With Prince Harry and Meghan dominating the headlines, my first two suggestions will appeal to many anglophile clients heading across the pond this year, and in 2019. If you like customising UK tours and pre/post cruise extensions for independent travellers and small groups, what follows will fire your imagination.
Worship in the Royal Wedding Venue
Last year one of my customized small group tours arrived on a Sunday morning. Since they were all churchgoers they said yes to my suggestion of a visit to the service of Matins in St George’s Chapel, the burial place of 10 monarchs and one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings in England. It’s where Prince Harry and Meghan are being married and it makes a great Sunday start to any tour of Britain.
Changing the Guard
It’s one of the highlights of any visit Windsor visit. Subject to the weather, a band usually accompanies the guards and you can watch them as they march up the High Street and into the Castle. To see the actual 11 a.m. changing of the guard ceremony, you need to pay to go into the castle, since it takes place outside the Guardroom in the Lower Ward.
An Epic Tale on an Epic Scale
Kynren (www.kynren.com), the UK’s ‘must see’ spectacular live outdoor show takes place in County Durham in England’s north east. In just 90 minutes, this world-class performance takes you on a breath-taking time travel adventure through 2,000 years of history, myth and legend. Set against the magnificent backdrop of Auckland Castle, it’s delivered by a 1,000-strong cast and some awesome pyrotechnics and special effects. There will be 15 performances between 30th June and 15th September.
The Illumination Festival of Flowers
The Winchester Cathedral Illumination Flower Festival (http://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/events/flower-festival-2018/) takes place between 5th – 9th September with an exuberant array of flower arrangements inspired by the striking and floral displays evoking the Winchester Bible’s exquisitely illuminated initials and decorative schemes. Add the RHS Garden Show at Wisley and a Dahlia Day at Pashley Manor4th-9th September for an unforgettable late summer stately homes and cathedrals tour.
Internationally Renowned Landscape Garden Reopens
Garden tour planners will be thrilled to learn that the great woodland garden at Leonardslee (www.leonardsleegardens.co.uk) will reopen in July. Set in a tranquil valley, a series of seven lakes reflect the spectacular colourful display of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and Magnolias that surround them. Keeping the grass mown, eco-friendly wallabies whose ancestors have been here since 1889.
Celebrating Their 125th Anniversary
Botanical heritage and stunning landscapes at the privately owned, award winning Borde Hill Garden (http://www.bordehill.co.uk/) provide the foundations for a perfect visit for horticultural enthusiasts and those who love beautiful countryside. The outdoor garden rooms include the delightful Azalea Ring and Rhododendron Gardens, the Rose Gardens and scenic Italian Garden and they are all best seen, understood and enjoyed with a Head Gardener led tour.
A Must for The Lord of the Rings Fans
Between 1st June – 28th October, the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries will stage the Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth (tolkien.bodleian.ox.ac.uk). It will explore the full breadth of Tolkien’s unique literary imagination, from his creation of Middle Earth, the imagined world where “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit” are set, to his life and work as an artist, poet, medievalist and scholar of languages.
Jane Austen Festival
As you and your clients have spent Sunday evenings watching Masterpiece Theatre productions of Jane Austen’s novels, start planning a tour to the popular Jane Austen Festival (www.janeaustenfestivalbath.co.uk/), which returns to Bath from Friday 14th–Sunday 23rd September 2018. This year’s Festival will celebrate her novel Persuasion — much of which is set in the city — 200 years after its publication.
York Mystery Plays
Being staged on pageant wagons in the city’s streets, the York Mystery Plays (www.yorkmysteryplays.co.uk/) are a significant cultural treasure. Beyond their religious importance, they represent the values of community and togetherness as they draw on the talents of local people gladly giving their time to present these iconic plays. In 2018 for the first time an additional torch-lit evening performance will be held
The Ancient Art of Wells Dressing
Throughout the spring/summer Peak District/Derbyshire villages come alive with this ancient tradition of creating magnificent floral displays (www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iFZ2b5CDak) which give thanks for the supply of pure water. Huge wooden frames containing a bed of moist clay are decorated with intricate pictures using petals, seeds, bark and other natural products. Many villages have several of them on display during their annual well dressing week.
Paull Tickner, owner of U.K.-based Custom GB, is known for his expertise in creating and operating imaginative, value-added tours of Great Britain and Ireland. Visit his website at or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.