Oxford and the Cotswolds
Immerse yourself in quintessential England as you take in the history, traditions, and landscape of one of England's most beloved regions. From rolling green hillsides to the inviting quads of historic colleges to imposing castles, experience authentic English charm on this 9-day tour.
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Rolling green hillsides dotted with pastures and grazing sheep, charming villages of limestone buildings, robed scholars dashing through the quads of Oxford—these are the images of England’s Cotswolds. Join us to explore the history, traditions, and landscape of one of England’s most quintessential regions.
Settle into the Cotswold countryside and explore charming villages such as Burford, Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden, and Bampton. Learn about the traditions of English country houses at Hampshire’s Highclere Castle, a Victorian country house and garden known as the setting for Downton Abbey. At Blenheim Palace, enjoy a private tour of Britain’s grandest private residence and a World Heritage site. Here, enjoy a private meeting with Lord Charles Spencer-Churchill, who offers a unique perspective on the life of his cousin Sir Winston Churchill and his childhood home, followed by a private luncheon. Move to the university town of Oxford, where a local expert leads a specially designed walking tour of the town and the historic colleges and inviting quads. You’ll also spend a day visiting Winchester, Chawton, and Steventon, sites associated with Jane Austen and her literary works. Optional extensions to Cambridge and Canterbury are also offered. Limited to 44 participants.
Day 1 - 2 — Depart U.S., Arrive Minster Lovell, England
Hidden away along the meandering River Windrush, Minster Lovell is a lovely Oxfordshire village that has changed little since medieval times. A cluster of limestone and thatch cottages occupy the heart of the village, while evidence of old woolen mills can be found on the banks of the river, as can the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall, a 15th-century manor home haunted by a mysterious history. Upon arrival, check into the quaint OLD SWAN & MINSTER MILL boutique hotel and join your traveling companions for a Welcome Reception. (R)
Day 3 — Cotswolds Villages
Visit the picturesque northern Cotswolds villages, which embrace the time-honored traditions of the English countryside.
Stow-on-the-Wold is a delightful market town that stands on a 700-foot-high hill at a junction of seven major roads, including the ancient Roman Fosse Way, the first great Roman road in Britain. The town was founded as a planned marketplace by Norman lords to take advantage of trade on the converging roads and, at the height of the Cotswolds wool industry, the town was famous for its huge annual fairs where as many as 20,000 sheep were sold at one time. Narrow-walled alleyways called “tunes” were built to funnel sheep into the market square, which is still lined by an elegant array of Cotswold town houses.
Chipping Campden is the perfect example of a well-preserved, prosperous medieval village, where undulating, weather-beaten roofs cap amber-hued houses, and mullioned windows overlook the picturesque 15th-century parish church, and 17th-century almshouses and market hall.
Simply beautiful, Broadway is often referred to as the “Jewel of the Cotswolds” and was the home of William Morris, leading figure of the revival of craftsmanship in the second half of the 19th century. Its main road is lined with honey-colored limestone buildings dating back to the 16th century.
In Burford, the great Church of St. John the Baptist is a medley of architectural styles providing a flourish to the village’s main passage down to the River Windrush.
This evening in the hotel, join residents of the Cotswolds for dinner and to discuss daily life during the exclusive TOWN & COUNTRY FORUM™. (B,D)
Day 4 — Highclere Castle
One of the oldest villages in the Cotswolds, Bampton retains its traditional Oxfordshire character despite its more recent fame as the filming location for village scenes in the popular television series Downton Abbey airing on PBS’s MASTERPIECE. See the most recognizable landmarks along picturesque Church View Lane—the 12th-century Romanesque Church of St. Mary the Virgin, the Elizabethan library and Churchgate House (Lady Crawley’s house).
Recognized worldwide as Downton Abbey in the eponymous award-winning television series, beautiful Victorian Highclere Castle has been the home to the royal Carnarvon family since 1679 and features 1000 acres of spectacular parkland. Inside the castle, see the richly decorated state rooms, including the leather-walled saloon and impressive library. (B)
Day 5 — Blenheim Palace/Oxford
Meet Lord Charles Spencer-Churchill at Blenheim Palace and tour Britain’s largest private residence, among the most monumental edifices ever constructed in the British Isles, and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Built in the 18th century for John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, as a reward for military bravery at the Battle of Blenheim, the estate is now home to the 11th and current Duke of Marlborough. Beyond the extraordinary labyrinth of opulent hallways and chambers, the estate’s grounds are spread over a bucolic 2,200-acre park designed by the legendary English landscape architect “Capability” Brown. Enjoy a private lunch in the elegant Marlborough Room. Afterwards, continue to the nearby village of Bladon where Sir Winston Churchill lies buried in a modest grave alongside his beloved wife.
Continue to legendary Oxford and check into the lovely OXFORD SPIRES FOUR PILLARS HOTEL. (B,L)
Day 6 — Oxford
Affectionately named the “city of dreaming spires,” by adoring poets, Britain’s oldest university counts Margaret Thatcher, Sir Thomas More and J.R.R. Tolkien among its illustrious alumni. Steeped in eight centuries of history and erudition, Oxford still nurtures great scholars while blending its ancient traditions with cutting-edge research and instruction provided by many of the world’s brightest minds. Stroll the magnificent cobblestoned squares, medieval alleyways and Renaissance quadrangles that fill the grounds of the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Visit the Ashmolean Museum, Exeter College chapel and Trinity College. Learn more about daily student life during the specially arranged lecture. (B)
Day 7 — Oxford, Jane Austen's House
Step into the life of one of England’s most important novelists on the optional excursion to experience Jane Austen’s England. In the tiny village of Steventon, see the rectory where Austen was born. Tour her 17th-century house in Chawton, where she lived her last eight years and wrote and revised the majority of her work. Finally, visit Winchester Cathedral, where the Mighty Jane is buried. (B)
Day 8 — Oxford
Walk beyond the old city wall of Oxford and enjoy a stroll on the River Thames as punts and rowing boats glide along the tranquil waters. See the historic Iffley Lock and visit the 12th-century, Romanesque St. Mary’s church with its lovely stained glass Nativity window. The remainder of the day is at leisure to further explore Oxford.
Tonight, enjoy a specially arranged Farewell Dinner in one of Oxford’s colleges. (B,D)
Day 9 — Oxford, London, U.S.
Transfer to Canterbury for the Post-Program Option or to London for your flight home. (B)
Pre- and Post-Program Options and Optional Excursion are available at additional cost. Details will be included with your reservation confirmation.
All program features are contingent upon final brochure pricing.