Rick Steves' Villages of South England in 13 Days Tour, Day by Day
If you already love London and are ready for a deeper dive into English culture (and scenery), we've got just the ticket! Hop aboard this slideshow preview of our Villages of South England in 13 Days tour! (photo: Addie Mannan)
Days 1 & 2: Welcome to England and Canterbury
The beautiful medieval city of Canterbury is an easy train ride from central London — and the perfect jumping-off point for our Villages of South England adventure. We'll meet at our hotel at 5 p.m. for a "Welcome to England" get-together. Then we'll take an evening walking tour along Canterbury's colorful lanes and get acquainted over dinner.
The next morning we'll make our own little pilgrimage to the impressive Canterbury Cathedral, one of the most important churches in England. After touring the cathedral (and learning about the dramatic martyrdom of Thomas Becket), we'll meet with conservators who are tasked with preserving some of England's most treasured strone masonry and stained glass. The rest of the afternoon is free for you to sample a few of Canterbury's fascinating museums. After lunch, you'll have some time to explore the historic layers of this pilgrimage city, finishing with a punt trip along the River Stour. Tonight is a perfect evening to enjoy an evensong performance at the Cathedral. (photo: Canterbury Cathedral)
Days 3 & 4: Dover Castle, White Cliffs, and Battle Abbey
After breakfast we'll meet our bus and driver for a drive to the White Cliffs and the imposing fortress of Dover Castle. We'll explore the Great Tower and Medieval Tunnels before entering the WWII-era Secret Wartime Tunnels (from which the British directed the perilous evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940). After lunch we'll take a short walk to explore the White Cliffs, famous for their geology and historic role. We'll return to Canterbury, where we'll have a beer tasting at a local brewery. The evening is yours to find a cozy restaurant for dinner.
The next morning we'll discover more of England's southeast coastline, beginning with a visit to Battle Abbey, the site of the Battle of Hastings. It was here in 1066 that the army of King William invaded across the English Channel and killed King Harold, ushering in the Norman conquest of England. After lunch we'll stroll the South Downs Way for a view of England's famous white chalk cliffs at Beachy Head. We'll end our day peacefully, amidst the thatched roofs and timber-framed buildings of quaint Alfriston, where we'll sleep. (photo: Rick Steves)
Days 5 & 6: Great Ships and Salisbury
This morning we'll drive to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for a day devoted to Britain's rich nautical history. You'll have a chance to tour HMS Victory, the warship of Admiral Lord Nelson that defeated the French at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. We'll also visit the newly renovated Mary Rose Museum, built to showcase Henry VIII's sunken warship that was raised from the sea in the 1980s. You'll also have the opportunity for a look at traditional woodworking skills in action at the historic boat workshop. Late this afternoon we'll drive to Salisbury, where we'll enjoy an orientation followed by dinner together.
We'll begin the next day touring the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral, famous for its rich lore and towering Gothic spire. In addition, we'll visit the Chapter House, which is home to one of four original copies of the Magna Carta, the 1215 document that first established that everyone — even the king — was subject to the law. The remainder of the day is yours to explore more of this attractive town, including its lively local market and lovely riverside walks. (photo: Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli)
Days 7 & 8: Stonehenge, the Jurassic Coast, and Dartmoor National Park
This morning we'll travel back in time with a visit to Stonehenge, where we'll learn about and ponder the origins of these iconic stones as old as the pyramids. Then after a drive through the enchanting Dorset countryside, we'll arrive in the village of Corfe, and conquer the imposing hilltop ruins of Corfe Castle, one of the earliest castles to be built from stone. After lunch we'll travel west to discover the natural beauty of the Jurassic Coast and its geologic formations, which date back 185 million years. Our day ends in the cozy village of Chagford — within Dartmoor National Park — where we'll enjoy dinner together and sleep.
The next morning we'll join a local guide and explore the natural wonders of Dartmoor National Park, home to wooded forests, desolate moors, and stone bridges. We'll learn about this compelling and varying landscape that inspired great literature, including The Hound of the Baskervilles, and have lunch together. This evening is free for you to enjoy one of Dartmoor's man-made wonders, the cozy country pub. (photo: Cameron Hewitt)
Days 9 & 10: Penwith, Pints, and Pasties
We'll drive into Cornwall today, known for its striking, wave-swept coast and charming fishing villages. Our first stop is a visit to the dramatic, cliff-hugging ruins of Tintagel Castle, long associated with King Arthur. After lunch, we'll visit the tranquil Lanhydrock House and Gardens, known for its elegant Victorian country house, herbaceous borders, and formal gardens. Then we'll continue our drive deeper into Cornwall and along its famed, rugged Penwith Peninsula. We'll end the day with dinner together.
We'll spend the next day exploring the Penwith Peninsula, home to fishing villages and rocky, windblown scenery. We'll begin the day learning all about Cornwall's most famous culinary contribution — the pasty — with a demonstration (and sampling!) of how these traditional one-handed meals are made. Then we'll don hard hats at the Geevor Tin Mine and learn about the importance of tin mining to this region and Britain's Industrial Age. We'll return to our home village with time for some exploration and dinner on your own. (photo: Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli)
Days 11 & 12: St. Michael's Mount, St. Ives, and Bath
This morning we'll conquer St. Michael's Mount, the dramatic rock island first inhabited by monks more than 1,500 years ago. We'll have time to explore the castle and gardens — now a stately home — before returning to the mainland. After lunch, we'll explore the picturesque harbor town of St. Ives. You can stroll the twisty lanes of the old town, visit one of its numerous art galleries, or grab some ice cream and people-watch at the beach before returning to our home village for a free evening.
The following morning we'll head north to our final destination, the elegant Georgian city of Bath (a wonderful place to extend your England vacation — or easily pop back to London). After a short walking tour and some free time, we'll enjoy a final dinner together and raise a hearty toast to our adventures. (photo: Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli)
Day 13: Tour Over After Breakfast
Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. Bath is an easy 90-minute train ride to central London, with connections to Heathrow and Gatwick airports. For those not yet ready to return home, Bath is a delightful city with many sightseeing options. Cheerio! (photo: Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli)
Learn more about Rick Steves' Villages of South England in 13 Days tour.