Literary England: The Classic Route

Special Group Tours


Canterbury, Dover, Bath, Stonehenge, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Oxford


This tour is geared towards visitors who wish to see the CLASSIC sites of England, all too often seen briefly on ‘whistle stop’ day trips from London. By spending a few nights in the countryside, enjoying evenings out among the locals, there’s so much more time to explore your surroundings. You are invited to get off the beaten track, see thatch roofed villages, oast houses and charming market towns as well as the iconic sites, hopefully away from the mad tourist throng. Enjoy a ‘Small Group Touring’ experience not available to ‘daytrippers’ herded on large, impersonal coaches rushing back to London each evening.

Our goal is to also appeal to fans of CLASSIC literature, as we use the country’s rich literary heritage as our theme. See Canterbury & Dover, Stonehenge, Salisbury & Bath, Stratford & Oxford but also Dickens’ Rochester, Jane Austen’s Chawton and Winchester, famed Sissinghurst Gardens, some Harry Potter film sites and more. CLASSIC scenery, CLASSIC tradition, CLASSIC history…join us for a real CLASSIC tour!


April 20 – 25, 2014 (6 Days / 5 Nights)

Tentative Itinerary:

This itinerary is an original SGT itinerary, property of Special Group Tours and to be used only with express permission/in conjunction with SGT.

This tour begins and ends in London.

DAY 1 — Sunday    


We depart our Central London meeting point at approximately 09:00 and travel via the old coaching route, tracing the path of Chaucer’s Pilgrims. This was an area of London also well known to Shakespeare and Dickens.

Our first stop is Charles Dickens’ Rochester. This gem of a city, with its cathedral and Norman castle, overflows with Dickens’s sites, places mentioned in his books such as ‘Miss Havisham’s house’ and Dickens himself lived here for a time.

Later, Dover Castle, where we’ll find a wealth of history from the mediaeval times of Henry V through to modern times with the WWII secret wartime tunnels. Interestingly, Dover Castle was recently used as a filming location for Philippa Gregory’s novel The Other Boleyn Girl.

NIGHTSTOP: Canterbury area

DAY 2 — Monday                       


This morning we will spend quality time in Chaucer’s mediaeval city of Canterbury. Meander the charming high street, filled with charming shops and cafes, and of course pay respects inside of the historic cathedral.

Later, visit Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicholson’s world famous garden of Sissinghurst. Here, we’ll find a Tudor tower complete with Vita’s writing workshop, a walled herb garden, mixed border gardens, an oast house museum, a white garden and a cottage garden. Writer and friend to the ‘Bloomsbury Group,’ Vita’s home usually has Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s printing press on display.

Spoilt for choice as to how we spend the rest of our day, Kent is steeped in literary heritage! In consultation with your guide, explore based on the particular interests of the individuals aboard. Local sites on offer include Henry James’ quaint fishing port of Rye, Kipling’s home or the Tunbridge Wells area with connections to Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen and Winnie the Pooh’s Ashdown Forest.

NIGHTSTOP: Canterbury area

Day 3 — Tuesday                       


A full day today, as we make our way west to “Jane Austen Country” the county of Hampshire. It was in the quaint village of Chawton that Jane Austen spent the majority of her later years, where she completed most of her most famous works, Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice amongst others. Once inside her cottage, we are in her world.

Winchester is a place well known to several authors – this is Thomas Hardy’s ‘Wintoncester’ and the final resting place for Jane Austen in Winchester Cathedral. A walking tour of this original Saxon capital of England will introduce you to the general sights, including England’s oldest public schools too.

NIGHTSTOP: Chilworth/Winchester area, Hampshire

DAY 4 — Wednesday                       

Salisbury, Stonehenge, Bath

A day simply full of iconic sites! Salisbury is one port of call, where we can pay our respects inside the stunning gothic cathedral and see one of the greatest pieces of writing, the Magna Carta.

Another stop will be the setting for a famous scene from Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, the great prehistoric temple of Stonehenge.

Bath, the city of Georgian splendor and Roman antiquity, is our base for tonight. Upon arrival, your guide will be on hand for an orientation walking tour of Jane Austen’s city. This place was enjoyed by the social set of the 18th and 19th centuries, a setting for Jane Austen amongst many other writers; Austen fans will immediately recognize several streets and squares from her novels such as Northanger Abbeyand Persuasion. You can also see places where the author herself lived.

The remains of the day is open so you can explore Bath as you please. We highly recommend time in the Roman Baths and Pump Rooms, the Jane Austen Centre or you could simply wander the lovely tea rooms and antique shops – the choice is yours!

Dinner is not included tonight for flexibility’s sake.


DAY 5 — Thursday                       

Lacock, Gloucester, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Our first destination is the medieval village of Lacock, which has hardly changed in the past 200 years. With its magnificent abbey, half timbered cottages and greystone houses, it provides a perfect setting. This lovely place, where TV ariels, telephone wires and advertising are banned, has been used as a film set for many popular films such as the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle production of Pride and Prejudice, the BBC series of Cranford and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The lovely, historic city of Gloucester has many wonderful literary connections. Gloucester Cathedral and the King’s School have enjoyed a recent surge in popularity since each was used as locations for ‘Hogwarts.’ Gloucester also features as a setting for Beatrix Potter and Humpty Dumpty can claim his origins here.

Stratford-Upon-Avon is a charming town besides its famous Shakespeare connections, but of course we’ll see some of the iconic sites such as The Birthplace and the charming local church, burial place for the Bard. Again, by spending the night, we can take in the local treasures avoiding the ‘daytrippers’ who have to rush back to London.

Dinner is not included this evening for flexibility’s sake and the opportunity, dependent upon schedules, to attend the theatre at the RSC. There’s a wonderful viewing tower and highly rated restaurant so worth a visit even if not attending a performance! See what’s on at the RSC

NIGHTSTOP: Stratford-Upon-Avon

DAY 6 — Friday                                   


We have the option to linger in Stratford this morning before making our way south. Our route will take us via one or two of the quaint, thatch-roofed Cotswolds villages known in this region.

Our main destination for today is the ‘city of the dreaming spires’ Oxford. This is the jewel in the literary crown. The Dean of Mathematics at Christchurch College was one Charles Dodgson, better known as ‘Lewis Carroll’ and one finds ‘Alice’ everywhere here. See the ancient pub in the town centre where the Inklings (CS Lewis, Tolkien…) met to talk and drink. And, of course, contemporary literature is represented by Colin Dexter’s detective ‘Morse’ and there is Harry’s ‘Hogwarts’ to discover too. A walking tour of the city will introduce you to these highlights and to many others.

We will make our way back into London, arriving approximately 18:00. Accommodation is separate tonight, available for the appropriate supplemental fee.

LOGISTICAL NOTE: This itinerary is a ‘sampler’ tour visiting several regions of England so involves a bit more driving than the ‘solo region’ itineraries but is still a Small Group Touring Experience, any longer drives are broken up and balanced by ample ‘off the beaten track’ explorations – and NO back and forth daily to London!

Supplementary Trip Option:

Add London to your package: London accommodation, airport transfers, London city tours, London attraction passes and London transport passes are separate from our short tour but can be added to your overall package as you wish. Contact Special Group Tours online or at 1-866-725-5250 for full details.

London offers heaps of options for visitors! On a general interest, SGT highly recommends a visit to St Paul’s CathedralAvoid the queues/lines and pre-book your tickets via us. We can also assist you with pre-booking The Tower of London and other top attractions. The London Museum and Museum of Costume are lesser known fine choices.

We recommend beginning your literary adventure with a visit to the British Library where you can see preserved manuscripts including Beowulf, Sir Gawain, Magna Carta plus works by Austen, Bronte, Dr Johnson and others.

Go past some writer’s homes, locations used as famed settings such as Bankside, Brick Lane, and the ‘Olde Curiosity Shoppe.’ There are former author homes now opened as museums for Dickens, Carlyle, Dr Johnson and Keats. There’s the Cheyne Walk area of Chelsea, the residence of choice for George Eliot, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Carlyle and others, the Bloomsbury of Virginia Woolf and friends, Keats’ Highgate North London neighborhood, Dr Johnson’s Fleet Street, Borough of Chaucer and later Dickens, the Bankside neighborhood of Shakespeare, now current home to the new Globe Theatre… We recommend taking advantage of the world famous London theatre during your stay, there’s the famed West End,Shakespeare’s Globe several ‘off West End’ gems too.

Please note: All attraction opening times are correct at time of printing this website. While we will do our utmost to include all of the properties mentioned as central visits, we reserve the right to change an attraction should it become impossible to deliver a planned visit due to unforeseen changes in opening days or times.


Tour Rate: $2,299 USD per person in twin/double room; $2,849 USD single rate

Services of a driver/guide for 6 touring days, accommodation for 5 nights while on the tour including breakfast daily and 3 dinners. Your price also includes all entrance fees to attractions, transportation and all taxes and tips other than those you may wish to give your guide.

Airport transfers, accommodation pre and post tour, London city tours, London attraction passes and London transport passes are not included but can be added to your package as you wish. Ask us for details.

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