royal Opera House is one of London's premier gems, a building of elegance and excess that comes to life when orchestral strings reverberate off the walls. Spend the evening enjoying a performance before post-opera dinner reservations at an upscale London restaurant. Consider reading some of our traveler reviews of England, and gain some inspiration to further refine and perfect your own itinerary. 

What's Included: accommodation, performance, transfer

Day 2: London – Grandiose Buckingham and the Kew Gardens

The crown jewels glisten as you explore the Tower of London, a 530-carat diamond and a set of sublime gemstones proudly glistening as you observe the royal collection. Then you enter Buckingham Palace itself. You can picture sitting on the throne as you stand before it, its velvety cushion catching the light bouncing off chandeliers and golden mirrors. Glorious staterooms personify a monarch's inclination towards a lifestyle of excess and opulence, although there's also elegance and understated charm to the famous palace. Visiting the crown and the throne provide an introduction to this royal itinerary, revealing the tastes of the current monarch.

Both are busy tourist attractions, yet they are worth it, especially the feeling that you're being entertained as a foreign statesman. For the afternoon, there's something more serene. Over 30,000 plant species cascade through Kew's botanical gardens, a World Heritage Site that blossoms with new flower displays throughout the year. The botanical gardens of Kew are one of the most diverse and complete gardens in all of Europe. Wander through treetop walkways, check out seasonal specialties like red poppies and pink cherry blossoms and fill your nostrils with the scents of the glasshouses. Throughout the day, you're expertly led and entertained by a Blue Badge guide. The itinerary is flexible, so visits are tailored to your energy levels, and you can choose to explore certain attractions on your own. There are stories etched into every palace room and garden pathway; your guide is the key holder to this hidden heritage.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, transfer, breakfast, lunch

Day 3: London – A Day at Windsor, the Oldest and Largest Occupied Castle in the World

Contrary to popular belief, the Queen actually lives in Windsor Castle, not Buckingham Palace (her official workplace). And she knows how to decorate her castle in the most luxuriant of styles. The staterooms are stuffed with Michaelangelos, Rembrandts, and Da Vincis, where every corridor is an art gallery as you wander through the interiors. Your guide takes you in the early morning to Windsor, allowing you to explore the rooms while the tourist crowds are waiting for the Changing of the Guard. Once they come inside, you've already left to discover the rest of the world's largest occupied castle.

Windsor is also the world's oldest continually occupied castle, home to British monarchs for over a millennium. Royal leftovers take you on an enchanting journey: the intimate details of Queen Mary's Doll House, sublime St. George's Chapel and the thick fortress walls that have never been breached. Following the castle, you enjoy lunch in a boutique cafe on Eton High Street, before touring the splendor of Eton College. With 19 prime ministers and most of the princes having been educated here, you get an authentic insight into the epitome of the upper-class English public school system. Henry VIII went through six wives and had two of them were beheaded. So expect his Hampton Court Palace to be a symbol of flamboyance and unusual tastes. This is an easy stop on the way back to Central London, enhanced by the somewhat gruesome tales of the King that the English love to laugh about.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, transfer, breakfast, lunch

Day 4: London – A Day Trip to the Castles and Gardens of Kent

Resplendent Kent fills the panoramas with green, its farming pastures stretching around famous cathedral spires and fragrant gardens. Just an hour from the capital, it's a region that effortlessly reveals the exquisite touches of rural England. Today's tour to Kent can visit a variety of attractions dependent on your energy levels and will be tailored by your local guide. The 13th-century Hever Castle is often overlooked and far from the tourist trail, yet it stands as a symbol of medieval charm. Wonderfully calm gardens can be explored at Sissinghurst Castle and Penshurst Place.

Then there's the grandeur and spirituality of Canterbury Cathedral, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the English Catholic Church. Think of it as an English version of the Vatican. It's been there for over 1400 years, and countless monarchs are buried beneath the thick stone floor; a guided tour delivers dozens of evocative names from the history books. The cathedral still attracts thousands of pilgrims and the evening choir singing is worth a listen if you don't mind returning late to London.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, transfer, breakfast, lunch

Day 5: Oxford – Exploring England's Finest Stately Home

Today you explore England's finest stately home. No, not Downton Abbey, that's merely an introduction to the grandeur as you leave London en route to Oxford. Highclere Castle is doused in fame after the television series Downton Abbey, and the Georgian interiors are certainly an inspiring sight. You'll go on an early guided tour here. But it is Blenheim Palace that truly impresses, as an 18th-century Baroque masterpiece that's set amongst pristine gardens. Winston Churchill was born here, the 12th Duke of Marlborough lives here, and just about every preconception about Royal English heritage comes alive here. The visit is completed with afternoon high tea, gazing out over the sculpted hedges, and wondering just how iconic England can be. Later in the day, you arrive in Oxford and have two nights at a boutique hotel in a two-century-old townhouse, just off the pedestrianized central streets of the city.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, transfer, breakfast

Day 6: Oxford – Exploring the Ancient University City

After four days of exploring, today is at your leisure. Oxford delights in its historical tones, the cobbled streets descending past second-hand stalls and quaint pubs towards university buildings (Oxford was the world's first university and has almost 1000 years of history). Explore the rustic smells of paper in Bodleian, a library that houses every book ever published in the UK. Students can take you on tours of the famous college buildings, including the dining room that inspired Harry Potter, and dozens of buildings that make you gasp in astonishment. Take it slow, walk around, admire the architecture, and enjoy a relaxed day in the world's most famous university city.

What's Included: accommodation, breakfast

Day 7: The Cotswolds – Kelmscott Manor and Settling Into the Countryside

With this handcrafted itinerary, you're not merely visiting stately homes and gardens. You can also stay in them. For the final three nights, you enjoy the delights of Barnsley House, a country retreat standing amidst gardens designed by internationally acclaimed Rosemary Verey. Breathe in the fresh rural air, wallow in the silence and settle into the charm of the countryside. The Cotswolds is a haven for stately homes and gardens, and the next few days are individually tailored to your tastes. As an example, spend this afternoon at Hidcote Manor and the national tree collection of Westonbirt Arboretum. Then wander the cobbled lanes of Cirencester in the evening, stopping off to quickly warm your hands by the crackling log fire in a country pub.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, transfer, breakfast, lunch

Day 8: The Cotswolds – Royal Connections at Sudeley and Highgrove

Prince Charles is one for pomp and opulence. His gardens at Highgrove House exemplify an attention to detail and style you would expect from the heir to the throne. A visit here is complemented by a tour of Sudeley Castle, a Grade I listed building set amongst towering oak trees. You'll explore the Queen's Gardens as they weave around the river and hear of royal tales of deceit that accompany the castle turrets (Sudeley has seen many rulers cycle through its halls, and the roll call of monarchs can fill hours of discussion). If you wish to travel further afield, today's tour can also incorporate Warwick Castle of Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.

What's Included: accommodation, tour, transfer, breakfast

Day 9: The Cotswolds – Postcard Perfect Villages and Gardens

For eight days, this handcrafted itinerary has showcased the opulence of England's palaces, castles, and gardens. But this final day is different, focusing on the calm traditions of rural England's postcard villages. Within ten miles of Barnsley House, you'll find half a dozen medieval villages, complete with thatched roofs, smoking chimneys, stocks (they still exist in one village square), and a wonderfully sleepy atmosphere. With the tranquil countryside as the breathtaking backdrop, exploring the Cotswolds is the idealistic contrast to London. You can easily settle into its rhythm and the gracious charms of rural life, complete with lots of mugs of English tea and gentle walks from village to village. Today is at your leisure, and a bicycle will be provided to explore the nearby villages.

What's Included: accommodation, breakfast

Day 10: The Cotswolds to London – Departure

Rove down the country roads and wind past the fields of sheep as you journey back to London. It's a 90-minute transfer to London Heathrow, where you formally shake hands with your guide (this is England after all), say goodbye, and depart on your international flight.

What's Included: transfer, breakfast

Price

Price 

Zicasso recommends the following guidelines for customized England tour packages, excluding international flights:

  • 5-star: USD $400 - $1,000+ per person per day
  • 4-star: Minimum USD $350 per person per day
  • 3-star: Minimum USD $300 per person per day

The customized package will include hotels, airport transfers and other transportation within England, guided tours or activities, unique experiences, trip planning, and 24x7 support during your trip.

Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final hotel choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.