Friday September 15, 2017 – Friday September 22, 2017
8 Days – $2,500

Final Payment due by July 20, 2017
The Country House Tour

We may be biased, but we think our Country House tour itinerary is brilliant, offering nine of England’s best stately homes, ranging from ruins to showplaces, dating from the Norman Conquest to the Edwardian Era, all presented within a leisurely itinerary. We’ve arranged private tours at most properties and have scheduled our days at Chatsworth House to coincide with the dates when it’s closed to the general public. Guided garden tours will include talks on the works of both Capability Brown and Joseph Paxton. Once we check in to our hotel in Buxton, the rest of the tour will be taken as day trips, via luxury coach.

  • Visits to Wentworth Woodhouse, Sutton Scarsdale, Sudbury Hall, Calke Abbey, Kedleston Hall, Hardwicke Hall, Haddon Hall, Chatsworth House and Tatton Park.
  • Afternoon Tea at Tatton Park
  • Guided walking tour of Buxton
  • Guided walking tour of Edensor

Day 1

Upon your arrival in Manchester, the complimentary airport shuttle will take you directly to our hotel, the four-star Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel. Meet your fellow travelers in the Lobby Bar for a cocktail before we dine together this evening in The Grill Room.

Day 2

We’ll depart Manchester this morning and start our Country House Tour off with a bang with a tour of Wentworth Woodhouse, the largest private home in England, said to have been Jane Austen’s inspiration for Pemberley, home of Mr. Darcy. While Mr. Darcy never lived there, Wentworth Woodhouse was home to Charles I’s ill – fated administrator, Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, who lost his head for treason. The family went on to re-gain royal favor and a visit to Wentworth Woodhouse by the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York in 1789 drew a crowd of over 20,000 people. The family grew wealthier still as coal mining was booming in the areas in and around the house. Another royal visit occurred in 1912, when King George V and Queen Mary stayed at Wentworth. A total of 76 bedrooms were required for the Royal Visit. Though the family fortune dwindled thereafter, Wentworth Woodhouse remained in the hands of the Fitzwilliam family until 1989, but had by that time suffered years of neglect. The house and around 90 acres of land were then bought by Mr Wensley Haydon-Baillie, who in turn a decade later sold it to Clifford Newbold. Renovations have recently been completed on parts of the home, allowing visitors for the first time in 60 years. Our tour will include 23 of the 300 rooms in the house, including the magnificent Chinese bedroom.

In the afternoon, we’ll check into the Old Hall Buxton Hotel, our base for the next six days. This elegant hotel dates from 1573 and is said to be the oldest hotel in England, once visited by Mary Queen of Scots. The Hotel is located within walking distance of many of Buxton’s points of interest, including the Opera House and Pavilion Gardens. After check-in, our local guide will take us on guided walking tour of Buxton’s highlights.

Day 3

Our day begins at Grade I listed Sudbury Hall, one of England’s finest Restoration mansions. Sudbury Hall is the country home of the Lords Vernon and contains outstanding examples of 17th century craftsmanship, including exquisite plasterwork, wood carvings and story based murals. Our guided tour will take in the State Rooms, family rooms and 1930’s kitchen. Sudbury Hall was used for the interiors in the 1996 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and we will be seeing these rooms, as well, including the Long Gallery, the saloon, the library and the Queen’s Bedroom. Also on the grounds is the National Trust Museum of Childhood which you may choose to explore on your own.

This afternoon finds us at Grade I listed Calke Abbey, known as the “unstately stately home.” The house was owned by the Harpur family for nearly 300 years, but entered a state of decline beginning in the 1880’s until it was finally passed to the National Trust in 1985 in lieu of death duties. Today, many of its rooms are deliberately displayed in the state in which the house was handed to the Trust. A massive amount of remedial work but no restoration has been done and interiors remain almost as they were found in 1985. Since then, remedial work has been done, but no restoration, so that the decay to the building and its interiors has been halted but not reversed. This is our opportunity to see a property in the original state in which many of England’s treasure houses stood when handed over to the National Trust. After our tour of the house, there will be plenty of time for us to explore the brew house tunnel, kitchen garden and Orangery, as well as time for tea or lunch in the restaurant on-site if you desire

Day 4

Today is devoted to Kedleston Hall, seat of the Curzon family, with a neoclassical interior designed by Adam. Built in 1765 to rival Chatsworth House, Kedleston was intended to stand as a ‘temple of the arts’ and to function as the location for grand entertainments. Used as a key location for the film The Duchess starring Keira Knightly, Kedleston Hall contains a superb collection of fine paintings, sculpture and furniture. Also displayed in the house are many curiosities pertaining to Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India at the beginning of the 20th century, including his collection of Far Eastern artifacts. Outside, the family church, gardens and follies offer more diversions, with the Pleasure Grounds standing as one of the best surviving examples of an 18th-century informal landscape. Do take note of the entry drive, bridge and HaHa which we will see mirrored on a larger scale at Chatsworth House.

Upon our return to Buxton, you will have time to explore the charming spa town before dinner this evening at our hotel.

Day 5

Our first stop today is Sutton Scarsdale Hall, where we will view the Grade I listed ruins of this once grand Georgian home. While renovations are underway, Sutton Scarsdale serves to illustrate the fate that once threatened many of the homes on our tour.

Afterwards, we’ll head to Grade I listed Hardwick Hall, the Elizabethan country house created by Bess of Hardwick in the 1500s, known today for it’s collection of fine Elizabethan furnishings and it’s important examples of needlework, including the large set of embroideries known as ‘the noble women.’ This is a set of four (originally five) hangings that all take their subject matter from worthy heroines and their virtues. After Bess’s death in 1608, the house passed to her son William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire. His great-grandson, William, was created 1st Duke of Devonshire in 1694. The Devonshires made another of Bess’s great houses, Chatsworth, their principal seat, with Hardwick used only occasionally for hunting and as a sometime dower house, thus escaping modernization from its original form. Our tour of the Hall will be followed by a guided tour of the gardens including the walled courtyards, the fragrant herb garden, fruitful orchards and sweeping lawns. There will also be time for you to explore the park or to have lunch in the Great Barn Restaurant if you wish.

After lunch, we will visit Haddon Hall, the stunning 12th century medieval manor house that is home to Lord and Lady Edward Manners and which has appeared as a setting in many films, including as Prince Humperdinck’s castle in The Princess Bride. The banqueting hall with minstrel’s gallery, the kitchens and parlour date from 1370, and the St. Nicholas Chapel was completed in 1427. The Hall was occupied by the family until the 17th Century, after which it lay dormant from 1700 until the 1920s, when the 9th Duke and Duchess of Rutland restored the house and gardens while maintaining the historical integrity of the Hall. Outdoors, we’ll view the terraced gardens and admire the many peacocks, emblem of the Manners Family, who live on the estate.

Day 6

Today is the first of two days we’ll be visiting one of Britain’s most iconic stately homes: Grade I listed Chatsworth House. The House is another location said to have served as a model for Jane Austen’s Pemberley and, since our tour will be a private one, held when the house is closed to the public, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to draw your own conclusions. Our guide will take us through the house and State Rooms, including the magnificent Painted Hall, the Sculpture Gallery and the Victorian Theatre. Home to the Dukes of Devonshire, our guide will also share with us the history of the memorable people who have left their stamp upon Chatsworth House, including the Bachelor Duke, William Cavendish, who served as Ambassador to Russia under Czar Nicholas I, Georgiana Spencer and Elizabeth Foster, two of the parties in one of history’s strangest ménage a trios, and Deborah Mitford, perhaps the most beloved of all the Devonshire Duchesses. We will have time after the tour to explore the house at our own pace before enjoying a Ploughman’s Lunch in the sophisticated Cavendish Restaurant.

Day 7

This morning we’ll meet our guide at Edensor, the picturesque model village built to the specifications of the 6th Duke of Devonshire with the help of Joseph Paxton. It is said that after looking through a book of house designs for the new village, the indecisive Duke chose one of each. Edensor therefore is a charming mix of designs, extending from Norman and Jacobean to Swiss-style and Italian villas. Many are virtually untouched, including parts of the old vicarage, two cottages overlooking the green, the old farmhouse which now houses the post office, shop and tea rooms, as well as the Gardener’s Cottage across the road. There will be time for a cuppa at the Edensor Tea Room and also time to visit St. Peter’s Church and it’s cemetery where Kathleen (“Kick”) Kennedy Cavendish and Deborah Mitford Cavendish rest.

We’ll then take a five minute walk to Chatsworth House, crossing over the iconic bridge for a breathtaking view of the House before embarking on a private guided Garden Tour. The 105 acre gardens at Chatsworth are full of surprises with waterworks, sculptures and a wide variety of plants on show. Our guide will share with us the hidden stories and history of the gardens, including the famed glasshouses built by Joseph Paxton. A picnic lunch will be served in the gardens, after which you will be free to explore the grounds on your own and to visit the Chatsworth farmyard, where you’ll find sheep, horses, pigs, cows and, of course, the Duchess’s famous chickens.

Day 8

The final Country House on our tour is the magnificent Grade I listed Tatton Park, one of the most complete estates to come under the care of the National Trust. It comprises the Tudor Old Hall, the neo-classical mansion, award winning gardens, a working farm and a 1,000 acre deer park. The rich furnishings of the Tatton Park mansion and its important library and furniture collections reflect the growing wealth and status of the Egerton family at the end of the 18th and during the 19th centuries.

Upon arrival, we’ll be greeted by Mr. New and Mrs. Cork, the “butler” and “housekeeper” at Tatton, who will take us on a guided tour of the Mansion, including the first floor, usually closed to visitors. Below stairs we will gain a striking picture of the number of servants and level of domestic management necessary to run such a large establishment. We’ll see the contrast between the richness and grandeur of the State Apartments, the more intimate family rooms and the utilitarian servant’s quarters and cellars. Afterwards, there will be time to explore the gardens and grounds before we are served a traditional Afternoon Tea in the bucolic setting of the former Gardener’s Cottage, taken outdoors if the weather is fine.

Leaving Tatton Park, we return to the Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel, where we will close the tour with a farewell dinner this evening.

What’s Included:

  • 2 Nights at the Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel
  • 6 Nights at the Buxton Old Hall Hotel
  • Full English breakfast each day
  • Dinner at our hotel each evening
  • Lunch at Chatsworth House on both days
  • Afternoon Tea at Tatton Park
  • Services of an expert tour guide throughout the tour
  • Private coach transportation on travel days
  • Entry or admission fees to all venues