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The Heart of England

United Kingdom
Steeped in art, history and culture, host to Areas of Outstanding Beauty, fringed by impressive border castles, chock-full of picture-postcard traditional villages amidst rolling hills, and the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the Midlands are known in Britain as The Heart of England.
The first 7 nights on this tour are spent near the historic market town of Church Stretton in the Shropshire Hills - recognized as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. Located near the Welsh border, it is not just the stunning scenery which will captivate you here, but also the history, the local people and their proud heritage. There are World Heritage Sites, medieval market towns, and heritage railways, all set within the astonishingly idyllic countryside.
Our next 3 nights are in Dovedale, located in the Peak District. From the high, moorland plateaus in the north, to the steep dales and rolling green hills in the south, this region has just about any landscape you can imagine in Britain. The area is loved for its breath-taking views, bustling, historic towns, some of Britain’s prettiest villages and well-known attractions.
We finish with a night in Manchester, which these days is one of the most exciting places to visit in the UK, and  where all visitors receive a warm welcome.

Tour Highlights:
 
    • Shrewsbury - birthplace of Charles Darwin
     • Stokesay Castle
     • Ironbridge Gorge Museums
     • The medieval town of Ludlow
     • Birmingham
     • RAF Museum Cosford
     • Heights of Abraham
     • Chatsworth - home to the Duke of Devonshire
     • Manchester

* Those joining any of our tours to Europe must be able to walk fairly long distances and climb stairs easily.

Itinerary / Excursions

We depart for Manchester.
We arrive and transfer to our country-house hotel in Church Stretton for a 7-night stay. Known as Britain’s “Little Switzerland”, the rolling hills around Church Stretton offer fabulous views in all directions. Tonight we enjoy our Welcome Dinner.
Shrewsbury is home to 660 listed buildings, and is most famous as the birthplace of Charles Darwin. His statue sits by Shrewsbury Library, which was his school. Our guided tour will take in the stunning Tudor buildings and bring to life their history. Then we’ll enjoy beautiful views along the Severn River on a cruise with entertaining commentary. There will be free time to explore Shrewsbury’s shops, cafes and cozy pubs.
Stokesay Castle is England’s best-preserved fortified medieval manor house, with a great hall unchanged for over 700 years. See the characters carved in the timbers of the 17th-century gatehouse, and climb to the top of a fairy-tale tower for breathtaking views of the Shropshire Hills.
This World Heritage Site was the beating heart of the Industrial Revolution. Our visit starts at Blists Hill Victorian Town, where we meet the Victorians and learn about their way of life. Then at the Jackfield Tile Museum we’ll see magnificent tiles that decorated Victorian Britain. Finally, we’ll walk across the world famous Iron Bridge and peek into the charming Tollhouse.
A free day. You may want to stroll through the extensive grounds and the woodland sculpture trail that threads through the trees, dip into the heated outdoor pool, relax in the lounge with its wall of glass showing the idyllic views of our surroundings, or enjoy a local pint of Shropshire Lad or Lass with your fellow guests. The town is a few minutes walk away and offers shops, pubs and cafes.
We’ll enjoy a tour and free time in Ludlow - a thriving medieval market town and architectural gem with a lively community feel. The historic town centre and the 11th century Ludlow Castle both sit on a cliff above the river, surrounded by the beautiful countryside of Shropshire and the Welsh Marches. Then in Kidderminster, we’ll board the Steam Train for the 16-mile journey to Bridgnorth. Breathtaking scenery, and charming towns and villages, make every trip on the Severn Valley Railway unforgettable.
Birmingham has a rich legacy from when it was one of the world’s greatest industrial cities. On our city tour we’ll see the canals that were the ‘roads’ of the 18th century, and the impressive Victorian buildings, including the Jewellery Quarter where skilled workers produced their wares. After some free time we’ll head back to our hotel, stopping first at the ‘model’ village at Bournville created by the Cadbury (chocolate) family.
We head to the magnificent Peak district, stopping en route at RAF Cosford to hear amazing stories of the brave pilots who served in the Royal Air Force, and see the fantastic display of old aircrafts and other exhibits. Later we arrive at Dovedale, for a 3-night stay.
Our first stop is the Heights of Abraham, for a cable car trip up to the summit of Masson Hill for the magnificent 360 degree views of the serene landscape of the Derbyshire Dales. Our next visit is the National Tramway Museum, where we’ll be transported back in time as we ride on the vintage trams, soak up the atmosphere on the period street with village shops, or stroll on the sculpture trail enjoying the breathtaking views.
Chatsworth, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family. Renowned for the quality of its art, landscape and hospitality, Chatsworth has evolved through the centuries to reflect the tastes and passions of each generation. There are 25 rooms to explore, including the magnificent Painted Hall, regal State Rooms, restored Sketch Galleries and beautiful Sculpture Gallery. After our visit we stop in Bakewell, idyllically situated on the banks of the river Wye, and best known for its unique and delicious pudding. With its mellow stone buildings, medieval five-arched stone bridge and quaint courtyards, Bakewell is a magnet for painters and photographers.
We proceed to Manchester, and walk the cobbles of the world’s longest running soap opera - Coronation Street. Our guided tour will show us both exterior sets and some behind-the-scenes sets of the Street. After our tour there will be free time, and this evening is our Farewell Dinner, where we’ll say “Cheers” to this memorable tour.
We fly home from Manchester.
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