Slideshow: Best of South England, Day by Day

  • Rick Steves' Best of South England in 13 Days Tour, Day by Day

    Our Best of South England tour brings you to the very roots of British history and culture. Your Rick Steves guide will introduce you to locals who have talents to share and stories to tell. You'll learn about and taste the delicious seafood, traditional Cornish pasties, and hearty ales crafted from generations-old recipes. You'll marvel at the sights as well, from the iconic White Cliffs of Dover to the sweeping moorlands of Dartmoor, ancient stone circles to secluded seaside coves, and cliff-perched villages to great sailing ships. Hop aboard this slideshow preview of our Best of South England in 13 Days tour!

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    Days 1: Welcome to England

    The beautiful medieval city of Canterbury is an easy train ride from central London — and the perfect jumping-off point for our Best of South England adventure. We'll meet at our hotel 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.

  • Stained glass in Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

    Day 2: Canterbury Cathedral

    This 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 stone masonry and stained glass. 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.

  • Day 3: Dover Castle and the White Cliffs

    After breakfast, we'll meet our coach and driver and head 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.

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    Day 4: Battles and Beaches

    Today 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 William the Conqueror 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 eastern Sussex.

  • HMS Victory

    Days 5: The Great Ships of Portsmouth

    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.

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    Day 6: Soaring Salisbury Cathedral

    We'll begin the 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.

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    Days 7: Stonehenge and the Jurassic Coast

    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 that are as old as the pyramids. Then 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.

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    Day 8: Dartmoor National Park

    Today we'll explore the natural wonders of Dartmoor National Park, home to wooded forests, desolate moors, and the prehistoric Merrivale stone rows. 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 we'll enjoy a village church tour, followed by free time to enjoy one of Dartmoor's cozy country pubs.

  • The back door at Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, England

    Days 9: Castles and Cornwall

    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 continue our drive deeper into Cornwall and along its famed, rugged coastline. We'll end the day with dinner together and enjoy a performance of traditional Cornish folk music.

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    Day 10: Coastal Cornwall

    Today we'll explore the wild and remote Cornish coast, home to rugged, windblown scenery and dotted with quaint fishing harbors and 19th-century Industrial Age ruins. We'll start our day with a scenic trek along grassy cliff tops, marveling at craggy rock formations and the crashing surf below. After lunch we'll visit a picturesque fishing village, where you can stroll the narrow lanes, poke around the shops and galleries, or grab some ice cream and people-watch at the beach. We'll return to our home village with time for some exploration and dinner on your own.

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    Days 11: St. Michael's Mount

    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 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 our home village for a free evening.

  • Day 12: Georgian Bath

    This 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 walking tour and some free time, we'll enjoy a final dinner together and raise a hearty toast to our adventures. Cheers!

  • Day 13: Tour Over After Breakfast

    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!

    Learn more and reserve your seat for a 2024 Best of South England in 13 Days tour.