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Canterbury is a town rightly famous for its cathedral and the pilgrimages that its shrine to Thomas Becket has inspired over the years—including the pilgrims in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. However, there is much more to the UNESCO World Heritage Site than its status as an important religious site. This Canterbury Tour, led by a local historian, examines the Roman remains of the town in addition to both more-famous and lesser-known medieval buildings, painting a wide-ranging picture of Roman Britain and medieval England.
Taking the train from London, we will arrive in town at Canterbury West station. From here, we will enter the city through the Westgate, the same point at which so many pilgrims throughout the years have entered. The gate lies on the site of the Roman gate into the city, so this monument can be seen as representative of much of Canterbury's early history. Depending on the time and the interest of the group, we may pop into the Roman Museum where we will examine the remains of a rich Roman house and its mosaics, while discussing Roman domestic life amongst the elites. Alternatively, we may take the short walk to the church of St. Mary Northgate, where the remains of the Roman wall of the town, almost at its full height, can still be seen in its north wall.
Continuing along the path of the Roman wall, we'll arrive at St. Martin's Church, whose site marks the beginning of English Christianity in the late sixth century. We will look at the history of this church and its importance. From here, we may consider Eastbridge Hospital, which was built in 1176 in response to the huge influx of pilgrims now arriving to see the shrine of Thomas Becket.
Those interested in medieval London may also be interested in our Hidden London Tour.
A stone's throw away is the thirteenth-century Blackfriars. What is visible today today is all that remains of a much larger friary that was situated on an island in the middle of the Stour River, which runs though Canterbury. The Blackfriars, the Dominican order of monks, were part of one of three orders who settled here in the medieval period. The others were the Greyfriars and Whitefriars, the Franciscan and Carmelite orders respectively. It is to the latter we now go, where we will briefly discuss a recent archaeological dig that has brought to light much of the history of Canterbury.
From there, our walk will take us to the famous, eleventh- and twelfth-century cathedral, where we will examine the location of the Archbishop Thomas Becket's murder and later shrine. This shrine was the focus for the pilgrims arriving in the city and formed the inspiration for Chaucer's 'A Pilgrim's Tale'. The importance of the shrine and its appearance, as it was destroyed during the Reformation, will be discussed, and will serve as the end-point of our walk.
If you are interested in learning more about the relationship between church and government, you may enjoy our London Parliament Tour.
Where will we meet our guide?
We meet at Canterbury West Train Station. Once you book, we will send you detailed instructions on how to reach the station and find your docent.
Do we go inside the venues or just see them from the outside?
We visit several sites, including Canterbury Cathedral.
Will you pre-purchase tickets?
You will purchase your Cathedral ticket at venue, but your docent will have special access privileges, so you will not wait in line.
What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your docent will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.
Is this tour good for kids?
Yes! We have some excellent family friendly docents who can appeal to the learning styles of children. Please book privately if you have children under 13. Feel free to provide us with information about your children such as favorite school subjects, and hobbies. This way we can match you with the best possible docent.
Is this a walking intensive tour?
The walk covers about 2 miles, but it's at leisurely pace and on even ground. The walk is fully accessible. The Cathedral Welcome Centre has a small number of wheelchairs available for free loan to visitors (for use within the precincts).
Start with a pickup in central London, and travel out of the city to visit majestic Windsor Castle. Be one of the first visitors of the day, and beat the crowds as you explore the elegant State Apartments and St George’s Chapel with your guide. The castle is one of the Queen’s weekend retreats, and is the perfect place to experience some 900 years of pageantry at your own pace.
Continue onward to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Stonehenge, one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world. Stonehenge is thought to date back nearly 5,000 years, and very little is known of its origins. Was it a place of pagan sun worship? Could it have been an ancient burial ground? Decide for yourself as you explore the site.
Your next stop is the pretty village of Lacock, one of the most picturesque settings in the country. Lacock dates back to Saxon times, and has been used more recently as the setting for movies and television dramas such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and the adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Take the weight off your feet and sit down for lunch at the George, a traditional English pub built in the 14th century. On rare occasions, when the George is closed, a carefully selected alternative pub may be visited for lunch instead.
Continue to your final stop in the charming Georgian city of Bath, once home to the famous British author Jane Austen. Start the visit with a coach tour of the city, and see top Bath attractions such as Pulteney Bridge and the Royal Crescent as well as the honey-colored Georgian architecture for which the city is famed. After getting your bearings, set off on a short stroll with your guide and scout out the Roman Baths and beautiful Bath Abbey. Walk around the city’s cobbled streets, shop for souvenirs and take time to pose for photos in front of the beautiful buildings.
Please note: on busy days, this tour may operate in reverse order and visit Bath first.
This regal banquet takes place by flickering torchlight in vaulted cellars just a stone's throw from the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Sit back and enjoy the show as Henry VIII's court entertainers provide a magical display for your amusement. Dinner is served by comely wenches, knights in armor provide entertainment, and bards sing medieval ballads!
After the meal and show there is music, dancing and merrymaking galore!
In that paragon of travel documentaries, National Lampoon's European Vacation, there is a scene in which Ellen Griswold (Beverly D'Angelo) forgets to lock the door on the shared bathroom in their London hotel. A man comes in to brush his teeth and is pleasantly surprised when Ellen—washcloth over face and believing the man to be her hubby, Clark—calls to him from the bathtub to join her. Shock and hilarity ensue. The accidental intruder was played by none of ther than Robbie Coltrane, 16 years before he embodied Hagrid in the Harry Potter films.