North & South Literary England This is a feast for the bookworm, the literary-minded and simply those who enjoy seeing and learning about a country, not just 'photographing the sites' from a bus window. Here's the plot. Our knowledgeable and entertaining guide takes you and just 10 or so others, through some of the UK's prettiest landscapes, visiting author's homes, literary museums, towns and villages where stories are set, and places that obviously inspired the artist's muse. INCLUDES: 6 nights accommodation Full breakfasts and dinners All entrance fees to attractions, Transportation, Services of driver/guide All taxes and tips (other than those you may wish to give your guide) ITINERARY: Day 1 (Saturday) Starts from London Our route from London follows the river, first through Deptford. This was the suburb of Samuel Pepys, and where Elizabethan playwright, Christopher Marlowe, was murdered in a pub. It's a rare opportunity to see the 'old' London and a 'real' high street and one can still easily imagine we're aboard a stagecoach from Charles Dickens’ time heading with Mr Pickwick to Rochester. Fittingly, it is Dickens's Rochester that provides our next stop. This gem of a city, with its cathedral and Norman castle, overflows with Dickens sites. There are plaques on the places mentioned in his books, Miss Haversham's house is still here, and Dickens himself lived here. Our third major site of the day is Knole. This interesting and grand house, the birthplace of Vita Sackville West, was her inspiration for 'The Edwardian'. It was also the setting for Virginia Woolf's novel 'Orlando'. Stay in: Kent Day 2 (Sunday) We'll start our day exploring more of Kent and East Sussex's rich literary heritage. We can choose from a range of sites and properties according to the interest of tour participants. In Ashdown Forest we find the home of Winnie the Pooh and his creator A A Milne. There'll be time for a game of 'pooh sticks' on the original bridge. Fans of Arthur Conan Doyle and his timeless creation, 'Sherlock Holmes', will not be disappointed as we find a number of related sites. And if there are Kipling fans aboard, we can find the time to view his home of Batemans in nearby Burwash. Leaving east Sussex we take a scenic cross country route to Jane Austen country, with her home at Chawton being our destination. It was in this quaint village that she wrote most of her works and once inside the house, we are in her world. Time and group interest permitting, we may also see the Selborne home of Gilbert White, the first great naturalist. Stay in: Hampshire Day 3 (Monday) Today is our day to be totally immersed in that world, far from the madding crowd, of Thomas Hardy. We'll visit places where some of the most memorable scenes from his novels were set, like the prehistoric temple at Stonehenge. We'll visit towns and villages that are easily recognisable as the source of inspiration, like Winchester, Shaftesbury and Dorchester. We particularly seek out those smaller villages with a timeless Dorsetshire air to them. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the area is used as a location for many period films and TV series. One such will be Nether Wallop. This beautiful Hampshire village is the setting for Agatha Christie's 'Miss Marple' films. Also in the area is the 'Cloud's Hill' home of T E Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. All in all, this is yet another perfect day. Stay in: as above Day 4 (Tuesday) We'll depart our Hampshire base and take the short drive north to the neighbouring counties of Royal Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, through the Chiltern Hills to Oxford. En route, there are simply dozens of sites and attractions with a literary significance. We can discover Thomas Grey’s tomb and the original churchyard of his 'Elegy' fame. Nearby there's John Milton's 17th century cottage where 'Paradise Lost' was completed. In Beaconsfield G K Chesterton conceived 'Father Brown', and in the Thames riverside village of Marlow Mary Shelly somehow 'discovered' Frankenstein, and a hundred years or so later Jerome K Jerome pitched his 'Three Men in a Boat'. Our drive through this literary landscape will bring many legendary characters springing alive from the page. Finally we arrive the 'city of the dreaming spires', Oxford. This is the jewel in the literary crown. Inevitably, the university colleges feature, having either been where the great studied, or taught. The Dean of Mathematics at Christchurch College was one Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll and one finds 'Alice' everywhere. At an ancient pub in the town centre, C S Lewis and Tolkein, amongst others, met to talk and drink. And, of course, contemporary literature is represented by Colin Dexter and his detective 'Morse'. A walking tour of the city will introduce you to these sites and to many, many others. Depending on the number of participants on the tour, we will either drive north or catch a train to Manchester. Dinner is included tonight. Stay in: Manchester region Day 5 (Wednesday) We depart from Manchester at 08.30. Our first stop will be at the Lancashire cotton town of Wigan, made famous by George Orwell in his 1939 study 'The Road to Wigan Pier'. This is a very interesting stop as these towns are often neglected on the tourist trail. Those joining this tour are recommended to read Martin Cruz’s 'Rose' as a wonderful and entertaining way of learning about the harsh realities of Victorian life in the cotton towns. Next, to the Lakes themselves and we'll visit the homes of two authors; Wordsworth's Dove Cottage, and Rydal Mount, his last home, to admire the grounds he lovingly landscaped, and then to Beatrix Potter's Sawrey Hilltop Farm. Naturally, as these are set amidst the beauty of the Lakes, breathtaking scenery will be part and parcel of our day! Stay in: Lake District Day 6 (Thursday) Today we have a full day discovering and sharing the vistas that so inspired the areas literary tradition. We simply have to use the cliché 'breathtaking' to describe the spectacular scenery you'll be seeing as it is so very appropriate. We'll also see another of Wordsworth's properties at Cockermouth, and tour Ruskin's preserved Victorian home at Brantwood. In keeping with our literary theme, we'll also visit the pencil museum. Did you know that the graphite for pencils uniquely comes from the Lakeland? Stay in: Lake District Day 7 (Friday) Ends in Manchester We'll take a beautifully scenic route through the Lancashire Dales, calling in at Ingleton and Settle, to Hawarth. The dramatic moorland we see en route inspired the Bronte Sisters to pen the novels that are classics of English literature. In our explorations of Hawarth you'll be able to imagine the everyday lives of the Bronte Sisters as you walk round Haworth Church and the Bronte Parsonage Museum. If we've time, we'll also visit the National Trust's East Riddlesden Hall which, during the Civil War, was a Royalist stronghold in a Parliamentarian area.