Great Libraries and Stately Homes of England 2024

Status: limited

7 Oct – 22 Oct 2024

Other Departures

Great Libraries and Stately Homes of England 2024
Tour Highlights

Visit great libraries and fine stately homes of England with bibliophile and historian Shane Carmody who has called upon his personal contacts to gain privileged access to special private libraries. Shane will be assisted by Sam Brown, a PhD student based in London who has a particular interest in book history and provenance.

  • Explore the magnificent libraries of the Church, State, universities and nobility in their sumptuous architectural settings, learning about the very special English relationship between famous people, grand architecture and their priceless collections of manuscripts and books.
  • Encounter the work of England’s great architects: Christopher Wren, William Kent, Sir John Soane, Sir Charles Barry and James Gibbs.
  • Tour the great university library of Oxford, the Bodleian, and Cambridge college libraries at St John’s, Trinity and Magdalene, assembled by luminaries like Samuel Pepys.
  • Take a special private tour of the house of one of England’s greatest architects and antiquarians, Sir John Soane, viewing his famous art and book collections.
  • Visit the new Lambeth Palace Library. Completed in 2020 this new purpose-built library contains the major archive of the Anglican Church.
  • Explore Westminster Abbey: its famous Library, Chapter House with medieval paintingsand the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries set in the medieval triforium, hidden for over 700 years.
  • Explore the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew with Richard Barley, Director of Gardens including the Botanical Library.
  • Discover Ham House, arguably the best preserved 17th-century house in Europe, and its unique library, the earliest to survive unchanged in a private mansion.
  • Tour Anglesey Abbey with its marvellous art collection including works by Canova, Lorraine, Constable, its fine library and extensive gardens.
  • Visit the Fitzwilliam Museum, home to some of the finest extant illuminated manuscripts.
  • Enjoy the choir of Kings College, Cambridge, at Vespers.
  • Explore Holkham Hall, private home of Viscount Coke, and arguably the finest example of Palladian country house architecture in England.
  • Visit Wormsley House, with its library built by Sir Paul Getty to house his remarkable collection; our hosts’ generosity has made this a tour highlight for past participants.
  • Tour the Rothschild’s Waddesdon Manor containing a wonderful library of French books.
  • End the tour in grand style with a visit to Windsor Castle and special access to Eton College’s book and manuscript library, including Eton’s rare copy of the Gutenberg Bible

Overnight London (5 nights) • Cambridge (5 nights) • Oxford (4 nights) • Windsor (1 night)


I was fortunate to be able to participate in the inaugural ASA Tour. I chose to participate because of the centers being visited rather than any particular interest or expertise in libraries or books. It was a truly amazing experience that I am likely to reflect on for a long time. We had access to libraries and collections that are otherwise inaccessible and the leaders’ knowledge made it truly memorable. The outdoor experience of Kew Gardens gave us the opportunity to refresh our minds and bodies.  Sue, ACT.

Each day brought something different, something exciting and something that truly stimulated my interest in arts, history and literature. Thank you to all involved in arranging this tour.  Margaret, ACT.



The following itinerary lists a range of libraries, museums, galleries, churches etc which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but some require special permission, which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, and lunches and dinners as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch, and D=dinner.

London - 5 nights

Day 1: Monday 7 October, Arrive London
  • Tour commences at 5.00pm in the foyer of the Citadines Holborn-Covent Garden
  • Welcome Meeting
  • Welcome Drinks

Meeting Point: The tour commences at 5.00pm in the foyer of the Citadines Holborn-Covent Garden Apart Hotel . The official check-in time is 3.00pm. Following a brief welcome meeting, we share a welcome drink. (Overnight London)

Day 2: Tuesday 8 October, London
  • The British Library, including a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the Conservation Studios
  • Sir John Soane’s Museum, including Soane’s private apartments and Research Library
  • Welcome Dinner

We begin our tour at the British Library, the national library of the United Kingdom and the world’s largest library, with over 170 million catalogued items including books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, videos, play-scripts, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, and drawings. The library receives a copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland in addition to purchasing books from around the world, so adds over 3 million items to its collections every year, requiring 10 kilometres of new bookshelves. We will limit ourselves in this vast collection to an introduction to the historical King’s Library of King George III, given to the nation by George IV. Since the 1970s, this collection has been housed in the King’s Tower, designed by the new British Libraries architect, Colin St John Wilson. We also take a private tour of the Centre for Conservation, where the iconic treasures of the Library are treated.

Sir John Soane (1753-1837), architect of such famous buildings as the Bank of England, was Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy from 1806. Throughout his working life, especially on his Grand Tour, he collected paintings, drawings, books, plaster casts, architectural models, ancient artefacts, furniture and decorative arts, which he kept in his own house, now his museum, in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. When he became professor he gave his students easy access to study the wealth of objects and gain inspiration from them. We shall explore some of the thousands of items like Hogarth’s painting series of The Rake’s Progress in Soane’s townhouse in rooms carefully preserved as closely as possible to the way they were when he bequeathed his collection to the nation. Our tour of the private apartments will include Soane’s famed Model Room, where forty of the finest architectural models in the world are on display – depicting ancient monuments and Soane’s own buildings – and we also enjoy a special tour of the Research Library to view items from Soane’s impressive collection of some 7000 books.

Our day will close with our Welcome Dinner. (Overnight London) BD

Day 3: Wednesday 9 October, London – Richmond – London
  • Ham House and Garden, including private library
  • Lunch at the Orangery Restaurant
  • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Marianne North Gallery with Richard Barley, Director of Kew Garden’s Horticulture
  • Kew Library, Art & Archives

Ham House, designed by William Samwell (1628-1676), is considered one of Europe’s greatest and most authentic 17th-century mansions. Its almost untouched interior houses a historic collection of textiles, furniture and paintings. Here we visit the earliest dedicated library room to survive in a private house. It dates from 1675 and was installed for the Duke of Lauderdale.

We drive to Kew, where lunch will be served at the grand Orangery Restaurant, housed in a magnificent 18th-century Grade 1 listed building with stunning views over the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Next, we explore the Royal Botanic Gardens with Australian Richard Barley,  Director of Kew Gardens’ Horticulture since April 2013. With his great knowledge of their day-to-day management, Richard will share deep insights into these world-renowned gardens. The original gardens were created for Augusta, Princess of Wales (1717-1792) around her home, Kew Palace. The estate was acquired by the nation in 1841 and enlarged to become a place for the scientific study of horticulture. It now contains the largest collection of plants in the world with tropical and sub-tropical plants being kept in appropriate conditions in magnificent Victorian glasshouses. The variety of plants is overwhelming but Kew has a magic far above the ordinary run of Victorian plant collections, perhaps because of its size and the underlying but unobtrusive formality of its structure. The Queen’s Garden is a faithful copy of a 17th-century garden with parterres, sunken garden and pleached alleys. A new treetop walk by Marks Barfield Architects (who designed the London Eye) opened in May 2008. We also visit the recently refurbished gallery devoted to Charles Darwin’s friend, featuring Marianne North’s 833 paintings depicting more than 900 species of plants and landscapes including from Australia and New Zealand, which she visited on Darwin’s suggestion.

Today’s program concludes with a short visit to the 160-year-old Kew Library which forms one of the world’s largest collections relating to botany. The Library, Art & Archives contains more than half a million items, including books, botanical illustrations, photographs, letters and manuscripts, periodicals, biographies and maps. (Overnight London) BL

Day 4: Thursday 10 October, London

Our morning visit is to Gothic 13th- to 16th-century Westminster Abbey, Britain’s coronation church since 1066. In the 10th century the Abbey was founded as a home to a community of Benedictine monks. Since the reign of Elizabeth I, Westminster has been a Royal Peculiar, that is, under the direct control of the Sovereign, and a Collegiate Church with a community of canons lead by the dean. It is also a grand national memorial; many of Britain’s greatest authors and poets are buried here and/or remembered in sculpted monuments.

The Abbey also has a significant library and archive. We will be given an introduction to the riches of this collection by a senior curator, followed by a viewing of some of the many valuable books and manuscripts it contains. Our tour includes the Chapter House, which has remnant wall paintings illustrating the Book of the Apocalypse copied from a medieval manuscript that is now part of the collection of Trinity College, Cambridge, which we will see later in our tour.

Opened in June 2018, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries are set more than 16 metres (52 feet) above the Abbey’s floor in the beautiful 13th century triforium, an area that has remained hidden for over 700 years. Displaying 300 treasures from the Abbey’s collection, many for the first time, the Galleries reflects the Abbey’s thousand-year history. Highlights include the Westminster Retable (1259 – 69), the oldest surviving altarpiece in England from Henry III’s Abbey; the Litlyngton Missal, a magnificent illuminated 14th-century service book made for the Abbey’s high altar; and the 14th century Liber Regalis, a guide to staging coronations and royal funerals at the Abbey which still forms the basis of royal ceremonies today.

In the afternoon we return to Holborn. The Royal College of Surgeons of England possesses an outstanding library of surgical literature that dates from the late 15th century to the present day, documenting the achievement of British surgery from the 18th century onwards through its printed collections, prints, drawings and archives and in providing a provenance to the collections housed in the Hunterian Museum. (Overnight London) B

Day 5: Friday 11 October, London
  • Lambeth Palace Library
  • The Linnean Society of London incl. the Linnean Collections and Library
  • Optional visit to Maggs Bros. Ltd – dealers of rare books and manuscripts since 1853

We begin today with a visit to the new Lambeth Palace Library. Housing the major archive of the Anglican Church, the collection is considered one of the most important religious archives in the UK and the largest in Europe, after the Vatican. For centuries this precious collection was held within the Great Hall of Lambeth Palace. Now, after 400 years, it has a purpose-built home. Completed in 2020 at a cost of £24 million, this new library was designed by Scottish architect Clare Wright. The library holds about 200,000 printed books – 30,000 dating from before 1700 – plus more than 5,000 manuscripts (600 medieval) as well as the correspondence of the Archbishops of Canterbury in an unbroken sequence from the 1860s onwards. Highlights include the famous ‘Lambeth Apocalypse’, a 13th-century illuminated text. During our visit we will be shown some of its remarkable treasures.

Following a light lunch at the Royal Society of Arts cafe, we enjoy a private tour of The Linnean Society of London in Burlington House, Piccadilly. Founded in 1788 by Sir James Edward Smith (1759–1828), it is the world’s oldest active biological society and takes its name from the Swedish naturalist and taxonomist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) whose botanical, zoological and library collections have been in its keeping since 1829. It was at a meeting of the Society in 1858 that papers from Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace outlining the theory of evolution by natural selection were first presented. Our tour will include visits to the Meeting Room, the fascinating Linnaean Collections and the grand Reading Room of the Library to view some of its treasures.

The rest of the afternoon will be at leisure with the opportunity to visit Maggs Brothers, one of the world’s oldest antiquarian booksellers, at their main premises in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury. (Overnight London) BL

Cambridge - 5 nights

Day 6: Saturday 12 October, London – Cambridge
  • The Waddesdon Bequest at The British Museum
  • Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge

This morning we transfer to the British Museum to view the Waddesdon Bequest, a new gallery showing the priceless gift of Baron Ferdinand Rothschild and named after his rich estate that we visit later on tour. There will also be an opportunity to further explore the British Museum’s remarkable collection.

We then depart London for the university city of Cambridge to explore its College Libraries and Museums. This afternoon we visit the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The World Cultures gallery houses the Museum’s principal Anthropology collection, displaying culturally significant art and artefacts from around the world. The guided visit will focus on the unique objects from Oceania, North America and the Arctic collected on the voyages of Captain Cook. We spend the next five nights in Cambridge, a centre of learning since the 12th century. (Overnight Cambridge) B

Day 7: Sunday 13 October, Cambridge – Audley End – Saffron Walden – Cambridge
  • Audley End House and Gardens
  • Medieval market town of Saffron Walden & St Mary the Virgin
  • Afternoon at leisure: optional visit to Kings College Chapel Evensong

Today we visit a great country house that monarchs and aristocrats alike have used for over 400 years as a symbol of their wealth, status and power, as well as for their pleasure. This is Audley End, a fitting climax to our tour. Henry VIII gave Walden Abbey to Sir Thomas Audley, who transformed it into his mansion, Audley End. His grandson Thomas, first Earl of Suffolk, rebuilt this mansion between 1603 and 1614. The new Audley End was truly palatial in scale, but Suffolk fell from power after 1618. Charles II bought the house in 1668 and used it as a base for attending the Newmarket races. By the 1680s, Sir Christopher Wren was warning of the need for major repairs. The cost of these caused William III to return Audley End to the Suffolk family. When the Suffolk line died out in 1745, the Countess of Portsmouth bought the house for her nephew and heir, Sir John Griffin Whitwell, the fourth Baron Howard de Walden and first Baron Braybrooke. Today, the house’s interior largely reflects the tastes of the third Baron Braybrooke, who inherited it in 1825. He installed his extensive picture collection here and filled the rooms with rich furnishings. The fourth Baron Braybrooke’s natural history collection also remains an appealing feature of the house. After nearly thirty years in store, a rare set of English tapestries by the Soho weaver Paul Saunders has been conserved and displayed in the Tapestry Room. They depict figures in a landscape with ruined buildings and were originally supplied to Audley End in 1767.

Audley’s park and the fine Victorian gardens are just as glorious as its interiors. An artificial lake, created with water from the River Cam, runs through delightful 18th century parkland. The Classical Temple of Concorde, built in 1790 in honour of George III, and the restored 19th century formal parterre garden, dominate views from the back of the house. We will see Robert Adam’s ornamental garden buildings, and the Elysian Garden cascade.

The medieval market town of Saffron Walden takes its name from saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) which was widely grown during the 16th and 17th centuries. The stigmas of the flower were used in medicines, as a condiment, in perfume and as expensive yellow dye. The town features many heritage buildings including one of the most beautiful parish churches in Essex, St Mary the Virgin. The church dates mainly from the end of the 15th century when an old smaller church was extensively rebuilt by the master John Wastell who also built King’s College Chapel in Cambridge. Following some time at leisure for lunch we visit the church and take a walking tour to view the colourful half-timbered buildings which overhang the sloping medieval streets.

We return to Cambridge in the early afternoon and the rest of the day is at leisure. You may wish to attend the Sunday afternoon evensong service at the wonderful King’s College Chapel to hear its famous choir and enjoy its soaring English Perpendicular Gothic architecture and beautiful stained glass, spared from destruction during the Reformation. (Overnight Cambridge) B

Day 8: Monday 14 October, Cambridge – Wimpole House – Anglesey Abbey – Cambridge
  • Wimpole House, Library & Book Room
  • Anglesey Abbey and Lord Fairhaven’s Library

This morning we visit grand, classical Wimpole Hall (begun 1630) where Edward Harley, second Earl of Oxford, amassed the largest and most important collection of books and manuscripts ever assembled by a private individual in England; the manuscripts would later form the nucleus of the British Library collection. By 1720, Harley’s guests were able to view his books in five beautiful, specially designed spaces, known as the Book Room, and later in the Library, an extension built by James Gibbs (1682-1754). Our tour will include a visit to the fine Library rooms and a display of the collections.

Following time at leisure for lunch at the Old Rectory Restaurant, we transfer to Anglesey Abbey, a beautiful Jacobean house built in 1600 on the site of a 13th-century priory. Here we shall explore the interior of the house in which Lord Fairhaven (1896-1966), son of an American Railway magnate, used great ingenuity in displaying his collections. His eclectic taste in art ranged from paintings by Antonio Canova and Claude Lorraine to those of John Constable. Lord Fairhaven also had a remarkable library, which we will explore. (Overnight Cambridge) B

Day 9: Tuesday 15 October, Cambridge
  • Old Library & Rare Books Reading Room, St John’s College
  • Wren Library, Trinity College
  • The Fitzwilliam Museum and Founder’s Library

This morning we walk to St John’s College to visit its Old Library, which houses the College’s special collections. The College was founded in 1511 by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of the first Tudor monarch Henry VII; the Old Library dates from 1624 and was a gift from John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln. Built in the Gothic style, its oak shelves each have a little door that, when opened, reveals the list of books that they contained. The collection is rich in manuscripts and early printed books and we will be able to view some of these during our visit.

We next visit the Wren Library, Trinity College (1676-1695), designed by Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723). This superb building contains a statue of Byron (who broke every college rule when he was a student there) and some of the earliest manuscripts in the world including the Epistles of St Paul, produced in the 8th century. It also contains Newton’s own copy of the first edition of Principia with his annotations for the second edition, and manuscripts by Milton, Tennyson and Thackeray, as well as A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.

Our day concludes with a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum to explore its collections of art and antiquities of Greece, Rome, Egypt, the Near East and Far East, all bequeathed by Richard Fitzwilliam, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam (1745-1816). The museum, one of the oldest in the world, was established in 1816. Along with antiquities, including a highlight, the bas-reliefs from Persepolis, it has a fine collection of paintings, including masterpieces by Simone MartiniDomenico VenezianoTitianVeroneseRubensVan DyckFrans HalsCanalettoHogarthGainsboroughConstableMonetDegasRenoirCézanne and Picasso and a fine collection of 20th-century art; miniatures, drawings, watercolours and prints. The Museum also houses a fine collection of books, including some of Britain’s most famous illuminated manuscripts. We will enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the Founder’s Library to view some of its treasures. (Overnight Cambridge) B

Day 10: Wednesday 16 October, Cambridge – Holkham Hall – Cambridge
  • Holkham Hall: exclusive house tour including the Libraries – Manuscript, Classical and Long Library

Today there will be an excursion to Holkham Hall, residence of the Earls of Leicester for 250 years. With a stunning location on the north Norfolk coast, this fine 18th-century Palladian mansion, designed by William Kent (1685-1748) is known for its stately Marble Hall and great collection of Old Master paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, Claude, Gaspar Poussin and Gainsborough. We shall take a private tour of the state rooms and, following lunch, enjoy an exclusive specialist look at the Manuscript, Classical and Long Library.

Time and weather allowing, we will also take a walk along Holkham’s stunning panoramic beach, part of the Holkham National Nature Reserve which comprises a number of rare and precious habitats including salt marsh, sand dunes, pine woodland, beach and grazing marsh. (Overnight Cambridge) BL

Oxford - 4 nights

Day 11: Thursday 17 October, Cambridge – High Wycombe – Oxford
  • Parker Library, Corpus Christi College
  • Wormsley Library, near High Wycombe

This morning we visit the Parker Library, the rare books and manuscripts library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. The Parker Library, whose collection was initiated in 1376 was named after its greatest benefactor, Matthew Parker (1504-1575), Archbishop of Canterbury to Queen Elizabeth I. Parker built a rich collection known throughout the world for its medieval books. This includes the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, principal source book for early English history, and the best manuscript of Chaucer’s Troilus. No less important are the Middle English, French and Latin texts on subjects ranging from alchemy and astrology to music and medicine.

We then leave Cambridge for the Chiltern Hills near High Wycombe for a private visit to 18th-century Wormsley Park by special arrangement. Sir Paul Getty, son of the great collector and philanthropist, J. Paul Getty Snr, created its library, which has one of the finest private collections in the country. Wormsley Library includes a range of illuminated and calligraphic manuscripts from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, as well as monuments of typography ranging from a fragment of the Gutenberg Bible, the Ulm Ptolemy on vellum and the only first edition of Caxton’s Chaucer in private hands (there is also a Shakespeare First Folio). There are also the greatest British private press books, many of which are printed on vellum, such as the Kelmscott Chaucer and Ashendene Dante. Most spectacular is the collection of fine British and European decorative book bindings again ranging from the Renaissance to the 20th century. There is also an important collection of colour-plate travel books. (Overnight Oxford) BL

Day 12: Friday 18 October, Oxford
  • Walking tour of Oxford city and the University
  • Tour of the Bodleian Library, including the 15th-century Divinity School, Convocation House, Chancellor’s Court and Duke Humfrey’s medieval library
  • Christ Church Library and Picture Gallery
  • Merton College: Library, Chapel & Beerbohm Room

Oxford University (founded c.1167) is a vast corpus of stunning architecture such as Sir Christopher Wren’s  Sheldonian Theatre (1664-68). Over the centuries many famous writers, poets, novelists, critics and children’s authors have studied or lived in Oxford; writers include Jonathan Swift, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, T.R. Lawrence, Thomas More, Aldous Huxley and Graham Greene. We explore its rich intellectual and architectural heritage with a guided walking tour.

We also take a tour of the Bodleian Library, one of the world’s greatest libraries, established in the 15th century. It contains 6.5 million books, manuscripts and maps. The beautiful historic buildings of the Bodleian are complemented by a recent full redevelopment of what was known as the New Bodley into the Weston Library, which includes a major new exhibition space and public café and shop.

This afternoon we have a special visit to the library at Christ Church, which is an important resource and research centre that contains a large collection of early printed books and manuscripts. These are housed in the Upper Library, a 150 feet long building lit by Venetian windows at either end, and three sash windows overlooking the Peckwater Quadrangle, that was built between 1717 and 1772. We will view a number of manuscripts and treasures including Wolsey’s lectionaries and his cardinal’s hat. Cardinal Wolsey founded Christ Church in 1525, although originally named Cardinal College. It is unknown whether he had intended to build a library from the beginning as there was no provision for books until the early 1560s. The Library can be dated from a gift of twelve books that contain ex dono inscriptions from the reign of Elizabeth I, together with letters of appeal written to wealthy patrons in 1562. Following our library visit, we have the opportunity to view an important collection of Italian Old Master paintings and drawings from the 14th to the 18th century in the purpose-built Christ Church Picture Gallery that was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1968. Other collections have been donated to the Picture Gallery over the years, including one of 18th- and 19th-century English Glass and a number of Russian icons from the 17th and 18th centuries. We will also take a look inside Christ Church Cathedral, which is not only the College Chapel but also the cathedral church for the Diocese of Oxford. The site of the present Cathedral was originally a nunnery founded by St Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford. Her shrine and relics are in the Latin Chapel. St Frideswide’s Priory was surrendered to Cardinal Wolsey in 1522 when he decided to built his college. A choir has been at the cathedral since 1526 and music is still an integral part of Christ Church Cathedral.

Then we make our way to Merton College, founded in 1264, to visit the Old Library (1371-78), the Chapel (with Sir Thomas Bodley’s memorial) and the Beerbohm room. The Merton Library is the oldest continuously functioning library for scholars in the world. Its fine collection includes medieval manuscripts, early printed books, and the papers of distinguished members of the College including T.S. Eliot. Our tour will include a display of some of these great treasures.

The evening is at leisure. You may wish to visit the Christ Church Cathedral for choral evensong. (Overnight Oxford) B

Day 13: Saturday 19 October, Oxford – Hereford – The Cotswolds – Oxford
  • Hereford Cathedral incl. Medieval Garden, Mappa Mundi & Chained Library
  • Lunch at the Castle House Restaurant, Hereford
  • Scenic drive through the Cotswolds incl. Stow-in-the-Wold

Today we visit the cathedral city of Hereford. The seat of Putta, Bishop of Hereford, some time between AD 676 and 688, by the beginning of the 8th century Hereford had become the Saxon capital of West Mercia. In the following centuries the town was involved repeatedly in struggles between the Saxons, the Welsh and the Vikings. Its strategic location on the Welsh Marches led to the construction of a huge castle by the Earls of Hereford (dismantled in the 18th century). Hereford Cathedral dates from the 12th century and the adjacent Bishop’s Palace was constructed in 1204. The cathedral has a grand Romanesque nave and a fine Gothic ceiling and tracery windows in the aisles. It has a lustrously decorated Lady Chapel. Hereford Cathedral School is also one of the oldest schools in England.

We shall explore the cathedral and the library museum, whose greatest treasure is the magnificent Mappa Mundi (1300), the largest medieval map in existence. Although parts of Europe and Africa are identifiable in this map, which has as its centre Jerusalem, its real importance lies not in its accurate representation but in its portrayal of the medieval spiritual worldview, which includes paradise. In the cathedral’s magnificent library books, such valuable items in the Middle Ages, were chained for security; the use of chains, of which Hereford has the most complete example, endured until the 18th century. Its oldest manuscript, one of 229 in the collection, is the extraordinary 8th-century Hereford Gospels.

We shall enjoy a late lunch at the nearby Castle House Restaurant overlooking the old Hereford castle’s moat. In the early afternoon, we return to Oxford via the picturesque Cotswolds, making a short stop at the village of Stow-on-the-Wold, an important medieval market town and now a centre for English antiques. As well as the large market square, the town has some very early coaching inns, including the Royalist Hotel that has timbers that have been carbon-dated to 987; it is believed to be the oldest inn in England. (Overnight Oxford) BL

Day 14: Sunday 20 October, Oxford – Waddesdon – Oxford
  • Waddesdon Manor, including a private tour of the library

Today we visit Waddesdon Manor, one of the most extraordinary houses in England. Over 125 years ago, Baron Ferdinand Rothschild transformed a barren hill in the countryside outside London into the setting for this breathtaking estate, where he entertained family and friends, politicians and artists, royalty and writers. Over the years, he assembled an outstanding collection of French decorative art, and an extraordinary library rich in fine French imprints, to which his heir (his younger sister Alice) and in turn her heirs (their French cousin James and his English wife Dorothy) added many complementary furnishings, paintings and drawings. Today, Waddesdon Manor is admired not only for its architecture and luxurious and colourful French interior decor but also for its collections of superb English portraits and Dutch Old Masters, as well as its books, manuscripts and exquisite textiles. The extensive gardens are renowned for their seasonal flower displays, and the Parterre, in particular, has been restored using traditional techniques. Our visit includes a private tour of the library, which contains the collection of 17th- and 18th-century volumes created by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. (Overnight Oxford) BL

Windsor - 1 night

Day 15: Monday 21 October, Oxford – Windsor
  • Windsor Castle
  • Eton College’s rare book and manuscript library – by special appointment
  • Farewell Dinner

This morning we explore the very seat of the Royal Family, Windsor Castle. Begun by William the Conqueror, the Castle has been home to successive monarchs and, in the case of Charles I, his prison. Our visit will include the State Apartments with their collection of paintings and artefacts.

Following time at leisure for lunch in Windsor, we enjoy a special visit to the Eton College Library, a rare book and manuscript library of international importance. Eton College was founded by King Henry VI in 1440 for the education of seventy King’s Scholars. In addition to the King’s Scholars housed in ‘College’, there are now over 1200 ‘Oppidan’ boys at the school in 24 other boarding houses, making Eton the largest boarding school for boys in the United Kingdom. On display in the 18th-century College Library, will be a selection of treasures from the archives. These include a rare copy on paper of the Gutenberg Bible, notable for having retained a very early binding, made in the German university city of Erfurt.

This evening we gather at the hotel for a farewell dinner. (Overnight Windsor) BD

Day 16: Tuesday 22 October, Depart Windsor. Tour Ends.
  • Tour concludes in the morning
  • At leisure/Check out

Our tour ends in Windsor.  In the morning you will be required to check out of the hotel.  Please contact ASA if you require assistance with a transfer to London Heathrow Airport. B



ASA has selected 4-star hotels that are themselves historical buildings and/or are located in historical centres. All hotels provide rooms with private facilities. Further information on hotels will be provided in the ‘Tour Hotel List’ given to tour members prior to their departure.

  • London (5 nights): 4-star Citadines Aparthotel Holborn-Covent Garden London – a 10 minute-walk from the British Museum, this contemporary aparthotel is surrounded by shops, old pubs and restaurants. www.citadines.com
  • Cambridge (5 nights): 4-star Hilton Cambridge City Centre Hotel – stylish modern hotel located in the heart of the city within easy walking distance to the colleges, Fitzwilliam Museum and King’s College Chapel. www3.hilton.com
  • Oxford (4 nights): 4-star Mercure Oxford Eastgate Hotel – recently refurbished hotel set in a 17th-century townhouse building that was once frequented by author J.R.R Tolkien, located in Oxford city centre a short walk from Merton College and the Bodleian Library. www.mercure.com
  • Windsor (1 night): 4-star Macdonald Windsor Hotel – modern hotel in a townhouse dating from the 1700s, situated in the heart of this historic town just a few minutes walk from Windsor Castle. www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk

Note: Hotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation is for sole occupancy throughout the tour. The number of spaces available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

How to Book


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $1000.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Practical Information

Practical Information

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 16-day cultural tour of England involves:
  • A daily schedule often involving an early-morning departure (8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (5.30-6.00pm).
  • 2-3 site visits most days, involving up to 1-2 hours of walking at each (sometimes on uneven terrain, cobbled streets, and steep slopes,) and/or standing (eg museum and libraries), interspersed with coach travel.
  • Using the London Underground system, where participants may need to negotiate flights of stairs.
  • 4-star hotels with three hotel changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $11,380.00 Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: Book before 30 Sep 2023

AUD $11,580.00 Land Content Only

AUD $2990.00 Single Supplement

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 4-star hotels
  • Breakfast daily, lunches and dinners as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach between cities and use of public transport in London
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels (not at airports). Porterage is not available in London
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Tour reference book
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • International Airfare: Australia-London, London-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Tour Map

Tour Map

Terms & Conditions

A non-refundable deposit of $1000.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on this ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: your initial deposit of $1000.00 is non-refundable.**
  • 75-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**$500.00 of this amount (ie 50% of your deposit) may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply.

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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