Being able to spend a few nights in a privately-owned castle will top many a clients’ shopping list and I’ve found a really good one just a couple of hours west of Southampton.
Thanks to an interesting travel agent request I’ve also come up with an interesting way of cruising the upper reaches of the River Thames from Oxford down to Windsor. Sulgrave Manor makes an appearance as the first of a number of must-sees in an American Heritage tour of England and families will enjoy exploring the Jurassic coast in Dorset. Finally there’s a heads up for a fabulous sculpture exhibition at Compton Verney, just south of Stratford upon Avon.
Read on and add some new dimensions to your customized UK tour.
Stay in a Castle
If you want to impress a couple of your cruise clients or get the attention of a small group of 10-15 sailing in or out of Southampton, tempt them with three or four nights at the moated, 11th-century Bickleigh Castle, a fortified manor house on the banks of the River Exe.
The romantic buildings and thatched cottages make it the perfect base for side trips to the cathedral city of Exeter, a drive through Lorna Doone Country, a nostalgic steam hauled train ride,and a close encounter with Agatha Christie on the English Riviera.
Topped and tailed with London for non-cruise customers, this one’s a real winner.
Cruising the River Thames
I was asked recently if there’s anything similar to a Viking River cruise on the River Thames.
Unfortunately the answer’s no but with a bit of creative thinking it is possible to design a 4-5 night programme that links Oxford, Windsor and London.
It begins in the university city with one of their imaginative walking tours and a visit to treasure filled Blenheim Palace. It also includes time for punting on the river where prizes will not be awarded for falling in.
Then with some short cruises on interesting sections of the river, visits to a couple more stately homes, a leisurely look at Windsor Castle, an alfresco picnic and a pub lunch thrown in for good measure this could appeal to a couple of independent travellers as well as a group of 30 or more people.
George Washington’s Ancestral Home
As we gear up for the next year’s celebrations of the signing of Magna Carta, I’d like to encourage more of you to include a visit to George Washington’s ancestral home in your programmes for this year and for 2015.
It is the only building left that is known to have been both built and inhabited by the first President’s direct ancestors and the family lived here between 1539 and 1659, when it was sold to the Hodges family. During the 19th century it fell into disrepair and was rescued by the British American Peace Committee in 1914 as part of the commemoration of a hundred years of peace between the two nations.
The Manor is now administered by a charitable trust, The Sulgrave Manor Trust, which holds the property “…on behalf of the peoples of the United Kingdom and the United States…” In effect therefore it is owned by the peoples of two countries and, as far as we are aware, is unique in that respect.
Discover the Jurassic Coast
This combination will interest adults and children alike as it can be successfully threaded into a longer 4-5 day tour in the south of England. It includes a walk along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset where 185 million years’ worth of geology has been exposed to reveal fossils galore.
Your hosts for this journey back into the mists of time are Fuzzacker Walks and the rest of the day includes a visit to the majestic ruins of Corfe Castle, home to over 1000 years of turbulent history and a ride on the Swanage Railway, one of Britain’s most popular heritage railways, with steam trains running every day between April and October.
Moore Rodin at Compton Verney
This year marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare and for theatre and art lovers visiting Stratford upon Avon this year I strongly recommend that you make time for a visit to Compton Verney.
This award-winning art gallery, set in the Warwickshire countryside is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a ground-breaking international exhibition that compares the work of two giants of modern sculpture, Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin.
It’s the first exhibition to be devoted exclusively to these two artists, with 11 large scale works being displayed in the ‘Capability’ Brown landscape. Inside there are more which give an amazing insight into the works of these two artists.