Travel News

Travelling to the UK and Ireland

Travel tips and NEWS from United Kingdom and Ireland

21 December 2023

Spring Break in the UK

Spring break is such an uplifting vacation, everything is coming alive. Across Britain country estates and show gardens are blooming with spring bulbs and the hedgerows are bursting with life. It is a wonderful time to visit the UK.

RHS Wisley is the premium show garden of the Royal Horticultural Society, millions of spring flowers lift the gardens from the winter gloom. Hampton Court Palace has a so-called wilderness with a quarter of million daffodils.

The weather is bright but cool, visitor numbers are generally still low in March, making it a good time to travel if you prefer to avoid the crowds. Easter is late March (Easter Sunday is 31st March), We would suggest avoiding the Easter weekend and visit the week before or after.

We are offering a 20% discount on all our Tours if you book four or more days of touring with a driver-guide, please use the code: Travel News Easter article.

 

22 November 2023

Big House Experience: The Lakes and Dales

Stay in a Big House with like-minded people.

Join a small group and explore Britain's most fantastic National Parks, the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales.

The Classic British Holiday often takes place in a big house. Think candle-lit dinner parties, lounging with a cocktail and making friends with the other housemates.  Arrive at this stunning period property for a complimentary glass of champagne, and discover the house and gardens. The interior is comfortable and elegant and works a charming spell. There are ten luxury ensuite bedrooms that boast five-star beds, plush velvets and metallic accents from Zoffany, Little Greene Paint Company and Mulberry.

There is a magnificent wine cellar complete with a tasting room, a high-tech cinema room, and the traditional club-style bar, all dark wood and rich leather seating. Before dinner to cocktails, wander the six acres of landscaped grounds, take a soak in the hot tub, or play games on the lawn. This is a British-style country home experience. Allowing you to get to know your fellow guests and still have plenty of space to escape to enjoy your company. 

I often describe the region as England's most beautiful. The area has inspired poets, artists and now photography and Instagramers. You can only truly enjoy the area if you wear your walking boots and head up a mountain. It is a very wet place, but don't let that put you off. For your trouble, you are often rewarded with spectacular rainbows, dark clouds and sunshine or puffy cumulus drifting past you at height. 

It is a magical place displaying an array of geology and long sheets of serene water sitting in valleys carved out by ice at the end of the last ice age.

The region is home to millions of sheep varieties, including the famous Herdwick. It has been said the breed has roamed the hills for thousands of years. Some say the Vikings introduced the Herdwicks only one thousand years ago. In any event, the breed has evolved to cope with extreme wet and cold weather; they are superb mothers and can cope with living outside throughout the year. Our Small Group Tour includes meeting the Herdwicks. The particular flock we meet on the tour has only lived within the confines of the farm and, therefore, is extremely trusting and friendly; they love a good cuddle, I would say they behave more like dogs than sheep. It is a fabulous experience. 

The hiking on this trip tackles the famous Helvellyn peak with its Red Tarn and stunning ridge. The big hiking day is up Scafell Pike mountain and into Wast Dale Head, probably England's most stunning landscape. 

The Dales is quite different. Recently, an American visitor told me it looks like Tuscany but greener and with more sheep. I'll take that. Underneath the carpet of emerald fields, craggy hills, and mountains is a honeycomb of caves and underground waterways that appear on the surface and carve great geological features. There are delightful waterfalls, castles, and romantic ruined monastic buildings. The greatest of which is Fountains Abbey.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, think dark green trees reflecting in calm pools of water. Temples and statues adorn the grounds. The ruined 12th-century monastic structure is a wonderful sight. It is the scale and majesty of the stone edifice that awes visitors. 

The final leg of the journey is two nights in the historic city of York. We stay at the Grand Hotel, situated yards from the medieval walls. The Minster is one of the largest gothic buildings on earth and never fails to impress. Your guide will take you through the snickets and back alleys, giving you a flavour of times long gone. York is a great shopping city with many traditional tea rooms, hundreds of pubs and historical houses.

Regards

Andrew Stevens

Please find out more: Lakes and Dales Country House Small Group Tour.

02 November 2023

PM meets Elon Musk in Downing Street

First-ever A.I. Safety Summit

The U.K. has hosted the first-ever A.I. Safety Summit; representatives from over 25 countries were present, including China, the United States and E.U. Leaders and Governmental representatives signed the Bletchley Declaration, in essence agreeing to work together and sharing concerns. In short, as we all know, leaders and the tech community are increasingly aware of the slim possibility of computers and machines taking over in a horrifying “Terminator” style attack.

The general consensus is A.I. needs regulation and control.

Elon Musk attended and is today meeting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street. The PM is keen to demonstrate the U.K.’s leading role in the development of A.I.

The summit took place at Bletchley Park, the location of Britain’s code-breaking army of men and women during World War Two.

Like many country manors and estates in Britain during World War Two, the Government commandeered Bletchley Park for war business. Government organisations intercepted encoded information from the airwaves; it was then passed onto the Bletchley Park boffins to untangle.

It started small and turned into a factory of confidential data to be processed and acted upon or not. Bletchley tells the story of the women and men who played a vital role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. The beginnings of the modern world started here, too, with the construction of Colossus, the first large-scale digital computer which sped up the deciphering process.

Visit Bletchley Park and Blenheim Palace on a day trip from London.

06 October 2023

Tour Edinburgh

Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, was named one of the best cities to visit worldwide last year, and it is not difficult to imagine why. According to Condé Nast Traveller’s "Prettiest cities in Europe to visit this year" list, this beauty is number three, all the more reason to add visiting Edinburgh to your private driver-guided tour of Scotland.
 
The city is divided into two parts by Princes Street, the city’s high street. There is the Old Town with its medieval alleys, narrow closes, atmospheric buildings and overall charm. The New Town was formed after 1767 because wealthy merchants wanted to expand the city beyond its restrictive walls.
 
There are many must-sees when visiting Edinburgh, so we suggest at least two full days to experience the city and all it has to offer. It is a beautiful destination, with every season highlighting the beauty of the Scottish capital. From Edinburgh, there are many opportunities for day trips. Or if you want to explore other places in Scotland, you can continue your tour once you leave the city.
 
1. Edinburgh Castle is unique in its own way; it sits on an extinct volcano and overlooks the Old Town. The building was used initially by Northumbrian King Edwin as a fortress, which dates back to the 6th century. Some of Scotland’s most prized relics, such as the Scottish Crown Jewels, are on display here; the oldest surviving set in Britain dates from the 15th and 16th centuries. Don’t forget to visit St. Margaret’s Chapel and marvel at its beautiful stained glass window in the city’s oldest building.
 
2. The Palace of Holyroodhouse dates back to 1529 when it was built for James V and his wife, Mary of Guise. It is still the official Scottish residence of the King, meaning if King Charles III is visiting Scotland, this is where he’ll reside. State banquets and Investitures are held in the Royal Apartments.
 
3. Even though the New Town is over 250 years old, it has kept its name. The broad, straight streets can not be confused with the cramped and winding alleyways in the Old Town. This outstanding example of town planning has gained admiration from architects worldwide. Today, shops and offices dominate this busy, commercial area in the Scottish capital, whilst the original design was for a residential area.
 
4. The Edinburgh International Festival was founded in 1947 and takes over the city for three weeks every August. The best worldwide music, theatre, opera and dance fills Edinburgh’s theatre venues during this time. Visitors worldwide flock to the Scottish capital since it’s an event worth immersing yourself in at least once in your lifetime.
 
If you’re a first-time visitor, our Classic Tour of Scotland is perfect for you, including all the must-sees and our guides are flexible on the day, leaving room for spontaneity. The city has many options for accommodation; we pride ourselves on looking for places that provide quality service and the ability to include amenities. We would be happy to discuss a personalised trip to Scotland with you.
 
Kind regards,
Marie
02 October 2023

Scottish Myths and Legends

Scotland is renowned for its myths that attract tourists today. If you find yourself drawn in by Scottish folklore, look no further. Below, we have listed three legends that link back to locations worth visiting in this beautiful country on your private tour of Scotland.
 
1. Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh, this place and its surrounding streets were not always underground as they are today. In the 1600s, it was an area filled with market traders, and Mary King was a prominent fabric merchant. As the name suggests, the close was named after her. Construction of the Royal Exchange started in 1760; they partly demolished the close, and it was buried under the new building’s foundations. Closed off from the outside world, it was only a matter of time before ghost stories and urban legends started to arise.
 
During the 17th century, Edinburgh had no sewage system, meaning that people would have to do their business in a bucket; each household had its own. If you were walking around the close and you heard the cry ‘Gardy Loo’, you were in trouble because it meant that the resident threw their waste into the street to be collected. You can imagine what kind of repercussions this way of life had, with the plague ravaging Mary King’s close in the mid-1600s.
 
During World War II, the close was used as a bomb shelter, and since 2003, tourists visiting The Real Mary King’s Close get an insight into the city’s past. Visitors can get a sense of how people used to live and work here back in the 17th century. Many tourists over the years have reported seeing apparitions walking around the area. One of the more famous ones is Annie, a little girl who died in 1645, probably due to the plague. 
 
 
2. The Loch Ness Monster, nearly everyone has heard of Nessie, but did you know the mystery surrounding the famous monster has existed since the 6th century? That said, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the Loch Ness Monster tightened its grip on people. Around one million visitors visit Scotland yearly, hoping to catch a glimpse of this legend. Over the years, much of the so-called evidence supporting its existence has been disproved. The first reports of a creature living in Loch Ness were local stone carvings of a strange animal with flippers by the Pict. The first written information dates back to a 7th-century biography of St. Columba, an Irish abbot, missionary and scholar who spread the Christian faith in Scotland. 
 
From 1933 onwards, the legend grew with numerous sightings of a dragon or prehistoric monster disappearing into the water of Loch Ness. The Daily Mail commissioned a big-game hunter named Marmaduke Wetherell in December 1933; his mission was to locate the sea serpent. He claimed to have found large footprints belonging to a 20-foot-long, powerful animal. Upon closer inspection, zoologists at the Natural History Museum proved his claim to be false. These efforts only seemed to encourage others to try and find evidence that Nessie was real. In 1987 and 2003, several unsuccessful sonar explorations took place to locate the legend. Even after all these years and lacking conclusive evidence, the tale of the Loch Ness monster remains popular. 
 
 
3. The Kelpies, one of the first images that comes to mind is probably the equine sculpture by artist Andy Scott in Falkirk. It is a 30-metre-high sculpture of two horse-heads linking to Scotland’s horse-powered industrial heritage. But what even is a kelpie?
 
A kelpie is a shape-shifting aquatic spirit living on the bottom of lochs, rivers and streams. They often take on the shape of a horse and are known for abducting people and drowning them. These creatures have one weakness: a bridle. It is said that anyone who can get a hold of a kelpie’s bridle can command it and any other of its kind. Rumour has it that the MacGregor clan are in possession of a kelpie’s harness that has been in the family for generations.
 
If one of these Scottish myths has piqued your interest to visit this excellent destination, send us an enquiry, and we’ll be happy to help create a personalised itinerary for you. 
 
Kind regards, 
Marie
29 September 2023

Kew Gardens

At Kew, you get a chance to experience the beauty and diversity of forests worldwide with a botanical collection of over 50,000 plants. Discover rare and endangered plants in the world's largest Victorian greenhouse. This place tells the story of how Kew and partners from around the world are working to save rare or already extinct plants in the wild. It is perfect to visit Kew Gardens on a private tour from London.
 
Botanic collections with conserved plants, living plants and even documents have been housed at Kew Gardens. These collections have been expanded and enriched throughout the years. Its contribution to the study of plant diversity and economic botany has been uninterrupted and significant since 1759. Kew is the Royal Botanic Gardens and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it even more worthwhile.
 
1. The world’s largest Victorian glasshouse opened originally in 1863 and is called the Temperate House. It reopened after a five-year restoration project back in 2018. Here, you’ll find 1,500 species from all over the world which require conditions above 50 degrees to flourish, including rare and threatened temperate plants.
 
 
2. The arboretum surrounds the greenhouses with a leafy path at 18 metres high where you can walk, wander and explore. Its meaning is 'a place with trees' in Latin, and it is not only a striking landscape but also a scientific treasure, crucial to the botanical and conservation research here. From here, you get stunning views of the grounds. It is a day tour where you can forget yourself for a while in an oasis of different types of plants from all over the world.
 
 
3. The Great Pagoda was gifted to Princess Augusta; she founded Kew Gardens, and the pagoda was completed in 1762. Following a major restoration project in 2018, you can climb a circular staircase inside the building and admire spectacular views over London. It takes 253 steps to climb to the top, with an additional fee.
 
 
4. There is something about plants and gardens that make you feel inspired, but if that isn’t your cup of tea, I would suggest seeking out the sculptures hidden around Kew. There are several, from Henry Moore’s ‘Reclining Mother and Child’ with the natural light changing each season to ‘Ad Maximis Ad Minima’ by Eduardo Paolozzi. You can even visit the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art and the Marianne North Gallery, worth discovering.
 
 
5. A 55-foot-tall structure immerses its visitors as if living inside a beehive. The art installation, cleverly called the Hive, sits in the heart of a wildflower meadow. Its mesh frame contains 1,000 LED lights and 170,000 aluminium parts, with the LED lights reflecting bees' vibrations to shed light on how important these animals are to our ecosystem.
 
 
Whenever you visit Kew Gardens, even in autumn or winter, something will always bloom. We look forward to your enquiry regarding a private tour of London. Depending on your time and interests, we can discuss your preferences and add some day trips from London
 
Kind regards,
Marie
25 September 2023

RHS Wisley

RHS Wisley in Surrey is one of the UK’s most loved and visited gardens, with 240 acres to explore. For over 200 years, the RHS has been aiming to grow the nation’s love of gardening through its core vision, enriching people’s lives through plants and making the UK greener and more stunning. The Royal Horticultural Society’s flagship garden attracts one million visitors yearly, and it’s easy to see why.
 
One of the main characteristics of Wisley is the focus on inspirational gardening instead of feeling like a museum showcasing plants and aiming for conservation. If you love or are interested in gardens, we highly recommend visiting this awe-inspiring place on your private tour of England.
 
There is an array of highlights worth seeing. RHS Wisley has something for everyone, and visitors will walk out dreaming and reminiscing about the day's high point. I do not have any knowledge of gardening myself, but I did not know where to look first when I walked into Wisley. Make sure to use all your senses to enjoy the gardens because they have more to offer than you can see, from different smells to all the natural sounds around you.
 
1. The naturalistic Rock Garden, one of the oldest and most wonderful features, shows numerous plants that thrive near winding paths and tranquil water features in alpine conditions. Something to look out for while exploring is the over 200-year-old cloud-pruned Japanese larch.
2. One of Wisley’s springtime favourites is the Wisteria Walk, created in 2018. Wisteria is one of the garden’s signature plants and is at its prettiest in May. This walkway showcases beautiful purple colours and has a romantic feel to it, marking the beauty of Spring.
3. Battleston Hill is known for its winding pathways showcasing a vibrant colour bust, reaching its peak in April and May with over a hundred rhododendrons to marvel at.
4. The Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden is a sensory feast of roses in all shapes, sizes, colours and fragrances, best experienced in summertime. 
5. The tropical-inspired Exotic Garden is an intriguing spot inviting visitors into a jungle-like ambience, surrounded by large banana leaves, palms, and vivid flowers.
6. The Glasshouse is a cathedral-like structure with plants in its element year-round. Here, you’ll find a tender plant collection with three climatic zones: tropical, moist temperate and dry temperate. This ensures the plants flourish in a climate close to their natural habitat.
7. The Heather Landscape is a recently developed area featuring over 1,000 heather cultivars and 20,000 individual heather plants. Yuccas, grasses and rosemary accompany them in this contemporary planting scheme.
 
Even if you know nothing about gardening, it is an awe-inspiring place worth visiting. Lose yourself in 240 acres of floral and plant beauty and marvel at all the different colour schemes. Every season, another area of RHS Wisley gets a well-deserved spotlight depending on which flora are in bloom. You will leave here feeling inspired; we look forward to your enquiry to add a visit to this beautiful garden to your driver-guided Great Gardens of the South tour
 
Kind regards,
Marie
22 September 2023

Beautiful castles in Scotland

Scotland is abundant in history, architecture and nature, and combining those elements brought me to share the most beautiful castles in the country. If you are planning a trip, send us an enquiry and we will be happy to help you create a personalised driver-guided tour of Scotland
 
1. Inveraray Castle
Neoclassic and elegant, the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Argyll sits on the shores of Loch Fyne and is one of Scotland's finest stately homes. The spectacular yet rugged highland scenery encompasses the current castle, built between 1746 and 1789. The Chiefs of Clan Campbell and their family have resided at Inveraray since the early 15th century. The famous Armoury Hall houses some 1,300 pieces, including 18th-century Scottish broadswords as well as preserved swords from the famous Battle of Culloden. Visitors can marvel at beautiful French tapestries, excellent examples of Scottish, English and French furniture and other precious artwork. The Clan Room displays the fascinating genealogical history through a priceless collection of heirlooms that span generations. Inveraray Castle also has a beautifully maintained garden to walk around.
 
 
2. Eilean Donan Castle
It is one of the most photographed Scottish monuments and one of the country's most recognised castles. It sits on its own little island where three great sea lochs meet, overlooking the Isle of Skye and encompassed by the majesty of the forested Kintail mountains. Bishop Donan created a monastic cell here in 634AD, yet Alexander II established the first castle in the 13th century to try and protect the area from Viking invasions. Centuries had passed, which caused the building to expand for unknown reasons up until its involvement in one of the lesser known Jacobite uprisings in 1719. On May 10 that year, the British Government sent three heavily armed Navy warships to bombard Eilean Donan Castle with cannons. These had little impact, but eventually, the castle was blown up with 343 barrels of gunpowder on the Commanding Officer's orders. For the best part of the last two hundred years, the castle lay in silent ruin, yet the site still attracts flocks of tourists each year.
 
3. Urquhart Castle
The site covers one thousand years of history and gives a dramatic taste of the Scottish Highlands overlooking the famous Loch Ness. The castle's stories are told through artefacts left by its former residents and also by historical replicas. Urquhart was witness to some of the more dramatic chapters in Scottish history, with it having a distinct Highland heritage and it being the location where inspiration struck during the Wars of Independence. Please remember that visiting this castle depends on the weather forecast, since Urquhart sometimes closes due to unexpected conditions.
 
4. Blair Castle
It stands out breathtakingly against the greenery of the surrounding wooded hills; the reason for this is its white colour, which can be seen from miles away. When you set your eyes upon Blair Castle, it feels like you've travelled back in time because of its fairytale-like appearance. The castle was once known as the gateway to the Highlands and was the ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl. Nowadays, the Atholl Highlanders call Blair Castle home; they are Europe's last private army.
 
5. Dunrobin Castle
The castle sits on Scotland's northern coast is the largest in the Northern Highlands. Dunrobin Castle seems like you've walked into the story of Sleeping Beauty with its 14th-century architecture and lush gardens; it has a French feel. Sir Charles Barry is responsible for designing the castle's neo-Gothic exterior, whilst the 189 rooms inside were created by the Scot Sir Robert Lorimer. It is not only a pretty sight, but Dunrobin is steeped in history dating back to the Jacobite Revolt in 1745. The seventeenth Earl of Sutherland, William, only narrowly managed to escape the castle's takeover. Afterwards, he sailed to Aberdeen to join William of Cumberland's army. There was some confusion as George Mckenzie, the Earl of Cromartie, thought the Jacobites had won the Battle of Culloden, which is why he wanted to take the castle. However, as he found out later, the Jacobites lost. Dunrobin Castle is the seat of Clan Sutherland to this day and has been open to the public since 1973. That said, some parts are privately kept for the Sutherland family and cannot be visited. 
 
These are only a handful of castles which are open to visitors in Scotland, if you have a specific one in mind for your trip please reach out to us.
 
Kind regards, 
Marie
 
 
18 September 2023

Outlander Film Locations

Outlander is a phenomenon that has many of us in its grip, and luckily, many sites in and near Edinburgh can make you feel like you’re pursuing in the characters' footsteps. We would happily include some locations on your private tour of Scotland.
 
Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital alone, has several sites that link back to the books or the TV series. Here, you can immerse yourself in the story of the Jacobites as well as the city’s connections to Prince Charles Edward Stuart, more commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. Claire travels back to 1743, two years before the 1745 Jacobite Rising. 

1. The Palace of Holyroodhouse sits at the bottom of the Royal Mile. It is an elegant royal residence linking back to monarchs for over 800 years. Today, it is the official Scottish residence of His Majesty the King. In September 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie established his court at Holyroodhouse for six weeks. This is portrayed in the novels when Claire and Jamie visit the Prince here.

 

2. Edinburgh's Old Town is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (together with the New Town on the north side of Edinburgh's city centre), with the buildings remaining essentially unchanged from how they would have looked centuries ago. The Old Town houses three filming locations from Outlander. Make sure to look out for the following places as you wander up the Royal Mile:
Bakehouse Close in Edinburgh’s Old Town is the filming location where Claire and Jamie reunite after 20 years apart.
Tweeddale Court, the historic street, becomes the 18th-century market where Claire meets Fergus again.
Signet Library, the interior of this stunning building, features as the Governor’s mansion in Jamaica.
 
 
Near Edinburgh, several locations are worth visiting either on a day trip from the city or on the way to the Scottish Highlands.
 
3. Linlithgow Palace, a beautiful ruined palace, is where Bonnie Prince Charlie visited on his journey south. In the TV series, Linlithgow Palace's entrance and corridors featured as Wentworth Prison, where beloved Jamie was imprisoned.
 
 
4. Hopetoun House dates back to the 17th century and is a magnificent stately home set on a 6,500-acre estate. Outlander featured multiple parts of the house and grounds, and they are listed below. 
The Duke of Sandringham’s stately home (S1)
The spare room in Jamie and Claire's Parisian apartment (S2)
The Hawkins Estate (S2)
The Helwater stables and Ellesmere’s exterior (S3)
Another key site on the Hopetoun Estate is Midhope Castle, which you will instantly recognise as Jamie’s beloved Lallybroch. Access to the building is restricted, and the only way to visit is by purchasing a vehicle permit from the Hopetoun Farm Shop, which is located nearby.
 
 
5. Blackness Castle is a 15th-century castle on the banks of the Firth of Forth. The TV series shows Black Jack Randall’s Fort William headquarters here. The heart-wrenching scenes from Jamie’s incarceration were set in the courtyard. 
 
6. Callendar House sits in the greenery of Callendar Park, with the house itself dating back to the 14th century. This stately home has hosted many famous historical figures, including Bonnie Prince Charlie. In Outlander, the kitchen is featured as part of Bellhurst Manor, known as the home of the Duke of Sandringham. 
 
If you would like to follow in Outlander's footsteps, we look forward to helping you create a personalised itinerary for a private tour of Scotland.
 
Kind regards, 
Marie
 
15 September 2023

Tracing World War Two

Some tourists come to the UK to discover new things, while others visit to learn more about their heritage. Mainly their heritage surrounding World War Two because someone in their family fought in the war. 
England has plenty of places that link back to WWII and its impact on the country. To this day, the memory of this time is kept alive at specific locations. 
 
Below, you can find a few of them, and we can include one or more on your private tour of England
 
1. The Churchill War Rooms 
The Cabinet War Rooms consist of a historic underground complex that served as the residence and command centre of the British Cabinet and Army leadership during World War II. Among others, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Britain during WWII, had his office here. During your visit, you will get a good impression of what it must have been like in the 1940s to live in a dark bunker for weeks while the city was regularly bombed. Many of the rooms in the museum are still in the same condition as when they were abandoned in 1945 after the end of the war.
In the museum's rooms, among other things, you can see the well-preserved equipment along with clothes, letters and photos from the war years. We can make your visit extra special by adding a 'behind the glass' tour, where you can see details and objects up close.
 
 
2. The Imperial War Museum
In 1917, the Imperial War Museum was founded, and the intention was to record the military and civil war effort and the sacrifice of the UK and its Empire during WWI. Since then, the museum has expanded to include all conflicts involving British and Commonwealth forces since 1914.
 
 
3. Dover Castle 
The castle has always been an important fortress for the defence of England. Among other things, it played a crucial role in the protection of the motherland and access to mainland Europe in both world wars. Climb the Great Tower and learn more about the life of King Henry the Second depicted between these medieval walls. A Roman lighthouse can be seen on site: one of the best preserved in Europe. Descend underground to explore the tunnels in the soft limestone beneath the castle walls. William the Conqueror built Dover Castle, nicknamed 'The Key to England', in the 11th century after the battle of Hastings. Visit the Secret Wartime Tunnels to relive Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk in 1940.
 
 
4. Chartwell
This stately home sits in the Weald of Kent and is the former home of the Churchill family. Sir Winston Churchill is well-known as a soldier, writer, and aviator. He held senior government posts and became Prime Minister twice. Chartwell is the family home he loved very much, and Churchill spent time here from 1922 until 1964. 
In 1964, he moved to a residence in London, where he died a year later. Clementine Churchill - Winston's wife - transferred the house to the National Trust in 1966, making it available for viewing ever since. The house is essentially the same as the family left it in 1964, with exhibits that give a glimpse into the wartime Prime Minister's life. Explore his study, lounges, bedrooms and museum. Walk through the beautiful gardens and see Churchill's art studio.
 
 
5. D-Day Story
This is the only museum in the UK dedicated to the Allied invasion of June 1944, located in Portsmouth. Hear the unique, personal stories behind this critical event from both military and civilian perspectives. The museum holds over 10,000 items for the public to admire through exhibitions, archives, workshops and activities. Upon entering the museum, you are quickly transported to the moment that preceded D-Day. 
 
We look forward to your enquiry and helping you assemble a private driver-guided tour of England.
 
Kind regards, 
Marie 
 
11 September 2023

The Lake District

England’s largest National Park

The Lake District should be on your must-see list for many reasons when visiting England. First and foremost, it is England’s largest national park, with mountainous terrain covering 912 square miles. Secondly, it is one of 31 UNESCO World Heritage Sites scattered around the United Kingdom. Thirdly, despite the harsh environment, the region showcases spectacular beauty and traditional hill farming with local breeds. Last but not least, the greenery has inspired many artists.
 
One of the above reasons should be enough to want to add this awe-inspiring place to your Private Tour of England. Now, let’s go into more detail about the Lake District and its many features.
 
1. Home to over 200 mighty mountains and hills (known as ‘fells’). Beautiful lakes, rivers and tarns lie between them, surrounded by thriving towns and historic monuments – a landscape that has inspired great novels, fine artwork, and countless adventures. The present-day landscape differs little compared to the last ice age 10,000 years ago. Vast U-shaped valleys formed due to retreating ice and ribbon-shaped lakes were left once the ice melted.
 

2. The area is nicknamed Poetic Green due to the fascinating terrain and wild weather. The Lake District has inspired many a poet, most famously William Wordsworth (1770-1850). At Grasmere sits Dove Cottage, where William lived with his sister Dorothy and later with his wife Mary Hutchinson, her sister and their children. He once described it as ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found’. Not only did Wordsworth enjoy the surrounding area, but his fellow poets Coleridge and Robert Southey, too; the three of them formed the Lake Poets. Dove Cottage has a collection of manuscripts, books and paintings from the British Romanticism era and a tea room.
 
 
3. Beatrix Potter is most known for her charming children’s stories about Peter Rabbit, yet she was also an inspirational environmentalist. Her childhood holidays were spent in the region, and it left its mark as she moved there in 1906. Several of her passion projects were protecting the landscape, saving rare breeds from extinction and championing traditional farming methods. Potter was a devoted farmer herself, especially Herdwick Sheep. She donated a significant amount of land to the National Trust for safekeeping.
 

4. Windermere is a year-round perfect Lake District destination surrounded by stunning scenery. Several local vistas offer panoramic lake and mountain views. The town has been attracting visitors since Victorian times due to its location at the heart of the Lake District.
 

5. Herdwick sheep are a landscape staple, having been around since the 12th century and feeding in a vast area of up to 3,000 feet. This makes them the hardiest of Britain’s hill sheep breeds, which live on the highest mountains in England. Encounters can be had on the region's high fells and valley bottoms.


If you love poetry and literature or are interested in traditional sheep farming, look no further. We look forward to your enquiry and cannot wait to add the Lake District to your private driver-guided tour of England.
 
Kind regards,
Marie 
 
08 September 2023

Common misconceptions about the UK

The United Kingdom is a beautiful destination that receives many visitors each year. Even though it is popular, there are still a few misconceptions about the UK floating out there. 
 
This article will help debunk some of those, giving you more reason to plan a private driver-guided trip of England, Scotland or Wales.
 
1.  London is all there is to see in the UK.
This is a big one because most of the time, when people think about the United Kingdom, the first thing that pops into their heads is London. Still, England’s capital is only a fraction of what the UK offers visitors. There are several main cities, Areas of Outstanding Beauty and quaint villages off the beaten track that deserve to be visited and will be once they gain more recognition amongst travellers. We are known for our diverse touring, meaning we will gladly help you explore the Cotswolds or the Lake District on your private driver-guided tour.
 
 
2. There are no lovely beaches in the UK.
This will surprise some people because it is not classified as a classic ocean-side vacation spot or known for its stunning beaches, but they are present in the United Kingdom. Another advantage is that most foreign visitors do not know their existence, meaning you will encounter locals more than overseas tourists. Many of the beautiful stretches of coastline around the UK are still unknown to many travellers. We can incorporate one of Britain’s lovely beaches on your private driver-guided tour of England.
 
 
3. England, Britain and the United Kingdom mean the same thing.
This one keeps popping up and can resemble saying someone who lives in Canada is North American instead of Canadian; it seems unspecific. First, it is officially The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each of these countries has its own borders, specific culture and identity linking to their heritage. They are connected in some ways, but each has its uniqueness. Also good to know is that The Republic of Ireland is not part of the United Kingdom; this is a separate country.
 
 
4. The food is awful.
This is one of the misconceptions that makes me a bit frustrated because it is so outdated. Of course, everyone has different tastes, but there is an abundance of different cuisines or fusions spread across the United Kingdom. I love trying various dishes at various restaurants whenever I visit the UK and can only encourage visitors to do the same. A fun fact is that the United Kingdom is one of the top ten countries with the most Michelin Stars, and it shows.
Also, more and more restaurants and hotels are making the most of seasonal and local produce whenever possible, which makes for refreshing and contemporary twists on not only local classic dishes but innovative and new ones. We can book a pub lunch or make dinner reservations on your private driver-guided tour of England.
 
 
5. It rains all the time in the UK.
As in all countries worldwide, it rains in the United Kingdom; however, it is a common misconception that it happens all the time. The weather is highly variable and depends on the particular spot you’re visiting. The British Isles are in the path of the polar jet stream, meaning that there are a lot of changes in pressure, which reflects on the weather. There are various temperatures and levels of rainfall depending on the region you’re travelling to. The western areas of the United Kingdom can be wetter, whilst the eastern parts can be drier, and the northern regions, such as the Highlands, can be colder. If you travel south, let’s say to Devon or Cornwall, which have almost Mediterranean climates during the summertime.
One tip I can give is that it's best to bring a variety of thin layers of clothes and a waterproof coat, just in case you get caught in the rain. Keep this in mind when you’re planning your private driver-guided tour.
 
 
We look forward to poke through some of these misconceptions during your personalised tour. 
 
Kind regards,
Marie 
 
 
 
 
04 September 2023

London Markets

London is one of those cities that never ceases to amaze us, and it’s home to a diversity of architecture, culture and history. One of the things I love to do when I’m visiting London is to lose myself wandering one of the many markets in this city, which come in all shapes and sizes, offering everything from food to flowers to antiques and more.
 
Below is a list of our favourite markets in London, which we can include on your private tour of London to take your trip to a new level.
 
1. Borough Market is one of London’s most prominent and oldest markets. This is the place to be if you are a foodie and want to indulge in lovely market dishes. We can provide a guide to take you around the food stalls and introduce you to a multitude of foodie goodness paired with an excellent gin. Keep in mind Borough Market is closed on Mondays.
 
 
2. Portobello Road Market is for people who love antiques, curios and thrifting. This one is known as one of the biggest antique markets in the world, with over 1000 different shops and stalls. Again we can have a guide accompany you to Portobello Road Market, whilst you mooch around they can tell you about the area's history. We would suggest visiting from Monday till Wednesday or on the weekend, Friday or Saturday.
 
 
3. Camden Market has something to offer for everyone and is probably one of the most popular in the city. This market is a collective name for six street markets in the Camden Town area near Regent’s Canal, Camden Lock. The combination of the six markets offers an array of stalls selling products from art to jewellery to books to handmade products, food and even secondhand clothing.
 
 
4. Spitalfields Market is one of London’s oldest markets, with the ‘Traders’ Market at its heart. Here, you can find various independent stall holders who showcase hand-crafted and unique pieces that make any visit worthwhile.
 
 
5. Covent Garden Market was once home to a famous fruit and vegetable market and continues to support market traders today. Several stalls offer handmade crafts and goods throughout the week, from Tuesday to Sunday, from jewellery to prints to watercolours. On Mondays, checking out one-off antiques and collectables is a must.
To the east of Covent Garden’s market building sits the East Colonnade Market, filled with stalls selling hand-crafted soaps, jewellery, children’s clothing, sweets, artwork and homeware. Every day, there are several street acts to watch and be amazed by.
 
 
London has much to offer, so we want to provide various options. We have expert guides who can take you on a walking tour exploring one of the mentioned markets and who’ll lift your experience to a new level. Most of the tours have a food element, making it even more of a must-visit because England still doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to food.
 
We look forward to your enquiry and are excited to add the VIP private gastro tour of London's markets to your private tour of England.
 
Kind regards,
Marie
29 June 2023

Tour the Isles of Scilly

England's Atlantic Jewels

With only 2,203 people living on five islands surrounded by 140 small scattered rocks, the Scilly pack a punch with stuff to do. The obvious options are sailing, kayaking and eating delicious fish and seafood.
 
Colonies of Grey Seals also inhabit the islands with a particular "scilly" culture. They are friendly towards humans. You can snorkel (Snorkel with Seals) within proximity and be safe. Related to Dogs, the Scilly Seals are probably more dog-like than other sea mammals.
 
Get close to Puffins and other seabirds while hopping from one unspoilt island to the next. Puffins are Pelagic seabirds that primarily dive into open water for food. Apart from the science, they are adorable, and people love to see them fly across the water's surface.
 
Diving shipwrecks is a thrilling activity for those who are qualified.
 
It makes sense to have Luxury Vacations UK arrange a private boat to whisk you from one island to another; see Tresco Abbey Gardens, cycle or walk over to the Ruin Café for lunch and swim in the sea before returning to your hotel. You can spend other days sea-fishing and island hopping to restaurants and swimming in stunning bays with crystal clear waters and white sand.
 
There are no large hotels on the Scilly's and no huge chains, thank goodness. There are a handful of places to stay on the Isles of Scilly. Here are our favourites;
 
1. Hell Bay is a beachside place with brightly coloured rooms, plus six suites ideal for families. The head chef buys local; Tresco beef, local crab, lobster and vegetables when possible. 
2. Star Castle offers a bit of history. It is the original St Mary's garrison. Therefore you get superb views of the surrounding islands and particularly extraordinary sunsets. The owner catches lobster daily and produces their wine. Rooms inside the main building are a little small, but the "garden" rooms are of a decent size and comfort level. Have a drink in the Dungeon and dinner in the cost restaurant. 
3. Karma on St Martin's is yards away from a beautiful white sandy beach. Enjoy simple but chic modern rooms, most with incredible views of the white beaches. Families have the option of connecting suites. Veg from the grounds and fish straight from the sea, a perfect way to truly relax. 
4. The New Inn is the pub option. Thankfully there is a residence-only lounge avoiding any crowds from day trippers. Car-free Tresco is easy to get around in golf buggies and bikes. Tresco's must-see attraction is Tresco Abbey Gardens, founded in the early 19th century and planted with 20,000 plants from every corner of the globe. Expect cosy, brightly coloured rooms and a feeling of being in a chilled atmosphere.
 
Please see our pictures of the West Country Adventure tour we arranged for six lovely ladies from Canada. The experience included three nights at Star Castle in the Scillys with Private Boat Charter each day. I was the tour manager and guide. It was a blast. The itinerary included;
  • Wiston Wine Estate tasting
  • The Jurassic Coast (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • Lyme Regis
  • Dartmoor National Park
  • Cornwall Touring; Trebah Gardens and St Mawes
  • Two days private boat charter on the Isles of Scilly
  • Island hopping to St Martins, Bryher, Tresco and St Mary's
  • Tresco Abbey Gardens
Please let us create a west country experience, including the Scilly Isles. Contact us.
 
Regards
Andrew 
14 April 2023

Mary Quant, British fashion Icon (1930-2023)

Mary Quant dies on the 13th April, 2023.

Arguably, the British fashion industry tends to mix things up and demonstrate an alternative idea.

Mary Quant was what we now call a disruptor, someone who upsets the apple cart and changes peoples perception of what fashion is supposed to be. The great fashion houses of Europe offered elegance and beauty, but most young people couldn't afford them and found the design impracticable and not representative of the changing cultural scene.

Mary made her own clothes and sold them from a shop called Bazaar on London's Kings Road: brightly coloured tights, short skirts and high-quality tops and jackets. The popularity of Quants clothing styles meant scaling up. Factories in Wales produced high-quality items made with British cloth.
Mary's customers insisted on shorter and shorter skirts, leading to the skirt being called the "Mini" after the popular small car made by Austen.

Mary Quant is known as an empowering force in fashion and is just one of a list of other great British female designers, such as Vivianne Westwood (1941-2022) and Stella McCartney (1971-).

London is full of fashion diversions; Please ask about our private specialist tour, including, but not limited to, FASHION.

30 March 2023

Gastronomic Pub Tour of England

London does have some fantastic gastro pubs, but the big city loses out to the countryside in many respects. 

The Gastro Pub scene has become increasingly sophisticated without becoming too stuck-up or posh. Visitors love the casual ambience and world-class food offerings, all done without too much fuss. 

We have done something pretty clever, or so we think, by combining excellent pub stops for lunch and some dinners with a little light touch of sightseeing. Visitors can relax for lunch, get to the beautiful hotel early afternoon, sleep off big lunch or relax at the spa and later indulge in dinner. 

Please email for a sneak preview of our suggested itinerary.

Regards

Andrew.

22 March 2023

Killer Whales in Scotland

In the far north of Britain lies the Shetland Islands. They are described as a sub-artic archipelago west of Norway and south of the Faroe Islands. You cannot get any further north in the United Kingdom.

David Attenborough’s new series on the wildlife of Britain called "Wild Isles" featured Orcas (Killer Whales) hunting seals in the kelp inlets. The film shots are awesome; the Orcas have learnt to hunt sleeping seals who think they are safe amongst the kelp and shallow channels.

Local people helped make the film, using Whats app to send messages to the film crews. For example, “I have just spotted the Orcas 50 meters off-shore in the bay near my house.” Can you imagine the name of the WhatsApp group?

It was particularly fascinating watching the Whales turn on their sides in the shallows. This technique allowed them to swim undetected from the surface, as their huge dorsal fins remained submerged. 

Apparently, Orcas breed in the Shetland Islands too. I wonder if it is ethical to organise sightseeing boat trips? Spring is the hunting season in this region, so maybe April 2024 would be the time to visit. Please contact us, and we can discuss the pros and cons of wildlife tourism.

21 February 2023

The Wild North of England - Northumberland

Coast, Castles and Sublime landscapes

Northumberland is a sparsely populated county bordering Scotland. The Northumberland Coast is endowed with magnificent wide golden beaches. Great old castles litter the shoreline and remain intact, and some are still inhabited. These great stone fortresses once protected Britain’s vulnerable northern seaboard.

Hadrian’s Wall

Travel inland and see rocky hills and scattered farms. Explore Hadrian’s Wall, the famous structure planned by Emperor Hadrian. The UNESCO World Heritage Site stretches 73 miles from coast to coast, punctuated by so-called miles castles, forts and trading centres. Walk part of the wall and see Vindolanda, an excavated fort and town with a superb museum.

More to See

Travel south of Northumberland and explore the beauty of the north Pennines and Yorkshire Dales. Head west and tour the Lake District National Park.

Stop en route to Scotland

Instead of driving through, flying over or chugging past on a train to Scotland, stop for a few nights in Northumberland and experience England’s great and wild north.

Where to Stay?

The Lord Crewe Arms is a village centre located hotel. It had welcomed visitors since 1165 when it accommodated pilgrims and traders to the Blanchland Abbey. Lord Crewe is one of Northumberland’s most highly rated places to stay and ideal for touring the coast and National Parks.

Continue your tour north to Edinburgh and then the Highlands. Visiting Britain is a great adventure, don’t miss out.

15 February 2023

The Isles of Scilly

England's greatest secret

There is a place with tropical gardens, white sandy beaches and small boutique hotels.

The Isles of Scilly are for you if you want to get away from it all. Tag a few days on the islands to our England’s South Coast Tour. We can also arrange a very special animal encounter: Snorkel with Seals.

06 February 2023

Anniversary of late Queen's accession to the throne

I often talk about the Queen's late father, King George 6th, in glowing terms. He seemed to have everything against him. Illness plagued his life, but he seemed to battle on regardless.

He had knock knees, stomach ulcers, appendicitis and various smoking-related diseases. This was a man not born to be King. Circumstances forced the roll upon him. Undoubtedly, an odd job to be a Royal in the late 20th century with television, radio and filmmaking. You can't put a foot wrong, and let's face it, the Queen's father had a speech impediment, a nervous disposition and illness; he did not have luck on his side.

Through all that, he became the first Royal to get his pilot's license and flew across the English channel during WW1, fought at the battle of Jutland, played in the Wimbledon tennis tournament and led Britain through WW2.

The tremendous stress led to his habit of heavy smoking. Ultimately it led to the removal of a lung. Against the doctors' orders, the King travelled to what was then London Airport (now Heathrow) to see off Princess Elizabeth and Philip on their trip to Africa and Australia.

Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth on the 6th of February 1952, whilst touring Kenya. King George died in the early hours of the 6th from a heart attack. 25 or so years later, the Queen visited my part of London, and I remember waving from the street, and she cruised past in a glass limousine. She had a fabulous smile, and I'm pretty sure she smiled at me that day. 

Long live the King. 

Regards
Andrew

Note: picture of the Queen with Prince during the Trooping of the Colour about ten years ago. Again I was standing in the crowd.

18 January 2023

Five fascinating facts about the UK

Discover it all

1. The UK has the third longest coastline in Europe. It is longer than the French and Spanish coasts combined. Only the vast arctic coasts of Norway and Sweden are longer, which makes it so strange that few foreign visitors seek out our glorious shores. Discover Britain's coast and book our England's South Coast tour.
 
2. The UK has vast numbers of Oak trees, a whopping 121 million, which is more than the rest of the entire EU. Great old oaks that divide farms and estates create a picturesque scene with many shades of green. Our Wales and England tour shows off our wonderful countryside.
 
3. Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle in the world. Discover Windsor Castle on our Windsor, Stonehenge and Salisbury Tour. A UNESCO packed itinerary.
 
4. Britain has a vast number of grand historic or stately homes, probably over 3000. Visit Blenheim Palace and the Cotswolds on a day tour from London or stay overnight in the Cotswolds, here are the best hotels in the Cotswolds.
 
5. The flight to London from New York is only 35 minutes longer than LA to New York. There are 27 flights daily from New York to London, British Airways is the market leader with nine flights, see the British Airways Website.
21 December 2022

Where to find Bluebells

Where and when to find Bluebells

Bluebells flower from late March to early May, bringing mesmerising colour to Britain's woodlands.

Bluebells are woodland perennials, blooming annually. The first blooms appear in the south of England, as it is warmer than the rest of the UK, and they typically last a few weeks, depending on the weather. They grow close together, which is why you usually find amazing seas flourishing within long-established woods.

Bluebells also have different types of scents; for example, native Bluebells have a strong and sweet fragrance and non-native Spanish Bluebells have a weaker smell that's harder to detect.
Bluebells are a national treasure protected by the wildlife and countryside act of 1891. It takes over five years for a bluebell patch to establish. They are an important early source of nectar for bees and other insects. It is illegal to pick Bluebells; whilst Bluebells are common throughout Britain, hybridisation, illicit collection of wild bulbs, and loss of habitat affect numbers.

Taking a  stroll through Bluebell woods in late spring is a wonderful experience. Please see our Great Gardens of the South itinerary for inspiration.

20 December 2022

Historic Tavistock

Tavistock, a little Devonshire gem

Tavistock is a hidden gem in the heart of the west country, close to the Cornish border and only 30 minutes from the historic maritime city of Plymouth. Tavistock is your gateway to the Dartmoor National Park. The Park covers nearly 600 sq miles, with parts of Dartmoor used for military firing ranges for over 200 years, and there is even a famous old prison, which incarcerated POW's from the 1812 war with America. The authorities have protected the region since 1951.

Tavistock is the birthplace of Sir Francis Drake, one of the most infamous privateers, explorers and politicians of the Elizabethan (1558-1603) era. 

He's remembered chiefly for clever tactics used when the Spanish Armada attempted to invade Britain in 1588. Drake forced the vast Spanish fleet of over 100 ships to circumnavigate the British Isles. Many Spanish vessels were dashed on the rocks of Scotland and proved Drake's superior seamanship. Apart from the Sir Francis Drake story, there are at least 28 significant past homes with blue plaques in the town of Tavistock. 

The Duke of Bedford, a mine owner, financed the remodelling of the settlement in the Victorian (1837-1901) era. The attractive Town is well-known for its markets, festivals and independent shops. The Pannier market has been held there for over 900 years. Today you can visit it to find everything from unique gifts, tea-towels to nails. You can also visit the farmers market on Bedford Square on the second and fourth Saturday of the month. 

Take a walk alongside the riverside and cannel; the tumbling River Tavy passes the old abbey walls into the meadows where you can swim. A perfect stop to take the kids on a summer evening.

Nearby is Buckland Manor, once a Cistercian monastery that transformed into the lavish 16th home of Sir Francis Drake. It is unique because the church was maintained instead of the cloisters and other buildings—the perfect place to visit on a rainy day.

13 December 2022

Sofia begins her life in Travel

Changing your mind is okay 

As a child, I always wanted to be a lawyer because of how it was portrayed in the films. I also wanted to do it because it gave me the power to do justice.

I ended up focusing on achieving this goal throughout my school career because it was all I ever wanted to do until I started college earlier this year and discovered that it just wasn’t for me, I realised all the films and articles glamorised the job, and it wasn't very interesting.

So, I started to look at what else I wanted to do with my future, and I came across travel. I’ve always been interested in it, as when I was younger, I was always fascinated by the places I visited. I decided I wanted to get more involved in the industry, so I began looking for apprenticeships and came across one in Luxury Vacations UK. I quickly realised I wanted this job because I wanted to make people feel like I felt when I went abroad about this country. I wanted them to be mesmerised and fascinated by all the beautiful things the UK offers.

I can see an exciting future here at Luxury Vacations UK because I know we care about people having a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the UK.

Sofia.

 

23 November 2022

Historical Tours of London

Personalise your tour of London

London is full of Stories, back streets, old pubs and evidence of its 2000-year existence. We can tailor an intellectual tour while leaving out the boring bits.

Unearth the stories from people of the past; Sir Christopher Hatton was an interesting character of the Tudor court and made a big impact during his life. Politician and one of the judges who interrogated and found Mary, Queen of Scots, guilty. He left Oxford without a degree and entered Inner Temple. You can stroll around the neighbourhood and visit the Temple Church. He played the key character at a Masque play at the Inner Temple and got the Queen's attention. He was a handsome and skilled dancer.

He became captain of the Yeoman of the guard, vice-chamberlain and member of the PRIVY COUNCIL. To top it all, he was knighted. Plus, he was granted the bishops of Ely's home in London, ELY PLACE. Visit the Old Mitre Pub, where Hatton’s Garden once stood and imagine Queen Elizabeth II dancing with Sir Christopher around the cherry tree.

Correspondence between the two was overly affectionate. This led to accusations that the Dancing Chancellor was the Queen's lover. It seemed Queen Elizabeth called him her mutton or lamb.

He built a house as big as Hampton Court Palace, which damaged his finances. So, he invested in Francis Drake's voyage around the world, and so Drake named his ship the Golden Hind (see the replica of the Golden Hind in Southwark, south London) after the golden hind on Hatton's coat of arms, and Hatton made a profit of £2,300. Tour Hampton Court Palace and explore Tudor history in more detail. BTW, he had three big houses Ely Place, Kirby Hall and Holdenby house.

Sir Christopher Hatton had a state funeral and massive monument once stood inside St Paul's Cathedral – people hated it, but it burnt down in the great fire of London.

Discover the many people, their lives and times on a specialist guided tour.

23 November 2022

Jack the Ripper Tours

Tour the East End of London: Street Art, Indian Food, Markets and the story of the ripper

The famous and horrific murders that took place in the east end of London in 1888 exposed the unhealthy living conditions of London's poor. The neighbourhood of Whitechapel sits beside the City of London, then the most prosperous enclave globally.

We have never promoted the idea of Jack-the-Ripper tours before. It all seemed too sordid to sell guided tours about the brutal murders of five women. On the other hand, it is part of London's sometimes gruesome history, and maybe from sales of a Jack-the-Ripper tour, we could donate money to a women's refuge centre. What do you think?

Interestingly, Whitechapel was known for violent crime long before Jack the Ripper. Those crimes had never been reported in such graphic detail as there were certain restrictions on the press. Once those regulations had been lifted, the press went to town and played with the public and even gave the murderer his name.

Therefore, we want to be more sophisticated and join the dots of the ripper story with the surrounding social problems of the times, creating awareness at least and entertaining our visitors.

We can link the story of Jack the Ripper and the unfortunate female victims to today's east end with street art and Indian food, and a couple of pub stops. I think that is far more grown-up than the norm. In addition, we will donate 10% of the profits of tours that feature Jack-the-Ripper tales to "refuge", an organisation that dedicates its resources to protecting women from domestic abuse.

Regards

Andrew

03 November 2022

Stay in a pub

I can't help thinking that visitors to the UK miss out when given the opportunity to stay at a pub; They often turn it down.

Pubs now have a reputation for good food, and many have excellent accommodation under GBP 200 per night. What's not to like? 

Well, there are no spas, quiet lounges, or extensive grounds with tennis courts. But you can meet the locals, hear about village gossip and be part of something, a community. 

Soundproof flooring ensures an excellent night's sleep with a hearty, unfussy breakfast. After hiking or sightseeing, you can flop into the bar, order an ale or whisky, say hi to a man and his dog, or chat with local businesspeople.

It is a beautiful thing, so visitors sometimes need to relax, open up, make friends and stay overnight in a proper boozer. Check out our Historic Pub Crawl tour.

01 November 2022

Travel Christmas Gift

Winter is a cool time to travel

The gift of travel is the bestowing of treasured memories. Once you have paid the bills the memories last forever, stories get passed down through the generations and photos remind you of those special moments.

January and February may not strike you as the best time to visit England. But you will be surprised how mild winters are in Southern Britain. We do have the odd sprinkle of snow. Generally, it is cold and often bright and never as harsh as the northern states in the US, but not as mild as the South of France.

What you get is roaring open fires in country pubs, a chance to hike in the National Parks crowd free. Historical sites that are crazy busy in the spring and summer are super quiet, so discovering the story behind the nation is relaxing and enlightening. 

To top it all, we will offer a huge 15% discount when travelling from January 6th to the end of February 2023.

26 October 2022

British Pound at historic low

The currency Exchange Rate is in your favour

Britain is going through some economic upheaval to grow the economy and combat high fuel prices. The new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, hasn't had a tremendous first month and has had to replace her chancellor and make U-turns on government policy.

The result has been a weak Great British Pound (GBP) which is good news for exporters and the inbound travel business. It couldn't be a better time to travel to the UK. Today the exchange rate was USD 1.16 to GBP 1.00.

Push the boat out and invest in a Luxury Tour of the UK today. 

26 October 2022

Where to see Baroque mural painting

Britain and Ireland are famous for Stately Homes, big brash and sometimes sublime.

Some properties stand out from others. The Royal Palaces, such as Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace, are obvious. I have spent my adult life touring grand houses across the UK, and you start to get used to seeing cantilever staircases, paintings by Van Dyke and grand marble halls. The landscaped grounds tend to impress me the most due to their scale and upkeep. 

Then there are the stately homes that have it all, the grounds, gardens, artwork, architecture, and history. Chatsworth House always springs to mind, the home of the Duke of Devonshire. Not only does Chatsworth have it all, but it also has a superb farm shop and an excellent hotel on the edge of the estate, The Cavendish Hotel.

Another great house is on the country's eastern side, much less known than Chatsworth or Blenheim Palace. Surely this must mean it is a lesser house, not as impressive, not quite an architectural gem. But that is not the case; Burghley House is one of the most spectacular of all, an Elizabethan prodigy home, full-to-the-brim with world-class art and the best baroque mural painting in Britain. 

Burghley's baroque murals are the work of the Italian painter Antonio Verrio, who worked in England for 30 years. This divisive character probably aggravated everyone in the house at some point. It has been said he was a drunkard and lech. His behaviour was tolerated due to his great skill. After painting six rooms over ten years, the household had had enough, and his students finished any incomplete work. 

After being overwhelmed by Burghley's objects of beauty and paintings, you are then encased in a giant mythological story. Figures painted by Verrio fly around the walls playing their roles. Your reach the room known as Heaven before plunging down a staircase representing Hell. It is quite an experience and always leaves people in awe.

The nearby town of Stamford is a handsome historical place, making Burghley a worthy stop en-route to York, Cambridge or Northern England. Tour Burghley House; can be included in a day tour from London.

11 October 2022

Coronation News 2023

What is a coronation? 

The Coronation is a grand ceremony involving ordination, which means the rising of the ordinary into an elevated position of responsibility. Popes and bishops have risen, too, in this respect.

The current ceremony is traced back to the Coronation of King Edgar in 973 AD, devised by the archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Dunstan. Dunstan is famed for rooting out corruption in the church and monastic communities. It seems he was devoted to learning from a young age. Records note his diligence whilst living at Glastonbury Abbey and his passion for reviving the fortunes of England's monasteries. 

While touring the country, please note the placement of horseshoes over doorways, guarding the property against the devil. This legend comes from a tale when the devil asks Dunstan to re-shoe his hooved feet; Dunstan replies by nailing a horseshoe to his hoof. As the devil yelps in pain, Dunstan promises to remove the iron shoe if the devil agrees never to enter a property with a horseshoe above the door.

Another story tells of St. Dunstan pinching the devil's nose with a pair of pliers.

King Charles III

The Coronation of King Charles II will take place on the 6th of May 2023. The ceremony has evolved over centuries, and King Charles will likely make significant changes. The UK is a modern country with a diverse population of atheists, Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. There are many more sects and religions.

With that in mind, King Charles is expected to pronounce the phrase "I promise to be protector and defender of the faiths" and not declare to be the "defender of the Christian faith". He will be reflecting on the make-up of 21st-century Britain and Northern Ireland.

What will the day be like?

King Charles's Coronation will be reduced compared to the events that took place on the 2nd of June 1953, when Queen Elizabeth was crowned. Is this an opportunity missed for an excellent uplifting for the country? Maybe only 2000 foreign dignitaries will attend, instead of the proposed 5000.

In any case, it will be the start of a new era and hopefully a reset with peaceful and prosperous times to come.

Please get in touch with us for further information regarding this significant historical event.

09 September 2022

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has passed.

21st April 1926 - 8th September 2022

The Queen has probably travelled to more countries than anybody else, period. She has visited more than 130 countries, depending on their status at the time. Clocking up over a million miles. 

Most Brits have come in close contact with the Queen at some point. It may be a childhood memory of her visiting a school, hospital or business – she has even pulled pints of ale in pubs. 

She's famous for adopting from her father and grandfather the Royal "walkabout", making the Royal family accessible and human. People are often surprised by her sense of humour and her lovely beaming smile. 
The public will never forget Her Majesty the Queen's sense of duty and resilience.

The Queen is Dead.
Long live the King. 

06 September 2022

Adare Manor

Irelands Jewel in the Crown

Adare Manor is one of those places you book, and you couldn't care where it was because it's a destination in its own right. As it happens, it is in a delightful position 15 minutes from Limerick and only 35 minutes to Shannon airport.

The Connemara National Park is a fair drive between 2 hrs and 3 hrs. However, Galway is 1 hrs 40 minutes. The dingle and Killarney National Park are under 2 hrs drive. 
Dublin city is a brisk transfer along the M7 freeway for approximately 2 hrs 35 minutes.

So, it's not in a bad location at all, surrounded by stunning countryside and a pretty little village of Adare. But why would you want to leave? It is gorgeous.

There are four places to dine, a superb golf course, horse riding and shooting. It is a fine example of a grand estate and luxury resort catering to your every need. Make Adare Manor a two or three-night stay as part of your grand tour of Ireland. 

 

01 September 2022

Photography tours

Britain is perfect for a photography activity vacation

We have angled light, various clouds, rainbows and proper weather. These elements make a photographic tour of Britain a superb idea. The wonderfully changeable weather enhances the images of the medieval ruined castle, a cathedral at dawn or an emerald mountain at dusk.

World famous coastal geology and tidal seas are other fascinating elements to your portfolio. We can supply the transportation with a driver-guide with the knowledge to escort you to the places at the right time to get the best shots.

Please tell us what you want to discover; beaches, cliffs, ruined castles, green mountain landscapes, historic gardens or ancient cities. We will put it together and supply a driver guide and a professional photographer for support and training if required.

Where you stay can also be part of the trip; check out our Unique Places to Stay.

12 July 2022

Delta Sky Miles Experiences and Iconic Hotels

Luxury Vacations UK partners with Delta Airlines and Iconic Hotels

We have partnered with Delta Airlines and Iconic Luxury Hotels to offer Delta customers the opportunity to explore England and stay at fabulous hotels.

Our popular Iconic Road Trip incorporates the historic coaching Inn, The Lygon Arms (the Cotswolds), The Mayfair Townhouse (London) and the magnificent Cliveden House Hotel (Buckinghamshire). Our suggested itinerary mixes famous places and off-the-beaten-track gems that visitors love. Please see the itineraries that feature Iconic Hotels on our Iconic Road Trip page.  

Please check out Delta’s SkyMiles Experiences.

04 July 2022

St Pancras Hotel Tours

One of London’s most fantastic gothic buildings is open for tours. Every Saturday, Luxury Vacations UK offers scheduled tours that take you behind the scenes of one of Britain’s most impressive structures

Designed by William Barlow, St Pancras Train Station is considered one of London's most outstanding Victorian buildings. Built alongside the station is St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, which was assembled using Midland red brick and took five years to complete.

After you introduce the hotel, your guide will take you outside to the front and talk about the designer, George Gilbert Scott. See the grand double staircase inside the hotel, with its cathedral windows and hand-painted gold leaf walls. Look up at the vaulted ceiling, painted with the heraldic arms of the Midland Railway. Stop by the Hansom Hall and see the famous roofing.  

See various bedrooms, including the Sir George Gilbert Scott Suite and the Oriel Room. Tour the Ladies' Smoking Room, the first public female smoking room in Europe. Pass through the Booking Office, which has hand-craved diamonds on the linen panelling. 

Tour St Pancras Train Station is considered one of London's most splendid Victorian buildings. Visit the Booking Office, which has hand-carved diamonds on the linen panelling. Your guide will discuss the level of restoration it took to make St Pancras Hotel a success again. Contact us.

04 July 2022

Where to see Heather

Heather flowers in late summer and early spring

Heather grows all over the heathland and the moors of Britain. Spectacular displays of purple and mauve appear in late summer. Driving through a National Park in Scotland, England or Wales in early September as the sun gets low in the sky is a magical experience.

Heather-clad hills are a staple in British literature; think Emily Brontes' Wuthering Heights set on the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors. The blooming Heather turns the sometimes bleak moorland into a stunning explosion of purple. Build in a hike to Fen Bog Nature Reserve in the North York Moors as part of your tour of England. Goathland Station is nearby, made famous as Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter films.

Other locations in Northern England are Eycott Hill and Butterburn Flow in the Lake District National Park.

Other great spots are in The Northumberland National Park. Head south-west to Devon and explore the haunting beauty of Dartmoor National Park. Get your wellies on and discover the Dart Valley Nature Reserve, the wildest part of England. Experience the little-known temperate rainforests in the region and vast areas of flowering Heather.

Dartmoor is the Hound of the Baskerville country. The unusual rock formations known as Tors are the inspiration behind many tales. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle set the creepy Sherlock Holmes story on the misty moors. A half-day hike on Dartmoor will reveal herds of wild Dartmoor ponies, various birds of prey and pretty woodland streams.

Wales is renowned for its beautiful typography and has its fair share of Heather. On the edge of the Snowdonia National Park is Gors Maen Llwyd, a nature reserve bursting with the sounds of curlew, skylark and the calls of raptors. The region feels pretty wild with boulders deposited here after the ice age.

The Scottish Highlands is probably the most famous Heather-clad part of the UK. We recommend touring the north-western coastline of Scotland for its sheer beauty. 

Rahoy Hills are off-the-beaten-path, to say the least, allowing the intrepid visitor an opportunity to spend a few days on the Isle of Mull too. Along with Heather, you will see rare arctic plants, Red Deer, Golden Eagles and the giant of the skies, the Sea Eagle.

Britain has more to offer the visitor than is often realised. Our Islands are famous for Royal castles, gardens and cathedrals. Still, Britain has sublime landscapes to enjoy and people to meet in the wild lesser-known corners of the country. Let us introduce you to wind-swept Britain (Tour Britain), the land of uplands, moors and Heather.

17 June 2022

US administration lifts Covid test requirement for returning international travellers

The US administration has had one of the most prolonged Covid restrictions in the world. Namely, the requirements to prove you have tested negative for Covid before boarding a US-bound flight.

The policy had good intentions but was devastating for the International travel industry.

As the world moved on, restrictions remained in place for US citizens. Some US visitors were confused and thought the policy was a UK or EU requirement. It did seem bizarre to many as the entire world has had many waves of Covid, and most people have been triple vaccinated. Therefore what difference did it make? Whatever the data, I’m sure it was the correct decision, and we are all safer.

It doesn’t matter anymore, and we are pleased to welcome our cousins from across the pond again in great numbers. It is lovely having you back; tasting our beer and cheese and loving our butter and bread!

All the Royal Historical sites are again popular, such as Windsor Castle, The Tower of London and the Guard Change at Buckingham Palace. We love those famous places but want to get you off the tourist trail and see a bit of real Britain. With Luxury Vacations UK, you can shop in small independent shops, have lunch in a PROPER country pub and see those small villages filled with interesting local characters. 

Apart from heritage sites, Britain and Island have abundant adventure activities such as climbing and potholing. Fishing and hiking are a must for a second or third-time visitor. Let the LVUK team shape and craft your experience into something magical. Contact us now.  

 

10 June 2022

The Queen

Although Her Majesty the Queen spent most of the platinum jubilee holiday weekend relaxing (she is 96), the rest of the country had a marvellous time. I expect she did too, watching all the fun from Windsor Castle.

The media and press have been upbeat about the events, so they should.

The Queen has very little power, but a monarchy in the 21st century seems old-fashioned to some. We’ve been lucky to have such a loyal and dutiful Queen in the UK. I expect she has had to bite her lip on more than one occasion, especially more recently.

Older people in Britain believe that duty is essential and that making sacrifices for the great good is what life is about. The Queen is admired for this very reason. Those who live for themselves at some point realise they must make decisions that may make their lives more difficult. Such as bringing up a child, taking care of a dog, or giving up a job to look after a parent.

The Queen has given it all up to spend her life travelling globally promoting the Kingdom. Her schedules have been gruelling and never-ending. If I were to guess, I would imagine she would have preferred to spend her life looking after horses, riding horses and being involved with anything equestrian.

What the Queen has acquired is what must be a strange experience of meeting millions of people that feel that they know you – and your family. We can only guess what those daily interactions do to a person. But, still, she has remained consistent.

I’m not saying the Queen has no faults. I know she has colossal energy, love for her country and a powerful sense of duty.

17 May 2022

Top 5 rooftop bars in London

1. Skylight, Tobacco Dock
Skylight is one of the most happening rooftop bars in London. It was once a carpark, but it is now a three-level indoor and outdoor bar where you can spend time with your friends in summer. It is heated during winter. 
In summer you can play some games like croquet, table tennis or petanque. In the evening there are also parties, and you can have some delicious street food. In winter, you can spend some time on the rooftop in your igloo, including blankets and mounds of cushions, and if you are brave enough there's also an ice rink.
 
You can visit the Skylight from Thursday to Saturday from 12 pm till 11 pm.
 
2. Bar Elba, Waterloo
In Bar Elba, there's a place for you in summer and winter. You have an amazing view over the skyline to see the London Eye, St Paul's Cathedral, and more.
 
The place's name comes from the Mediterranean island where Napoleon got exiled. In the summer season, you have a Rooftop Brunch every weekend and pretty much daily a rooftop Cinema.
You can get your drinks here from Monday to Thursday from 2 pm till 12 am. On Friday and Saturday from 12 pm till 1 am and on Sunday from 1 pm till 12 am. Because the bar is very popular, you should make reservations in advance. 
 
3. Sabine Rooftop Bar, St. Paul's Cathedral
You can find this lush and tropical rooftop bar on the 7th floor at the Leonardo Royal London St Paul's. It's the perfect rooftop bar for every weather condition because they have a weather-safe conservatory with a retractable roof and two sun terraces. You'll have the most spectacular view over St. Paul's Cathedral.
 
Visit the bar from Monday to Wednesday from 4 pm till 12 am. On Thursday and Friday from 4 pm till 2 am. On Saturday from 12 pm till 2 am and on Sunday from 12 pm till 12 am.
 
4. Roof East, Stratford
Roof East is the biggest playground for adults in London, with amazing views. On the roof, you can hit away in the batting cage, challenge your friends in a game of lawn bowl, and play mini-golf, a VR mix of traditional football and table foosball. Alternatively, find your inner peace with some yoga.
 
You can visit Roof East from Wednesday to Friday from 4 pm till 11 pm. On Saturday and Sunday from 12 pm till 11 pm. Children under 18 can't get in after 5 pm.
 
5. Savage Garden, Tower Hill
Savage Garden is located on the 12th floor of DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London and is one of the hottest rooftop bars in London. The bar offers amazing 360-views over the London skyline. It's a perfect place to visit during the year because they have a retractable roof.
 
Get your drinks on Wednesday from 4 pm till 12 am with the last entry at 11 pm and on Thursday to Sunday from 3 pm till 12 am with the latest access at 11 pm. The Savage Garden is popular, so you may want to book in advance. 
16 May 2022

Ten tasty things to try when you travel to the UK

1. Sunday Roast (Yorkshire pudding)
This traditional British meal originated in the British Isles, particularly Yorkshire. Sunday after church, it was supposed to be eaten. It consists of delicious roasted meat, roast potatoes, and different side dishes like Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, and gravy alongside various vegetables.
Although the tradition decreased somewhat over the years, the roast remains a popular meal in the UK.
 
2. Fish and Chips
The most famous British meal consists of fried fish in a crispy batter and chips. The invention occurred in England, where fish and chips first were put together by people from separate immigrant cultures. 
The Fish and Chips shops made their first appearance in the UK in 1860.
 
3. Bubble and squeak
There have been references to this dish since the 18th century. In this dish, cooked potatoes and cabbage are combined and then fried. The name of the meal refers to the sounds made by the ingredients when being fried.
 
4. Full English Breakfast
The full English breakfast became popular during the Victorian era. It usually includes sausages, bacon, black pudding, eggs, tomatoes, baked beans, mushrooms, toast, and a beverage like tea or coffee. It’s so popular that many pubs and cafes offer the meal at any time of the day. It appears in different regional variants and is referred to by other names that depend on the area.
 
5. Bangers and Mash
A traditional dish consisting of sausages served with mashed potatoes. The term ‘bangers’ dates back to 1919. ‘Bangers’ is ascribed to the fact that sausages in World War I, when there were meat shortages, were made with such high-water content that they were likely to pop under high heat when cooked. 
 
6. Haggis
Haggis is a savoury pudding, including sheep’s pluck (liver, heart, and lungs). This is then minced with onion, suet, spices, and oatmeal mixed with stock and cooked while traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach. In modern times, artificial casings are more common. Traditionally Haggis is eaten on Burns Night, on the 25th of January. It’s the birthday of Scotland’s national poet Rabbie Burns who wrote the poem ‘Address to the Haggis’. 
 
7. Beef Wellington
This English meal is a steak dish made of fillet steak coated with pâté (often used is pâté de foie gras) and duxelles wrapped in a puff pastry, then baked.
 
8. Crumpets
A crumpet is small griddle bread made from an unsweetened batter of water or milk, flour, and yeast. The characteristic feature is that the surface is riddled with holes, allowing the butter to seep through from top to bottom. 
 
9. Scones
Flour, butter, and milk are combined to make dense scones and bread-like cakes. A traditional accompaniment is strawberry or raspberry jam and clotted cream, a yellow cream with a crusty top. Cut it in half and spread it with the jam and cream to eat it.
 
10. Scotch Egg
The Scotch Egg is a boiled egg covered in sausage meat, coated with breadcrumbs, and baked or fried. They are a common picnic food. You can eat them hot or cold. 
14 May 2022

Cornwall through the eyes of Rosamunde Pilcher

Welcome to Cornwall for all our German Friends

Our business has been fixated with English speaking visitors, but we are now becoming in tune with visitors from none English speaking parts of the world. Although we realise many German citizens speak excellent English. We realise Cornwall is important to tour for lovers of the Rosamunde Pilcher novels, but, please let us introduce you to England's Sparkling Wine region, The Northumberland Coast and other special places such as Pembrokeshire National Park. anyway, please take a look at a sample tour of Cornwall.

Rosamundes Pilcher's Cornwall

Day One: Arrival at Cornwall airport (or Transfer from Heathrow). Visit Newquay with Little Fistral and Lusty glaze. 
Arrive directly at Cornwall Airport thanks to the Eurowings service between Dusseldorf and Cornwall. 

Start your tour of Cornwall in Newquay, one of the Nation's favourite seaside towns in England. There are several beautiful beaches, including the popular Fistral beach. The complex, standing in the natural amphitheatre, houses shops, cafes, and restaurants. Little Fistral is a paradise for surfers and has many visitors each year.  

When visiting some of the seaside towns in Newquay, it is like stepping into a Rosamunde Pilcher book. Take a walk along the cliffs towards Lusty glaze beach, set in a natural amphitheatre of these same cliffs.  

Suggested accommodation: The Padstow Townhouse
Located on a quiet street in the old town, the Padstow Townhouse offers a relaxing stay in one of their six unique suites. Each room has its own characteristics with luxurious furniture and indulgent treats. Each morning, a beautiful breakfast hamper is delivered to your room. The restaurant offers delicious meals made by Michelin-star chef Paul Ainsworth in the evening. 

Day Two: Padstow, Prideaux place, and Tintagel castle 
Walk around Padstow, a small port on the north coast of Cornwall. The fisherman's cottages and merchant's houses made Padstow the ideal setting for some of Pilcher's books. In less than ten minutes, you walk from the bustling harbour to the golden beaches with St Georges's cove and Hawker's cove.  

Drive up to Prideaux place, an important filming location for Pilcher movies and Poldark. The ancient Cornish Prideaux family has owned the house for many centuries. The house was built in the 16th century and is a mixture of different periods. Prideaux Place has beautiful gardens that were first landscaped in the 1730s. 

Visit Tintagel Castle, otherwise known as Arthur's Castle. The ancient castle sits at the end of a peninsula, surrounded by the wild Atlantic Ocean. It was here that the King was conceived, according to the legends. You can only reach the castle by crossing a long bridge that is only accessible on foot.

Step down the old stairs to Merlin's Cave. According to the legend, Merlin spends most of his life living in this cave. This cave continues through the peninsula for approximately 100 meters. They can be explored during low tide, but they fill up during high tide. Therefore it is very important to know the time of the waves when visiting this cave.  

Suggested accommodation: The Padstow Townhouse

Day Three: Dartmoor National Park 
Take a day to visit the beautiful Dartmoor National Park. There are many walking routes to follow and see the best parts of the area. Dartmoor is best known for its tors: Dramatic outcrops of granite standing on the top of a hill. Each tor has a unique form, and there are over 160 of them in the park. Popular tors are Belstone Tor, Black Tor, Bowerman's nose and Brent Tor. When climbing the hill towards the tor, you get a majestic view of the surrounding area.

You might spot some of the many ponies that walk around Dartmoor National Park when walking around. They are an important part of the park and are an iconic sight. But beware, do not approach or feed these ponies, as they are wild animals. Besides walking, there are other fun ways to discover Dartmoor, such as cycling, horseback riding, canoeing, and climbing. 

Suggested accommodation: Bovey Castle Hotel
Stay a night in the 5-star Bovey Castle Hotel and Spa, located in the stunning countryside. Please sit down and relax in their spa or enjoy a delicious meal in one of their two dining options. The hotel is an ideal luxury accommodation when visiting Dartmoor National Park or other locations in South West of England. 

Day Four: Tour of Plymouth 
Spend a day in and around Plymouth, a classic location for Pilcher books and movies. Walk around the Barbican waterfront area with its cobbled road and many bars and restaurants. The Mayflower Steps are located in the same area, a monument commemorating the sailing of the ships and the Mayflower pilgrims from Plymouth in 1620. Barbican also has a few listed buildings like an Elizabethan house and gardens.  

The Plymouth Hoe is a must-visit, which offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the harbour and the Smeaton tower, a formerly working lighthouse. Have a drink or a bite in the Royal William Yard, where many Grade II buildings have been transformed into vibrant cafes and restaurants. Today it is one of the coolest spots in Plymouth with a contemporary vibe.  

Suggested accommodation: The Duke of Cornwall Hotel
The Duke of Cornwall Hotel is located in the city centre of Plymouth. The hotel has 72 uniquely decorated rooms with many historic features. The building is a perfect example of classic Victorian architecture and recently celebrated its 150th birthday. The hotel has also been an important filming location for Rosamunde Pilcher movies. 

Suggested accommodation: Boringdon Hotel
A luxury hotel in the countryside, only half an hour's drive away from Plymouth. The hotel is set in the historic Boringdon Hall. The estate was originally built as a monastery and was owned by the crown for some time. The Boringdon hotel has 42 luxury rooms, private event spaces, two dining rooms, and fire-lit lounges. There is a wellness spa within the hotel grounds. 
 
Day Five: Landhydrock and The Eden Projects 
Make a halt at the Lanhydrock Estate near Bodmin. The Victorian country house is a grade I listed building with some parts dating back to the 1620s. A major fire in 1881 destroyed the south wing and a part of the central wing, taking much of the original building with it. Today, many parts of the house are open to the public: the nurseries, family bedrooms, servants' bedrooms, kitchen, service rooms and more. Its ancient woodland and lichens are designated as an important plan area.  

Continue down to The Eden Project near Bodelva. This unique project is set in an old clay mine with no soil or plants before it was transformed into this beautiful global garden. Explore the world's largest indoor rain forest and the Mediterranean Biome. There is an extensive outdoor garden to walk around and a vast collection of incredible plants. During the summer you could enjoy one of the concerts held at Eden.  

Suggested accommodation: The Idle Rocks
Make yourself at home in The Idle Rocks - a boutique hotel with 19 elegant individually designed rooms, an award-winning restaurant and a relaxing treatment room. Fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing against the shore and wake up with rays of sunshine glistening on the water. The Idle Rocks will give you that Cornish home feeling.

Day Six: Lamorna Cove, Mount St Michael's, Land's End
Stop by Lamorna cove just south of Penzance. Take a stroll along the coast and small lanes with only a few cottages. The beautiful scenery has been a source of inspiration for many painters, potters, artisans and writers, including Pilcher. It starred in one of Rosamunde Pilcher's most popular works: The Shell Seekers.  

Drive along the coast towards Mount St Micheal. A unique phenomenon where a castle sits on top of a hill, surrounded by water. It is the Cornish counterpart of Mont Saint Michel in France with similar tidal island characteristics. You can walk towards the castle during low tide, but the only way back is to take a boat once the high tide starts. Take a tour of the medieval castle and church with your guide. When stepping onto the garden terraces, you get a stunning view of Mount Bay.

For one of Britain's most beloved landmarks, you drive down to Land's End, the most westerly point of mainland England. When walking along the clifftop trails, you get breathtaking views over the ocean and the coastline. This beautiful and unique scenery was referred to as 'Belerion' or 'Place of the sun' in Greek times due to its beauty.

Suggested accommodation: The Idle Rocks

Day Seven: St Ives and small fishing villages and Sea safari 
Visit the picturesque fishing harbour and the seaside town of St Ives. Many beautiful beaches surround the town, some perfect for surfing and others for families. Take a relaxing walk along the cobbled streets and fishers' cottages and perhaps pop into one of the many independent shops in the town centre. Many lively bars and cafes in the town are perfect for a night out while overlooking the harbour and beach.

Enjoy the unique experience of spotting sea wildlife during a sea safari in St Ives. Get a closer look at the old Godrevy lighthouse and see some stunning views passing St. Ives Bay. Spot some of the seals that are relaxing on the rocks of seal island, or maybe you will see a dolphin or two during the ride.  

Suggested accommodation: The Idle Rocks

Day Eight: Transfer to Newquay Airport 
Your driver-guide will pick you up at your hotel and drive you to Newquay Airport, right on time for your flight back. 

Notes:
All flights from Dusseldorf to Newquay are in the morning (Both arrival and departure)
For those preferring to arrive at Heathrow, I'd suggest making a stop on the way to Cornwall instead of doing a day in Newquay ( Perhaps Stourhead, Wilton House or Stonehenge) Driving time is a max of 3 hours/day. Day six is an exception because the peninsula is a 1,5-hour drive from The Idle Rocks. 

13 May 2022

Dollar - UK Pound Exchange Rate

Todays Exchange rate is $1.22 (USD) to £1.00 (GBP) - 13th May 2022

Visitors get confused about exchange rates and are especially upset when their vacation or purchase abroad is more expensive than first thought. Exchange rates and fluctuations have flustered even travel professionals.

Thankfully the exchange rate between the UK Pound Sterling (GBP) and the US Dollar (USD) remains relatively stable. Recently, there has been a slide in the value of the UK Pound, making vacations to the UK much cheaper. 

A common question will be, "what's that in Dollars?" the answer will be ", well, approximately this, but only if you pay today." The important thing to know is that we cannot control the exchange rate; therefore, It may look like our services are getting more expensive, but it stays the same the entire year. The other side of the coin is that our services quickly became cheaper, we haven't dropped our prices, the value of Pound Sterling (GBP) has fallen.

The good news is the Great British Pound Sterling (GBP) is weak against the US Dollar, meaning the cost of our services is reduced.

Today, the exchange rate is: for every *$1.22, and you get £1.00. It hasn't been that low for a long time. *Subject to banking and credit card fees.

11 May 2022

Castle Howard Yorkshire

Every stately home and historic house across the UK will be doing something for the Queen's Jubilee. The most impressive property in Yorkshire is no exception. It seems that special afternoon teas have gained momentum.

Castle Howard has a platinum jubilee afternoon tea. The occupants, the Howard family, have unearthed rarely seen treasures in connection with this special royal year.
The grand house has featured in the hit TV drama Bridgerton as the country estate of the Duke of Hastings, plus the TV and film Brideshead Revisited. See the props and costumes and get your period drama fix.

Enjoy a classic car show in June, and why not see Duran Duran live on the grounds on the 17th. Other events include Abba symphonic, the Castle Howard Proms and Café Mambo live!

When you think of a British Stately home, don't think of stuffy and boring. There are galore events, grand gardens, impressive interiors, and stories. Stay in York and take a day trip. 

 

03 May 2022

Picturesque villages of Wales

Beddgelert
In Northern Wales, in the area of Snowdonia lies the small village of Beddgelert. It is a few dozen stone houses huddled together within majestic mountain scenery. The little Welsh village is known for the story of Prince Llewelyn and his favourite dog Gelert. This story is where the name Beddgelert presumably came from, but others say it comes from Saint Gelert, that lived in this area in the 6th century. Beddgelert has an admirable environmental programme, and nature surrounds the village.

There are a variety of routes to walk up the Snowdon mountain that starts at Beddgelert. The Aberglaslyn Pass and Nant Gwynant are nearby. Stay in this picturesque town, and stay in a cosy cottage.

Betws-y-Coed
Where Conwy meets its three tributaries flowing from the west in a beautiful valley in the Snowdonia National Park is where Betws y Coed lies. It is a popular inland resort and accommodation provider in North Wales. 
Betws y Coed gives you a 19th-century feeling with many bridges, pretty views and Victorian houses. Most buildings date from the Victorian era as Betws-y-Coed was known as one of the principal villages in Snowdonia.

There is a 14th- century church that is one of the oldest in Wales. The main street, Holyhead Road, houses numerous cosy inns and B&B's where you can stay. Nearby are the Swallow falls, considered one of the loveliest places in the UK.

Brecon
At the top edge of The Brecon Beacons National Park is the small village of Brecon. This town is the perfect base for exploring the National Park, doing watersports, fishing in local rivers, cycling, and mountain biking. Brecon is known for the many independent shops and cafes, history, military connection and the Brecon Jazz festival.

Brecon village is a perfect holiday location for lovers of the countryside. You are surrounded by nature and set in little shops and pubs. There are some interesting sites to visit, like the roman remains of Brecon's medieval walls, but most importantly, the famous hike up Pan-Y-Fan.

Tenby
Tenby is the perfect summer getaway for families. Tucked away in the South West of Wales, the coastal town offers a nice atmosphere, long beaches and colourful Victorian townhouses. The beach is ideal for a young family to dip in the sea or make a big sandcastle. The North Beach offers stunning views from the cliffs, looking out to Tenby Castle and St. Catherine Island.

During summertime and each Saturday, there are regular ferries to Caldey Island. A calm and relaxing place to take a dip in the sea or take a stroll. Once you go back into the narrow streets of Tenby town, you'll find many pubs and shops that specialise in local produce. Those narrow roads are pedestrianised in the summer, and cafes stretch out their terrace. 

St. David's
St David's is Britain's smallest city, located in Pembrokeshire National Park in Wales. It is a lovely stop travelling around the Pembrokeshire coast with your driver guide. Take a stroll along the quaint streets and visit some cute cafes, boutiques or galleries. Tucked away in a sheltered vale behind the River Alun is the 12th-century Cathedral. On the other side of the river are the ruins of the Bishop's palace. This beautiful place becomes the backdrop for multiple open-air theatre performances during the summer.

An interesting thing to do when visiting St David's is to take a boat trip to one of the islands and see wildlife, such as the vast numbers of grey seals. Or you can walk along the Pembrokeshire Coastal path to view the spectacular coastline.

Criccieth
Criccieth is a lovely coastal town in Northern Wales. It is known for its calm atmosphere and grand fortress towering over the village. Criccieth Castle separates the two beaches of Criccieth and offers a spectacular view when climbing to the top. You get a beautiful idea of Criccieth surrounded by the mountains of Snowdonia.

There are some great hikes in the area. We can arrange a local guide for long walks. Or you can sit down and relax on the beach with your family. The water has some shallow parts where children can play around. For a more rainy day, you can visit one of the museums that tell the story of Criccieth and its grand castle. 

Solva
Solva is a wonderful little village in Pembrokeshire on the south side of the St. Davids Peninsula. At high tide, the harbour is very narrow at the end, while the port runs dry apart from a little stream in the middle during low tide. This creates the perfect opportunity to catch fish, shrimp and crabs.

Besides catching fish, there are some other activities possible in Solva. You can go canoeing, sailing, rowing, boat rides and more. There is a wide selection of restaurants and cafes to have a delicious meal and numerous shops and boutiques in the town.

Hay-on-Wye
On the northernmost part of The Brecon Beacons National Park is Hay-on-Wye, famous as the first book-town in the world. The settlement is known for its secondhand and antiquarian book shops. Each year, they organise the Hay Festival, a literary festival often referred to as 'Woodstock for books'. Explore the world's largest second-hand and antiquarian book centre.

Besides being a heaven on earth for book lovers, Hay-On-Wye is a wonderful place to explore the nature of Brecon Beacon or the surrounding area. The village is situated in one of the UK's most varied and beautiful countryside. The river Wye flowing through the town forms the perfect place to go canoeing or fishing. Another original way to explore Hay-on-Wye is on horseback.

27 April 2022

Scotland's fairy-tale Castles

Explore these Scottish Castles on a private tour of Scotland

Dunrobin castle
Set in the Northern Highlands, Dunrobin is one of the biggest castles in the area. It is the home of the dukes and earls of Sutherland. The castle dates from 1235 and stands on an old fort site.

In 1845, Charles Barry remodelled the castle into a house completely. Barry, who also designed the house of Parliament, created a Baronial style castle with French influences. During WOI, they used the building as a naval hospital. Between 1962 and 1975, this was a boys' boarding school.  After the school closed, the Sutherland family moved back into the castle, and they still live there to this day. The castle and gardens are open to the public.

Fyvie castle
Fyvie Castle is an 800-year-old fortress standing in the heart of Aberdeenshire. The castle is a beautiful example of Scottish Baronial architecture. They say that Fyvie castle is haunted. There are several stories about ghosts and curses resting upon the court.

The castle is open during the summer for tourists. Inside, there is a vast collection of wonderful portraits, oiled paintings and antique armour.

Drummond Castle
The castle itself is not open to the public, but the gardens are worth visiting. Drummond Castle and Gardens are among the finest in Europe. Today's gardens were replanted in the 1950s, preserving features like the ancient yew hedges and the beech trees planted by Queen Victoria during her visit in 1842.

They have been used as a setting off Versailles gardens for the popular tv-show Outlander. When looking from the terrace, you get a stunning view. Stroll around these gardens during a nice summer day with the castle in the background.

Castle Fraser
One of the largest tower houses in the country, Castle Fraser is a wonderful way to discover classic Scottish nature and architecture. The castle dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries when sixth laird Michael Fraser ordered the build of this castle.

There are many family treasures and portraits and a striking Great Hall to view inside the castle. Mixed woodland and open farmland surround the castle estate. 
 
Blair Castle
For seven centuries, Blair castle has been the home and ancient seat of the Dukes of Atholl. They built the castle in the 13th century. The dukes changed and enlarged the castle over the centuries. 
The estate has magnificent landscaping with gardens from the Victorian period. The interiors date from the 18th century with beautiful Scottish baronial architecture.

To get the best Scottish experience, you should visit Blair Castle during the summer to see the garden in its full glory, and the bagpipes played at the entrance three times a day. 

Inveraray castle
Inveraray Castle is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll and their three children. Their castle has stood on the shore of Loch Fyne since the 1400s.

The entire estate is open to the public between April and October. Guests can view the ground floor with a grand dining room and an armoury hall. The first floor has bedrooms and unique basement furniture with an old kitchen last used by former Duchess of Argyll and Queen Victoria's daughter Louise. Downton Abbey fans might recognise this castle; the castle is the backdrop during the 2012 Christmas Special.

Cawdor castle
In the parish of Cawdor in Naimshire is Cawdor Castle, home to 23 generations of the Cawdor family. The castle has been enlarged many times in the past centuries and still surrounds a 15th-century townhouse. 
It is most known for its beautiful gardens with Walked Gardens, Flower Garden, and the Wild Garden.

Visitors can also go inside the castle to see the twelve principal rooms with a collection of rare tapestries, fine art, furniture, ceramics, and sculptures. Cawdor Castle is open to the public from the end of April to the beginning of October.

Stirling Castle
Stirling is one of Scotland's largest and most important castles. It sat atop Castle Hill and was a fortification of strategic importance because of this ideal location. It was once a favourite residence for the Scottish Royal family. Scottish kings and queens were born, crowned, and buried at Stirling Castle.

These days Stirling Castle is open to the public, and family-friendly visits to the castle are possible. Children can dress up in period costumes and play with medieval instruments. Many actors are walking around dressed as guards, ladies-in-waiting, and court officials to emerge visitors to medieval Scotland. 

Edinburgh Castle
When visiting Scotland's capital Edinburgh, you can't miss the magnificent Edinburgh Castle. It is one of the oldest fortified places in Europe and played a significant role in Scottish history. Because of its location on top of a hill, the fortification was important, especially during the early years.

The castle has a history as a royal residence, military garrison, prison, and fortress. It was the home of many kings and queens during the centuries. When visiting Edinburgh castle, you will see various parts of the building, such as The Great Hall., St. Margaret's Chapel, The royal palace, National War Museum, Honours of Scotland (Scottish crown jewels) and more.

Floors Castle
The Earls and Dukes of Roxburghe have held lands around Roxburgh since the 12th century. The 1st Duke of Roxburghe built the castle in the 18th century after receiving his dukedom for playing a significant role in the union between England and Scotland.

Currently, it is the largest inhabited house in Scotland, housing eleven generations of dukes. When visiting, you can explore the collection of fine art, porcelain, tapestries, and grand rooms. You get an amazing view over the River Tweed and the Cheviot Hills when looking outside. Wander around the atmospheric woodland grounds and riverside or enjoy a walk in the Victorian walled gardens. 

20 April 2022

Ten Amazing Historic Houses in England

1. Hampton Court Palace - West London

Hampton court palace had its prime time during the Tudor period. Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII's chief minister, originally built the Hampton Court. When he fell out of favour with the King, he tried to restore his relationship by gifting the court to Henry.

The King continued expanding the palace and added an astronomical clock, still sitting on the top of the gatehouse (Also known as Anne Boleyn's gate). Henry VIII lived there with five of his six wives. In 1537, Henry's much-desired son was born here, Edward VI. But two weeks later, his third wife, Jane Seymour, passed away after complications with the birth. When his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was accused of adultery, she was confined to her rooms at Hampton Court before being brought to the Tower of London. Enjoy a Royal day out exploring two great Royal Palaces; Windsor Castle and Hampton Court, here is our suggested Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace tour from London.

2. Blenheim Palace - The Cotswolds

This grand baroque palace in Woodstock (Oxfordshire - The Cotswolds) was built between 1705 and 1722 as a gift from Queen Anne after John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, defeated the French in the Battle of Blenheim. The estate this palace stands on was previously owned by the royal family, dating back to the middle-ages.

Blenheim Palace is the ancestral home of Winston Churchill. Today, the palace is still the official residence of the Dukes of Marlborough. Each year they must give the Monarch a copy of the French royal flag on the anniversary of the Blenheim Battle as a form of rent of the land. Nearby is the famous university city of Oxford. Our suggested Cotswolds and Blenheim Palace day tour from London is great day tour from London with enough time for country pub lunch. 

3. Buckingham Palace - Central London

This is probably the most famous palace on this list, if not in the world. The Dukes of Buckingham first built the place in 1703.

In 1762 George III and his wife, Queen Charlotte, were the first Monarchs to move here, away from the formal residence St. James' Palace. When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, she moved from Kensington Palace permanently to Buckingham Palace. Since then, it has become the official residence of the Monarch.

The Government use the staterooms for royal entertaining and reception of official visitors. The balcony has been the backdrop for famous moments such as the Queen waving at crowds after her coronation or William and Kate's kiss after their wedding. Please see our suggested selection of Tours of London.

4. Kensington Palace - Central London

Kensington Palace is an official royal residence in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London. It has been the residence of royal family members since the 17th century.

Some of the most famous residents were Queen Anne, King George I, King George II, Queen Victoria, who was born there and lived in Kensington until she became Queen at 18, Princess Margaret (the Queen's sister) and Princess Diana. Today its residents are the Duke of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent, Prince Michael of Kent, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and their three children.

By the end of the 19th century, Parliament renovated the palace, and the Staterooms opened to the public. Today visitors can see the Queen's apartments, the King's state apartment, antique furniture and clothes worn by Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, and Princess Diana. Don't forget a stroll around the Lady Diana Memorial Garden. We also offer a VIP Private tour of Kensington Palace.

5. Chatsworth House - Derbyshire

Chatsworth House is a family home and working farm in the Derbyshire Dales and has been part of the Cavendish family since 1549, also known as the Dukes of Devonshire.

The house was first built by Bess of Hardwick and her second husband, Sir William Cavendish, in 1552. For centuries, there was an expansion of the land and building have to what it is today. The palace showcases a grand collection of paintings, furniture, Old Master drawings, neoclassical sculptures and books.

Chatsworth House has also been a favourite among movie and tv directors. It was used in Pride and Prejudice and featured in the movie The Duchess. Death comes to Pemberley, Peaky Blinders and The Crown all feature Chatsworth. The house and gardens are open to the public, and there is a fabulous farm shop where you can buy fresh products produced on the estate's farm. Our customisable itinerary of England and Wales features Chatsworth House, please take a look at the itinerary. 

6. Penshurst Place - Kent

Near Tonbridge in Kent is Penshurst Place, the ancestral home of the Sidney family. They built the palace in 1341 for the merchant Sir John Pulteney who was mayor of London four times. The duke of Bedford (King Henry IV's 3rd son) later occupied de estate, and it remained the royal family's property until 1550. In that year, King Edward VI granted the palace to Sir Ralph Fane. But after Fane was executed for treason two years later, the court was given to Sir William Sidney, former courtier to King Henry VIII. Since then, the estate has remained in the Sidney family.

The original medieval house is one of the surviving examples of 14th century English architecture. The house and gardens are open to the public. Several movie and tv productions used Penshurst Place as a setting for several movies and TV shows such as the Other Boleyn Girl, The Princess Bride, Wolf Hall, and the popular period drama The Tudors. Take day trip from London and enjoy Hever Castle and Penshurst Place, two extraordinary historic homes with World Class Gardens

7. Royal Pavilion - Brighton

In 1787, George IV (then still Prince of Wales) commissioned the build of a new seaside retreat for the royal family in Brighton. Probably the strangest property on the list. 

Queen Victoria found the Pavilion too small for her growing family. She ordered to strip the Pavilion and bring the furniture back to Windsor or Buckingham Palace. She moved the royal summer residence to Osborne House and sold the Royal Pavilion to the city of Brighton.

During the 20th century, restoration works went on for many decades. In the 1950s, Queen Elizabeth II returned (on loan) some of the furniture and art collection. The conservation team continues to preserve and restore these items to this day. Explore Vineyards, Castles and Brighton on our suggested Brighton, Arundel and the Sussex Downs Tour.

8. Banqueting House - London

Banqueting Palace used to be part of the Royal Palace of Whitehall. Unfortunately, the Palace of Whitehall burned down in 1698, and the Banqueting House is the only part that remains.

This banqueting house was built for James I and completed in 1622. They used the palace for various ceremonies and entertaining guests. It is also here where James I was executed in 1649. Eleven years later, his son James II celebrated the restoration of the monarchy in that same building.

The building spent time as Royal Chapel and a museum until it was restored to its original form and opened to the public in 1963. Our Walking Tour of Royal London includes the Banqueting House.

9. Osborne House (Isle of Wight)

"It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot" That is what Queen Victoria said about her summer residence, Osborne House. The prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, helped her find the estate in 1844 on the Isle of Wight.

Victoria and her family spend a lot of time in Osborne. They travelled there at least four times a year. Even after Albert's death, the Queen enjoyed her time on the Isle of Wight. Queen Victoria died at Osborne House in 1901, surrounded by family. Her son, Edward VII, preferred Sandringham as a summer residence, so he opened Osborne house to the public.

Visitors can tour the estate and see Victoria and Albert's private apartments, the children's play cottage, their bathing beach, and the room where Queen Victoria died. Let us tailor a tour of England to include the Isle of Wight and Osborne House - contact us now.

10. Hatfield House

Discover Hatfield House, a prime example of a Jacobean country property set in 42 acres of enchanting gardens.

Hatfield House is a Jacobean country estate set in 42 acres of lovely gardens, east of Hatfield in Hertfordshire. A dreamy day out on your Private Tour of England.

We offer exclusive House, Garden and Old Palace tours for an exclusive behind-the-scenes experience. In the Marble Hall, you’ll find the notable “Rainbow Painting” of Elizabeth I. The Famous plant hunter John Tradescant, the Elder, designed the gardens; after visiting Europe, he brought back trees and plants that had never grown in England. Hatfield House is acclaimed as a filming location for the Netflix-hit series Bridgerton and The Favourite with Oscar winning actress Olivia Colman as Queen Anne. Let us tailor of tour of England to include Hatfield House, contact us

18 April 2022

Discover Liverpool – The Beatles Tour

Tour Liverpool

Many decades since the Beatles released their last single; this band remains one of the most successful bands in music history. They toured around the globe and made world-famous. But their roots lie in Liverpool, something the city is very proud of. Fans visiting the Northwest English city can spend their entire weekend in Beatles style. There are many things to see or do that relate to the Beatles and their Liverpool home.

Discover the story of The Beatles in one of the museums

Liverpool has two major museums that offer a look into the lives and careers of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. From their childhood in Liverpool, their first performance together to their big break. 
The Beatles Story is the world's largest Beatles exhibition, telling the story of all members. The main exhibition takes you on an immersive journey through the lives and music of the Beatles. In the discovery zone, you can completely transform yourself into a member of the Beatles while trying to play one of the instruments or singing one of the famous hits. 

The Beatles Museum on Matthew street has the largest Beatles collection globally. Largest Beatles collection in the world. The museum takes you from the beginning of their career to their famous concert in Hamburg and their rise to fame. Original guitars and drums from the band's Hamburg days, John Lennon Sgt Pepper medals, the white cello from Magical Mystery Tour, and Paul McCartney's bass amp are just a few things you can find at the Liverpool Beatles Museum.

The British Music Experience
The British Music Experience is an interactive exhibition of Britain's music legends, including a big section about The Beatles. It tells the story of British music from 1945 to the present. Besides the Beatles, there are also exhibits of The Rolling Stones, Little Mix, The Spice Girls, David Bowie, Adele, and more. You step into the world of British music with unique objects and fun activities.

Significant places in the city

As the former home to the Beatles band members, many places in Liverpool have played a significant role in their lives. Some of these places even inspired a song or two!
Penny lane: The place where the Beatles would meet up to take the bus before they rose to fame, but the bus station is no longer there. The street name plaque is a popular place for fans to take pictures.

Strawberry field: The name strawberry field might sound familiar. It was a popular Beatles song that came out in 1967. It was written by John Lennon, who took inspiration from this place. He used to play here as a child and made many memories. Today it is open to the public and a popular visit for Beatles fans. 

Casbah coffee club: The coffee club where the Beatles had some of their first performances. 

Beatles statue: The famous statue was placed in 2015 and sponsored by The Cavern Club. The placement happened on the 50th anniversary of the band's last gig in Liverpool. 
Mendips and 20 forthlin road: The childhood homes of Lennon and McCartney were opened to the public and a popular stop for true Beatles fans.

The Cavern Club: This is the cradle of British pop music, where the Beatles' musical identity was formed. The club has two stages where performances are held nearly every night. Besides The Beatles, more famous singers have performed in this club and left their mark on the wall of fame. Other stars like The Rolling Stones, The Zombies, Stevie Wonder, and Adele have signed their name on the wall. The cavern club is most proud of the Beatles, who had their start in this very club. They host special Beatles tributes. They are a part of the International Beatles week each year in August.

Beatles Hotel: Complete your visit with a night in the Hard Days Night hotel. Located in the 'Beatles area' in Liverpool, this hotel offers a high-quality stay in a unique environment. They have 110 rooms, including suites that were inspired by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The restaurant is named after the godfather of British pop art, Sir Peter Blake. Bar Four offers a destinations cocktail bar, a Chic and stylish vibe, and artwork by artist Paul Ygartua. Local bands and artists perform here on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

17 April 2022

The best places for live music in Edinburgh

Want to enjoy some live music during your private tour of Edinburgh?

There are many options in Scotland’s capital where you can sit down and drink a pint or a whiskey while watching musicians play their music. It’s the perfect way to end your day on a musical note. These are some of the Edinburgh's best bars or pubs with live entertainment.

The Royal Mile Tavern
Step into the Royal Mile Tavern to eat a delicious meal and drink some ale or whiskey before enjoying some live music. The tavern has a wide variety of ales and whiskey available. It offers a menu with classics like burgers, hot dogs, fish and chips, and steak. Every day around 10 pm, there is live music with genres such as traditional, Motown, classic rock, and modern. The Royal Mile tavern does not charge entry for the live performances.

The Voodoo Rooms
Set in a historic Edinburgh building, the Voodoo Rooms serve quality meals and exploration cocktails while live music is played. The black and gold theme in the interior gives the room a very dramatic and luxurious atmosphere. Every night there are live performances on the stage of all kinds of genres.

Henry’s Cellar Bar
Henry’s cellar bar hosts live entertainment every night. And not only music but also DJs, stand-up comedy or other types of entertainment. You can enjoy a drink or a snack while watching the entertainment. To reach this popular bar, you need to go underground.

Sandy Bell’s
This pub is considered one of the best music bars in Edinburgh and has been hosting live music since 1942. Musicians from all over Scotland come down to Sandy Bell’s to play their music for the guests every night of the week. Each night is unique, with different genres such as Irish Jigs, American Bluegrass, and Scottish reels. They often play the Edinburgh distinctive traditional style or ‘Edinburgh Swing’.

Whistle Binkies
This underground bar near South Bridge hosts many live bands every day. On weekdays up to four bands play a set in the evening. During the weekend, six bands play each night. Their bar has a wide variety of beers and eight whiskey categories on its offer.

Whisky bar
The Whisky Bar is the perfect stop when walking down the Royal Mile. This bar and restaurant serves delicious Scottish meals and has a wide variety of drinks on their offer. Traditional music is played every night of the week, and the atmosphere is incredible.

Bannerman’s
Bannerman’s is the place to be for rock lovers. Every year, they host many live rock bands and open up their bar with a wide offer of ales and whiskey. The bar is located near the royal mile in a building with its original stonework.

Stramash
Many bar owners in Edinburgh worked together to create Stramash: a bar situated in an old 1859 church that hosts live music every day. Occasionally live sports events are live-streamed. The bar has various alcoholic beverages and a menu with classics like pizza and burgers. The venue is only 500 meters away from Edinburgh Castle, perfect when visiting the city.

The Royal Oak
Live music sessions are hosted daily at this 200-year-old pub. On the ground floor, it is a cosy occasion where musicians show up to play their guitar or piano to create a warm and fun atmosphere. You can show your appreciation by giving them a tip or treating them to a drink. When you are a musician yourself, feel free to pick up the pub’s guitar or sit down at the piano to show off your own skills. The downstairs area is used each night for live gigs.

Contact us and let's create a Private Tour of Scotland

14 April 2022

Tour London while having afternoon tea on a classic bus

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a classic British tradition that is a must when visiting Britain. Various hotels, restaurants, and bakeries offer this. But have you ever tried an afternoon tea while doing a tour of London? 

Brigit’s Bakery takes you to see all the highlights in London while enjoying delicious sweets and savouries on a classic bus. Pass by Westminster Abbey, Notting Hill, Buckingham Palace, and more while drinking a cup of coffee and savouring some of the sweets. 

In 2022, Queen Elizabeth celebrates 70 years on the throne. For this joyous occasion, B-bakery is doing a special platinum Jubilee tour. Step onto this antique London bus, decorated for the occasion with purple garlands, plushie guards, and decoration with the Queen’s portrait. Some of the Queen’s favourites are on the menu, such as chicken brioche bun and the Queen Victoria sponge.

The Jubilee tour will run from May 1st until the end of June. Try this unique experience during one of our Private Tours of London.

13 April 2022

Where to see Camellias and Rhododendrons in the UK

Plants from China and Far East

When people tour Britain, they are impressed by the flora, especially in the great show gardens, such as RHS Wisley, Bodnant Gardens, and glorious Stourhead Gardens. The mature camellias and rhododendrons often impress so much in these three world-class horticultural wonders of the world. But, did you know, these plants originate in China and the Far East?

You wouldn't associate a beautiful Camelia with a great adventurer, but you should. Ernest Henry Wilson the great explorer collected over 2000 plant specimens and returned them to Britain. Ernest would spend years travelling through mountain valleys and ravines in parts of Asia no European had ever been.

Wilson had to choose carefully, only selecting plants that would do well in our marine temperate climate. The microclimate and soil type are also vital to the success of cultivation. He was one of many such adventurers with the desire to find exotic species of plants. 

As we stroll through cool arboretums and gardens with champion trees (largest in the country) and giant rhododendrons, think for a moment of the people that risked life and limb to bring to the West living wonders of the natural world.

The fascination with the Far East extended to interior decoration. One such example is the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

Touring
Our Great Gardens of the South itinerary is a start. Still, we can tailor a tour for you to include specific places of interest. April and May are the best months to enjoy the stunning collections of Azaleas, rhododendrons and Camelia's. Other gardens (in addition to the above) to include in your tour of Britain should be Trebah Gardens, The Eden Project, and Cotehele House and Gardens

 

28 March 2022

The Holburne Museum and Bridgerton

The Grand home in the Park

The Holburne Museum in the historic City of Bath doubled as Lady Danbury’s Mayfair home in Bridgerton. The hit NETFLIX DRAMA.

The museum is named after Sir Thomas William Holburne (1793-1874). Holburne served onboard HMS Orion, a double gun decked ship with 74 cannons at the famous Battle of Trafalgar. He was only 11 years old. As was common in the past, boys aged eleven plus joined the navy. Thomas’s adventures took him to the West Indies and Brazil. Interested in Naval history? Book a Tour of Greenwich and the Historic Dockyards at Portsmouth

Thomas inherited his father’s estate in 1820, which financed a Grand Tour of Europe. It may be that he was a practical person and liked small objects of interest. It also may have been that his home in Bath had small rooms.

Sir Thomas William Holburne left over 4000 objects to his sister, Mary Holburne (1802-1882). She gifted the collection to the City of Bath. Curators have added another 2,500 items since, and therefore the museum is a wonderful gem to visit - and don't forget the exterior was used as the façade of the formidable Lady Danbury’s home in Bridgerton. Please see our suggested Bridgerton Film Location Tour.

 

25 March 2022

Spring Equinox

The spring equinox has come and gone. Britain is coming alive; the birds are singing, and the earth is warming up to allow spring flowers to bloom.

Neo-Pagans and Wiccans descend on Stonehenge to witness the sun's rising and setting when the nights and days are of equal length. Equinox means a similar night, a moment in the year when celestial objects perform a delicate balance.

For us folks in the northern hemisphere, the juncture marks the beginning of spring, when the days then on become increasingly longer than the nights. 
London's latitude is 51 degrees North, making our summer nights long and our winter days extremely short.

Find out more about the spiritual aspects of touring England, see our Ancient Burial Chambers, Stonehenge, and Avebury tour.

23 March 2022

London's Top Five Markets

The Famous Five Markets in London

1. Portobello Road

Portobello Road Market is several markets in one. The main attraction is the antique market, the largest antique market in the UK with more than 1,000 sellers. There are six different categories: you have the antique market, the arcades, the bric-a-brac, the fashion and clothing market, the market for food and vegetables, and the food market.

The only day when all the different markets are open is on Saturday. Portobello Road will be full of stalls from 9 am to 6 pm Monday to Wednesday. On Thursday, it's only half-day, with the stalls closing by 1 pm.

Most cafes and shops are open on Sunday, but there is no street market in Portobello or Golborne Roads. You can access Portobello Road from 2 tube stations: Ladbroke Grove Underground Station and Notting Hill Gate Underground station. Portobello Road is probably one of the best-known street markets with a history of over 150 years. In the 19th century, the market mainly sold fresh food. The antiques and wares dealers arrived only in the late 1940s and 1950s. Also, a fun fact is that the market was the setting for the movie "Nothing Hill".

2. Borough Market

Borough Market is a retail and wholesale market hall. A few decades ago, Borough Market was a wholesale market serving the greengrocers; now, it's a beacon for sustainable food production with short supply chains and social connections.

The market is a charity run by a board of volunteer trustees who must live in the area. There are more than 100 stalls, stands, restaurants, bars, and shops in Borough Market. Around the market are several bars, restaurants, and shops.

There are three main areas: Three Crown Square (large producers and merchants), Green Market (small, specialist produce traders), and Borough Market Kitchen (street food traders). Book our VIP Gastro Tour of London and taste the delights of Borough.

The market is open from 10 am until 5 pm from Monday until Friday. On Saturday, it's available from 8 am till 5 pm and from 10 am till 3 pm on Sunday. A fun fact is that the area has been used in different films such as "Bridget Jones's Diary" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban". You can find the market right beside the London Bridge rail terminal and London Underground station (Jubilee line). Our Family Tour of London features the Harry Potter film location. 

3. Camden Market

Camden Market is where you can find a diverse community of creative sellers, independent stores, and street food traders. There are more than 1,000 places to shop, eat and drink.

Trade started as a small arts and crafts fair. It is the largest market in London and is open every day. Camden market dates its origins to the 1970s, starting with 16 traders selling antiques, jewellery, and arts and crafts. Now there are more than hundreds of small businesses.

The market is open every day from 10 am until 6 pm. You can reach Camden Market by tube. There are two stations to get off: Camden Town and Chalk Farm Road. The closest station, which is only a 5-minute walk, is Camden Town. You have Camden Road (8 minutes) and Chalk Farm station (10 minutes). Or you can choose to go by train.

4. Old Spitalfields Market

Old Spitalfields Market is a covered market. On the market, you can find retailers, restaurants, market stalls, and street food traders all under the same roof. The Daily Market is open every day from 10 am until 6 pm, except it closes at 5 pm on Sunday.

In the centre, you can find "The Kitchens", where they showcase exceptional contemporary street food cooking. The Kitchens are open from 11 am until 8 pm from Monday till Friday. On Saturday, you can visit the kitchens from 11 am until 6 pm and from 11 am until 5 pm on Sunday.

To get to Old Spitalfields Market, you can take the train. The closest train station is Liverpool Street which is only 5 minutes away. A little bit further, there are Shoreditch High Street (7 minutes), Aldgate East (8 minutes), Moorgate (14 minutes), and Old Street (16 minutes).

5. Covent Garden

Covent Garden is a vibrant, must-see destination for anyone who enjoys shopping, theatre, restaurants, bars, history, and culture. It's open every day from 10 am until 6 pm.Covent Garden's Apple Market was once home to the world-famous fruit and vegetable market. Still, now it offers a range of unique handmade crafts and goods throughout the week.

The East Colonnade Market is located on the east side of Covent Garden's Market Building and has a variety of products such as handmade soap, jewellery, handbags, hand-knitted children's clothing, a magician stall, sweets, artwork, and homeware. It's open daily from 10:30 am until 7 pm.

A fun fact Covent Garden has been the backdrop of many movies such as My Fair Lady, Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone, Mary Poppins Returns, Tomorrow Never Dies, and many more. Every day at Covent Garden Market, there are street acts. Several venues around Covent Garden accommodate street performers who audition for timetabled slots.

You can get to Covent Garden by tube. The closest tube station is Leicester Square which is a 5-minute walk. The stations a little bit further are Charing Cross (6 minutes), Holborn (10 minutes), Embankment (10 minutes), Temple (11 minutes), and Tottenham Court Road (12 minutes). You can also get there by train. The nearest train station is Charing Cross, and the other is Waterloo station. 

17 March 2022

Iconic Road Trip

Partnership with Iconic

The LVUK Team and I are pleased to announce our partnership with Iconic Luxury Hotels. Please the article in Travel and Leisure magazine. 

We offer stays at Iconic Luxury Hotels as part of a Tailored Road Trip with an expert Driver-Guide. Be driven at your own pace, in comfort and style. 

Here is a sample day: Stop for cultural sightseeing and lunch before heading to a hidden historic village. Arrive at the hotel in time for an afternoon spa session and cocktails. 

The following day walk the UNESCO Jurassic Coast and have your driver meet you at the trail's end. You will deserve a pub lunch after your hike and in the delightful settlement of Corfe before admiring the impressive ruins of this remarkable fortress.

End the day with sunbathing and pool time at Chewton Glen. Your Iconic Road Trip continues with a stop in Bath and touring the Cotswolds villages before arriving at The Lygon Arms, a luxury coaching inn. 

There are so many options to include in your Iconic Road Trip, from Wine Tasting, Hiking Trails, Historic Towns, Sailing and Cathedral Cities. 

Let's take a look at the hotels: 

The London Hotels: 

11 Cadogan Gardens, situated between Chelsea's Kings Road, Belgravia and Knightsbridge. A home from home with a London-village feel.

The Mayfair Townhouse is a chic high-end bolt hole in London's West End. A short walk to Theatreland and the famous landmarks. 

The Countryside:

The South Coast
Chewton Glen Hotel is a country house hotel with everything you could want. Beautiful restaurants and bars, stunning rooms, spa, cooking school and luxury Treehouses. 

The Cotswolds
The Lygon Arms is the ultimate luxury coaching inn, relaxed but with all the amenities. The village of Broadway and the Lygon is at one and must be enjoyed together. 

Buckinghamshire
To complete the Iconic Road Trip golden triangle, stay at Cliveden House with wow factor grounds, lavish accommodation and beautiful leisure facilities. 

Your Driver-Guide
Knowledge is an obvious attribute, but understanding the stories and telling a tale is as important. We know what it takes to be an excellent guide and driver. Empathy, sense of humour, and pride in one's appearance are what we look for in a person who could spend a week or more with our clients.  

Book your Iconic Road Trip today. Contact us.

10 March 2022

Covid is over in the UK

Covid is over in the UK. Inbound tourism is fighting back after two years of lockdowns and restrictions.

We are re-training, answering enquiries and building our business back to pre-pandemic levels. Stage two is vehicle leasing, guide training and reconnecting with our partners working at hotels and hundreds of other suppliers. It is tough, but we will get there.

The Ukraine War
More importantly, we hope the war in Ukraine will end soon with no further loss of life on both sides, and the conflict ends peacefully. I'm no historian, but there is a repeating story in Europe with leaders desiring to expand the borders of their realms and therefore coming into conflict with other nations. After years of talking about Sir Winston Churchill and the London blitz, it's hard to believe in the far eastern corner of Europe, and war rages again.

The circle of history
Let's start with King Louis 14th's grand plan to join France and Spain. He met his match with the Duke of Marlborough at the battle of Blenheim (1704). Jump forward in history to Napoleon, who rampaged through Europe like a crazed animal, swallowing up small states and foolishly going for Russia. He met his match at the Battle of Waterloo (1815). While Bonaparte orchestrated the battle from a tavern, The Duke of Wellington galloped across the battlefield on his favoured horse "Copenhagen", giving instructions. The disciplined, organised, and highly professional Duke of Wellington eventually ended Napoleon's plan to conquer the continent.

The 20th century got interesting, with the new growing state of Germany, engineered by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1871, a country almost 100 years younger than the United States of America. All European states jostled for global power, and alliances formed. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to Germany's ally Austria-Hungary, was assassinated. As a result, Germany declared war on Russia. It proceeded to, yes, you have guessed it, the expanding borders of Germany's realm by invading Belgium and France. Britain agreed to protect both nations and entered the conflict. The war became known as the Great War (1914-18). Again, the invaders lost.

Through bizarre fate and bad fortune, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor (1933) and Supreme leader of Germany (14 July 1933). His ambition to unite German-speaking peoples led to invasions to expand the border of his realm and to blame any misfortune on the Jewish population. The industrial-scale slaughter of people horrified the world. Again the invaders lost.

Today, we have another clash of nations. I take heart in the fact that the victors always seem to understand logistics, the value of discipline, and the well-being of their troops. Wellington is famous for making sure his men had decent boots. Marlborough knew his men would be hungry and made certain bread ovens and sheltered arrived post-battle. Prime Minister David Lloyd George knew that his men needed the tools to complete the job. Churchill knew that feeding the nation was the number one priority.

With all their faults, the winners seem to like people and the world. The losers, on the other hand, believe in their superiority and loath the human race.

24 February 2022

Oxford, Blenheim Palace and the Cotswolds Tour

Blenheim Palace
On the outskirts of the ancient University of Oxford is a huge baroque stately home of Blenheim Palace. It is the home of the current Duke of Marlborough, James Spencer-Churchill. John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, built the house between 1704 and 1722. It was a gift from the nation in honour of Churchill's successes on the battlefields of Europe against the powerful King Louis 14th of France.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the fabulous tapestries collection that depicts the War of Spanish Succession in incredible detail. In short, the French King was hell-bent on European dominance upsetting the power balance on the continent.

John Churchill
Eventually, the Government, with the encouragement of the King, William III, John Churchill's leadership skills were recognised. He was also an excellent military tactician and knew his men needed decent shelter, clothing, boots and food. He was a logistics man, and it made all the difference. One battle after another was won by Churchill and the allied troops.

By 1713, the great European powers of Spain, France, Britain, Portugal, Savoy and Dutch states agreed that Spain and France would not merge, effectively maintaining an even power balance in Europe. The Treaty of Utrecht also ceded Gibraltar to Britain.

The House
A visit to Blenheim Palace is not just another big old house. It is much like a giant visual history book revealing the past fabric of Europe and also allowing you to see how the state of play changed over time and helped make Britain a superpower. Your driver-guide will give you an overview of what it is all about and make your visit enthralling. 

Oxford
Including Oxford in the day trip gives the visitor an insight into 700 years of architectural development, scientific achievement and academia. Your driver-guide will take you on a highlights walking tour of central Oxford.

The Cotswolds
The Cotswolds is a large region. Therefore as part of a trio of special places to visit in one day, you only have a taste of the area. Enough to make you want to come back and stay longer, check out the Best Hotels in the Cotswolds region. Your driver-guide will give you an insight into country life in the UK and tell the story of the Cotswolds

The Tour
Our suggested day tour from London; Oxford, Blenheim Palace and the Cotswolds is a long day, but exciting. You can extend and have afternoon tea and then relax on the journey home. 

21 February 2022

The Queen has Covid

Prince Charles and The Queen have Covid

Her Majesty is doing well and is continuing with light duties. She looks full of beans and happy. Symptoms are much like a common cold. 

The UK is moving on from the pandemic and getting back to normal.

The Welcome Organisation is worldwide and invests in research into improving health, well-being and medical solutions. A huge 38.2 billion GBP portfolio funds it. The organisation has said it is time to live with Covid and plans to invest billions into vaccines to tackle variants of Covid 19. This is all very reassuring for the travel industry that has been on life support for two years.

Welcome is Britain’s biggest independent investor in health and has said we must start treating covid like a common cold. 

The Anglo-American Henry Welcome (1853-1936, die in London) left are a large legacy to form The Welcome Trust, which became one of the world largest investors in medical science.

Welcome was born in Wisconsin and travelled America in a covered wagon, preaching. He established a drug company with a friend and colleague, Silas Mainville Burroughs, in 1880. The firm introduced the selling of medicine in tablet form to England.

Intriguingly, Henry Welcome married the daughter of Irishman Thomas Barnardo, the famous orphanage founder. 

Henry Welcome acquired curious medical artefacts to create a museum about the human body and health. The Welcome Collection today is visited by over half a million people. It gives a fascinating insight into the history of medicine. 

The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons is another medical-related place to visit in London. The Hunterian is a more gruesome affair with a large collection of preserved human anatomy and old surgical instruments.

If you have a medical background, you want to make your day a trio of the most curious places, complete with a tour of the Old Operating Theatre. It is bizarre to think - The 200-year-old operating theatre was hidden from view for many years in the attic of an old church. Operations took place in “theatre” before introducing anaesthetics and antiseptics; we can guess what viewing such a spectacle was like, and all for medical science. Please get in touch with us for a tour of London with a medical theme. 

I’m sure our 95-year-old Queen will be well soon (The Queen will turn 96 on the 21st April 2022). We look forward to a Platinum Jubilee Year of celebration as the Queen becomes the longest-reigning monarch ever.

18 February 2022

The TEN LANDSCAPES of BRITAIN

Britain is a Dynamic Green Island

Britain is a dynamic Island. Visitors tend to see a small region or just London and say they have DONE ENGLAND. Others tour a few castles in Scotland, and they have DONE SCOTLAND, and most people don't even mention WALES. Yet, for many - It's the most beautiful part, especially when you get off the beaten path.

Let me introduce you to the TEN LANDSCAPES of BRITAIN. In no particular order.

Number One: The South East

The counties which make up the South East of England are dominated by the North and South Downs, separated by the wooded Weald Valley. Prosperous commuter towns sit beside historic villages, castles, and famous gardens.

There are two national parks to explore, the New Forest and the South Downs, including a thriving wine region with particular emphasis on the sparkling variety. Tour Windsor Castle, Britain's largest royal residence and take a private boat tour through the Thames valley.

Canterbury Cathedral is the Mother Church of England and a place of pilgrimage for people paying their respects to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket. Not far from Canterbury are the white cliffs of Dover and Dover Castle. There is so much to do.

Number Two: The South West

From pre-historic wonders to remote country houses and rich arable land, the south-west has a fascinating mix of history and culture.

Tour the architecturally splendid spa city of Bath with elegant Georgian style homes and beautifully preserved Roman baths. World-famous Stonehenge sits high on the Salisbury plain. Visitors can see grander and lesser-known Avebury Stone Circle on the same day. The Cathedral cities of Winchester and Salisbury will intrigue you, and Stourhead Gardens offers the best man-made landscape in the world.

Never forget Britain's coast, and in the South West, you can hike the world-famous Jurassic Coast and partake in various waterborne activities. Tour the South Downs National Park, and please don't forget Cornwall and Devon, the peninsula with over 400 beaches, pretty fishing villages and sub-tropical gardens.

Number Three: East of England

The East of England is probably the least known to foreign visitors. Still, it has one of the most stunning stretches of coast, one of the world's great universities and the winter home of Her Majesty the Queen.

Cambridge must be one of Europe's most attractive cities with hundreds of architectural masterpieces, including the astonishing Kings College Chapel. During wartime, the region had hundreds of airfields many US bases. Duxford Aviation Museum and airfield remains active and has a prominent display of exhibits. The North Norfolk Coast is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and home to a vast colony of grey seals.

The Queen's private winter home, Sandringham, is open to the public for short periods. Wonder through the 600-acre country park, the house and formal gardens during summer.

Number Four: The East Midlands

The East Midland's has wild moors, the craggy uplands of the Peak District giving way to flat plains in the far east.

The historic Jewel in Peak District National Park is Chatsworth House, the ultimate stately home and a must-see when touring the region. You will also find a series of show caves within the peaks, where the Romans originally discovered the famous Blue John gemstones.

Head east and see rising from the flat landscape of the fens, the medieval marvel of Lincoln. The castle and cathedral sit stone ridge above the river Witham. Further south lies the most elaborate Elizabethan stately home in the country, Burghley House, built by William Cecil, Queen Elizabeth I's trusted, adviser.

Number Five: West Midlands

The heart of England features dramatic landscapes, grand stately homes, cathedral cities and a large industrial zone.

Tour the Cotswolds, England's largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Although the Cotswolds landscapes are serene, the pretty limestone villages are a delight too. You are also in Shakespeare Country, Stratford-Upon-Avon is the birthplace of England's most celebrated poet.

Get off the beaten track and explore the border of Wales and stop in the lovely town of Ludlow and the half-timbered town of Shrewsbury. Hereford is a delightful city, and the cathedral has a fabulous old chained library and the precious Mappa Mundi, a map of the world created in the 1290s.

Number Six: Wales

Tour mountain ranges, ancient woodland, waterfalls and National Parks are what make up landscapes of Wales. The scenery is sublime and much less known than in other parts of the UK.

The turbulent history between Wales and England has left the border and strategic spots littered with the remains of giant castles. They are fascinating to visit and are often crowd-free, making your visit feel special.

Hear a male Welsh choir, climb a mountain, have Welsh' rarebit' and learn a few words of the melodic Welsh language. Wales has some of Britain's most spectacular beaches which you cannot miss.

Number Seven: The North West

The Lake District is arguably the most beautiful region of England and the adventure capital. This mostly untouched and protected area is a place for hiking, biking, eating and admiring the sublime views and rainbow watch. The 'Lakes' of sixteen plus various smaller pools have inspired poets, artists, and conservationists.

Due to the rich farmland, access to the fertile north Atlantic and rare breeds, the North West has a high concentration of 'foody' hotels.

There are ancient stone circles and a few country homes to visit. Still, the area is about being outdoors, building up an appetite and feasting at country pubs. The less intrepid can have private photography or art classes - As Taylor Swift writes " Take me to the Lakes where all the poets went to die..".

Number Eight: Yorkshire

Yorkshire is England's biggest county and home to ten World Heritage Sites, including one of our favourite places, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.

This northern stretch of England from east to west has a series of National Parks and designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty all overlapping. The Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and North Pennines are a short hop from the Lake District, making this northern region the most spectacular in England.

Stay in the stunning countryside or the medieval City of York. The walled city of York has a fascinating railway museum, the largest gothic cathedral in Europe and beautifully preserved streets.

Number Nine: The North East

Northumberland, England's most northern county, was Roman Emperor Hadrian's chosen location for the northernmost point of his empire.

Again the coastline in the northeast is breathtaking. Above the silky golden dunes of Bamburgh sits a vast and forbidding castle, protecting the shores of England from Viking invasion. The theme continues with fort after fort guarding our beaches. Marvel at Holy Island, the birthplace of the 8th century, illuminated Lindisfarne gospels.

The road to Scotland has a dark history peppered with battles and cross-border feuding. It is much friendlier today, break your journey to Scotland and stay, see Durham Cathedral, Hadrian's Wall and tour the coast.

Number Ten: Scotland

The sublime beauty of Scotland enchants all visitors, the fantastic food surprises, and variety of activities overwhelms.

Tour the castles, abbeys and stately homes. There is much to see, but more to do, such as playing golf, tasting the whiskey, hiking the mountains, and going off-road in the Highlands. You could try fishing or go on a Wildlife Boat Trip – experience whirls pools, white-tailed sea-eagles and the most beautiful beaches you have ever seen. Scotland has it all.

You will need to return over and over again to take it all in. The central area around Glasgow and Edinburgh has famous heritage sites. But, travel into highlands for whisky tours and outdoor activities. Head to the northwest coast the awe-inspiring beauty of sea lochs, islands and where mountains meet the shore.

15 February 2022

Iconic Road Trip around England

Book an Iconic Road Trip around England, stay in a Classic Luxury Coaching Inn (The Lygon Arms Hotel and Spa), a Classic Country Hotel (Chewton Glen Hotel and Spa) and finish your Road Trip with former stately home, Cliveden House Hotel and Spa.

The Iconic Road trip takes in the Golden Triangle of MUST SEE PLACES in England. Such as Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral with a copy of the Magna Carta, Windsor Castle, the Cotswolds and the Jurassic Coast. Add on a visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon and Warwick Castle. The travel options are endless when staying at an Iconic Hotel.

Our Driver-Guides will be your onboard concierge service, notify the hotels of your ETA and arrange lunches – along with being an entertaining tour guide.

We use Mercedes V-Class vans vehicles and Luxury Sedans, including S-Class, Jaguars and Range Rovers. 

29 January 2022

Winter on the UNESCO Jurassic Coast

England's UNESCO World Heritage Coastline

The best way to see the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast is to hike the paths on the cliffs and take a boat trip. In the summer months, paddleboard and swim. It is a beautiful region of England and not just for the shoreline.

Go inland and see the dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle, some say the most formidable fortress in England, absolutely impregnable after an upgrade in the 12th century. Dorset is Thomas Hardy Country; immerse yourself in the landscape that inspired Tess of the D'Urbervilles and see the towns described in The Mayor of Casterbridge and many other Hardy tales.

Dorset also produces wine. It's nearly always the sparkling variety that is best. See our England's wine country.

Chewton Glen Hotel is a great place to stay within striking distance of Dorset. If you fancy a traditional country hotel, stay at Summer Lodge Hotel in the delightful hamlet of Evershot, another "Hardy" village. 

My research took me out into Dorset earlier this January. The weather was spectacular with no breeze and crystal clear skies. I even sat outside and had lunch. It was magical day.

Think of those cosy pubs with roaring fires, fresh air and windy walks on the beaches. The proof is that winter touring in southern England is viable and ideal for a couple wanting to get away from it all. 

Regards
Andrew

 

27 January 2022

20th Anniversary

Twenty Years Touring Britain and Ireland

1998
In 1998, I joined the Big Bus Company, the famous open-top double-decker bus tour company. It was brilliant fun. I cannot tell you half of it.

I did three to five tours of a day around London and, as a result, gained valuable experience. I also made lots of friends. Unfortunately, I couldn’t survive on the income and invested in a luxury Mercedes van to operate my own Private Luxury Tours.

9/11
It started slowly; the horrific events of 11th September 2001 put people off travelling trans-Atlantic. However, the impact of the Covid pandemic has been worst in many ways.

2002
On the 25th January 2002, I officially started Luxury Vacations UK Ltd, intending to provide tailor-made tours and experiences for inbound travellers to the UK and Ireland.

My first clients were photography enthusiasts; I was delighted. I loved photography too and spent two weeks driving around the UK with a family of four, stopping at beautiful spots taking pictures, and touring historical sites.

2009
We acquired a chauffeur company called Chauffeurs UK Ltd in 2009, adding a super-slick team of drivers to our team. We then started to include special amenities at luxury hotels (see the best hotels in London) and build partnerships with experts in their fields, such as Art Historian’s, WW2 specialists, and Archaeologists - see our Guided tour of the British Museum.

Adding Services
Enjoying a guided tour of a castle or stately home is great. Still, we wanted to make our service more dynamic and offer Wreck Diving, Snorkelling with Seals, Wildlife Boat Trips, and so much more. In the last few years, we have added hundreds of experiences.

Britain and Ireland are two extraordinarily dynamic destinations. Our service must match what these beautiful islands offer, a world-class experience, pushing the boundaries of expectations and giving the visitor unforgettable memories.

Our 20th Anniversary
This year is officially our 20th year in business. I’m proud to say we have employed hundreds of tour guides, booked 1000’s of hotel rooms nights and toured with many thousands of people from all over the world. 
I think of the thousands of excellent pub lunches enjoyed. The people cheering at West End shows. Don’t forget the thousands of guided tours of Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey and Eilean Donan. It goes on and on. 

It is all about People
It is the people that are most important. I have had some unforgettable moments. A lady many years ago visited England with her girlfriends. They booked a day with me to Bath, Salisbury and Stonehenge. It was a very common day tour from London, visiting three amazing UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The lady in question had recently got divorced from her controlling husband. She had never travelled as a result. She cried when she stepped out of the car within the precincts of Salisbury Cathedral. I asked if she was ok and asked why she was so upset. She replied she was awe-inspired by the beauty of the Cathedral and felt angry that her long unhealthy relationship had stopped her from travelling and experiencing the world.

Covid
Covid has taught us not to take travel for granted, and when you do travel, do it properly, and allow time to enjoy, relax and savour the moment. Let us at Luxury Vacations UK help you do just that.

We look forward to the next twenty years of service to inbound visitors to the UK and Ireland. We promise never to stop innovating and Making-it-Special for you and your friends and family when exploring our island nations.

Regards

Andrew Stevens

25 January 2022

Day two rapid antigen test scrapped for visitors

Covid Wave Over

The Covid wave is almost over, with omicron cases collapsing in the wake of the UK’s massive booster program and approval of anti-viral drugs for the most vulnerable.

From the 11th February, the Government will scrap a raft of measures designed to keep us safe, including the Rapid Antigen (Lateral Flow Test) day two test for inbound visitors to the UK

It seems that most news agencies, Members of Parliament and scientists understand that the implementation of draconian lockdown measures didn’t stop Covid. We must live with it, as we do with flu and other common viruses. Great news for the inbound Travel Industry, which some feel, including me, has been sacrificed and forgotten.

Thousands of taxi drivers, tour guides, support staff and experience providers have been culled. Thousands of people that work in hotels, attractions have lost their jobs. It made sense to test inbound visitors to the UK. That should have been enough, surely? In any event, it never stopped the virus.

Social distancing and masks may have helped for a while, but people get fed up and break the rules. The vaccines were our only hope, and the human race pulled it out of the bag. The team at Oxford University worked tirelessly to produce a safe and effective vaccine, and they did. We will look back in years to come with admiration for the ingenuity of the world’s scientific community.

The recovery has begun. Please book Covid Cover before you leave. We will do everything to help make your trip a stress-free experience for our clients. That is precisely what insurance is for, to protect you when things don’t go the way you want them to. 

Spring is on its way, so pick up the phone, call Luxury Vacations UK on +44 208 669 3666 and book a fabulous Tour of Britain and Ireland.

25 January 2022

Burns night

Celebrating the poetry of Robert Burns (1759-1796) can be at any time of the year 

But tonight is Burns Night or Burns Supper; the 25th January is the birthday of Scotland's greatest poet.

Think for a moment the contribution Robert Burns has made to culture in such a short time. He was a farmer, poet and lyricist. The Poem-song, "Auld Lang Syne" is probably his most famous piece of work, sung every News Years Eve across the English speaking world. He died aged 37, a father of twelve wee bairns (or burns). 

There is even a ship connected to one of his works, a strange poem called “Tam O'Shanter”,  the story of Tam chased through the night by a beautiful witch wearing a Cutty Sark or short shirt. See the great Scottish clipper, the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, London.

Tonight, millions will be making an "address to the haggis" and toasting the lassies, making speeches, and reading poetry. Don't forget the whisky drinking and the tatties and neeps. What a delightful tradition. Why not book a trip to Scotland, arriving in January 2023, enjoy a grand Burn Night celebration in Edinburgh. Take a few nights in Edinburgh and a few nights at Gleneagles Hotel on the edge of the Highlands. 

 

14 January 2022

Covid down 23% in UK

Light at the end of the tunnel - Covid down 23%

Covid cases in the UK are falling rapidly, according to Gov.UK. It does look like the start of living with covid, as we do with flu and common colds, as the virus becomes endemic. 
The latest information provided on the 14th of January shows a drop of 23% in positive cases.

It looks like the booster program has done what it is supposed to do, and the population is hoping to get back to normality soon. There are still a stubborn 10% that have refused the vaccine.

ONS STUDY; Between 2nd January and 2nd July 2021
The figures are stark. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 458 people have died who have received two vaccine doses. But, 38,946 UNVACCINATED people have died between these dates. The unvaccinated are risking their lives, according to these studies.

Book now
We understand the different views that people have about vaccination. The freedom to travel is more important surely? Please get vaccinated before you book your UK trip, and entry will be trouble-free. Email us with your travel plans and use the promotional word "BAILEY" AND GET 10% DISCOUNT IF YOU BOOK BEFORE March 31st. See our suggested itineraries on your Tours page.

14 January 2022

All Creatures Great and Small film locations

Discover the real Yorkshire Dales

As a child, I remember watching the TV program “All Creatures Great and Small” based on the eight stories written by Alf Wight, a veterinary surgeon. His pen name was James Herriot. The BBC produced ninety shows which were aired from 1978 to 1990.

James Herriot
Alf Wight (AKA James Herriot) ran a veterinary practice in the Dales for half a century. The books reflecting his mild adventures sold 90 million. Whenever I have toured The Yorkshire Dales National Park, distraught farm animals spring to mind, with images of the James Herriot pulling lambs from ewes in the middle of the night, in a cold barn on a windswept hill in the uplands of England. What is special about the Dales is nothing has changed, hardly anything at all. It is wonderful.

The new tv series is a massive success in the US. Ten million people watch regularly. I suppose there is something wholesome about the farmland of Yorkshire. There are still pubs where only farmers go, and the historic stone barns in the fields are still used to house and feed cattle. It is utterly timeless.

The Yorkshire Dales
The Dales sit in between the magnificent Lake District National Park to the west, North Pennines (*AONB) to the north, the North York Moors National Park to the east and The Forest of Bowland (*AONB) to the south. This means the entire landmass from east to west across Northern England is blessed with stunning landscapes and protected countryside. It is a place worth hanging around for a while.

Yorkshire Heritage
Heritage in the region is overwhelming. Fortifications dot the countryside, such as formidable Bolton Castle, a 14th-century ruin. The castle keep looms over the landscape, much like a real Winterfell from the Game of Thrones. There are the remains of many monastic settlements, most notable at Fountains Abbey and Rievaulx Abbey.

Other lesser-known heritage sites are Castle Howard, the stately home of the Howard family within 600 acres of grounds with temples and monuments. Ripon Cathedral is a real gem. Established by a community of monks in the 7th century, remarkably original chapels remain. There is so much more, but I must mention the City of York and its enormous Minster. All who enter are taken back by the scale and beauty. The great east window defies belief.

Tours
Take a trip to the wildlands of northern England, and let us turn your UK trip into an adventure. See our England Adventure Tour. Hiking, Potholing and climbing are activities available. 

Keep watching All Creatures Great and Small, and imagine exploring the Dales with a professional driver guide on your next family vacation.

Andrew
Tour guide
*AONB means Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

11 January 2022

What is happening for The Queen's Platinum Jubilee 2022?

Celebrate with the Queen in June 2022

When first memories of seeing the Queen
I remember the first time I saw the Queen; I must have been 5 or 6, she visited my part of London; Wandsworth, SW18. She sat in the back of a huge limousine with big glass windows smiling and waving to everyone standing on the pavement as she slowly drove past. I couldn't wait to get home and tell my mother, "I've seen the Queen!"

Since then, I have seen the Queen several times while touring with clients. Open-top carriages on the Mall, London, leaving Gloucester Cathedral and arriving for dinner at Claridges' Hotel. One of the best occasions was when I said to my client, "stop, wave and look at that car" he did, and the Queen drove past smiling and waving. He couldn't believe it. Of course, I milked it for all that it was worth.

Charity Work
Behind all the pageantry and ceremonies, the Queen plays an important role in many people's lives. How do I mean? By encouraging and supporting organisations with her time and influence. Over 600 charities receive this service generating much-needed publicity, which generates income for the most vulnerable in our society and the Commonwealth.

It is not surprising to learn that the UK is one of the biggest contributors to charities per head than any other nation. The range of charities all the Royal Family are involved in varies greatly, from environmental, to medical and the arts.

The Queen has been almost everywhere
The Queen has spent her entire life travelling; it is thought she may have visited every country on earth or very close to it, as borders have moved throughout her time. The time is spent forging relationships with other nations, particularly the countries within the Commonwealth of Nations, of which there are 54. The Queen is also Sovereign of 15 Commonwealth realms.

Seventy Years on the Throne
Next year will be the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years on the throne. She became Queen on the 6th February 1952 and was aged only 25. The coronation service took place on the 2nd June 1953 in Westminster Abbey. She will be the first British monarch to reach the milestone, and there will be huge celebrations.

Thursday 2nd June
We expect a four-day holiday weekend starting on Thursday 2nd June 2022. The Trooping of the Colour military parade will include up to 1,500 soldiers, musicians, dancers and horses. The Royal Air Force will perform their usual spectacular fly-past viewed by the Royal family from Buckingham Palace balcony and many thousands of bystanders.

Friday 3rd June
On Friday 3rd June, the Queen will attend a Thanks Giving Service at St Paul's Cathedral, London.

Saturday 4th June
On Saturday 4th June, the Royal family will attend the Derby on Epsom Downs before returning to London for a massive "Platinum Party at the Palace" broadcast to the nation. Attendance will be via a ballot.

Sunday 5th June
The final event on the 5th June will be national street parties and The Platinum Jubilee Pageant. Over 5,000 performers will entertain in the surrounding area of Buckingham Palace. 
People have been encouraged to Plant a Tree for the Jubilee, which perfectly fits the Queen's commitment to the environment. 

Please contact us for further information. Please see our Best Four and Five-Star Hotel in London page and Private Tours of London page. 

Regards

Andrew
Luxury Vacations UK

11 January 2022

The Ancient Stone Circles of Britain

Hill Forts, Places of Worship and Burial Chambers

There are around a thousand ancient stone circles in the UK and many thousands of prehistoric hill-forts and forgotten places of worship. Millions of people each year travel to Stonehenge, but there are many more mysteries in Britain that deserve exploring. We can create an ancient stone circle tour of Britain and Ireland, incorporating prehistoric villages and burial chambers. Think glorious green landscapes, pub lunches and a driver-guide to enlighten you.

Avebury – Europe's greatest ancient monument
Avebury is one of the most important Megalithic monuments in Europe. It covers 28 acres of stone circles enclosed by a huge ditch and has stones weighing over 75 tons. 

Superstitious villagers smashed many of the rocks in the 18th century, believing the ring to have been a place of a pagan sacrifice. 

West Kennet Long Barrow
Explore the 'Long Barrow', a dark Neolithic communal burial chamber and discover its secrets. It is the biggest chambered tomb in England, with numerous stone-lined "rooms" and a monumental entrance. Local tribes used the grave for a millennium before being closed off around 2000 BC.

Silbury Hill, an ancient mound 
Silbury Hill is the largest artificial mound in Europe, dating back 5,000 years. At over 39 (130 ft) metres high, the bank comprises layers of chalk and clay with a platform-like summit; it still dominates today's skyline. Could it be the burial place of an ancient warrior king? 

A village pub stop may solve the problem local inhabitants of nearby watering holes will have tales and theories of their own. With only basic tools, think how much labour over how many years it would have taken to create Silbury Hill - See Our Ancient Burial Chambers, Stonehenge and Avebury tour.

Stonehenge, the famous one
The standing stones are shaped and sculpted, each upright fixed to a lintel stone with mortice and tenon joints. It is a true engineering feat and resembles a modern work of art. 

Stonehenge is a temple to the sun, moon and stars with many proven astronomical alignments. Huge crowds gather on the Summer Solstice to celebrate the longest day of the year and the journey's beginning to the shortest.   

Castlerigg Stone Circle
Constructed during the Neolithic period, Castlerigg Stone Circle was a place for rituals and ceremonies. It is ideal for those wishing to walk around the stones and touch them. The rocks are easily accessible; they look striking within their natural environment of mountains and the deep valleys of the Lake District National Park.

Some people believe that the local Langdale Axe industry may have had a role at Castlerigg, where mysterious ceremonies would occur when the exchange of axes took place. Nobody knows.

The Callanish Stones of the wild western Isles of Scotland
These elegant stones are probably the most admired in Scotland. The settlement may date from 3000 BC. Excavations have revealed a burial chamber beneath the largest rocks, marking an entrance of sorts. 

The Isle of Lewis has some of Britain's most spectacular white sandy beaches with crystal clear waters with zero commercialisation. It is a wonderful place. 

Contact us for further information. 

10 January 2022

Fam Trip to London - October 2022

Visit new hotels, enjoy new experiences and get the facts and expertise to sell London professionally

This informative, educational trip will include visits to all of London’s major attractions and some lesser-known gems the professional Travel Advisor will need to know.

Who should sign up?

  • Travel Advisors who have not visited or have little or no knowledge of London.
  • Travel Advisors past UK business to exceed USD 30,000 per annum.
  • Travel Advisors who would like to Specialise in the UK or Ireland.
  • Travel Advisors who would like to sell multi-day dynamic UK and Ireland itineraries. 

Other requirements to qualify include:

  • Participation in Luxury Vacations UK Social Media photographs and videos during the stay.
  • Recognition of Terms and Conditions regarding future business.  

Preliminary itinerary is based on our suggested Week-in-London Itinerary.

Fam Trip to London - October  2022

Six or seven hotel inspections and four guided tours included. 

Monday, 17th October
Arrival day with free time to shop at Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols.
Overnight: London, hotel TBC.

Tuesday, 18th October
Royal London and Westminster Abbey
Overnight: London, hotel TBC.

Wednesday, 19th October
Old City of London and Private River Cruise.
Overnight: London, hotel TBC.

Thursday, 20th October
Greenwich and Afternoon Tea.
Overnight: London, hotel TBC.

Friday, 21st October
The British Museum and the National Gallery.
Overnight: London, hotel TBC.

Saturday, 22nd October
Check-Out

A friend, family member or partner can attend. Additional fees will apply. 

Advisor Price: POA.
Advisor companion Price: POA.

Please request details of our Scottish Highlands add-on. Departing on Sunday, 23rd October.

07 January 2022

Valentine's day in London

Saint Valentine administered the faith to persecuted Christian’s in 3rd century Rome. Today in the Western World, February the 14th is associated with romance.

Valentine became connected with the medieval idea of courtly love, whereby knights would perform good deeds, often on dangerous adventures, to impress the ladies at court. 

It is the perfect excuse to buy a gift for a loved one in any event. The most precious gift of all is the offering of memories in the form of a travel experience. We have produced a simple itinerary with a few romantic touches and a perfect Valentine gift for the one you love. Valentine's Day in London a four night trip designed for two.

06 January 2022

Rapid Antigen test entry to UK

Entry to the UK from the US

Entry is getting easier, and our clients who have visited the UK find everything works fine. Here are the three simple steps to UK entry for vaccinated visitors;

1. Before you fly, book your LATERAL FLOW - RAPID ANTIGEN TEST online. We can provide lists and appropriate locations. You require a booking reference for your passenger locator form.

2. The test can be carried out in your hotel room, at the airport or one of many test centres in and around London. We can hook you up with the most efficient. 

3. You receive your negative result within 10 MINUTES, and that is it you are on vacation. 

These rules are under review and are likely to be relaxed soon. 

05 January 2022

What is happening with Covid in the UK?

The Vaccination program is steaming ahead

The robust vaccination program is doing what it is supposed to do by keeping hospitalisations and serious illnesses down. The UK is one of the first countries to approve the NEW antiviral drugs. This news has been a boost for bookings, our Great Gardens of the South itinerary has generated a lot of interest.

Paxlovid; Covid Antiviral
The new drug by giant Pfizer is Paxlovid. Its active ingredients inhibit covid from replicating, which stops severe illness in most cases. This will sound like a game-changer to most of us with non-scientific backgrounds. It seems the scientific community agree. By the way, trials have proven the drug is 89% successful at reducing hospitalisations.  

As a visitor, you need to know that Britain is at the forefront of the fight against covid. Many believe the UK will be the first large (by population) country to come out the other end. 

Here are some facts for you;

Over 90% of 12-year-olds and above have received their 1st jab. 

Over 83% of 12-year-olds and above have received their 2nd jab.

Over 60% of 12-year-olds and above have received their 3rd jab. 

Entry to the UK from the US - See latest update posted 6th January.

Entry is getting easier, and our clients who have visited the UK find everything works fine. Here are the three simple steps to UK entry for vaccinated visitors;

1. Before you fly, book your PCR test online. We can provide lists and appropriate locations. You require a booking reference for your passenger locator form.

2. Upon arrival, you will be required to PCR Covid test. Book this online before you leave the US. The test can be carried out in your hotel room, at the airport or one of many test centres in and around London. We can hook you up with the most efficient. 

3. You receive your negative result within 3 hours or so, and that is it you are on vacation. 

These rules are under review and are likely to be relaxed soon. 

Get Insured

Travel Insurance is a hot topic, we have struggled for many years to encourage visitors to the UK to get Travel Insurance. Feel better about putting down our tour design, booking and set-up fee by getting insured. The NHS (National Health Service) will give you a hefty bill if you require medical treatment. Most importantly, you will want your vacation bills paid, you are covered, and the company is covered.

Please try; American Visitor Insurance. When you book a one-off private tour with a family run business, the liabilities for the company (Luxury Vacations UK – Howard Stevens Ltd) are enormous. Cancelling a trip within 31 days mean the company are liable to pay guides, drivers, entrances tickets etc. However, we can have some services can be withdrawn without penalty. In short, you need to be insured in those circumstances, which will or should cover you for any losses you have incurred through no fault of your own.

04 January 2022

Multigenerational Vacations to the UK and Ireland

We are here to design Multigenerational vacations to the UK and Ireland

Like any profession, tourism has people with skills, techniques, and resources. The most important attribute is probably experience. We have been lucky enough to put together hundreds of Multigenerational Tours for inbound visitors to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, not forgetting London.

The challenges of a Multigenerational Vacation

Firstly, timing. It is best to plan and book a long way in advance. At the very least one year, but it is better to be one to two years ahead of your departure date. Why may you ask? The longer the lead time, the more accommodation choices are available to you.

Secondly, you can bank on the fact that each person in the multigenerational group or family will have their own idea of what a great vacation is or not. This problem can be easily be solved. If possible, stick to one location or a maximum of two, city and countryside. We can then plan multiple day tours or experiences from the location or, in some circumstances, have events on-site, such as a Bird of Prey experience or cooking lesson.

Thirdly, establish the budget. Decide on a lower-end and a higher-end budget. Think about what each person is willing to pay per day. 

The fun bit is then establishing a theme and region. Maybe the Cairngorms National Park, The Yorkshire Dales National Park or the Jurassic Coast. The Dingle or The Ring of Kerry, there is so much to see and do. We will have many options, some of which will be decided on the day.

Your main goal or theme could be discovering records of your ancestors, coastal activities, fishing, hiking, heritage sightseeing or a mix of everything. It may well be that part of the group loves adrenaline sports. The others prefer Cathedral cities and afternoon tea. In this case, we can split the groups and arrange separate day tours or events.

Things to See and Do
Our job will be to produce a list of things to do and see and provide the means to achieve your goals. Comfortable mini-coaches, driver guides, local guides and instructors give you a hands-on experience, such as Sea Fishing, climbing or Coasteering.

Where to start?
Please look at a few of our itinerary samples that can be customised and tailored to include relaxing days, shopping days, and a few rounds of Golf in Scotland. Our Whisky, Golf and Culture itinerary has plenty of ideas to get you started. The Classic England Tour itinerary can be customised to have Yorkshire and London as the two places you stay and we offer a series of day tours from each location.

Plan Now
Plan now for 2023-2024 and have something to look forward to and get excited about.

The Luxury Vacations UK team.

31 December 2021

Covid is dead

Happy New Year - Covid is dead

Firstly, Happy New Year and I hope that 2022 will be much happier for you.

We are looking forward to you touring with us around our beautiful family of nations. The Stevens family is passionate about what Britain and Ireland offer visitors. We are determined to make sure you have a truly jolly and uplifting experience.

We want you to be enlightened, enthralled and entertained.

Covid is Dead
The statement "covid is dead" may sound optimistic, but the data reveals a positive picture. The panic over omicron is over. The scientific community generally agrees that the third dose of vaccine makes the disease liveable, with cold and flu levels of concern.

The other positive headline is that; "getting omicron covid variant could protect against delta." The Telegraph has reported that the blood plasma taken from people infected with omicron controlled the delta variant in lab conditions.

Get Insured
Feel better about putting down our tour design, booking and set-up fee by getting insured. Travel Insurance is a hot topic, we have struggled for many years to encourage visitors to the UK to get Travel Insurance. The NHS (National Health Service) will give you a hefty bill if you require medical treatment. Most importantly, you will want your vacation bills paid, you are covered, and the company is covered.

Please try; American Visitor Insurance. When you book a one-off private tour with a family run business, the liabilities for the company (Luxury Vacations UK – Howard Stevens Ltd) are enormous. Cancelling a trip within 31 days mean the company are liable to pay guides, drivers, entrances tickets etc. However, some services can be withdrawn without penalty. In short, you need to be insured in those circumstances, which will or should cover you for any losses you have incurred through no fault of your own.

Plan Early
With all the boring stuff about covid insurance out of the way, contact us for information about your British and Ireland Adventure. Our services are as varied as the destination; book a Bike Tour of the Cotswolds, go Snorkel with Seals, enjoy Horse Riding in Scotland or tour England's beautiful Jurassic Coast.

Discover your ancestors in Ireland and visit Connemara National Park. My personal favourite experience is taking a Boat Trip to Skellig Michael.

Let's lay the foundation for your adventure now, and we will have time to Make-it-Special.

Happy New Year, and we hope to see you very soon. 

Regards
Andrew Stevens

30 December 2021

Spring in England

 

The best gardens to visit in Spring

Springtime in the UK is a special time. Thousands of show gardens, palaces and parks have astonishing displays of spring-flowering bulbs and trees.

Hampton Court Palace
A carpet of 250 thousand daffodils populate the Hampton Court Palace wilderness garden. There are currently over 13 thousand varieties. In early spring, the partly Tudor and Baroque palace is a riot of colour. 
London’s Royal Parks are awash with vast displays of daffodils, violets, alstroemeria (Peruvian Lily), amaryllis, and muscari.

The Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum in London is famous for 1000’s of dead exhibits. Still, it now has a new living exhibit in the form of a wildlife garden.

Regents Park
Regents Park, one of the great Royal Parks, has impressive displays of cherry blossom, daffodils and tulips. Later in the year, smell the fragrance wafting from Queen Mary’s Rose Garden. The impact is incredible and is London’s largest rose garden with approximately 13,000 plants.

Kew Gardens
Of course, another world-class London located garden is The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. The mother of King George III establishes a nine-acre site surrounding the small palace at Kew. The site is famous for its Victorian glasshouses, the Palm and Temperate houses. Since 2003, the world-renowned botanical wonderland has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Vast waves of spring flowers dominate the grounds in March and April. It is spectacular. A visit here at any time of the year will impress. It is the home to 50,000 plants and one of the globes greatest scientific institutions. 

Wales and the Daffodil
In the UK, we associate the daffodil with Wales. It is their national flower, but the plant originates from the Mediterranean. It is thought the Roman’s brought the flower to Britain due to the belief the sap of the plant had healing powers. Much of what we think of as British, was in fact, introduced by the Romans, such as; Stinging nettles, Cats, Certain breeds of sheep, Turnips, Pears, Apples, Pea and Cabbages. Of course, there’s more, such as the wide array of technology, including heated Baths, see the City of Bath.

Bizarrely, the reason why the daffodil is a symbol of Wales is down to the fact that the Welsh word for leek is the same as the word for daffodil leading to confusion. The leek has long been a motif for Welsh warriors. Strapping a leek to your helmet distinguished you from your English enemies and, in some cases, your fellow soldiers. See our suggested Private Tours of Wales.

Bodnant Gardens
Wales is a short hop from the City of Bath. We always like to include a stop at Bodnant Gardens in Snowdonia National Park. It has Italianate terraces that lead down to a fairy-tale-like valley full of camellias and exotic rhododendrons.

RHS Wisley
The world-class show gardens at RHS Wisley is another place to enjoy early spring flowers. In May, the arboretum is spectacular when swaths of bluebells cover the forest floor. Clients can visit Hampton Court Palace and RHS Wisley on a day trip from London.

Ightham Mote
Much lesser-known is the beautiful moated manor house of Ightham Mote, Kent. It was built over 700 years ago with well-preserved interiors, including Great Hall and Tudor designed rooms. For flower lovers, the grounds in spring are a delight. Take a stroll through the woods carpeted with English bluebells. See lakes, orchards, mini valleys and gardens.

Nymans Gardens
Nymans Gardens in Sussex, south of London, looking towards the beautiful South Downs National Park, has large drifts of spring flowers. See grape hyacinths and mature camellias. Later in April, see the snakeshead fritillary, a wild native species that flowers within the walls of the ruined mansion.

Scotland's Great Gardens
There are hundreds of superb Gardens across Britain, certainly not only in the south. Probably the most spectacular formal gardens in Europe can be enjoyed at Drummond Castle, Scotland. Head to the west coast of Scotland and tour Inveraray Castle, the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, currently the subject of a TV drama “A very British Scandal”. Here the grounds have the backdrop of the Highlands.

Please get in touch with us, and we will create a bespoke horticultural extravaganza, touring gardens that interest you personally. We can enhance your experience with private tours with professional gardeners and arrange all your gastropub lunches. Staying at a hotel with special grounds (such as Amberley Castle) is the cherry on the cake for plant lovers. 

20 December 2021

RIP Richard Rogers - British Architect

Sir Richard Rogers 1933-2021 (Baron Rogers of Riverside)

The Italian born British architect sadly passed away on the 18th December 2021.

For most Londoner's he is famous for creating The Lloyd's building in the City of London. He is known for extraordinary showpiece architectural statements, such as; The Millennium Dome, London, and the Pompidou Centre, Paris. See Lloyd's HQ on our Old City of London tour.

My first encounter with Hi Tech Architecture
Many years ago, I was on the TV with my school choir (Allfarthing School Choir – check us out on Spotify; The David Wood Songbook). It was a long day, and the studios were located in Birmingham; therefore, the coach driver drove through the City of London en-route to our school in the south of the city. There was no beltway around London in those days.

At that time, the city was starting to transform into a modern place to do business. The famous insurance group Lloyd's had commissioned a new Head Quarters in 1978. The Hi-Tech architecture took nearly eight years to complete. The day we drove past, it must have been under construction but looked finished.

I will never forget looking out the bus window and thinking, wow! This was the age of Star Wars, and The Lloyd's building looked and like a George Lucas stage set. It was one of Britain's first truly high tech structures, and I was proud that Britain seemed to be moving into a new age, and I was there to see it.

The Lloyd's Building
The Lloyd's HQ, in essence, is an inside-out building. All the service instruments are on the exterior of the building, such as the air-con machines, emergency staircases, pipes and ducts - leaving the interior available for a vast 200 ft atrium naturally lit with a great network of escalators, much like a space-age version of the moving staircases of Harry Potter's Hogwarts. It is an amazing structure and still looks futuristic.

It wasn't that I didn't appreciate old buildings. I thought that new stuff was cool too. I tend to make this point on our Tours of London. I show my admiration for some of London's great new buildings, such as The Gherkin, The Scalpel, The Walkie-Talkie and The Shard.

Richard Rogers
Richard Rogers was a good friend of another famous British Architect, Sir Norman Foster. Together they have transformed what modern architect is and persuaded the British to embrace the new.

Richard Rogers was born into an Anglo-Italian family in Florence. His family moved back to England conveniently in 1939. In June 1940, Mussolini's Italy declared war on Britain and France.

The dyslexic Rogers struggled through school until National Service. After which, he joined the Architectural Association School of Architecture in central London. He moved on to The Yale School of Architecture, where he met Norman Foster. Both Richard and Norman developed a reputation for Hi-Tech architecture.

Rogers has been a champion of sustainability and the re-generation of British cities. The public has become engaged as a result. People are now interested in their cityscape and make comments, positive or negative.

Richard Rogers was right when he said, "Buildings are not idiosyncratic private institutions: they give public performances to the user and passer-by."

RIP, Sir Richard Rogers.

By Andrew Stevens

20 December 2021

UK Covid Update

The Omicron Covid variant has spread across the globe.

The good news from South Africa is that this variant generates mild symptoms.

Indeed, it is quickly sweeping the UK. Still, again the news is good; the vast majority of citizens have had two doses of vaccine and nearly half the population a third or booster, which seems to be doing the trick.

Doing the trick? Surely not. We watch the death rates closely, and they are stable and comparable to a new flu variant - according to the majority of the scientific community.

We are, quite frankly, bemused by the mass international hysteria and wonder what could have gone wrong with the processing of information.

Please get in touch with us with any concerns you may have about future trips you have planned with us. We will be happy to put your mind at rest, reschedule subject to our terms, and-or help with insurance claims.

15 December 2021

New tried and tested hotels

Hotels ideal for our England and Wales Tours 

The Newt Hotel, Somerset, England
The Newt Hotel is an exceptional Georgian Country House Hotel that you must visit at least once in your lifetime. It has been the seat of the Hobhouse family for over two centuries. The ideal place to de-stress on your private tour of England with your guide.

Stay at the Hadspen with 23 guestrooms or one of 17 bedrooms at the Farmyard. The tranquillity of nature surrounds you. After a 30-minute drive, you are in the presence of some of England’s outstanding attractions, such as awe-inspiring Stourhead Gardens, known as the finest landscape garden worldwide. 

At the Newt Hotel, you can eat the garden. Garden eateries take pride in their vegetable-based breakfast and lunch menus from fresh, seasonal home-grown ingredients. If you’re looking to treat yourself, spend some time at the spa, in the indoor-outdoor pool or book one of the many treatments. One worthwhile visit is the City of Wells, aka the smallest Cathedral city in the entirety of England. 

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Plas Nanteos, Wales
Plas Nanteos is an 18th century Georgian Country House Hotel nestled in soothing countryside closely located to the awe-inspiring Cambrian Mountains. The ideal place to get away on your private tour of England and Wales with a personal guide.

Feel at ease surrounded by the beauty of the Cambrian Mountains whilst staying in one of the 22 bedrooms and suites housed in a remarkable 18th-century building. In under two hours, Powys Castle awaits, a grand stately home with gorgeous, terraced gardens. Try sea fishing if you want to try something new or hone your skills.

At Plas Nanteos, the authentic wood-panelled Dining Room welcomes you for a full Welsh breakfast or dinner. Or you could treat yourself to a decadent afternoon tea. Explore and take a guided tour of Harlech Castle or get active and go mountain biking.

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Gliffaes Country House, Wales
Gliffaes is one of the most outstanding Country House Hotels in South Wales, nestled in 33 acres of magnificent grounds and woodland. The ideal place to be active on your private tour of England and Wales with a personal guide. 

You'll find yourself off the beaten track in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The hotel has 23 elegant bedrooms that welcome its guests with open doors. If you're looking for a challenge, the Four Falls Trail is waiting for you in about a one hour drive. 

Whether you're craving breakfast, lunch or dinner Gliffaes Country House offers delicious meals prepared with fresh, varied and locally sourced ingredients. Enjoy the wonders that Wales provides, such as Carreg Cennen Castle or explore the Brecon Beacons National Park on a guided tour.

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Callow Hall, Peak District
Callow Hall is a Victorian Country House and the first Wild-Hive Hotel in 35 acres of awe-inspiring gardens, wild meadow, and woodland. Unwind here on your private tour of England with a personal guide.

Find yourself in the front row of everything that the Peak District National Park offers. Either in one of the fifteen cosy rooms in the main house or enjoy some adventurous luxury in a two-bedroom Treehouse or a one-bedroom Hive. In under forty minutes, Chatsworth House awaits a visit, one of England's beautiful Stately Homes that the Duke of Devonshire calls home.

At Callow Hall, the Garden Room provides exceptionally fresh and seasonal food. Before or after dinner, make sure you go to the converted Coach House where you get the chance to treat yourself to one of the many wellbeing experiences. Get active, take a guided tour of an intricate cave system, and go hiking or cycling.

14 December 2021

The Story of the Pub

Britain and Ireland are famous for pubs

Every town, city and village has pubs. An isolated hamlet (very small settlement) may have a tiny community-led establishment serving ale, wine and food. Steak and curry nights are popular and get people together.

What about the Public Houses of great cities such as London? What happens there? What is the culture? And what's the history?

Jovial lunchtime business meetings are normal in London's pubs. Office workers will always celebrate a colleague's birthday by visiting the 'local'. On some days, a hard day in the office will mean an early finish time and a trip to the Red Lion for a few drinks before getting the train home. Christmas is the most vibrant time. Large numbers of office parties fill the bars, so pre-booked 'rented' upstairs areas become the norm.

The culture is to buy drinks in 'rounds', four people walk into a pub, and a participant in the group will say, "what are you havin." And each person will take turns getting the booze in at the bar. Traditional pubs will require you to stand up at the bar and be served. This may seem annoying, and not service driven. There is an advantage; firstly, you do not have to wait for your bill; secondly, there are no discrepancies with payment. Thirdly, you tend to say hello to the person standing beside you at the bar, which is a social thing.

The history of London's hostilities goes back many centuries. During the middle ages, venues selling ale and rooms for the night may have been attached to monasteries. Many sprung up next to building sites. The construction of churches or cathedrals took decades, and some never ended, so stonemasons, carpenters and bricklayers needed a place to sleep, eat and drink. Hence these popular names for pubs; The Bricklayers Arms, The Masons Arms and the Carpenters Arms. Some are simply called The builder's Arms.

Other names reflect the landowner, so you get; The Duke of Marlborough and so on. Others will connect to an event or a local hero or an allegiance to a particular King or dynasty. It is not surprising that pubs change their names and even get nicknames. The Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden was often referred to as "the bucket of blood" because bare-knuckle fights took place there. I assume fighters would spit into the bucket. 

The important thing to know about The Pub is that it is a sanctuary for anyone who needs a quiet corner or a conversation.

Discover London's pubs on our private tour;  The Historic Pub Crawl.

Regards

Andrew

07 December 2021

The Ultimate Multigenerational trip to Scotland

What are the ingredients of a successful multi-Gen Tour?

When you think of Scotland, you probably think of golf and whisky. There is much more to this great northern nation; see sublime mountain-scapes, mirror-like lochs, and stunning coastal scenery. 

The country has much to offer a multigeneration group. Keeping it simple is the key to the success of such a trip. Stick to two locations, city and countryside. Think exclusive use of a castle, and we can plan a series of day trips from the property to satisfy the whole group.

For example, the golfers can swan off and spend the day playing golf and enjoying an afternoon of whisky tasting. The people with families may want to climb a mountain, go rafting or learn about bush-craft.

The entire group should have a day out at a couple of historic castles and explore old towns. 

Another day can be enjoying country pursuits on the estate, such as 4x4 driving lessons, archery, shooting or a culinary experience. 

For a group of up to 24, you need a castle, two luxury mini-coaches with guides, expert planning and daily options based on your preferences. 

Where to stay? You cannot go wrong with a perfect little place in The Highlands (and specifically The Cairngorms National Park) . Beautiful gardens, 12 rooms, 12 bathrooms, grand lounges, and a lovely dining room. See pictures.

06 December 2021

Top Five lesser-known wow factor places in London

The best wow-factor sites in London from five to one

5. Great Court at the British Museum
The main entrance to one of the greatest museums in the World, The Great Court, was the brainchild of Sir Norman Foster and Partners, the masters of triangular-shaped modern materials. Over three thousand panes of triangle pieces of glass stretch across a vast courtyard. Making is the largest covered courtyard in Europe.

Get a fascinating insight into the world's civilisations with a true expert guide, who will enthral, entertain and enlighten. 

4. Westminster Hall, Parliament
The Great Hall within the Parliament is breath-taking and a complete surprise. Probably the largest medieval hall in Europe and obviously built to impress. The floor space of the hall is over 17,000 square feet. Strangely the building is wider in the middle than it is at each end.

The space is used for grand gatherings, trials (in the past) and as a place for lying-in-state, allowing the general public to pay their respects to monarchs and Prime Ministers. Sir Winston Churchill (1965) and Queen Elizabeth the Queen mother (2002), amongst many others.

3. Regents Park's grand terraces
John Nash designed a series of huge Greek-style terraces. The entire prospect is overwhelming. Constructed in the early 19th century (1821-1836), they were and probably still are the grandest townhouses in the city.

A Nash terraced house recently sold for £185 million Great British Pounds. What do you get for the price tag, I hear you ask? Well, 117,000 square feet and 42 subterranean parking spaces. Astonishingly, that is still not the most expensive home in London.

2. Westminster Cathedral
At the number two spot, we have Westminster Cathedral, no, not Westminster Abbey. However, the Abbey is a national mausoleum and great Royal church. The Cathedral is the much lesser-known Roman Catholic cousin. It is decorated with over 100 types of marble with stunning mosaic ceilings still a work in progress.

It is a place of contemplation and peaceful prey; it is not a tourist attraction at all, but please take the time to go in and see each of the beautiful chapels. It is utterly awe-inspiring.

1.The Painted Hall, Greenwich
The Painted Hall is a vast chamber with walls and ceilings painted with allegorical scenes predicting and depicting the rise of Britain's naval and political power. After a major restoration, the entrance price of £12.50 is most definitely worth it.

The painted surface covers over 40,000 square feet, and the 200 characters tell the tales of the demise of the French King, Louis the 14th. The story continues with the formation of the United Kingdom, parliaments' supremacy and the championing of science and technology.

It is a wonderful sight to see and totally breath-taking. It took 19 years of meticulous work by Sir James Thornhill, the first English painter to be knighted (dome inside St Paul's Cathedral). The best part is that it was a dining hall for elderly, injured or sick Royal Navy sailors living at the Royal Naval Hospital.

22 November 2021

Make your visit to the Cairngorms National Park Special

  • Get off-the-tourist trail and head of on a land Rover safari, go wild swimming and stop for lunch in a candlelit “bothy.” Take a private guided tour of a great estate and meet the Highlands cattle and roe deer. Hear tales of the Highlands from your guide and a little bagpipe music while tucking into a traditional stew or vegetarian broth.
  • Sample; Gin, Cheese and Whisky on a Food and drink highland experience. After learning what makes a superb cheese, a tasty “London-Dry” gin with Highlands botanicals, stop for dinner at the country home of a famous chef for a cosy meal around the fire.
  • So you have plenty of energy? With an expert guide, why not hike, bike, canoe, and quad bike your way through the stunning Cairngorms on a carefully planned adventure day. Return to your Highland retreat for a wonderful spa session. 

Sound fun? Please get in touch with us and let us make your tour of Scotland special. 

15 November 2021

What to do when your room is not ready?

Turn your basic airport transfers into a part of your trip

Take note; Most flights from the US and Canada arrive early morning.

Three in the afternoon check-In
When you arrive at Heathrow airport, visitors tend to want to rush to their hotel and check-in. Once they arrive at the hotel, the room is invariably not ready. London's occupancy rates are extremely high, as much as 98%. Therefore, the chances of your room prepared for you is low.

What is the best use of your time before your check-in? We suggest one of our chauffeurs meet from the terminal building and allow coffee and a freshen up. You may have access to a lounge. Once you are ready, your professional driver guide will assist with luggage and whisk you into the countryside.  

Visit Windsor Castle and the Thames Valley
Heathrow is only 15 minutes from the Thames Valley and Windsor Castle. After a short touring route through the Thames Valley, stop at Windsor Castle, the largest inhabited castle in the world. It is the Queens' weekend home and used for state business. But, visitors have access, and we can provide an official "Windsor Guide."

Meet your guide and tour Windsor
Your guide will meet you from the vehicle and escort you through the castle. The property has vast state apartments. As you would expect, these rooms house an incredible collection of rotating art, meaning the Queen owns so many paintings and objects of great beauty that the only way for the public to see it all is to refresh the collection seasonally.

Visitors see the largest and most impressive rooms used to entertain visiting heads of state, such as the Crimson Drawing room, the Grand Reception Room and St George's Hall.

St George' Chapel is a marvel of English gothic and a Royal oddity. It is a Royal chapel and a place of burial of Kings and Queens, much like Westminster Abbey; It is known as a Royal Peculiar. A large dark slab of stone marks the grave of the infamous King Henry 8th, and not too far away lies the remains of Her Majesty the Queen's husband, Prince Philip.

It is not simply the history and art that is overwhelming; it is the awe-inspiring architecture of the castle and chapel that takes your breath away.

Pub lunch
After your visit, head into a historical village on the River Thames and enjoy a fabulous GASTRO pub lunch. But, mind your head, those low oak beams and uneven floors of these ancient inns can be a hazard – but fun.

Transfer to central London
Your chauffeur will then zoom you into central London within 50 minutes or so, and undoubtedly your room will be ready, and you can check-in and relax.

Not a minute wasted, time for a nap before dinner and an evening stroll to get you acclimatised for your adventure ahead. 

Please see our Heathrow Transfer Tour ideas, although we can customise a tour for you.

11 November 2021

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day takes place on the 11th of November every year.
The point is to remember the moment the Great War ended, the most devastating war in world history. The conflict resulted in millions of military and civilian deaths on all sides.

The belligerents
The belligerents were the central European powers of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria against France, the British Empire and the Russian Empire. Other nation-states joined as the years passed.

World War One and Two
The Great War became known as World War One due to the global war from 1939 to 1945 and subsequently named World War Two.

The Truce
The armistice (truce) was agreed and signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. The German Empire was exhausted, short of human resources, starving and facing a huge invasion, and so surrendered.

Weapons of Mass Destruction
The Great War was the first conflict to use weapons of mass destruction. Hiram Stevens Maxim, an Anglo-American, invented the world’s first automatic firearm in 1884. The British company Vickers put the gun in production and was used with frightening effect on the battlefield.

Lives Lost
The use of modern artillery, machines-guns and poisonous gases caused absolute carnage. Approximately 9.7 million soldiers lost their lives and 10 million civilians.

Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill fought on the Western Front and played a part in the invention of the “Tank” which ultimately helped the allied powers win the war and, importantly, shorten the conflict.

Pandemic
The Great War created the first global movement of people; it is thought, American soldiers, carrying a deadly strain of influenza, spread the disease across Europe. The so-called Spanish Flu infected 500 million people and killed 50 million. It puts Covid 19 in perspective for sure.

The Unknown Warrior
For years I have had the privilege of showing people the grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, the original “Unknown Soldier.” It is a powerful symbol of lost bodies and souls. The thinking behind the simple tomb of the soldier, unknown by rank or name, provides some comfort to relatives with sons lost on the battlefield never to return. Could the Unknown soldier be their son.

Two Minutes Silence
On this day every year, people all over the UK stop and remain silent for 2 minutes to remember the sacrifice made by men and women of the armed forces.

Andrew Stevens
Tour Guide

02 November 2021

The Wallace Collection London

The Wallace Collection

Discover an Aladdin's cave of treasure, a majestic house of magical art.

Is it one of London's hidden treasures? If you are not aware of it, well, certainly, and it is in a square behind the busiest shopping street in the world. So you are likely to be distracted by more frivolous activities, such as shopping, eating and drinking.

In a large mansion behind Oxford Street (a short hop from Selfridges Department Store). You will find a world-class collection of art.

See Titian, Velazquez, Ruben, Van Dyck paintings and a high-end assortment of valuable armour, swords, weaponry, ceramics, and furniture.

French art features highly and is one of Europe's great collections outside France. Not only that, you get the chance to wander around one of London's grandest mansion houses and enjoy lunch in the Courtyard Brasserie.

The whole experience is just so civilised. Enhance your visit and book an expert tour guide with Luxury Vacations UK. It will help you enjoy, understand and receive an insight into the artists and culture of the past.

21 October 2021

You need time to travel; Britain and Ireland

Time is the most precious thing we have; use it wisely

There is no way of avoiding it. You need time when you travel. The first couple of days, you are adjusting to new foods, time zones, and travel stress. Your spirits lift by day four, and you start to take it all in. Then one day later, you are worried about getting home and your commitments with the office etc.

For years I have watched people slowly relax while on vacation. I have trained myself to make people de-stress much quicker by using my sense of humour and engaging the visitor in a subject. That is what we do as guides, us professional tour guides.

Exploring a nation within a week is fun. It works. But, taking a little longer and exploring a variety of places that you never thought would interest you takes faith. We mean that the client needs to relax and trust the professional to put together an itinerary of experiences. We want some to be a little uncomfortable or challenging. It creates memories and stories to tell. Most experiences are joyful – like supping ale in a 500-year-old pub in the middle of a wild landscape.   

Imagine touring the Ring of Kerry one day and taking a boat trip to Skellig Michael (Star Wars Island) the next. Well, you can. It is the time that you need. Then, the next day, you can tour the English Cotswolds hills and visit a grand palace, such as Blenheim Palace. Don’t forget Dublin and London, take your time, plan ahead and let us take the strain and driver-guide you through Britain and Ireland.

An old friend said to me, “you are a long time dead”, which doesn’t sound very pleasant, but he had a point. We rush here and there and never really see or experience anything much at all. If you have time, you are rich! Use it wisely. We want to make your 14 night trip to Ireland and Britain stress-free, gifting you memories and stories to tell.

We look forward to you touring with us.

Regards

Andrew Stevens
Tour Guide

27 September 2021

Chelsea Flower Show book now for 2022

Chelsea is without a doubt the foremost FLOWER SHOW in the world.

The show dates are the most important for all members of the Royal Horticultural Society. The place to be seen for some and others is the beauty of the show gardens and hundreds of stalls selling plants, gardens design ideas, and unique garden sculptures.

For garden owners, it is an event bursting with ideas. It makes people realise that investment in design and impact planting is worth every penny.

Ultimately the visitor to the show wants inspiration to be creative and produce their gardens of Eden.

The most valuable element for me is to meet experts that grow a particular species of plant. You get a professional insight into how to grow your precious hybrid clematis or Dahlias.

Incidentally, as the show took place in September this year due to Covid, it gave growers a chance to display late summer flowering plants, such as Dahlias.

You experience live music, lush ice cream stalls, and we can book top-notch hospitality for you too. The whole experience is a chance to dress up in a colourful outfit, eat, drink, admire the gardens and people watch, oh and shop. There are five high-end restaurant venues on-site, plus an array of cafes.

Link your Chelsea Flower Show visit with our customisable Great Gardens of the South itinerary; see more gardens or have more spa time and wine tasting, let us tailor a tour of the Great Gardens of the South. 

Regards 

Andrew (Tour Guide and CEO)

Chelsea Flower Show Facts;

  1. Each year there are between 25 and 30 show gardens with varying themes.
  2. Along with the much-revered show gardens, there are a series of judged exhibits in the grand pavilion.
  3. In total, there are 64 or so judges.
  4. The Great Marquee is one of the largest in the world at 3.5 acres.
  5. RHS Chelsea Flower Show is 108 years old.
  6. Two hundred forty-seven stallholders exhibit their fire pits, pots, sculpture and garden designs ideas.
  7. The show takes place within the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The venue is the home of 300 British Army veterans. The building is a spectacularly grand place designed by Sir Christopher Wren, of St Paul’s Cathedral fame.
  8. How do I get tickets for next year?  Please get in touch with us, and we can build a tour, get hotel rooms and arrange your dinners and experiences.
  9. RHS Chelsea takes place between 24-28 May 2022. Suppose you are a garden lover and wish to travel in July. In that case, we can plan a series of gardens tours around the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival (4-10 July 2022).
  10. The Royal Horticultural Society’s premium scientific and experimental garden is RHS Wisley. We highly recommend including it on your next tour of England.
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.