Embrace British history from Roman times to its current day "modern chic" status with visits to Oxford, in Northwest England, home to the historic Oxford University, travel further north to Devon where you'll stay at the hictoric Bovey Castle in the heart of Dartmoor National Park. You'll spend your last vacation days near London, the cosmopolitan capital city and home to some of the world's best theater, museums, fashion and adventurous dining scenes.
Pick up your rental car and drive approximately 2.5 hours to Oxford, "The City of Spires". Upon arrival in Oxford, you will check-in at the 5-star Macdonald Randolph hotel. Visit the famous Oxford University and trace the footsteps of royalty and scholars who have made Oxford home since the 9th century.
From Oxford, take the 3 hour leisurely drive to Devon. Here you will have time to wander around traditional fishing villages and enjoy the coastal beaches. Explore unspoiled landscapes and the multitide of historic attractions. Your home in Devon is Bovey Castle, with 400 acres of Dartmoor National Park on its doorsteps.
Return to London, England's cosmopolitan capital, and explore its rich history of pomp and pageantry, cutting-edge global dining scene, world-famous museums and vibrant theater scene. Your luxurious home-away-from-home for your last nights in England is Great Fosters, a magnificient 16th century hunting lodge. Admire Big Ben, stop by the Tower of London to check out the Crown Jewels, take a ride on the London Eye for 360-degree city views and stop by Westminster Abbey to see where William and Kate tied the knot.
Why We Love this Package:
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Bovey Castle is situated in the beautiful Dartmoor National Park, in the heart of Devon.
The hotel is easy to locate, just 45 minutes’ drive from Exeter International Airport and 40 minutes from Exeter St David’s Station. With more than 400 acres of Dartmoor National Park on our doorstep and many different activities on offer at Bovey Castle, we're certain you'll find entertainment to suit everyone. From lazy thrills such as making cider and sloe gin or archery, to high-octane thrills such as clay pigeon shooting or falconry. The choice is yours.
Built at the turn of the century, this 64 bedroom hotel offers luxurious accommodations overlooking beautifully restored Edwardian Gardens. The 18-hole Old Course has become one of England’s finest greens in recent years and an annual destination on the PGA EuroPro Pro-Am Tour. Dining options include the Edwardian Grill, The Castle Bistro and the Oak Bar. "Red Magazine has named Bovey Castle as one of the Six Best Places for Afternoon Tea in the UK for its quintessentially English afternoon treat". The Spa offers a wite variety of beauty treatments and is proud to be named as the flagship UK SUNDÃRI Spa. Bovey Castle features 64 individually designed bedrooms by Annabel Elliot, located in the original manor house and private mews.
The magnificent 16th century hunting lodge, Great Fosters is a Grade One listed building set amongst 50 acres of stunning gardens and parkland in Egham, Surrey. Its past is evident in the mullioned windows, tall chimneys, fireplaces and brick finials, while the Saxon moat, crossed by a Japanese bridge, surrounds three sides of the formal garden. Its location close to Heathrow, the M25 and M4 and near Windsor, Wentworth, Staines and Virginia Water makes it a perfect base for visiting London and its surrounding attractions. Local attractions include, Thorpe Park, Eton College and Legoland, world class racing at Royal Ascot and Golf at Wentworth and Sunningdale.
The 17th century oak staircase leads to a selection of suites and bedrooms all individually decorated. The bedrooms in the Main House are adorned with tapestries and antiques, whilst the bedrooms in The Cloisters are more contemporary in style. The Coach House, refurbished in 2008, offers luxurious accommodation with the latest plasma screens, i-pod docking stations and fabulous bathrooms. All bedrooms throughout the hotel feature beds made with silk filled duvets and have complimentary Wi-Fi.
The hotel is popular with hotel guests and local residents seeking a top restaurant within the Wentworth, Windsor, Virginia Water and Heathrow area. The Oak Room restaurant offers gourmet cuisine and the Cocktail Bar, Drawing Room and Terrace, which overlooks the estate; serve some of the most delicious light lunches and afternoon tea in Surrey. Great Fosters is proud to have been awarded membership of the esteemed Tea Guild.
Situated in the heart of Oxford, Macdonald Randolph Hotel is within walking distance of Ashmolean Museum, Exeter College, and Covered Market. Also nearby are Sheldonian Theatre and Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Build in 1864 the location makes the Macdonald Randolph Hotel an ideal base for exploring the historic sights of Oxford or the thriving shopping center just two minutes walk.
The Macdonald Randolph Hotel is the leading 5-star hotel in Oxford, offering luxurious accommodation, award-winning food and a sensuous spa haven in the heart of this world-famous University City. The hotel has played host to prime ministers and presidents, and our renowned Morse Bar is instantly recognizable as the watering hole of Colin Dexter's world-famous detective, Inspector Morse.
Macdonald Randolph Hotel has a full-service spa, a health club, and a spa tub. Wireless Internet access is available in public areas (surcharges apply). Dining options at the hotel include 2 restaurants along with a bar/lounge. Additional amenities include a fitness facility, a steam room, and a sauna. Guest parking is available on a limited first-come, first-served basis (surcharge). This is a smoke-free property.
The 151 air-conditioned guestrooms at Macdonald Randolph Hotel include flat-panel televisions with satellite channels, refrigerators, coffee/tea makers, complimentary bottled water minibars, safes, desks, complimentary newspapers, and direct-dial phones. All guestrooms at Macdonald Randolph Hotel are non-smoking.
Although a largely rural area, the natural beauty and historical appeal of Southwest England draws visitors year-round. This is where the gorged landscape of Dartmoor National Park can be found, along with the city of Bath, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its Roman baths. The region also boasts world-famous gardens, historic churches and castles, beaches and the mysterious rocks of Stonehenge.
What to see:
Roman Baths (Bath)
In honor of Britain’s only hot spring, the Romans built a temple and bathing complex that dates to around AD75 and gives the city of Bath its name. The site represents an engineering feat and was one of the finest thermal spas of the ancient world. Visitors can walk through various levels on a one-hour guided tour.
Grand Pump Room (Bath)
Located in the Abbey Church Yard in Bath, the Grand Pump Room is a neo-classical salon that was the hub of social activities in the city of Bath for more than two centuries. Visitors can taste the hot spa water that fills the adjacent Roman baths from a drinking fountain.
Bath Abbey (Bath)
This Anglican parish church sits on the site of a former Benedictine monastery. Originally founded in the 7th century, Queen Elizabeth I ordered a national fund to be set up to restore the abbey when she visited in 1574. The church is known as the "Lantern of the West" because of its large number of windows, and is also notable for the carving of angels climbing Jacob's Ladder. http://www.bathabbey.org
Royal Crescent (Bath)
One of the greatest examples of Georgian architecture in the UK, the Royal Crescent is a residential road of 30 houses that were laid out in the shape of a crescent by builder John Wood the Younger between 1767 and 1774. Most of the houses are privately owned, but visitors can stop by No. 1 Royal Crescent, which is operated as a museum and furnished to show how wealthy Georgian-era residents lived.
This mysterious prehistoric monument is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. One of the most famous sites in the world, archaeologist believe the iconic monument was erected around 2,500 BC, but theories on exactly how it was constructed are subject to debate.
National Marine Aquarium (Plymouth)
Considered the best aquarium in the United Kingdom, the National Marine Aquarium displays both freshwater and seawater fish (including a shark theater). Try to time your visit with one of the tri-weekly shark feedings, when you can walk under the beasts and watch them feed.
Eden Project (Cornwall)
Occupying a former clay mine, the Eden Project is a series of artificial biomes that house plant collections from all around the world. Visitors can't help but feel inspired by nature after meandering through the stunning gardens filled with more than a million plants from climates around the world.
Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew)
Often referred to simply as Kew Gardens, these 300 acres of gardens and botanical glasshouses are home to the world’s largest collection of living plants. There is also a museum on site that illustrates how humans are dependent on plants.
Glastonbury Abbey (Somerset)
The legendary retreat of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey are set on 36 acres of parkland. Guides dressed in period costume show visitors around, or you can explore the ruins and surrounding ponds and wildlife areas on your own.
Tintagel Castle (Cornwall)
Set on a peninsula of Tintagel Island, the castle is a medieval fortification that was possibly occupied since Roman times. Visitors come to see the ruins built on the site by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, and to learn about the site's association with the Arthurian legends.
Gloucester Cathedral (Gloucester)
Used for corridor scenes in Harry Potter films, the foundations of the present Gloucester Cathedral were laid between 1072 and 1104 (a church originated here in 678). The intricate stained glass work over the west front entrance is alone worth the trip. There is also a recently restored tower that affords great views, but visitors will have to climb 269 steps to get to the top.
Dunster Castle (Somerset)
Dramatic Dunster Castle has been perched on top of a wooded hill since at least Norman times. The impressive medieval gatehouse and tower ruins are reminders of the castle's turbulent history, but one of the best features is actually the panoramic view of the surrounding countryside from the site.
Dartmoor National Park
Dartmoor National Park covers an area of 368 square miles, making it the largest and wildest area of open country in Southern England. Enjoy the beautiful scenery by taking advantage of some of the paths for hiking, biking and horseback riding. A good base for exploring the park is Chagford, a small town with ancient roots that overlooks the Teign river.
Devon is home to part of England's only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Dorset and East Devon Coast. Known as the “Jurassic Coast,” due to its usual geology and geographical features, the red sandstone cliffs and dramatic sea views draw tourists to resorts and beaches.
The medieval and Elizabethan streets of this tourist town, on the banks of the River Dart, are home to a number of historic buildings, the most famous along the Butterwalk, a row of intricate 17th-century houses on granite pillars. A popular way to see the sights is on a trip on a river steamer.
Rain or shine, the Southeast region of England has many indoor attractions and outdoor pursuits that attract visitors. Delve into the rich legacy of the area with a trip out to one of the many impressive forts, castles and historic homes, head to the seashore to and embrace the maritime tradition or make a day of exploring one of the area’s many inspiring churches and cathedrals.
What to see:
The Look Out Discovery Centre (Bracknell)
More than 90 interactive exhibits entertain children and adults at this nature and science center. To complete your day out, have a picnic or take a nature walk in nearly 2,500 acres of woodlands that surround the museum.
Hampton Court Palace (East Molesey)
Operated by the non-profit Historic Royal Palaces, Hampton Court Palace was home to Cardinal Wolsey, but taken over by Henry VIII in the 16th century. The rooms inside are filled with treasures (don't miss the King's Dressing Room, which has some of the best art) and the 59-acre gardens are great for a stroll.
Penshurst Place and Gardens (Kent)
Set in a peaceful rural area that has changed little over the centuries, the stately Penshurst Place has origins in the 14th century and is filled with a wonderful collection acquired by several generations of the Sidney family (including the great Elizabethan poet, Sir Philip Sidney). Both the house and grounds, which contain some of England's oldest private gardens, are open for viewing.
Hever Castle & Gardens (Kent)
The massive Hever Castle is famous for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I. Today the castle contains historic 16th century portraits, paintings, furniture, tapestries and more. There are also 125 acres of lovely gardens to explore.
Canterbury Cathedral (Kent)
With a foundation dating from AD 597, this UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. The must-see here is the distinct central bell tower, which was completed in 1505 and contains a bell cast in 1635.
Leeds Castle (Kent)
With the tagline “Loveliest Castle in the World,” Leeds Castle is set on two islands on the River Len. Six medieval queens lived here and Leeds was a palace for Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Some rooms inside are done up to reflect the medieval and Tudor periods. The grounds have an aviary, a grotto, a golf course, a maze and a museum of dog collars, making a visit fun for just about anyone.
Sissinghurst Castle (Kent)
Sissinghurst Castle is a garden set in the ruin of an Elizabethan house and comes complete with sweeping views on all sides across the fields and meadows of Kent. Although at one point it was completely ignored for nearly 300 years, today it is owned and maintained by the National Trust and is one of the most famous gardens in all of England.
Salisbury Cathedral (Wiltshire)
The sharply pointed spires of the Salisbury Cathedral, built during the 13th century, epitomize the Early English style of architecture. Inside the octagonal chapter house visitors will find one of only four surviving original texts of the Magna Carta, along with other treasures.
Winchester Cathedral (Winchester)
The longest medieval cathedral in Britain and one of the largest cathedrals in England, Winchester Cathedral dates from 1079 and has been the site of many famous funerals, marriages and even coronations. Today, visitors are particularly drawn to see the final resting place of novelist Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice) who is buried in the cathedral's north aisle.
Battle Abbey (East Sussex)
In partial ruins today, this abbey complex was built on the site of the 1066 Battle of Hastings. A visitor center tells the story of the battle and contains some recovered artifacts. Also available are audio tours of the battle site.
Hasting Castle (East Sussex)
The first of the Norman castles built in England now lays in ruin. Built on a hill overlooking Hastings sometime around 1067, it was unfortified in 1216 and then used as a church. On site visitors can learn about the castle's history, including its role in the battle of 1066.
Known as the “Waterfront City,” Portsmouth has been a significant naval port for centuries. Today, many historic ships are docked here and the city is home to the world's oldest dry dock (Ship repair facility) still in use. Stop by the Royal Navy Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard to learn about the city's great seafaring past.
Noted for its association with the RMS Titanic, the Spitfire, and a number of the largest cruise ships in the world – including a current fleet that includes Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth – Southampton is the top English port city. There are many attractions here, including large portions of town walls that Edward III commissioned in 1339. Among the museums, the Southampton City Art Gallery has a collection that spans six centuries of European art.
New Forest (Hampshire and Wiltshire)
This National Park in Hampshire is popular with both English and international visitors looking to get in touch with Mother Nature. There are many towns and villages to explore within park bounds, but the main attractions are the flora and fauna, and such outdoor pursuits as hiking, camping and horseback riding.
Brighton (East Sussex)
Just an hour away from London, Brighton has many Regency-style buildings, dance-till-dawn clubs, public beaches, a pier with amusement rides and a promenade that gets packed at sunset. Don’t miss the Royal Pavilion, an Indian-inspired palace with multiple domes that was built by the Prince Regent in the early 19th century before he was crowned King George IV.
Fishermen's Museum (East Sussex)
Dedicated to telling the maritime history of the seaside town of Hastings, this museum is housed in a former church that served the fishing community for nearly 100 years from 1854. Listed as a nationally important building since 1976, inside visitors will find artifacts, photographs and paintings to the popular tourist site.
The capital and largest city of England, London is a modern multicultural megalopolis. Situated on the banks of the River Thames, the city’s history goes back to its founding by the Romans and it remains a global capital of fashion, finance, politics and culture. History buffs will enjoy exploring the city's World Heritage sites, palaces, and churches, while art lovers and culture vultures will find plenty to do at the city's numerous museums, galleries and theaters.
What to see:
Tower of London
Crowds flock to the Tower of London, where Beefeaters lead tourists around a complex that includes an ancient fortress, royal palace, prison and more. Marvel at the collection of Crown Jewels or become entrenched in the bloody history of the site. Nearly every inch of it has a (usually gory) story to tell.
Big Ben and House of Parliament
The Gothic Revival buildings and trademark timepiece that make up the House of Parliament are two of the quintessential symbols of London. Watch debates for free from the Stranger's Galleries in both houses (usually mid-October through July), or just snap a picture of yourself with Big Ben in the background from the Westminster Bridge.
This early-English Gothic abbey is much more than just a place of worship: It is a shrine of the nation where most rulers were crowned and many important figures have found their final resting place (including Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton, plus several Kings and Queens). More recently, it’s where Prince William and Kate were wed. From the monumental etchings in the floor to the stained glass windows to the vaulted ceiling there is a lot to take in, so consider scheduling a tour so you don't miss anything.
Victoria & Albert Museum
Considered the greatest decorative arts museum in the world, the V&A contains treasures that span a period of 5,000 years, so visitors will find everything from medieval artifacts to the "little black dress" made famous by Coco Chanel. From fashion to photography, there is something for everyone here.
Some 3.5 million people a year take a ride on this Ferris wheel on the southern bank of the River Thames. The draw is a spectacular 360-degree view of the city from one of the attraction's 32 air-conditioned compartments, as the wheel slowly rotates.
The Tate Modern is a revamped power station that contains one of the best collections of modern art in the world. If you tour the three levels of galleries using the museum’s award-winning Multimedia Guide you’ll hear artist interviews and art-inspired music.
Free to all visitors, the British Museum contains an astounding collection of art and artifacts from countries and cultures all over the world and throughout the ages. Since there is more to see here than can be done in a day (over seven million objects in all), visitors may want to be on the lookout for treasures such as the Rosetta Stone or the Elgin Marbles, which come from the Parthenon in Athens.
The mother of all wax museums, this original Madame Tussauds is named for wax sculptor Marie Tussaud. She sculpted figures of many famous people throughout her life, including the death masks from the guillotined heads of Louis XVI an Marie Antoinette. Be sure to stop by the Chamber of Horros, where all kinds of instruments of deaths are kept near the figures of their victims.
Buckingham Palace and Changing the Guard
The official residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837, the 775-room Buckingham Palace is the centerpiece of Britain's constitutional monarchy. In summer, when The Queen is not in residence, tours are offered of 19 impressively regal State Rooms. Or stop by for the Changing the Guard ceremony at 11:30am on select days from July to November to witness all the pomp and circumstance.
St. Paul's Cathedral
Sitting at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in London, is this 17th-century church. Underneath the building's classical dome is the Whispering Gallery, where even the faintest whisper can be heard clearly on the opposite side. Climb to the top of the dome for a 360-degree view of the city.
West End Theater
One of the most popular tourist activities is to visit a professional theater in London's “Theatreland,” the West End. Each year, more than 13 million people see a stage show in London's version of New York's Broadway.
The most prestigious gallery in Britain, the Tate Britain contains the national collections, which cover British art from the 16th century to the present day. Stop by to see the Gainsboroughs, Turners and more.
The centerpiece of Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery houses a collection of Western art from the late 13th to early 20th centuries. Collection highlights include pieces by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Botticelli, Bellini, Rubens, Seurat, Caravaggio and more.
Quite possibly the most photographed bridge on earth, the Tower Bridge was built over the River Thames in 1894. it is often mistakenly referred to as “London Bridge” (which is actually the next bridge upstream). An exhibit inside the bridge's north tower takes visitors up to a high-level walkway, offering spectacular views of the city, and then down through the south tower into the bridge's original engine room.
On the outskirts of London is Greenwich, a lovely town with a Georgian and Victorian town center. If Greenwich sounds familiar, the town – once the center of British seafaring – has been the zero point used in calculating terrestrial longitudes since 1884 (hence “Greenwich Mean Time”). The Royal Navy College, the National Maritime Museum and the Old Royal Observatory are located here.