Travel News

Covid updates and Travel news items

Travel tips and NEWS from United Kingdom and Ireland

20 September 2021

UK fully open to US visitors

Travelling to the UK from the US is now cheaper and easier than ever since March 2020.

The UK government is scraping the confusing traffic light system favouring double vaccinated individuals willing to take a low cost and easy lateral flow test on day two after arrival. The US Government will still require its citizens to take a Covid test 24 hours before their arrival back in the United States.

There have also been debates whether the UK will go into a lockdown again if the Covid numbers spike. This seems unlikely, bearing in mind that the UK is virtually fully vaccinated. The development of new drugs, including inhaler versions of the vaccine should be available this winter.

Would you please look at our selection of suggested day tours from London, a good place to start for a first trip to Britain?

Scotland will book up quickly; therefore, we advise you to book your private tour of Scotland as soon as you can decide.

Tours of Ireland will be top of the list for many American visitors in 2022. The Republic of Ireland has done an incredible job vaccinating its population and currently has very low infections rates.

Please get in touch with us for further help, tour design and Travel Advice.

18 August 2021

The UK is one of the fastest-developing wine regions in the world

Vineyards in England

Expanding industry
The volume of vines planted for the production of wine in England is growing rapidly. In the year 2000, there were 363 vineyards; as of 2018, there are now 672. Around 500 are fully functioning commercial vineyards, mostly in Kent and Sussex (South Downs National Park). Of those 672 parcels of land with vines, around 170 are branded wineries. 

Partnership with Taittinger
The changing climate and similar geology to champagne have made Sussex and Kent particularly inviting to the big French brands. The Taittinger, which has a 600-acre plot, plans to continue expanding. Pierre-Emmanuel, Taittinger, the Champagne house president, said, “We have planned and dreamt for many years of working with our dear friends in England to create a special Franco-British project.”

The speed of change
Within the last seven years, the number of vines planted has doubled. Over three million vines were planted in the previous year.

Whilst driving around my county, pottering to garden centres, shopping and the odd pub lunch, you will hear me say to my wife Elizabeth Stevens (co-director and owner), “oh look, there is another vineyard and another one!”

Events
Rathfinny Vineyard has a high-end restaurant and trendy “Barn” accommodation. Nyetimber and Wiston have beautiful old barns, built like the Great Halls of the past, worthy of special events. 

Bespoke Wine Tours
Get to know England’s Wine Country and enjoy the fresh new experience of English Sparkling Wine Tasting. Everything we do is tailored to your interest, budget and time available. Tell us how much time you have? How much time do you want touring before you relax back at the spa or enjoy afternoon tea?

If you like gardens and private tours of castles, or even sailing the south coast and stopping for lunch on the Isle of Wight, use our knowledge and experience and get creative.

Regards

Andrew Stevens
CEO - Luxury Vacations UK

09 August 2021

First time to London - A Week in London

Dear First time visitor to London,

Contemplating a vacation to another country with your family can be a confusing affair. The World Wide Web conjures up an infinite number of options, prices and itineraries. Plus, you have thousands of blogs, vlogs and news articles encouraging you to do this and do that.

I have personally conducted many Private Tours of London and had the privilege of meeting very excited people who want to learn everything about the city. For the first time visit to London, it makes sense to consider all the famous sites. Still, with a private guide, you have the option to also get off the tourist trail and see the city the way Londoner's see the city.

The difficulty comes with planning it all yourself. It can be a logistical nightmare, getting all the correct timed tickets, the right tube train or taxi, and knowing where to have lunch and not find yourself in a tourist trap.

The accommodation options in London is absolutely mind-boggling. There are over 75 five-star hotels alone – where do you start? We have put together a little collection of the Best 4-star and 5-star accommodation in London – take a look.

We make it simple by cutting down the hotels into districts we know people like, use as much as possible independent hotels with character and style. We always have a few decent budget options too.

So, we have made it easy; let's take the "A week in London" itinerary and add to it, or take some stuff away and tailor it to make it your own. You could leave it as it is, it is perfectly planned, and we know how to operate it and make it happen.

The last detail is to select the guide that is right for you. Someone that can blend in with your family, entertain you, make the day work and enthral you with anecdotes and enlightening information.

So, BOOK A WEEK in LONDON and DISCOVER the GREATEST CITY in the WORLD.

Further reading about the key sites around London; 

Find out about London's royal church, Westminster Abbey, the people's church, St Paul's Cathedral. How about London's infamous castle, the brooding Tower of London.

The Churchill War Rooms have become extremely popular over the last ten years. It is not surprising; it is a window into the past. A hole in the ground where the British Government and armed forces orchestrated the war effort – a secret labyrinth of offices and high-tech gear.

The Temple Church is a fascinating gem from the middle ages, once the religious HQ of the mysterious Knights Templar and their tombs are intact.

The National Gallery is a must-visit, purely because it contains one of the greatest collections of European art, period.

Shopping is always fun when you are on vacation; everything seems different, but unfortunately, globalisation has made everything available everywhere, or so you would think. It is still an amazing experience to explore Harrods Department Store. Why not shop at Selfridges Department Store, voted the best department store in the world four times – the jean and shoe floors are mind-blowing.

So there you have it, plenty of ideas to wet your whistle and when you are ready for more information and want to book, contact us

Kind regards

Andrew Stevens
CEO Luxury Vacations UK (Howard Stevens Ltd)

03 August 2021

Quarantine over for US visitors to the UK

Before travelling to the UK

Four steps

1. Complete an online passenger locator form within 48 hrs before your arrival – www.gov.uk
2. You will need to present said form when checking in at the air or seaport.
3. Provide a negative COVID-19 test 3 days before leaving home.
4. US visitors to the UK must also provide proof of full vaccination with jabs authorised by the FDA.
 
Dear Citizens of the United States of America,
 
I'm pleased to inform you that the UK Government is now allowing fully vaccinated and COVID-19 tested travellers to enter the United Kingdom, currently via London.  
 
We look forward to welcoming you back, it has been a long time, and we hope that we do not return to restricted travel ever again. Please see our recommended A Week in London itinerary. 
 
Kind regards
 
Andrew and Elizabeth Stevens
Co CEO Luxury Vacations UK (Howard Stevens Ltd)
03 August 2021

Ancient burial chambers, Stonehenge and Avebury Tour

All over Britain and Ireland, you will find burial chambers and extremely old monuments, the evidence of long-gone civilisations. Through archaeology and modern technology, we have discovered more and more.

Having a knowledgeable private driver guide is the best way to get to and learn more about these well-preserved sites.

Our suggested itinerary, Ancient burial chambers, Stonehenge and Avebury Tour, will give the traveller an insight into life in Britain 5000 years ago. Make comparisons with world-famous Stonehenge and the much larger Avebury stone circle and even creep inside a burial chamber.

Contact us and let us help you create a tailored Private Tour of England.

21 July 2021

Tourism Export Recovery Fund

UKinbound has launched a new call to save inbound tourism by creating a 'Tourism Export Recovery Fund' to help businesses wholly reliant on international visitors survive. Click here to see the complete message.

The team and I at Luxury Vacations UK are taking part in protests and organised publicity stunts. We are trying to bring attention from the UK and US Government to the plight of inbound tourism to both countries. Events attended include TRAVEL DAY OF ACTION and MESSAGE BY TOUR BOAT TO PARLIAMENT. 

Both the UK and US Governments have had at least a year (I'm generous) to work out a covid passport, including vaccination status and test results. 

Everyone (almost everyone) is aware the vaccination program has been a fabulous success in both the UK and US, but what was it all for? Who are we protecting now? Note that BOTH the Delta variant is rampant in the US and the UK with the vaccine protecting a vast majority of adults. 

The consequences of either not supporting financially or not allowing TESTED and VACCINATED travellers to enter our borders is critical for many companies and their suppliers.

In years to come, Prime Minister Johnson may well look back at the carnage created by not implementing a sensible Covid immigration policy. 

I hope it is not too late. 

Regards
Andrew Stevens
CEO Luxury Vacations UK (Howard Stevens Ltd) 

P.S. We are dealing with enquiries for September onwards and look forward to helping to create a super Private Guided Tour UK.

15 July 2021

Isles of Scilly - England's sub-tropical gem

The Isles of Scilly, England's secret archipelago

Off the southwest coast of England lies a collection of five small inhabited islands plus 140 tiny island wildlife havens. There is only a handful of hotels and a world-famous sub-tropical garden, Tresco Abbey Gardens. Yes, I did say sub-tropical, and yes, this is England.

The Isles of Scilly are not precisely sub-tropical; in fact, summer temperatures are mild but rarely hot. The winters are extremely favourable so that the island can support exotic plants not seen on the mainland. The mean temperature is the highest in the UK. It is an odd place, in a good way.

The beaches are stunning, pristine and mostly white sand. The half-mile crescent of Pentle Bay is dreamy, backed by dunes and in bright sunshine looks surreal and other worldly. Appletree Bay is another gem with pale particles soft sand. The Bar Beach is a stretch of white sand only exposed at low tide connecting St Agnes with Gugh. The shallow waters are perfect for swimming and turquoise in colour.

Great numbers of American visitors are never going to come here, unfortunately. There is limited accommodation; maybe we could have another 500 rooms on the islands? That should be enough. The low rise beach shacks and trendy farm-like hotels are what it is all about; chains spoil almost everything because it is the spreadsheet figures that win over the passion. You think it is exclusive, then you see another "beach Suite" on stilts in the ocean, and another, and another. There must be a balance.

I love the Scillies, the relaxing pace, excellent food, and I get a kick out of the fact that England has a "sub-tropical" paradise that is unspoilt by mass tourism. 

THE NEWS is the islands are getting a new high-tech ferry and you can fly from Exeter and Newquay Airport. Hopefully the Heathrow flight will come back after covid. 

Our favourite activity on Isles of Scilly is Snorkelling with Seals

Where to stay

Hell Bay, Bryher

The hotel is wedged into a secluded cove facing the Atlantic ocean encircled by rugged moorland. The Hell Bay Hotel started life as a micro-farm with rooms and has graduated into a New England meets the tropics vibe.

Guest enjoy an outdoor swimming pool, sauna, spa treatment rooms and seasonal Crab Shack. There are 25 rooms and suites, brightly decorated with floor to ceiling windows. The restaurant uses fresh produce from the islands and ocean, and it is heavenly.

 

Star Castle Hotel, St Marys

Star Castle Hotel is strategically located on the island of St Mary's, the largest with the airport and highest population. Accommodation is set within the 16th-century garrison walls surrounded by 4 acres of lush gardens. The hotel owns the Holy Vale Vineyard; certainly worth a visit and tasting.

The hotel has two great restaurants, 38 rooms and suites, an indoor pool and a tennis court. The hotel 'boatman' is useful for touring the outer islands. The rooms offer classic comfort, and the eight-pointed star-shaped hotel has all the history. It was the frontline when the islands came under attack. 

 

Karma, St Martins

Karma is yards away from a white sandy beach with crystal clear waters. St Martins is the island with the Grey Seal colony, therefore only walk away from the launch site to Snorkel with Seals. Within 30 minutes walk is an artist studio, pub, vineyard, bakery and fish and chip shop.

Karma is a village of stone houses blending with the island backdrop. There is a spa treatment room, waterfront dining and 30 rooms and suites (garden and Ocena view) with large rooms that connect for families. A fisherman brings the daily catch into the quay and is cooked within hours at the Cloudesley Shovell Restaurant.

Please note; getting to and travelling around the Scillies is a little challenging and worth it. Let us plan a tour that includes a two or three night stay on England's Isles of Scilly. 

09 July 2021

Change To Quarantining On Return From Amber Countries

Luxury Vacations UK and thousands of other business who look after in-bound visitors to the UK are not happy.

 
As announced by the SoS for Transport, Grant Shapps MP, the requirement to self-isolate when quarantining from an Amber list country is going to be removed on 19th July for fully vaccinated UK residents returning to England. It is also worth noting that the requirement for non-vaccinated people to self-isolate is being removed for those under the age of 18 to enable families to take holidays together. Those fully vaccinated will still be required to complete a pre-departure test before arrival into England, alongside a PCR test on, or before, day 2 after arrival back in England. Children aged 4 and under will continue to be exempt from any travel testing, while those aged 5 to 10 will only need to do a day 2 PCR and those aged 11 to 18 year will need to take both a pre-departure test and a day 2 PCR. The press release is here and the guidance is here.
 
In addition, information has been added to the guidance for people on how to comply with quarantine rules after international travel on how contact tracers from NHS Test and Trace will contact people to check that they are following quarantine rules. Previously this information was published on GOV.UK as part of ‘Quarantine and testing if you’ve been in an amber list country’.
 
This new policy only currently applies to UK residents returning to England and does not apply to foreign nationals at the moment – the announcement from Mr Shapps does state “….the change I am announcing today will prioritise those vaccinated in the UK. However, as I made clear last week, we want to welcome international visitors back to the UK and are working to extend our approach to vaccinated passengers from important markets and holiday destinations later this summer, such as the USA and the EU. I will update the House in due course on how we approach vaccinated individuals from other countries.” so we will continue to push govt to introduce these changes as soon as possible, whilst also seeking sector specific support and the removal of costly and inconvenient testing restrictions. 

UKinbound issued a statement in response below or here:

“Whilst this may be welcome news for Brits travelling overseas this summer, this decision does nothing for the UK’s inbound visitor economy. By keeping Britain closed, we are losing £70m a day in exports, businesses are on the brink, our cities remain empty and viable businesses are prevented from even beginning their recovery. As we approach the 19th, our inbound visitor economy remains neglected and forgotten by the Government, far from talk of freedom this decision risks being the final nail in the coffin for an industry that will be vital to our national recovery. The UK’s fifth largest export sector is dying on its knees, and the government must provide more support, including furlough extension and targeted grants, whilst rapidly implementing vaccination certification reciprocity for inbound, as it has done for outbound"
08 July 2021

England football team make UEFA Euro 2020 final

England's national football team have beaten Denmark to secure their place in the UEFA Euro 2020 final. Firstly, you may say, "but it is 2021, not 2020?". UEFA cancelled the competition was last year due to Covid.

England has gone from strength to strength during the competition, gaining confidence and increased flow.

Last night England beat Demark (2-1) in a thrilling semi-final with goals coming from a penalty, own goal and an amazing free-kick from Denmark.

England will now play Italy at Wembley, London on Sunday 11 July at 8 pm (20.00).

02 July 2021

Diana statue at Kensington Palace

Brothers Prince William and Harry unite to unveil the statue of their late mother. They seemed in a jovial mood, and Harry spent time chatting to his aunts and uncle.

The artist Ian Rank-Broadley is a well known British sculptor. Although we carry cash much less, Brits will own a piece of Ian's work – he is the creator of many of our coins. It is normal to have public artwork criticised, but Ian's statue of Diana has had a very cool response. Take a minute and imagine the difficulty of the task. A woman loved by so many, a campaigner, a public figure and above all, a mother. How could you possibly please the press, art critics, the family and the people. The answer is it is not possible.

Visitors will enjoy having a photograph, and children will be intrigued by the giant bronze princess about to glide through the gardens.

Three children surround the bronze figure of Diana, and undoubtedly, the children are modelled on children she met while visiting a hospital or may be whilst carrying out charity work.

The Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace has been entirely resigned to incorporate the statue. The remodelling and planting of over 4,000 flowers took 1,000 person-hours to finish.

Most importantly, the Garden will be open to the public for free from Friday, 2nd of July 2021. Interested in Kensington Palace? You maybe interested in a VIP Tour of Kensington Palace?

 

18 June 2021

World's Largest Treehouse

Alnwick Castle in Northumberland is better known as the REAL Hogwarts Castle. The vast fortification featured in the first Harry Potter movies. The broomstick training scenes come to mind.

Alnwick also has wonderful gardens and an amazing venue for dining, a giant TREEHOUSE. Yes, it is officially the largest treehouse globally -unfortunately, another very big one burnt down. This helped Alnwick reach the top spot.

Approximately 16 old trees support the structure, including Scots and English pine, larch, cedar and redwood. 
Book a tour of England and have lunch at the Treehouse in Northumberland.

17 June 2021

Historic Pub Crawl with an entertaining guide

Historic Pub Crawl

Discover London’s great historic pubs with a private tour guide with specialist public house and ale knowledge.

Let your hair down and be entertained by the history, some jokes, and a few pints. You will discover and understand the true nature of the British pub, a place of escape or refuge, to meet and greet and even do business.

Spend a few hours walking the back streets of London and see the taverns and alehouses you could never find on your own.

See further details here of our flexible Historic Pub Crawl.

16 June 2021

UK is NOT in Lockdown

Visitors and Travel Advisors, please do not get confused. The UK is NOT in lockdown.

We currently have very few restrictions on our daily life. Pubs, hotels, historical attractions, churches and restaurants are all fully operational. Although with social distancing and group numbers limited.

  • 19 July all restrictions to be lifted (new Freedom day)
  • UK Currently NOT in Lockdown, living with limited restrictions
  • 24 June NEW Travel Green list announcement

The total ‘freedom day’ has been put back until 19  July. So by 19 July (not 21 June as originally expected), large groups can host gatherings, theatres will open, and crowds should pile into sporting venues.  

Importantly, we are told the vaccines are highly effective against all variants, including Delta and Alpha.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said we will need to learn to live with covid.

Incredibly, 80% of the adult population in the UK have had their first jab and almost 60% they're second. At the current rate, 75% should have received their second vaccination by 19 July (Freedom day 2), which many scientists say is the magic herd immunity percentage.

Britain will be one of, if not the safest, countries to visit from July onwards. Browse our suggested and fully customisable tours here.

11 June 2021

G7 leaders meet in Cornwall

The G7 leaders of Italy, Japan, Canada, the US, France, Germany and the UK meet in Carbis Bay in Cornwall, in England this weekend.

The Queen, Prince Charles, Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, and Wills and Kate will meet world leaders at the Eden Project, the largest rainforest in captivity and probably the UK’s most impressive eco-friendly attraction. The Eden project showcases the use of geothermal energy and is regarded as the eighth wonder of the world; well, it is certainly a remarkable attraction.

World leaders will be eating locally caught Turbot and Cornish New Potatoes, which are the best, by the way. The meal will finish with an English Strawberry Pavlova and wonderful Cornish cheeses; Yarg, Cornish Gouda and Helford Blue.

Cornwall is a spectacular peninsula of stunning beaches, dramatic cliffs and an array of delightful fishing villages. The artist colony of St Ives is on the itinerary, a short hop from Carbis Bay. Hopefully, the world leaders will be able to explore the narrow lanes and purchase a work of art from a local artist.

There will be a BBQ on the beach and an RAF Red Arrows flypast. There will be a Sea-Shanty sing-along, which should lift the spirits, and I hope the Government has booked the “Fisherman's Friends”, the famous Cornish sea-shanty group. Their story is told in a movie of the same name.

Activities in Cornwall include a huge range of watersports, but especially surfing; click the link for the best Surfing in Cornwall. We recommend a couple of small luxury hotels in Cornwall. The Tresanton Hotel in St Mawes is a delightful place, with a Yacht-persons club feel, and nearby Idle Rocks Hotel is a luxurious harbourside boutique hotel. 

Although, the Tresanton and Idle Rocks have fabulous restaurants. The Rick Stein Collection of accommodation in Padstow is for real foodies.

Please take a look at our suggested and certainly customisable England’s South Coast Tour itinerary.

10 June 2021

Freedom Day (back to normal)

Back to normal day (Freedom Day)

June 21 is the date that the Government should drop Covid restrictions. The date has been referred to by some as Freedom Day. There has been some dithering and number crunching by the Government, which has made industries affected by restrictions apprehensive.

World Class Vaccination Program

The UK Government have made errors containing the virus, but the vaccination program has been world-class. More than 78% of adults (over 18) have had their first jab, and 55% have received their second dose.

The Variants

The public is losing interest in variant news, as the vaccine offers a high level of protection against all new variants. Many scientists say that minor changes are normal and expected, and only a major structural change to the virus would pose a serious threat. Please do research yourselves.

Potential Backlash

Andrew Lloyd Webber, the phenomenally successful composer and theatre owner, has vowed to open his theatres on June 21 come hell or high water. In defiance of any further restrictions that the UK Government may apply.

British Airways, American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are furious with the UK Government for not putting the United States on the Green list. Anger is growing in the industry with references to the successful vaccination programs in both the US and UK. 

Trade bodies from the aviation and travel industries have planned a travel industry day of action on June 23 to send a loud message to Johnson’s Government to take the risk and support a safe return to trans-Atlantic travel.

#traveldayofaction

The #traveldayofaction is a coalition of trade bodies, including; being led by Abta, UKinbound, Airlines UK, the Airport Operators Association, BAR UK, the Business Travel Association, Advantage Travel Partnership, The Travel Network Group, and the other 11 members of the Save Future Travel Coalition. Other industry organisations have been invited to join, plus; Luxury Vacations UK (Howard Stevens Ltd), courtesy of UK-Inbound.

Metaphorical touches are being lit across the country, calling all corners of the travel industry – travel agent, airport, airline, tour operator, supplier and partner – to make a stand and send a message to the people holding the levers of power.

Demands on the Government include:

Allowing risk-managed, safe international travel by implementing the Global Travel Taskforce’s plan and offering tailored financial support.

Lobbying

The day (June 23) will involve an organised lobby at the Houses of Parliament – which will see MPs meet with a huge their constituents at Westminster on a single day. I will be there and I hope that the Government recognises the importance of in-bound travel to the UK.  

Regards
Andrew Stevens
CEO-MD Luxury Vacations UK (Howard Stevens Ltd)

07 June 2021

Green List Update End of June

A review of the UK’s travel traffic light system will occur at the end of June, days before the main holiday season. For our clients, please hang in there; the UK is rapidly vaccinating ahead of inbound and outbound travel. Currently, over 76% of adults have had their first jab and 52% a second. From 8 June, the NHS will offer over 25’s their first jab and thankfully, uptake is extremely high.

The late June announcement will pave the way for the vaccinated to travel unhindered by restrictive quarantine measure, plus take fewer tests or none at all.

Currently, visitors or citizens from so-called GREEN LIST countries must provide a negative Covid 19 test within 72 hours of departure and then pay for a pricey PCR test on their second day in the UK.

Our Week In London is ideal for your first visit to the capital. We have a range of offers available that include complimentary transfers and discounted tours - we are very much looking forward to seeing you later this summer, please contact us today, get things in place and be ahead of the game.

28 May 2021

Multi-Cultural London - The Places, People and History

London is a Magnate
London is more than just royal palaces, high-end Shops and banks. The city has attracted people from around the globe searching for a safe place to start a family, make a living, and, in some cases, make a fortune. Dick Whittington, the 14th Century Lord Mayor of London, once said, “the streets of London are pathed with gold”. 

Who are the people that built London? Injected their cultural energy and made London a multi ethic and exciting myriad of cultural influences. Our professional guides will tell the stories of the people that made London.

The Beginning
Invasion and immigration have not stopped for thousands of years. After the Roman invasion of Britain, it would have been normal to see African people walking the streets of the new city of Londinium. Later, Saxons, Vikings and Normans.

People from the Low Countries
In the late middle ages, we start to have people escape persecution or attracted by convenient business practices. The Flemish brought their weaving skills, the Roma arrived and tended to be blacksmiths and horse dealers. The silk-weaving protestant “Huguenots” arrived in large numbers from France in the 1600s to escape religious persecution. Many settled in Spitalfields, London and made skill an essential fashion item.

Indian Scholars
Indian scholars have been coming to England since the 17th century, catching a ship owned by the East India Trading Company. The Great Potato Famine in Ireland greatly increased Irish migration. Many worked as navvies tunnelling under London’s streets, building the tube network. The job was dangerous; some say three men died for every mile of tunnel.

Africans
Around 15,000 Africans came to Britain during the 18th century as part of the slave trade. Many worked as servants, and some were elevated in society and became respected members of the ruling classes.

Russian Jews
Life for Jews in Russia became intolerable in the late 1880s. British Jews started a charitable fund to enable their Jewish bredrin to emigrate to the United States. Over 120,000 chose to settle in Britain and set up home in Spitalfields, London. The influx of new people helped revive the rag trade, and today Spitalfields Market is high-end and rather trendy; buy clothes, accessories, and eat food. 

Afro-Caribbean
After World Ward Two (1939-45), Afro-Caribbean people emigrated to Britain for work. Most British cities suffered bombing during the War, and the country needed people from around the Empire to re-build and fill jobs in public transportation and hospitals. Many had fought against the forces of Nazi Germany in the War. 

Banglatown
In more recent years, Bangladeshi communities have populated east London. Banglatown is now famous for the Brick Lane curry houses.

You can see that London has layers of history and layers of people that have made that history. Let us design a tour for you to include aspects of culture that mean something to you. Let us tailor a cultural London tour for you; Jewish Cultural Tour, Afro-Caribean Cultural Tour and South Asian Cultural Tour. Please contact us for further details.

25 May 2021

Covid 19 News Britain

The vaccines are working their magic with hospitalisations low and deaths in single figures. The death rate in the UK is below average. Note: the UK is using the Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines.

The Indian variant infection rate may have plateaued, and surge testing and vaccinations in those hot spots have kept a lid on the situation.

As every week goes by, we get closer to opening up to the world. Let us hope that the vaccines continue to protect us against all variants, and we can travel once again.

We were always the sort of company that went over-board when sanitising and cleaning our vehicles. We know people pick up illnesses when travelling through airports and planes. We have been aware the need to protect our staff and clients. A tour guide with flu and a client in a hotel room is no good for anybody.

Our sanitisation of cars will take place throughout the day and more frequently.

We look forward to seeing you and hope you get both jabs soon.

21 May 2021

Accessible tours for wheelchair users

Meeting the challenges head on

We provide accessible tours for people that need a little assistance or partial use of a wheelchair. We provide accessible vehicles for full-time wheelchair users too.

It may be that you need a wheelchair for some of the day. We book ground-level rooms and design a tour around your abilities. We plan access to castles, gardens and stately homes for people of all levels of capability, and you will have a personal guide with you to help whenever you need it.

We will tailor the tour to match your energy levels, with as many stops built-in as required. We provide foldable wheelchairs and ramps complimentary. Extra charges only apply to specialised equipment, such as adapted vehicles with wheelchair lifts.

17 May 2021

Hotels Open Today

Hotels Open Today

The hospitality industry is opening up. 

Museums, Stately Homes, Castles, Theme Parks and Hotels will open today with social distancing in place. 

The UK has delivered one of fastest the vaccination rollouts of any large country. Over 70% of the UK adult population has received their first vaccination and 31% their second jab. Encouragingly, surge vaccination is taking place in regions where variants are spreading. We are on track for fully opening with few restrictions by 21 June. 

Get smart and BOOK AHEAD, get insurance and look forward to a trouble free vacation to the UK with Luxury Vacations UK.

Yours Sincerely 

Andrew Stevens
CEO

 

11 May 2021

Southampton Transfers and Tours

It is madness to book an uncomfortable taxi at Southampton and drive for 2 hrs 30 mins on the motorway (freeway) and arrive in London with back pain, neck ache, and in need of a stiff drink – and have the hassle of check-in.

It makes more sense to take back control of time, explore the countryside, and arrive in London or Heathrow feeling refreshed and enlightened.

Here is a better idea. Meet your driver-guide at the cruise terminal; he or she will help with luggage and make sure you are comfortable. Within a short amount of time, you will be driving through the dramatic Dorset landscape. Passing farms, vineyards, old parish churches and historic homes with thatched roofs.

Stop at the romantic ruins of Old Wardour Castle and enjoy a clamber through the ruins (made safe by English Heritage) and admire the Lancelot "Capability" Brown landscaped grounds. The place is idyllic and ideal for a picnic lunch. Our guide will be prepared with sandwiches, gastro scotch eggs and luxury snacks. Anyone for a glass of English sparkling wine? May stop at the local pub to try the brew.

Stop in the hilltop town of Shaftesbury and see Gold Hill, a famous twisting street with old houses. Shaftesbury has independent shops and has the feel of a real old town, not for tourist - and history lingers on every corner.

Time for a big-hitting famous site. How about Salisbury Cathedral? The church with the tallest steeple in the medieval world at 404 ft. Go inside and see the tomb of William Longespee, the illegitimate son of King Henry II (1154-89 reign), a crusader knight and loyal subject to his father, unlike his Henry's heirs John and Richard. Time for tea and cake before heading to Old Sarum.

Old Sarum is a forgotten ancient settlement with the remains of a castle and huge earthworks. In short, it is the old Salisbury, probably abandoned around 1220 AD for the new city under construction in the valley below. People had lived at Old Sarum for over 5000 years, now a ghost with the framework of a thriving enclosed and fortified city. It is a reminder of the whisker of time we spend on earth before the next generation.

Stop or drive past Stonehenge; it will up to you and then head into London, the huge metropolis that sprawls over 650 sq miles. Fall asleep on the freeway and come too when the driver-guide touches the brakes gently outside your hotel entrance – feeling refreshed and enlightened.

Surely, a much better idea than racing down the M3 motorway to wait around for your hotel room? See our suggested Southampton Transfers and Tours Page.

Did you know? We can arrange private tours and excursions from NINE CRUISE PORTS in the UK; Southampton (Hampshire) Greenock (Glasgow) Leith (Edinburgh) Dover (Kent) Harwich (East Anglia) Portsmouth (Hampshire), Newcastle (Port of Tyne) Tilbury (London) and Plymouth (Devon) 

10 May 2021

Covid Update

The UK has vaccinated 66% of the adult population and will fully vaccinate every adult by mid July - vaccinations are on track.

The Government has taken a cautionary step forward allowing a small number of countries on its so called green list. The GREEN list will be updated every two weeks.

We hope to see USA and Canada on the green list of countries before the end of May.   

30 April 2021

Admiral Lord Nelson

The Greatest Naval Tactician of all Time

In 1805, Admiral Lord Nelson destroyed the combined French Fleet off the Spanish coast at Cape Trafalgar. It was to prove decisive in establishing Britain's naval supremacy for the rest of the 19th century.

The naval exploits of Admiral Lord Nelson mark him out as being head and shoulders above all other naval personnel throughout history. Such was the naval conquests that he earned the nation's gratitude and remained one of our most heroic figures with many monuments in his honour throughout England. Perhaps the best known of these stands in Trafalgar Square, and few London tours occur without passing this iconic landmark at least once. 

Born in 1758, he was just 13 years old when he joined the navy as an ordinary seaman and coxswain. Showing early promise, he was appointed a midshipman and started officer training. Over the next 19 years, he was attached to several ships, during which time he experienced his first naval action and gained much experience in navigation and ship handling skills. Appointed a lieutenant in 1777, he was appointed to his first command, HMS Albemarle in 1781.

Nelsons career saw him involved in a variety of actions around the world. Throughout, he displayed an outstanding and intuitive grasp of tactics and seamanship that secured his reputation within the navy. He had also suffered many injuries, among which he had lost the sight in his right eye and had his right arm amputated on another occasion. His most important actions were the Battle of St Vincent, Battle of the Nile, Battle of Copenhagen, and the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

It was at the Battle of Trafalgar that Nelson lost his life. Nelson's fleet comprised 27 ships against 33 of the combined French and Spanish fleet. Nelson was confident of Victory and set about arranging battle lines and tactics for the battle. He sent a signal to his fleet; England expects that every man will do his duty. It was to be his final signal. In the battle during which he and Hardy, his second in command, were moving around the ship giving orders, a sharpshooter, firing from around 50 feet away, hit Nelson with the bullet entering his left shoulder. With the battle raging around him, Nelson was carried below, aware that he was dying. He received the news that they had won the battle before dying. 

Nelson's body was placed in a brandy barrel, and his ship, the Victory, was towed to Gibraltar. His body was then transferred to a lead-lined coffin filled with spirits and wine. Upon hearing the news, the king, George III, said through tears, 'we have lost more than we have gained.' 

Nelson body was brought to London and lay in state in the Painted Hall in Greenwich for three days before being taken to Admiralty House in Whitehall before a procession which included 32 Admirals, 100 captains, and over 10,000 soldiers made its way to St Paul's Cathedral. After the service, his coffin was interred in a sarcophagus which had originally been carved for Cardinal Wolsey but taken over by Henry VIII and never used. 

Nelson Column
It stands 169ft tall in Trafalgar Square and flanked by four lions and four bronze relief panels. The panels were cast from melted-down French guns. The figure of Nelson is 18ft tall and sculpted in Craigleith sandstone. The lions designed by the famous painter Edwin Landseer and cast out of metal from guns removed from old battleships. They are amongst the largest bronze sculptures in the country. 

The Victory
Nelson flagship, HMS Victory, the most celebrated of all Britain's warships, was restored and in Portsmouth's historic naval dockyard. She has become one of the UK's most loved visitor attractions. Also in Portsmouth is the Mary Rose, Henry VIII's warship rescued from the bottom of the Solent in a special recovery operation and HMS Warrior Britain's first iron-hulled armoured battleship.

Even individually, they are each 'must see' historical ships. The fact that they are all together in one place is too good to miss. Let's make a day of it.

26 April 2021

The UK Reaches Herd Immunity

Travel to the UK will go ahead this summer. The UK has administered a rapid vaccination program. More than 65% of the adult population has had a jab, with second shots catching up quickly. The result has been that the UK has reached herd immunity, according to scientists.

By 17 May, the next phase of opening-up hospitality will take place. Most importantly for the inbound tourist industry, the opening of hotels. All restrictions should be lifted by 21 June, if not earlier. 

We welcome bookings and waive our tour design, booking, and set-up fee six weeks before your arrival day. Full payment will be due 30 days before arrival day. Travel Insurance is essential is required. 

19 April 2021

Discover the town of Rye

Discover Rye – a peaceful place, but once a favourite town to attack and burn to the ground! - well, if you were French.

King Edward III of England made sure Rye was well protected with four formidable gates – the raid continued. Edward III sort revenge and the French Crown; the English armies launched bloody thirsty assaults on settlements all over France. King Edward's son, The Black Prince, became infamous for his callus, cruel and barbaric conflict methods – his body is now resting in Canterbury Cathedral.

That war was known as the 100-Year-War. The English and French were at each other throats for 116 years, to be precise.

A visit to Rye now a little different from the middle ages; fortified gates become backgrounds to selfie "Instagram" hits, and ancient hide-outs are now pubs serving ale and delicious meals.

Explore the labyrinthine network of cobbled streets packed with independent shops. Find an antique, devour tasty ice cream and enjoy a pub lunch in this beautiful small town on England's south coast.  

What's nearby;

The other pictures are Pevensey Castle with Roman and Norman origins. Camber Sands is the long glorious beach, and Battle Abbey is the site of England's most famous battle, THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS! Lastly, the mysterious Long Man of Wilmington, a carved figure in chalk on the South Downs.

ALL THIS IN DAY FROM South Lodge Hotel.

09 April 2021

Prince Philip has died - 10/6/1921 to 9/4/2021

Philip was born on the beautiful island of Corfu on 10th June 1921, the fifth child of Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg.

During the Second World War, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark served in the British Royal Navy, while two of his brothers-in-law, Prince Christoph of Hesse and Berthold, Margrave of Baden, fought for Nazi Germany.

Philip was involved in the Battle of Crete, the Allied invasion of Sicily, and mentioned in dispatches during the battle of Cape Matapan.

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were formally engaged in April 1947. They first met in 1939.

As Her Majesty the Queen's consort, Prince Philip has visited over 110 countries, was a patron of 800 charities and organisations and remained steadfastly loyal to the Queen for 73 years. Prince Philip retired from Royal duties in 2017.

He was much liked and loved. He became famous for speaking his mind and having a wicked sense of humour and a no-nonsense attitude to life. 

08 April 2021

Britain will reach herd immunity by April 12.

Britain will reach herd immunity by April 12. 

University College London has said Britain will cross the herd immunity line on Monday, April 12 - Thirty-two million people have received their first dose; almost 60% of the adult population. 

Either via vaccination or from infection, over 70% of the nation will be protected within days. The pressure on the UK government to open Britain up to international inbound travel will be enormous. 

We will be expecting a positive announcement on Monday 12th April with solutions to avoiding visitors arriving with covid; ideas such as covid passports and testing at airports. 

Please ask questions, book trips and pay later; Private tours the UK

07 April 2021

Britain's Red Telephone Box

The famous RED TELEPHONE BOX appeared on British streets in 1924. The General Post Office controlled telecommunications. Therefore, the phone box is red to match the livery of the post office. Although, there were plans for the phone box to be silver, reflecting the space-age technology.

Originally the GPO installed 92,000 call boxes; today, there are only 8,000 are red telephone boxes.

The Police realised the street-based telephone box could help fight crime. Over one thousands blue sheds with Phones with a direct line to the nearest police station arrived on British streets. In 1963, this blue police telephone box appeared as the TARDIS in the hit BBC Sci-Fi series DOCTOR WHO. Discover the best examples of the various phone boxes on PRIVATE TOUR OF LONDON

Also, other organisations realised the value of telecommunications. Motoring clubs such as the RAC and AA installed around 1,300 sentry type phone boxes for patrolmen to stay in touch and customers to summon assistance.

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed the original red telephone box. The roof has an eye-catching curve identical to that of Waterloo Bridge, which Scott also designed. The example in the picture is Kiosk No; 6 design version-1935.

23 March 2021

UK Road Map Out of Lockdown

The UK vaccination program has been a success and continues at an extraordinary pace. All adults over 50 will have been offered the jab by the first week of April and all adults over 18 will have received a vaccination by late July. 

This means the UK road map out of lockdown remains on tack, please see below. 

12th April 2021

  • Non-essential shops will open, such as gyms and hairdresser.
  • Pubs can serve outdoors only.
  • ANNOUNCEMENT to be made on which nationals can visit the UK without restrictions. Vaccine passport, covid test or both maybe required. 

17th May 2021

  • Hotels will re-open.
  • Cinemas will re-open.
  • The gathering rule of six people or two households remains in place.

21st June 2021

  • All legal limits on social contact lifted.
  • Nightclubs re-open.
  • Normal interaction to resume.

We look forward to seeing you very soon with open arms. 

16 March 2021

When will I be able to travel to the UNITED KINGDOM?

Dear Potential Travellers to the UK,

The UK now has a ROAD-MAP to covid RECOVERY.

When will I be able to travel to the UNITED KINGDOM? It is on track and we should be ready to go by 17th May with limited restrictions and completely free by 21st June. 

"OVER 25 MILLION PEOPLE VACCINATED IN THE UK "

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) volunteers and the British Army have embarked on the UK's biggest vacation program ever. Each week between TWO to THREE million people are being vaccinated with the Pfizer or AstraZeneca-Oxford medicine. Importantly, at this rate, the NHS will inoculate all people over 50 by March and every adult by July. The sheer pace of vaccination will mean Britain will be open for business very soon. 

When will you be able to visit the UK?
Expect to be able to travel to the UK by mid-May. The countries most likely to enter the UK without the need for quarantine will be US citizens and other countries that are vaccinating at a similar rate.

Please take note, Travel Insurance is always vital, Covid or not; please make sure you get the correct cover. 

BOOK NOW – PAY LATER

We look forward to you touring with us soon.

The Luxury Vacations UK Team

09 March 2021

Tudor Tour - The Lockdown Story

'Tudor Lockdown for England's Nine-Day Queen' by Clarissa Skinner 

Why was the nine-day queen, Lady Jane Grey, put into lockdown for so long before her execution? And what was the final straw that led Queen Mary to put her to death? 

At 10 am on February 12, 1554, a diminutive figure in size. However, pious and graceful, England's nine-day teenage queen walks to the scaffold, reading her little prayer book supported on the arm of the kindly Lieutenant Sir John Bridges. Small with freckles and the Tudor red hair, she was dressed in a black gown with a French hood trimmed with jet. Her two ladies, Mrs Ellen and Mrs Tilney walk behind her, weeping. 

Interested in a Tudor Tour? Our Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace day tour from London cover the entire Tudor Story. 

Jane's husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, had requested an audience with Jane before their executions. Queen Mary had agreed to this, though Jane refused, saying they would meet in "a better place". However, to comfort him, she promised to watch as he walked from the Tower of London out onto Tower Hill for his public execution. She even stayed stubbornly at her window in the Queen's House until his headless corpse was brought back in a cart to be interred in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. A bloody white sheet covered the body, and his head was wrapped in a cloth. 

When Jane reached the scaffold, she took a scarf from Mrs Ellen to use as a blindfold. She stood fumbling for the block, crying: "What am I to do? Where is it?" Someone stepped forward and helped her to the block, and as she stretched out her body, the axeman took her head in one blow. She was just 16. The French ambassador, Antoine de Noailles, recorded his shock at how much blood could come from so small a body. 

Jane's claim to the throne came through Henry VIII's sister Mary Tudor (described as the most beautiful woman in England). She secretly married his chief adviser and friend Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. After raging at the deceit, Henry forgave them. Mary and Charles had two daughters, Frances and Eleanor. Frances was Jane's mother. Frances married Henry Grey, later Duke of Suffolk. They were unpleasant but proud parents, and Henry described them as "neither misliked nor much regarded" by his peers. They went on to have two more daughters, Katherine and Mary. 

On Henry VIII's death on January 28, 1547, Edward VI became king. He was staunchly Protestant; to keep his Catholic half-sister Queen Mary (later known as Bloody Mary) off the throne, he is persuaded to name his cousin Jane as his heir. John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, had Jane marry his son Guildford Dudley to retain his power over the crown. Thus, upon the death of the King, Jane became Queen of England on July 10, 1553, aged only 15. Just nine days later, with Queen Mary having gained great support, she captures Jane and has her thrown into the Tower on treason charges. 

Under sentence of death, Jane is treated well at the Tower, even making friends with Lieutenant Sir John Bridges, writing a message to him in the prayer book she left to him: "There is a time to be born and a time to die, and the day of our death is better than the day of our birth. Yours, as the Lord knoweth, a true friend." This message was beside one to her father, which ends: "Your obedient daughter till death." She lived in the gaoler's house, Partridge and his wife, and was allowed four members in her household, Mrs Ellen, Mrs Tilney, Mrs Jacobs and a manservant and given a decent allowance to live well. She was allowed to walk in the gardens and even out onto Tower Hill, under escort of guards.

Queen Mary recognised that Jane was an innocent pawn in a political game and was intent on not having her executed, hoping that when rebellions had been quashed, she would be able to release her. Jane, too, believed that one day she might be free. Thus, the Tower was almost a refuge to her, as she could read her beloved books. Jane was a Greek and Latin scholar (among other subjects) and staunch in her Protestant views - some might even say priggish. She was now free of all the venomous people in her life who had pushed and cajoled her into taking on the crown. Jane wrote to Queen Mary: "Although my fault be great, and I confess it be so, nevertheless I am charged and esteemed guilty more than I have deserved. For whereas I might take upon me that of which I was not worthy, yet no one can ever say that either I sought it on my own, or that I was pleased with it." The original letter did not survive, but there is a contemporary Italian translation. 

The problem came when Queen Mary agreed to marry Philip of Spain, son of Emperor Charles V, Queen Mary's uncle and powerful ruler of the Habsburg empire. The English rose against this "foreign" match. Queen Mary stopped Jane walking on the walls of the Tower, keeping her out of the raging public. Worse, she was eventually told that she could not leave Partridge's house for her daily walks. Total lockdown. Jane became ill, and this, combined with the fact that Queen Mary considered her half-sister Elizabeth an even greater threat, meant she was allowed to at least walk in the gaoler's gardens again. Besides, behind the Tower walls, no one could see her. 

Jane endlessly awaited her pardon with great resilience, but it never came, and she began to feel forgotten. She carved Latin inscriptions on the walls (they no longer survive, but once again contemporaries recorded them): 

"To mortals' common fate my mind resign. 
My lot today tomorrow may be thine."

"While God assists us, envy bites in vain. 
If God forsakes us, fruitless all our pain.
I hope for light after darkness." 

It seems that Jane became bored and lonely, as one evening the Partridges' had Rowland Lee from the Royal Mint over, and Jane seems to have greatly enjoyed this fresh company to exchange ideas with. When he asked her what she made of the Duke of Northumberland's conversion to Catholicism at the last moment, and it was commented on that he was seeking to have his pardon, Jane cried out: "Pardon! Woe worth him! He hath brought me and our stock in most miserable calamity and misery by his exceeding ambition." 

The protests against Queen Mary's marriage led to the Wyatt rebellion, led by Thomas Wyatt, son of a poet from Kent. Wyatt just wanted to stop the foreign marriage; however, others plotted more deeply. Edward Courtenay (great-grandson of King Edward IV), who had been imprisoned in the Tower throughout his youth by Henry VIII, was now freed aged 27 by Queen Mary. The plot involved having him married off to Queen Mary's half-sister Elizabeth and taking the throne. They would have made a powerful match. This Protestant plot gave Queen Mary no choice but to have Lady Jane put to death. Elizabeth brought to the Tower for questioning to determine her involvement in it.

While Elizabeth, briefly in lockdown at the Tower, was in the garden, a boy of five and a girl aged three or four came to the gate to offer her flowers. Another little girl provided the princess with a miniature set of keys "so that she may unlock the gate and go abroad". The guards thought they were being sent as spies concealing messages in the posy and banned them from coming again. But the brave little fellow did come again, just to let her know he could no longer bring her flowers. Elizabeth was considered a threat throughout Queen Mary's reign. She spent a long time under house arrest at Woodstock Manor (now Blenheim Palace outside of Oxford). While there, she is said to have inscribed on the window with a diamond:

"Much suspected of me. 
Nothing proved can be. 
Quoth Elizabeth prisoner." 

Finally, Queen Mary, at the very last, sent Dr John Feckenham, the new Catholic dean of St Paul's Cathedral, to try to convert Jane. Despite herself, Jane could not help befriending Feckenham and found him kinder and better company than many Protestants. However, she could not be persuaded, arguing against transubstantiation, saying that when Christ broke the bread and said, "Take, eat, this is my body", he was very much alive. So the Real Presence in the Eucharist could not be true. Nonetheless, she agreed to have Feckenham join her at the scaffold to see her last breath taken. Jane told Feckenham of her lockdown horror: "I assure you, the time hath been so odious to me that I long for nothing so much as death." 

After Jane's death, her father was discovered hiding at Astley Park, his estate in Warwickshire, in the stump of a tree where he had stayed for two days. He was brought back and executed on February 23, 1554. His head fell into the sawdust below, which was tainted with tannin. So it was perfectly preserved for 400 years - and even shown off to historians at St Botolph's Church in Aldgate - before finally being buried. Her mother, Frances, Duchess of Suffolk, immediately deserted her family and entered Queen Mary's court. Within weeks after her husband and daughter's death, she had married Adrian Stokes, 15 years her junior and her groom of the chambers. He was red-haired and flashy in dress, but more importantly, her inferior. A smart move, as it took her and any future heirs out of the line of succession, thereby removing her permanently as a threat to the throne. 

The story of Jane's sisters' fate also has a terrible lockdown chill to it. Katherine Grey, one sister, fell in love with Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford. She was a true Tudor beauty like her grandmother. She had also been welcomed into Queen Mary's court. Still, when Elizabeth I succeeded Queen Mary, she kept Katherine close, being a potential rival. When Katherine secretly married the earl, the threat became greater, and Elizabeth was furious. Worse, she was pregnant with his child, and when it was born, it was a boy. They were both imprisoned at the Tower, but the Lieutenant, Ed Warner, took pity on them and let them meet in secret. An exceptionally unwise move, as once again, Katherine became pregnant and had a second son. Elizabeth was so incensed at this that Katherine was placed under house arrest. Here in lockdown, she pined away for the family she had lost. She probably became anorexic, as she ate very little and wasted away with consumption. You may think that this would have been warning enough for her sister Mary Grey, but not so. She decided to marry at 19 years secretly to the sergeant porter, Thomas Keys (again her inferior). A slightly comic match, as William Cecil said: "The sergeant porter, being the biggest gentleman in this court, hath married secretly the Lady Mary Grey, the least of all the court." She was described as so tiny that she may have been a dwarf and was also a little hunch-backed. She, too, was separated from her husband and put under house arrest at Chequers in Buckinghamshire. Mary Grey also wasted away and stopped eating (Thomas Keys was sent to the Fleet prison.) She was finally released in 1572, a year after her husband's death, and died in poverty and obscurity in 1578, aged 32. Tragically, on Katherine's deathbed, she sent a message to Elizabeth begging her to forgive her and asked of her children that Elizabeth "not impute my fault onto them". 

Thus, we learn lockdown lessons from our torturous Tudor forebears.

13 January 2021

The Most Beautiful Place in Ireland

Connemara National Park

A combination of bogland, lakes, and mountains makes up the Connemara National Park. Fifty peaks dominate the horizon within a tightly defined 5000-acre area. For those who love to hike, there is Diamond Hill in the Connemara National Park, with its wood and cut stone path, offers a very safe way to go hill-walking. The region is dotted with ancient tombs, some over 4,000 years old - making the park fascinating walking country. 

Wildlife includes; birds of prey, such as peregrines and merlins, large mammals include Red Deer, and the coast is ideal for breeding Grey seals.

 

28 December 2020

Where was Bridgerton filmed?

Where was Bridgerton Filmed? 
The NEW Netflix show following the fortunes of the Bridgerton family is superb. 

Who doesn't love a period drama? Maybe some, but for those who do, it is an escape to another world and time. In this case, the time is Regency London (early 1800s') when war raged across the channel. Nelson was a naval hero, and Napoleon met his match at Waterloo. Britain was becoming the first nation to be industrialised; it was a period of rapid change and growth. 

This exciting 'Jane Austen' period drama is set in London. Although London has plenty of historic streets and grand 'Regency terraces', other England locations have been used to replicate the Regency age capital. 

Here is a brief rundown;
The Bridgerton London home is the elegant Ranger's House, Greenwich. It is a stunning villa looked after by English Heritage. The interiors will take your breath away. The rooms are full of sculpture, jewellery and over 700 paintings. It is an art lovers dream and much lesser known than the National Gallery and Tate Britain

The filmmakers used RAF Halton for the interiors of the Bridgerton London home. The vast RAF base is home to over 2,000 personnel. The site seems an unlikely film location for an elegant interior, but there are grand Regency-like rooms. The Bridgerton House Grand Hall, Smoking Room and Hallway were filmed here. 

Filmmakers are clever to use different properties and patch them together to create the overall effect. For Example, Duke of Hastings character's London home is the lavish private home of the Earl of Pembroke, Wilton House, near Salisbury. Wilton House has been the residence of the Earls of Pembroke since the 16th century, during King Henry VIII's reign. The sumptuous interiors have attracted film crews before. The filming of Jane Austen's 'Emma', 'Tomb Raider' and another Netflix hit 'The Crown'. 

Our Tour-Designers can add in a tour of Wilton House and its incredible grounds on a day tour of Bath and Salisbury

The country house of the fictional Duke of Hastings, Clyvedon Castle uses Wilton House elements, such as the dining room. The ever so grand Castle Howard, was famously the film set of Brideshead Revisited based on a book by Evelyn Waugh. Now Castle Howard's dramatic exteriors and some other interiors double as Clyvedon Castle. Castle Howard also stepped in to play the role of some ballroom scenes.  

Again the producers used Castle Howard to replicate Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. The once famous gardens have long gone, but, have been revived but for a short time at Yorkshire's jewel, Castle Howard. The incredible grounds at Stowe in Buckinghamshire were also used. The ornamental landscape gardens that our old friend Capability Brown learnt his trade as a garden designer.   

Bath is England's great film-location dame and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best-preserved 18th Century city in Europe has very little architecture from modern times to spoil those classic period-drama shots. Therefore, Bridgerton London scenes, such as Mayfair, Pall Mall, and Grosvenor Square, are filmed in gorgeous and well-preserved Bath

We will be delighted to put together a film location tour just for you. I think you will be surprised how many movies are made in Britain every year. There are very few parts of Britain that have not graced the silver screen.

22 December 2020

Covid 19 Vaccine - Christmas update

Over half a million people in the UK have had their first COVID 19 vaccination jab. 

There is an expectation that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be approved very soon and rolled out before the end of the year to Britain’s National Health Service. It has been often said that the Oxford Vaccine is the real game-changer because hospital staff can store it at room temperature, plus it is cheaper. Britain has 100 million doses, which is enough to cover the entire population. 

Suppose the speed of vaccination increases in 2021 to over one million people a week. In that scenario, we could have control of our lives by Easter (4th April 2021). 
Living a normal life will be like heaven, and I’m sure travel will be on everyone’s minds. Please think ahead; we are expecting a huge surge in demand by late winter.  

We very much look forward to touring the UK with you again very soon. 

Kind Regards
Andrew Stevens
CEO

18 December 2020

Electric Touring Vehicles

Covid 19 has given us time to re-organising and plan for the future. We have improved our website, and we are currently building a TOURING BRITAIN and GUIDE to help clients make better-informed decisions about their vacations to the UK and Ireland.

The lack of business has meant the acceleration of the sale of our diesel vehicles and the ordering of NEW electric cars. 

We are pleased to announce a rollout of NEW fully electric and hybrid plugin vehicles between 2021-2022. We hope to have our entire fleet of limousines and passenger vans exchanged by the beginning of 2024. 
We look forward to quieter and environmentally friendly touring Britain and Ireland in the future.

02 December 2020

The UK FIRST to approve Covid 19 vaccine

The United Kingdom is the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid 19 vaccine. A UK-wide inoculation will begin within weeks. 

The University of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid 19 vaccine has also proved to be effective.  The manufacturing of this drug is much cheaper, and it does not require cold storage, making distribution less problematic. We expect that regulators will approve this vaccine soon. 

The Moderna Covid 19 has also achieved excellent results, and the approval and roll-out seem likely in the new year. 

With that in mind, we are expecting to operate tours in the UK from Easter 2021. We do hope you will return to Britain very soon and the Luxury Vacations UK team are raring to go. Please check our suggested itineraries here; Private Tours UK

Regards

Andrew Stevens
Director

25 November 2020

Private Guide London

What to expect from a Luxury Vacations UK guide

Meeting you in the lobby
We think it is important to have our tour guides meet you in the lobby of your hotel and sit down briefly and talk about the day. It is important to us that you do not feel rushed but understand timings and logistics. Our guides will be flexible on the day and change the plan for whatever reason. 

Attire
Our guides will be immaculately dressed. Gentlemen will wear a jacket and tie and ladies general business attire, most likely lighter colours. Both men and Women will wear comfortable but smart shoes. 

Knowledge
All of our guides have received professional training, and there are various industry recognised ‘badges’ that offer certain authorisation to guide inside places of historical interest. Some of the specialist guides will have a lifetime of experiences in a particular field, such as a professional archaeologist, art historian or architect. 
In general, when touring the entire UK, your driver-guide will tell anecdotes and give an in-depth overview of each location. In most cases guided tours inside churches, stately home or castles. When this is not possible, we can provide local private guides on-site. 

Service
Your driver-guide will be available when touring overnight for up to 8 hours per day and will provide fresh water, charging points for phones, Wi-Fi and sanitising wipes. We can also offer evening transport if required.  
Your driver-guide will vacuum, clean and sanitise the vehicle every day as expected. Along with being your host, your guide and a knowledgeable friend, your driver-guide will liaise with the team in London to provide a general concierge service.

24 November 2020

Travel COVID 19 NEWS

Dear Professional Travel Advisors
We are increasingly getting a clearer picture of when people can visit Britain and Ireland safely and without quarantine. 

British and Irish citizens will have access to three vaccines this winter with on-going treatment into early spring. The hope is that the most vulnerable will receive the jab first and be protected. 

We hope that this timetable is viable and the UK and Irish Government will admit foreign visitors without quarantine from easter 2021. We will update this page with newsweekly. 

We are looking forward to seeing you and your clients again, and we will be making sure our vehicles are immaculately clean and sanitised. We will have private medical practitioners test our drivers and tour guides regularly.  

From all of us here at Luxury Vacations UK  - Have a lovely Thanksgiving.

17 November 2020

Duke of Wellington

The Defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo
Arguably one of the most brilliant military strategists England had ever known he was renowned for his defensive style of warfare against numerically superior forces. He fought some 60 battles throughout his military career and was much loved by his troops who were very loyal to him. Hid crowning glory was the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 which brought peace to Europe.  

Born in 1769 into an aristocratic Irish family where, after attending a couple of schools he was sent to Eton College, an experience he hated and failed to achieve any success. Without showing much enthusiasm for anything, his mother grew increasingly concerned for her sons future saying ‘I don’t know what I shall do with my awkward son’. He enrolled into the French Royal Academy of Equitation where he became an excellent horseman and learned French. On returning home, his mother was astonished at his improvement.

A Military Career
He decided upon a military career and joined the army. As was the practice at the time he purchased a commission first as a major and then a lieutenant colonel. His first experience of action was in Flanders that did not go well for the British. Wellington realised that the failure was mainly due to the faults of the leaders and poor organisation. He remarked that he had ‘at least learned what not to do’. 

His next military campaigns were in India where he had ongoing successes fighting in several battles. Promoted to the rank of Major General, his accomplishments were in no small measure due to his strategic planning. He instilled strong discipline in his men, securing good supply lines and using scouts and spies for intelligence. Successes in the wars against Denmark and the Peninsular war followed.  

Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo in 1815 was to become his defining victory. His planning and strategic skills resulted in the defeat of Napoleon. The battle was to become the most famous in all of British history and destroyed the dream of a Napoleonic empire forever. Except for the Crimean war and a quick Franco-Prussian war Wellingtons, actions had ensured peace in Europe for almost a century. Without the need to devote resources to war, Britain was able to concentrate on developing our trading activities. 

Return to England
So grateful was the nation that on his return to England, the public regarded him as a hero, formally honoured, and given £400,000 (worth some £5.8M in today’s money). He was also given an estate in Stratfield Saye near Basingstoke in Hampshire. Wellington made plans to demolish the existing building and build a property to rival Blenheim Palace. It was to be called Waterloo Palace but proved too expensive, and the designs dropped. Today the stables house the Wellington Exhibition and among the exhibits are the cast bronze funeral carriage made from melted down French cannons which had been captured at the battle. A commemorative column stands at the entrance. Wellington’s horse, Copenhagen, is also buried here. 

Parliamentary Career
On his return to England, he entered parliament as a member of the Tory party. He was elected leader becoming Prime Minister in 1828. (He was to become PM twice). He was not a natural orator, and his debating skills led to his parliamentary career being less successful than his military exploits. After his first cabinet meeting, he was heard to exclaim, ‘An extraordinary affair, I gave them my orders, and they wanted to stay and discuss them’. 

His strong conservative views dented his popularity. He introduced Catholic emancipation, which granted civil rights to Catholics. Another bill, the Reform Act, was also to prove unpopular and mobs stormed his London home, Apsley House, forcing him to install iron shutters. For this, he became known as the Iron Duke. Today, opposite his house on Hyde Park Corner is a statue of the Duke mounted on his horse, Copenhagen. Nearby is Wellington Arch which was originally the entrance to Buckingham Palace. It is crowned by the most massive bronze sculpture in Europe and is well worth a visit.

Death and Funeral
His death in 1852 resulted in one of the most significant public events of the 19th century. Ten thousand marchers formed the funeral procession and over one and a half million people lined the streets of London, to watch his funeral procession. Wellington was buried alongside our great naval hero Lord Nelson. The windows of St Pauls were draped with heavy black cloth, and 6,000 new gas lights lit the dome and the whispering gallery.  Queen Victoria attended and wrote ‘the GREATEST man this country has ever produced’.


Overview by Graham Saunders
Driver guide

11 November 2020

The Jacobite Express

Britain was a world leader and originator of the first-ever steam locomotive to carry passengers. George Stephenson's Locomotion No. 1 first transported passengers from Stockton to Darlington in 1825. Shortly afterwards in 1830, Stephenson operated the first public inter-city railway, connecting Liverpool and Manchester. Please see George Stephenson's 'advanced' Rocket on display in the Science Museum in London. Britain continued to develop a vast network of railways in the UK, around the Empire and invested in the American railway network. 

Now you can enjoy a scenic journey on the Jacobite Express. The 84-mile return trip starts at the base of Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain, before heading over the 21 arched Glenfinnan Viaduct, made famous by scenes in the Harry Potter movie series. The Jacobite Express charges pass rivers, valleys and arriving beside the deepest seawater loch in Europe, the mysterious Loch Nevis. At the end of the line, stop in Mallaig for fish and chips before heading back to Fort William. 

You can depart the train and have our driver-guide meet you and continue your trip to the Isle of Skye. Our travel designers will book tickets for the car ferry from Mallaig to be timed so that you can reach your final stop on Skye for afternoon tea time. Please take a look at our suggested private tours of Scotland.

10 November 2020

Touring Scotland

Touring Scotland is a real adventure, and people are always amazed by the astonishing landscapes. Visitors still expect to see the lovely countryside, but most are blown away by the beauty. 

Touring the Highlands with a driver-guide, allows the visitor to enjoy the landscapes, stop whenever they wish and enjoy a glass of wine for lunch.  Having guide take you around an ancient castle, climbing all the turrets and strolling through vast estates, can be a wee bit tiring, in a good way. As you gently fall asleep in the back of the luxury SUV or Limo, your focused driver-guide is getting you back to your hotel safely and comfortably. 

Flexibility is key to the success of this style of touring; you don’t want to be told when you are leaving or how long you should stay somewhere. A professional driver-guide will advise, make suggestions and be flexible on the day. 

Driving routes in Scotland are fantastic, and you will want to jump out and take pictures or go for a stroll or hike and feel the fresh air and take it all in. We like to suggest taking part in an activity, such as off-road driving, or fishing, or maybe a photography lesson. 

Gleneagles is at the top end of the hotel options, a magical resort, a magnificent playground for all members of your family, young and old. Let your time and budget allow staying for three nights. We can arrange half-day and full-day trips from the hotel with an experienced driver-guide with a luxury vehicle. 

Our suggested itineraries can be customised to match your dates, interests and pace of travel. Please take a look at our Private Tours of Scotland.

09 November 2020

Skellig Michael Island - STAR WARS ISLAND

Skellig Michael is a dramatically located rock in the Atlantic ocean off the south-west coast of Ireland. The craggy island covers 44 acres and soars over 700 ft from above the crashing waves. 

Perched on a ledge is an ancient Christian monastery. The monks craved solitude, a place for contemplation. Access to settlement requires a climbing a fantastic 1,000-year-old set of steps up the cliff face. You will discover six beehive-like shelters or homes that date from the 6th-century. 

The Monks traded seal meat, eggs and feathers for cereal crops. Astonishingly the community survived until the 12th century. 

The only inhabitants today are large colonies of sea birds. 

Again it is film and tv that has provoked interest in Skellig Michael Island, which is often referred to as Star Wars Island.

BOOK YOU TRIP TO IRELAND NOW, SEE OUR SUGGESTED PRIVATE TOURS OF IRELAND HERE. 

04 September 2020

Margaret Thatcher – The Iron Lady

Britain’s First Female Prime Minister

The Iron Lady
Margaret Thatcher is remembered for being the first female British Prime Minister.  She was also the longest-serving PM of the 20th century. Thatcher was also successful in winning three general elections achieving sound majorities. She had a vision to “sound economic policies”. Her steely determination to put the country’s finances on a sound footing led to stringent policies and a firm leadership style. Several of her early accomplishments gave a hint to her character. She had read chemistry at Oxford, in itself an unusual achievement for a woman at the time. One of only nineteen female Members of Parliament when she entered parliament and, as education minister, she ended free milk for schools becoming known as ‘Thatcher, the milk snatcher’ as a result. Ultimately, she became the first female leader of the Conservative party.

The Winter of Discontent
The winter of 1979 was a low watermark for Britain. The unions had destroyed the Labour governments incomes and industrial policies, and with strikes leaving the dead unburied, rubbish uncollected for three months and endless industrial action by transport workers Britain became known as the Sick Man of Europe. A no-confidence vote in parliament heralded a general election in May 1979 which the Conservatives won with a comfortable majority of forty-three seats. Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of a country in the grip of the worst recession since the 1930s. With her flowing skirts, blonde coiffeur, handbag and court shoe, her unthreatening appearance was that of a respectable, middle-class housewife. As the country, and particularly the unions, were to discover, her appearance belied a driven, revolutionary character, with ideals far removed from the left-wing policies that had driven the country into the sand. 

The restrictive practices of the unions had permeated every level of British industry. Perversely, countries such as Japan and Germany whose economies had been devastated by the second world war had rebuilt their industries unimpeded by obstructive unions and were forging ahead. Much of British industry was state-owned with insufficient levels of productivity, high labour costs and consequently barely profitable with many needing state aid to stay afloat.  

A New Britain
Mrs Thatcher set in motion a massive privatisation program starting with British Aerospace and British Airways. The utilities followed with water and gas privatisations. Her thrust was for ordinary people, who thought that share ownership was the preserve of big business, to take a stake in the privatised industries and develop a spirit of independence. The reliance on state aid was over; uncompetitive business sectors would have to stand on their own two feet. Telecoms, steel, cars and coal were in her sights. She was determined not to continue to pour good money into badly performing state industries. A market-driven economy introduced, making Britain vastly more efficient while sacrificing old mining communities across Britain. 

Many of the old, unprofitable industries had been employing many people for many years. Whole towns and communities had grown up reliant on these businesses for work and survival. One of the inevitable consequences of this dramatic shift in policy was that unemployment rose to levels which exceeded those of the great depression of the ’30s. Manufacturing no longer formed over half of Britain’s economy. The negative impact on affected communities was severe, and Mrs Thatcher became a figure of hate for many. That hate remains as raw as ever for many even to this day. The roots for many of the social ills we have today are traced to the impact of her policies. But, unpleasant though the medicine was, the country desperately needed the radical change of direction her policies introduced.

Ronald Regan, Thatcher and Cold War
Mrs Thatcher’s Conservative government scored some notable foreign policy successes. An early success was a resolution to the long-running Rhodesian problem that saw Robert Mugabe brought to power (ultimately, he would be the problem rather than the solution). Victory in the battle for the Falkland’s did much to improve her popularity both at home and abroad. She also worked with the American President, Ronald Regan, to bring about an end to the Cold war and continued to that  ‘special relationship’ with the Americans.

To bring about the fundamental changes the country needed, required the introduction of many controversial and unpopular policies. Chief among them was the introduction of what became known as the poll tax. It was poorly presented to the public, caused widespread resentment, and lost support within the government. On top of that, cracks appeared within the cabinet over our monetary policy with the European Union. Mrs Thatcher lost support and was replaced as leader by John Major.

Loved and Hated in Equal Measure
Despite becoming the first female Prime Minister, and one of the most effective, few statues or memorials exist. She remains such a divisive figure for many that any statue or monument would become a target for unrest. After she died in 2013, her cremated remains were buried alongside those of her husband, Dennis in the Royal Hospital Chelsea following a private ceremony. 

Overview by Graham Saunders
Driver guide

14 August 2020

THE CROWN; The People's Princess

The Story of Lady Diana

Diana - The Princess of Wales
The death of the Lady Diana the Princess of Wales in a car crash in a French tunnel in 1997 plunged the world into deep shock and mourning.  From what had appeared at the outset to be a fairy tale romance and marriage to the future king of England ended in a weird nightmare. 

Diana was born in 1961 into a quasi-nobility family. Lady Diana’s parents divorced when she was just seven years old. The outcome of which meant that Diana lived with her father and stepmother. She disliked her stepmother intensely and described as a bully. Later in life, Diana described her childhood as 'very unhappy'. Academically she didn't shine but proved good at dancing and swimming.

On leaving school, she moved to London, shared a flat in Earls Court with a couple of friends, and worked at various jobs including dance instructor, nursery assistant and cleaner. 

Introduction to Prince Charles
Aged 16, she met Prince Charles who was dating her sister, at a polo weekend. Their relationship started to look serious when he invited her aboard Britannia for a sailing weekend at Cowes. She was introduced to the queen a couple of months later, and some six months later Charles proposed to her. She had just turned 20.

Marriage and Children
In July 1981 the marriage took place in St Pauls Cathedral watched by a television audience of some 750 million people around the world.  The streets leading to St Paul's were packed with another 600,000 people all hoping to catch a glimpse of the couple. Throughout the world, people had become caught up in what appeared to be the perfect story of love and romance. The fact that Diana was extremely photogenic added gloss to the magic.

June 1982 saw the arrival of son number one, Prince William, with Prince Harry following two years later. She adored both children and arranged her life around their activities.

Problems
Five years into their marriage problems began and came to light in the press. Both parties admitted to infidelities and got divorced in 1996.

The public love affair with Diana continued, and she continued her involvement with several selected charities, including people living with AIDS. Her willingness to make physical contact with people living with AIDS won her much public support, as did her high profile involvement with an organisation dedicated to clearing landmines. As a result, she found herself criticised for 'meddling in politics', a comment that reflected severely on Lord Howe who made it. She became involved with a cancer hospital in London and travelled to Pakistan to visit a newly opened cancer treatment there. She also attended a leprosy unit in Indonesia.

Death
Her death on the 31st August 1997 shook the world. The paparazzi pursued the car in which she was travelling, and the driver and her companion sustained injuries that led their deaths. Her funeral took place in the magnificent Royal church of Westminster Abbey. The location of Diana's grave is on an island in the grounds of Althorp Park which had been her family's home for many years.

Areas of Kensington Palace, her home for many years is open to the public who can visit the Kings and Queens State Apartments, Gardens, shop and stop for a coffee in the café. Please contat us and we can help you create a personalised tour of London.

Overview by Graham Saunders
Driver guide.

 

 

 

 

 

13 July 2020

Bodnant Gardens, Wales

Best garden in Wales

Nestled in the Foothills of Snowdonia

Overlooking the Conwy Valley and nestling in the Snowdonian foothills of North Wales, Bodnant Garden is the result of the vision of Henry Pochin, a scientist, businessman and politician. By the year 1874, the garden had been invested in by five generations of Henry's descendants and today covers some 80 acres.  

Dynamic multi layered garden

Comprising several gardens in one, it includes Italianate terraces, informal shrub borders stocked with plants from around the world. The Dell, a gorge garden, several notable trees, also blessed with a waterfall, a great way to stop, relax and let the sound wash your daily worries away: close your eyes and let the natural sounds permeate your mind.

For all seasons

Expansive lawns, intimate corners, grand ponds and impressive terraces, a steep wooded valley and stream, impressive plant collections and continually changing displays of colour there are always inspiring sights throughout the year.

The National Trust

Since 1949 the garden has been owned by the National Trust, and while popular, there seldom seems to be a crowd, its numerous curves and contours enable a secluded tour.  It is open year-round and each season offers its marvellous perspective, a contrast to the surrounding Snowdonia National Park. Dazzling Daffodils or a Riot of Rhododendrons, another memorable addition to any tour.

Overview by John Docherty - Driver-guide

01 July 2020

Snowdonia National Park

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

A Welsh gem

The stunning Snowdonia National Park covers some 823 sq. Miles of widely varying and striking landscapes on the west coast of Britain. Designated a National Park, it is home to over 26,000 people and visited by thousands of tourists each year who are enchanted by its breathtaking landscapes.

Within the park is Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales which rises to 3560ft. The park is a centre for climbing enthusiasts; people who wish to avoid amateur climbers head over to the adjacent peaks, the Glyder and Carnedd ranges, which are around 3000ft. The typography of the landscape resembles the Hymulaiyas and therefor remains a training ground for the worlds top climbers. 

Snowdon Mountain Railway

A great way to see the area at its best is to ride the Snowdon Mountain Railway. A majestic mountain, place of legend – Snowdon is said to be the burial place of the giant ogre Rhita, vanquished by King Arthur. Some believe that Arthur's Knights still sleep beneath the hills.
The breathtaking view from the peak beats the likes of Stonehenge, Loch Ness, the Palace of Westminster and Giant's Causeway to be named the nation's favourite.
In contrast to the mountains, the park area sweeps down to the sea, taking in the Llyn Peninsula, an (AONB) area of outstanding natural beauty, and around 40 miles of coastline, much of it attractive sandy beaches.  

Sheep and green hills

Throughout this area of natural beauty, our tour takes us along winding smooth roads, through woodland, and across farmland. Wales is known for its high population of sheep.  While you will see cattle, beef and dairy, a third of the Welsh population of over 9 million sheep reside within the Snowdonia Park. With over 1,100 farms, the scenery is a delightful mix of the natural world.

For the adventurous, the park is a haven for walkers and climbers with favourite treks that easily roll off the tongue; Y Garn to Elidir Fawr and Cadair Idris neat Dolgellau! Three days in Snowdonia is recommended although returnees very much enjoy exploring further.

Overview written by John Docherty - Driver-guide.

01 July 2020

Chatsworth House

The Stately home, jewel of the Peak District National Park

The origins

Within the delightful Peak District National Park lies one of the great stately homes of England. Chatsworth House was begun in 1687 as an Elizabethan courtyard house for Sir William Cavendish, with much encouragement from his wife, the formidable Bess of Hardwick. Cavendish was to be the second of her four husbands and Chatsworth the first of three great houses she built.

Baroque Palace

Chatsworth House has the distinction of being the first Baroque Palace built for a subject rather than a monarch. It is a perfect example of a grand English country house. Not only is the architecture and sheer scale of the building is breathtakingly, the interior is equally impressive with fantastic decoration, luxurious furniture, numerous masterpieces and an impressive library. 

The Story

The story goes that Sir William Cavendish played an influential role in persuading William of Orange to come to England in 1688.  With the view to oust his father-in-law, King James II. As a reward he was created 1st Duke of Devonshire and the corresponding increase in salary enabled him to employ some of the best tradesmen of the day to build this magnificent house. Since then the house has been altered and enlarged by his descendants. The extensive and idyllic kept gardens were revised and enhanced in the 19th century by Sir Joseph Paxton, (designer of  The Crystal Palace – The Great Exhibition) who planted rare coniferous trees, the rock garden and added the Emperor fountain. With over 100 acres of garden, spend time in the splendour of nearly 500 years of careful cultivation.

The tour

Visitors can tour 30 rooms including the Painted Hall, State Rooms and Sculpture Gallery; the artwork spans some 4000 years from Roman and Egyptian sculpture, works by Rembrandt, Reynolds and modern artists such as Lucian Freud. Treat yourself to locally sourced foods from both the Chatsworth farm estate as well as smaller producers.  Food available from the farm shop ranges from locally sourced beef, pork, poultry, and game to a range of different cooked meats and pies from the delicatessen.

The Devonshire's, still own Chatsworth, the present occupants being the 16th generation. Whether your enthusiasm is for exquisite gardens, inviting open space, historical art or spectacular 17th Century life, Chatsworth will add to a memorable tour.

Overview written by John Docherty - Driver-Guide

01 July 2020

Conwy Castle and Town

Medieval walled town with castle

Medieval military settlement

As we leave the lush Welsh valleys by road and join the Conwy Valley, we glimpse the Castle towers across the Conwy River. Situated on the scenic North Wales coast, Conwy Castle guards the crossing over the river as it flows into Conwy Bay. The castle and town walls were constructed in the 13th century for Edward I as part of his conquest of Wales. 

Turbulent history

The Castle and town survived the turbulent Middle Ages and the Civil War. It became a temporary haven for Richard II in 1399 and provided a safe haven for the forces of the Welsh Leader, Owain Glyndwr, (the last Welshman to hold the title Prince of Wales) in his long battle to end the English rule in Wales. 

With a rich history of defence from conflict across the centuries, Conwy has been of great significance since its construction as part of the 'Ring of Iron' – King Edward's chain of fortifications. Later, at the time of the English Civil war, the Castle was held by forces loyal to Charles I but surrendered to the parliamentarians in 1646 and further destroyed in 1665, putting it beyond repair.

Construction and restoration

With extensive restoration works carried out in the second half of the 19th century, it gained World Heritage status.  The Castle is one of the most excellent examples of 13th and early 14th-century military architecture in Europe. Vast amounts of stone came from local and overseas quarries, it is possible to walk along the Castle's 15ft thick walls which were built in the shape of a Welsh harp and are half a mile in length, with high drum towers and 21 semi-circular towers at regular intervals. A great way to step back in time and also view the quaint town and the beautiful estuary and surrounding countryside.

The three bridges

A suspension bridge spans the river.  Designed by Thomas Telford and completed in 1849 to replace the ferry. Telford designed the supporting towers to match the turrets of the Castle. The bridge is open to pedestrians and, together with the toll keepers house is maintained by the National trust.  In addition to Telford's Bridge, there is also a Tubular Bridge built-in 1848 for the Chester and Holyhead Railway by Robert Stephenson, famed for his work as a railway engineer. 

Tour with Bodnant Gardens

A visit to Conwy should be combined with both a tour of the fabulous Bodnant Gardens close by and a little shopping in the small walled town with its antique and art. Finish a day by visiting the most modest and smallest house in Great Britain, down be the quay, not far from a quaint little pub. 

Overview by John Docherty - Driver-guide

01 July 2020

The Peak District National Park

England's most visited National Park

Rural uplands

At the heart of the United Kingdom, the Peak District covers some 555 sq. Miles of rural upland country at the southern end of the Pennine mountain range. For a thousand years, farming was the primary source of employment with limestone quarrying for only a few hundred years! Mining, once a primary industry, has now declined.

The historic towns

Bakewell, famous for its food, is the only major town in the park and features a 13th century five arched bridge over the River Wye. It is often featured in television dramas and also in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. In 949 it is recorded under the name 'Badecanwelle', Olde English for a well or stream of a man.

With its geothermal spring the waters, the Romans created a settlement in Buxton (AD78) which rose to prominence as a spa town of which maintain a constant 28C. Due mainly to the waters, Buxton experienced a resurgence in popularity in the late 18thC when the 5th duke of Devonshire started developments in the style of the spa in Bath. Another attraction is the Pavilion Gardens which date from 1871 and the Buxton Opera House from 1903.

Natural wonders

But it is the natural world that makes this area a must-visit. People explore the exposed and isolated tracts of Moorland. They wish to hike its expansive rolling plateau which is covered by Cotton-grass bogs and heather moorlands, the Peaks themselves, 'Padley Gorge', 'Winnats Pass', 'Mar Tor' (or Shivering Mountain) invite you to travel further.  Marvel at the glittering underground caves, formed over 2 million years ago Poole's Cavern offers the opportunity of walking through several chambers which extend to around 310 metres, all of which are traversable on foot.

Inspiration for writers

The Peak District has inspired many writers and artists among them, Jane Austen, who set her novel Pride and Prejudice in the Peak District. His many visits to the area inspired several of William Wordsworth's poems. Others include Beatrix Potter, the author of Peter Rabbit and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who set one of his Sherlock Holmes stories, The Terror of The Blue John Gap, in the Peak District. 

Whether you are an explorer seeking hiking trails and caves or want a relaxing time absorbing the lakes, streams or old railway lines, the Peak District offers a spectacular and memorable tour. 

Overview written by John Docherty - Driver-guide

01 July 2020

York Minster

Worship for the Romans, Vikings, and Normans

The beginning

An old walled city founded by the Romans in 71AD surrounds the majestic York Minster. Once named Eboracum by the Romans and later Jorvik by settling Vikings, York has for two millennia been a significant city, a wool trading point and religious centre. This attractive city with a rich legacy of historic buildings, picturesque alleyways and an almost intact circuit of medieval walls and gates invites you to wander, and one can stumble upon the Minster and marvel at its scale and grandeur.

Iconic features

Taking 250 years to build, York Minster is the second largest Gothic Cathedral in England and one of the most visited places of historic interest in Northern England. The windows are a significant feature and among the best and most breathtaking to be seen in England. They contain some two million individual pieces of glass. The Great East Window is 76ft high, and together with the Great East Window, dates from 1408 and is the largest area of medieval stained glass in anywhere in the world. The Five Sisters window each 53ft tall and 5ft wide glazed with grey glass, and the Rose window are sights that simply are 'Must-See'. 

Pillars of the earth

York Minster is the Cathedral of York and stands on a site associated with Christian worship since the seventh century. Initially built in a hurry in 627 for the baptism of Edwin, King of Northumbria, the hastily erected wooden structure was replaced with a stone building completed in 637.  Damaged by fire and hostile invaders, the building has been remodelled several times. The Cathedral today dates from 1230 when, under archbishop Walter de Gray, construction began on a Gothic style Cathedral to rival Canterbury Cathedral. Some years later (1472) the building finished and consecrated.  

Fire and restoration

Around the 1800s the Cathedral underwent a major restoration.  In 1840 the Cathedral was devastated by a fire which destroyed much of the roof - repairs were then completed in 1866. York Minster is the second largest Cathedral in Northern Europe (second only to Cologne Cathedral) and is some 524 ft. Long, with a central tower of 235 ft. High. 

Not to be missed is the 15th century stone screen, known as the Kings Screen, which separates the choir and sanctuary from the rest of the church. The screen features 15 figures of English kings from William the Conqueror through to Henry VI. It was the idea of Henry V and, due to his early death was finished by his son Henry VI.

Tour York

A memorable visit is guaranteed, the beautiful city offers many other sites, quaint shops along ancient lanes and alleyways, oh, and great beer in the numerous small pubs.

Overview by John Docherty - Driver-guide

01 July 2020

The Lake District National Park

Sublime landscapes of natural beauty

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

Arguably the finest of Britain's Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Lake District is situated in northwest England to the north of the old Lancashire mill towns. Now a regular tourist destination, it remained exclusively sheep farming country until medieval miners made use of the abundance of metals in the local rock.

With the Atlantic current bringing high volumes of rainfall, the scenery is lush, and green with rocky peaks and Tarns (from the Old Norse for 'pool' – it usually refers to a small mountain lake or pool). To see Little Langdale Tarn, Stickle Tarn or the stunning Tarn Hows in any season is to behold Britain's most exceptional untouched landscape, fishing for brown or rainbow trout, a pleasurable pastime for the few.

Enjoy the Lakes

On a grander scale, the lakes are numerous, sixteen in all and 53 smaller pools, and overlooked by our highest peaks, Scafell Pike at 3,210 feet and 20 others over 2,000 feet such as Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag, all ancient names. The stunning lakes themselves can be enjoyed by boat, on surrounding footpaths or seen in all glory, from the comfort of our tour car, we usually let the weather decide which. 

Beatrix Potter and others

Famous children's author, Beatrix Potter so loved the Lakes that she was inspired to draw and write about the wildlife which surrounded her. When she died in 1943, she left fourteen farms and over 4000 acres of land to The National Trust along with her flocks of Herdwick sheep. The Lake District has inspired many other writers and poets among them, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Ruskin.

Wildlife

Today's wildlife is plentiful and varied, enjoy watching a scurry of Squirrels, a romp of Otter, a parcel of Red Deer or marvel at a cast of Peregrine Falcon, the fighter jet of the natural world! Red deer are the largest found in England and can reach a height of 1.2 metres at the shoulder. The males have strikingly large, branching antlers that increase in size as they get older. The famous golden eagle is the second largest bird of prey in the UK, and there is one in the Lake District, he's a tricky one to spot mind, but the wait is worth it. No longer resident, the area was once home to wolves, beavers, lynx, aurochs - large cows with long horns - and European Brown Bears, a relative of the American Grizzly Bear.

Shopping

The area has a long association with beautiful garments, cloth made at Shap Abbey was exported as far away as Italy! In 1315, an Italian wool buyers listed names Ciappi in Vestrebellanda - Shap in Westmorland - as one of his suppliers in the British Isles.

With excellent hotels, breathtaking views, outdoor activities and stunning wildlife, our Lake District deserves its reputation and your visit. 

Overview by John Docherty, Driver-guide

01 July 2020

British farming

The origins of our wealth

In the beginning

With its origins lying in ancient migration, probably introduced here around 4500BC from Syria, farming on the British Isles is its primary industry. Climate enabled these islands to have fertile land and after centuries of small-scale farming, the Roman invasion, AD43, brought structure and scale, roads and cities, which shaped the next 400 years. Britannia was essential to Rome as emperors had for centuries promised its people Bread! 

Originally Wheat and barley were grown in small plots near the family home. Sheep, goats and cattle came in from mainland Europe, and pigs were domesticated from wild boar already living in forests. 

The Black death and monastic farms

Agriculture boomed in the mid-1600s after the Dissolution of the Monasteries with land ownership transferring from the churches and newfound efficiency bringing the wealth that funded Henry VII naval ambitions, continued through Queen Elizabeth to the British Empire. The Black Death (1350ad) decimated a third of the population. Between 1750 & 1850 the population tripled, it becomes a priority to improve farming efficiency, to the point that Britain had the lowest percentage of its population working on farms.

Efficiency and quality

Despite a real variety in soil structure, 70% of land in England is farmed. The high quality of products is world-renowned, not just meats and produce but animal skins and furs. The British trademark remains strong. Four crop rotation was introduced in the mid-1700s with the simple Turnip, less fallow land time as Turnip roots, for example, can recover nutrients from deep under the soil.

The increase in food availability contributed to the massive increase of population in Wales and England, to over 9 million by 1801 from 5.5 million in 1700. However, domestic production gave way increasingly to food imports in the nineteenth century as the population more than tripled to over 35 million.

Sparkling wine to rival Champagne

Wine is the NEW boom segment of UK farming. The Romans introduced winemaking to England, and even tried to grow grapes as far north as Lincolnshire; now the south-eastern counties vineyards are making delightful wines. We regularly operate private wine tasting and vineyard tours from London and from hotels in Kent and Sussex, the heart of England's wine region.

Today

Currently, there are 17,000 dairy farms, average herd 86, and 41,000 sheep farms, Wales having a high percentage of sheep comparatively. Britain has the second largest sheep herds on earth.

Today. 475,000 people work in the farming industry, producing some of the finest food in the world. Check our our gastro tour of London markets. 

Overview by John Docherty, Driver-guide

 

01 July 2020

COVID 19

We are taking bookings for September 2020 and beyond.

Dear travel agents, friends, and potential clients,

COVID 19 has made 2020 a strange year, to say the least, unprecedented, I would say. 

We are looking forward; we believe this crisis will be over pretty soon, the will is there from every nation on earth. 

We certainly do not want you to commit to visiting Britain or Ireland and book tours with us if we have more problems later this summer. I can imagine the fear of quarantine in a foreign country is a 'put off' to put in mildly. With this in mind, we want to approach the situation sensibly and help plan your trip to the UK worry-free, until we are sure that quarantine or another COVID 19 flare-up will not alter your tour with us. We are willing to plan and offer quotations for tours that take place in September, and into the future. There is a high chance the pandemic will be under control or managed to the point that we can travel safely without fear. 

Accurate information regarding the UK Lockdown; The UK is gradually opening up.

We have one COVID hurdle remaining, and that is quarantine. Once the US has control over COVID, visiting the UK will be as normal as it can get with the added benefit of less crowding at places of interest.

I would suggest you recommend to your US clients to make bookings with us for September onwards. Within the next month, we should have a clearer picture of the situation in the USA and any lifting of quarantine.

As you can see from the list below, visiting the UK from 4th July is a possibility if you have European clients.

From 4th July, many businesses and venues will be permitted to reopen and will be expected to follow COVID-19 Secure guidelines. These include:

  • hotels, hostels, bed and breakfast accommodation, holiday apartments or homes, cottages or bungalows, campsites, caravan parks or boarding houses
  • places of worship
  • libraries
  • community centres
  • restaurants, cafes, workplace canteens, bars, pubs that are self-contained and can be accessed from the outside
  • hair salons and barbers, including mobile businesses
  • cinemas
  • theatres and concert halls
  • funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities
  • outdoor gyms and playgrounds
  • museums and galleries
  • outdoor skating rinks
  • amusement arcades and other entertainment centres
  • model villages
  • social clubs
  • indoor attractions at aquariums, zoos, safari parks, farms, wildlife centres and any place where animals are exhibited to the public as an attraction
  • indoor and outdoor areas of visitor attractions including, gardens, heritage sites, film studios and landmarks

We look forward to touring with us very soon. 

Kind Regards
Andrew Stevens
Director

 

01 July 2020

The Cotswolds

England's largest designated Area Of Natural Beauty (AONB)

The Cotswolds

A triangular region of natural beauty in the west of England edged by the historic cities of Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon and Bath. The Fosse Way, a Roman road runs through the middle and remains in use today.

With limestone being the dominant stone, buildings from the middle ages have reflected that local resource. Therefore the colour is unique to this area, albeit each quarry has its shade, each village has a different colour tone. The golden limestone is also the choice of roofing material, sliced into rectangle sheets and nailed to thick oak beams. There are a few locations where straw-thatching is a preferred roofing material, which is satisfying to see. Visitors marvel at the 4,000 miles of stone walls enclosing farmland within the rolling hills. When touring with visitors, I like to suggest a stop at an ancient woollen mill, along with cake and tea by a 500-year-old limestone fireplace, so stress relieving. The region has over 800 square miles of small fields, beautiful churches and micro villages; this is old England.

The wool

Six counties share the right to call the Cotswolds their own, and the rivers Thames, Severn and Avon each provide trading routes through the region. The high-end trade-in wool is the origins of local wealth; the source is the Cotswold Lion (Sheep) producing a ball of refined, silky yarn, ideal for clothing. The raw product was particularly popular with Italian traders due to its attributes of warmth, softness, and look.

The wealth

The proceeds of the wool trade helped fund the many village churches that still exist, the 13th and  14th centuries being a boom time for the area. On approach to each unique village, we catch a glimpse of the modest Norman tower or the beautiful Gothic Lancet window with the sun reacting to the old stained glass. Many village churches are open to visitors, and even a short tour we have time to unlock secrets of its past, discover a knights tomb and marvel at the church craftsmanship.

The Romans

At the southern tip of the region, near Cirencester sits the Roman Villa of Chedworth.  This 2nd-century exhibit to the life of a Roman nobleman is rich in evidence of a luxury lifestyle with its large mosaic floors, hypocaust systems and bathhouse rooms. Combine this stop with a day trip to nearby Bath, for a journey back nearly 2,000 years and see the best-preserved Roman Baths in the world, in the City of Bath

Lacock Village - a real film set

The name Lacock dates from Saxon times when the earliest permanent settlers lived by the Bide Brook, which runs through the middle of the town. They called it lacuc or 'little stream'. Fans of television and film may decide to visit the historic Lacock Abbey as part of their tour. Its appearances on screen include Harry Potter, Wolf Hall and Pride and Prejudice, the Abbey featured in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Lacock Abbey started as a nunnery, then became a Tudor family home; this was common after the Dissolution-of-the-Monastries (1534-40). The vast confiscated the monastic estates and sold them off at low prices.  Religious buildings transformed from places of worship into lavish homes for their new owners. The last owners were the Talbots, William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) pioneered a process of creating light-fast permanent photographs, a museum at the house details the history. 

Pubs
We tend to take pub lunches very seriously at Luxury Vacations UK, its great fun to have a couple of lunches while on tour at a proper gastropub, it is a real treat – world-class food without all the fuss. Visiting the Cotswolds for any length of time and not having a pub lunch is just not done. 

England's most beautiful and best-preserved villages are within the Cotswolds, notably Castle Combe and Bibury. The preserved modest living of English country folk is in these quaint hidden places. The region remains unspoilt by large towns, and any new building must adopt the original style and scale of yesteryear making the Cotswolds an intriguing place to see. Hotels, pubs, restaurants are of classic style; the Cotswolds leaves modernity behind in most cases. We know all the best places to stay while touring.

Kim Fanshawe
Driver-Guide