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Explore Southeast England with Historic Annapolis

 English Homes and Gardens

With Historic Annapolis

May 27 – June 3, 2018



Next May, join a group of like-minded travelers to explore the castles, estates and gardens in the Southeast of England. We’ll be touring several National Trust sites, as well as other famed gardens and historic places. Our base will be the popular Georgian spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent. It’s been attracting visitors for over 400 years, ever since a mineral water spring was discovered here, bringing royal visitors looking for eternal health.



The Southeast of England has one of the country’s richest concentrations of historic homes and gardens. We’ll visit homes in counties Kent, Sussex and Surrey ranging from castles to manor houses, and gardens that illustrate the highly-coveted fame of English gardens. These estates are extremely difficult to reach except by driving on narrow roads, so this is a way to see places you might otherwise not be able to visit. We’ll visit sites that are integral to the English heritage, predating even the discovery of America, as well as more recent places that remind us of the historical ties between England and the United States.


Most of the homes and gardens we’ll visit are National Trust properties, which means that these sites are well preserved and maintained, and staffed with knowledgeable guides to enhance your experience. And you’ll receive a year-long membership in the Royal Oak Society, the National Trust’s sister organization for people who don’t live in Britain.


Our home for the week will be the historic Spa Hotel located on several acres at the edge of Royal Tunbridge Wells. You’ll enjoy its two restaurants, pool, gym, spa and tennis courts if you wish. And, of course, there’s always the option of afternoon tea in the well-appointed lobby.


Each day we’ll depart by mini-van or small bus to visit some of the noted houses and gardens nearby, as well as spending a day in Canterbury. Each evening, we’ll get together before dinner to talk about our days and sip a glass of wine. Afterwards, we’ll break into small groups to walk or taxi to restaurants, or take advantage of the hotel’s convenient bistro. You’ll have a restaurant list to help you decide where to eat. There will always be a choice of where to eat and with whom to eat, and you’ll never dine alone unless you feel like it.


You’ll have two experienced trip leaders with you at all times. The trip is limited to no more than 18 people, so you’ll never walk around in a huge group, or be driven in a big tourist bus. We’ll eat most of our lunches at National Trust properties.

Late May/June is a wonderful time to visit Southeast England.  Temperatures are warm, days are long, gardens are in bloom, and tourists are not yet out in full force. It’s a great opportunity to take yourself back in time as you walk through medieval homes or make your way through lush gardens.



May 27 – June 3, 2018


Please note that we may make changes to this itinerary in response to unexpected closings, road conditions, weather or other unforeseen events.


Saturday, May 26

Depart from home (airfare not included) to either Heathrow or Gatwick airports in London. We’ll provide you with information about how to get from the airport to Royal Tunbridge Wells.


Sunday, May 27

Arrive in Tunbridge Wells. You can relax at the hotel, just walk in the gardens or have a cup of tea. If you’re up for it, join the group for a one-hour private guided walking tour to learn the history of the town and discover the famous Pantiles (an elegant colonnaded walkway of shops, galleries, and cafes) and Old High Street.    


6 p.m.   Meet at the hotel to officially greet one another and discuss the week’s activities.


Monday, May 28

10:15 a.m.

Meet in the lobby for the drive to Chartwell, the family home of Winston Churchill. A group of friends bought it for him in 1922, with the proviso that it become a Trust property at his death. Churchill lived here for the rest of his life. You’ll see the home as it was when he resided there, as well as the spectacular view of Kent, which he said was the reason he wanted to live here. Churchill enthusiasts staff each room; ask a question and you’ll get a very engaging conversation.


You can have lunch in the café (yummy desserts!), and take time to explore the many trails around the extensive gardens (both floral and vegetable), lawns and woodland areas. You’ll see lots of people picnicking; if you’d like to do so, bring along something with which to sit on the grass, and you can buy a picnic lunch at the café.


In the afternoon, stroll over to Churchill’s art studio. It contains the largest collection of his paintings, many of which he did at Chartwell or on his travels abroad.


3:45 p.m.  Return to Tunbridge Wells.


6 p.m.  Wine and conversation at the hotel.


Tuesday, May 29            

9:15 a.m.

Today we visit two places renowned for their gardens. Each is unique in its design and plantings.  According to Mollie Ridout, HA’s long-time Director of Horticulture, “These are must-see English gardens. Sissinghurst and Great Dixter changed the course of gardening in their time.” 


We start by driving to Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, where we will see the garden “rooms” created by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson in the 1930’s. While Sackville-West grew up at Knole, she could not inherit it because she was female; she bought the ruins of Sissinghurst and constructed these gardens. They are said to be “quintessentially” English.


We arrive early to have a private tour of these gardens before they open to the public, and then you’ll have time to stroll around the gardens yourself – including the vegetable gardens off a country lane.


1 p.m.

After lunch at Sissinghurst, we continue to Great Dixter House and Gardens. The house has a long history, with some parts dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. It was restored in 1911, leaving some of the medieval features intact, by the great British architect Edwin Lutyens.  The house was restored by businessman Nathanial Lloyd, whose son Christopher Lloyd, writer and horticulturist, then created the spectacular gardens. Today, these gardens still reflect his vision – ever changing and always surprising.


We’ll start with a 2pm private tour of these gardens with one of the Great Dixter gardening team, and then visit the house on our own.


4 p.m.  Return to Tunbridge Wells


6 p.m.  Wine and conversation at the hotel


Wednesday, May 30

10:15 a.m.

We’ll spend today at two National Trust properties, one going back to the 14th century, and the other begun in the 15th century. One is a quintessential Middle Ages home, and the other, very Elizabethan.


First we drive to Ightham Mote (pronounced “Item Mote”), where you’ll be transported back in time, as this medieval manor house, beautifully reflected in its moat, comes into view. It’s one of the oldest and loveliest homes from this time period. One of its legends says, “Cromwell’s soldiers, intent on looting it, lost their way in the tangled countryside, and ransacked another house of less interest instead.” So we’re the beneficiaries of that mistake.


Of special interest to us, the house was purchased and repaired by American Charles Robinson, who owned it from 1953 – 1985. He is celebrated every 4th of July at Ightham Mote, with a raising of the American flag.


1:45 p.m

After a leisurely lunch at the café (all lunches are on your own), and maybe a stop in the National Trust gift and garden shop, we’ll drive to Knole, one of the most famous houses in England – and reputedly the largest. Virginia Wolf drew on the history of the house and its residents for her novel Orlando


Knole has been the home of the Sackville family, who still live here, since the 16th century. It’s known for its vast art collection (lots of Reynolds, Gainsboroughs and Van Dycks) and silver furniture – and its medieval deer park. Inside, the rooms are panelled in period dark woods, much as they have been for centuries.


A major conservation project is ongoing at Knole, so we don’t know how many of the rooms will be open at any given time, but a portion of the enormous house and its artworks is always on view.  Every room is a treasure trove of art and history. We’ll also be able to see the conservation studio curators at work, which will be especially interesting given HA’s conservation and preservation work on the Brice House.


We’ll also have time to stroll out in the grounds to see the tiny spotted fallow deer – very accustomed to seeing the tourists.  


4:30 p.m.  Return to Tunbridge Wells


6 p.m.  Wine and conversation at the hotel


Thursday, May 31

10 a.m.

Today we visit nearby Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. The oldest part of the castle dates to 1270. In 1462 it became the home of the Boleyn (originally “Bullen”) family. It came into the possession of Henry VIII in 1539. Its long, interesting history, the grounds, and the vast collection make for a wonderful visit. The castle has three floors of antique furniture, Anne Boleyn’s prayer books, instruments of torture, and a large collection of Tudor paintings.


The castle also pays tribute to our American William Waldorf Astor, who restored it between 1903 and 1908, after moving to England from America, which he said was “no longer a fit place for a gentleman to live.” It was in the Astor family until 1983.


You can explore the castle on your own using the information boards in each room, a purchased guidebook, or a multimedia headset. And we are fortunate to be there today when they are running a special “Edwardian Life” event in the grounds and castle.


After a lunch enjoyed at any of the restaurants on the property, we’ll return to Tunbridge Wells, where you can go into town to further explore the places you saw on your Sunday tour, the little shops, bookstores, etc.  Or just relax at the hotel, walk the property or have high tea there. 


2 p.m.  Return to Tunbridge Wells


6 p.m.   Wine and conversation at the hotel, plus a special speaker from Polesden Lacey, the Edwardian estate we’ll visit on Saturday.


Friday, June 1

9:15 a.m.

Today we leave for one of our longer drives, this time to Canterbury, where we’ll have a private tour of the magnificent cathedral. It’s the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and worship has been held here for over fourteen hundred years. It is, of course, also the site of the brutal murder of Thomas Becket in 1170.


Our special tour will take us on the “American Trail,” which highlights many connections with the United States. This includes the Gate site where Alderman George Clagett had a hat shop in the 16th century before he left for Virginia at the age of 70. We also see a memorial plaque for Thomas John Clagett, the first bishop of Maryland.


We’ll take a break for lunch – you can choose anything from a typical British pub to a gourmet meal in Canterbury.


Afterwards, for those who are interested, we’ll meet at the River Stour, where we’ll spend an hour punting in the traditional small low boats with a guide, learning about the history of the town. You’ll then have some time for exploring the town on your own – or doing a bit of shopping if you like. Or just find a nice tea shop and watch the world pass by.


5:00p.m. Return to Tunbridge Wells


6:30 p.m.  Wine and conversation at the hotel


Saturday, June 2

10 a.m.

We spend today at the National Trust property Polesden Lacey, with its opulent house known for its lavish 20th century interior. It will remind you of Downton Abbey with its period décor and history. Plus you’ll have time to walk through the splendid flower gardens.


The late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, spent her honeymoon here as the guest of the notorious society hostess Mrs. Ronald Greville. The rooms, collections and gardens all reflect Mrs. Greville’s status in Edwardian society. The many National Trust room guides help bring this period in English history to life. Both a café and coffee shop are available for you to take breaks as you learn and explore.


This house, as well as others, did service to the country during World War I by providing a place for wounded military to recover from their injuries. You can imagine them sitting in the canvas lounge chairs overlooking the expansive lawn. Bring a book; you’re invited to take a chair for yourself as well.

3:00p.m.  Return to Tunbridge Wells

6p.m.  Our final wine and conversation evening at the hotel.


Sunday, June 3

Depart to the airport for your flight home, or continue on to London on your own, where you might visit sites of interest to Marylanders and Annapolitans.  (See London suggestions in the Q&A section below)


Here’s what’s included:

- Seven nights at the beautiful Spa Hotel in Royal Tunbridge Wells

- Full breakfast every morning in the hotel

- One-year membership in the Royal Oak Society

- Transportation to the houses and gardens every day

- Admissions for all houses, gardens, boat ride and private tours

- Wine social every night in the hotel before dinner

- Restaurant recommendations for Royal Tunbridge Wells


What’s not included: lunches and dinners, transport to and from the airport, out-of-town train tickets, your flight to London and back home, or anything else not listed under “What’s included.”


Price:  $4,200

There are no single supplements to pay. Each person has his or her own room.


Ready to Pack Your Bags? Here’s How to Register.

Click here to reserve your space: 

You can reserve your place on the trip with a $650 deposit, payable by check, made out to Wild Blue Yonder (Wild Blue Yonder, 1001 Spring Street, Suite 623, Silver Spring, MD 20910). If you’d rather pay with a credit card via PayPal (there’s a 3% surcharge), let us know (email Sheila at and we’ll send you a PayPal invoice.


Please be sure to read all the Frequently Asked Questions and Terms and Conditions. If you have more questions, you can contact either of the trip leaders directly:

Barbara Wendell

410 268-5567


Sheila Campbell

301 587-4555


Or, at Historic Annapolis:

Carrie Kiewitt


Physical Requirements for This Trip

Although this trip is not strenuous, you will be walking on uneven pavement, rough garden paths and grassy hills. None of the manor houses we visit have lifts; you must be able to climb several flights of stairs, and walk at least a mile on hilly ground without a rest.


A Few Frequently Asked Questions


Q. How many people will be on the trip?

The maximum number of people is 18, so you won’t feel like you’re part of a huge group. We have two trip leaders, so if you need special attention, there’s always someone available.


Q. When is the trip?

The trip begins on Sunday, May 27, and ends on Sunday, June 3. Since most flights to England are overnight, you’ll probably fly out from your home city on Saturday, May 26, to arrive Sunday morning in London. We’ll provide you information about how to get to Royal Tunbridge Wells from the airport.


Q. What flight should I take?

At this writing, a number of airlines fly nonstop from Washington Dulles to London Heathrow: American, British, Delta, United, Virgin Atlantic, Austrian, Lufthansa and Iberia, among others. We particularly like the flights on United/Lufthansa or British that arrive around 10:30am. If you take a flight that arrives very early in the morning, your hotel room will not be ready when you arrive.


Q. Do solo travelers have to pay a single supplement?

No. This trip is priced based on each person having his or her own hotel room.


Q. I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate?

For people who share a room, we offer a discount of $150 each. We’ve priced the trip primarily for people to have their own rooms, because English hotel rooms just aren’t as large as those in the U.S. Of course you can share a room if you prefer.


Q. Why do you call this a “trip” and not a “tour”?

This trip has been specifically designed for Historic Annapolis. Unlike many tours in England, we will stay in one lovely hotel for the entire trip, unlike most tours that change hotels every day or two.


We’ve included the things we like best about group travel, including the convenience of having someone plan daily itineraries. But there are lots of things we dislike about tours, so here’s how this trip is different:

- You’ll never board a big tour bus.

- You won’t be seated at long tables for big group meals at “We accept bus tours” restaurants.

- You won’t have early morning calls to leave the hotel.

- You only unpack and pack once – we’re not touring, but staying in one hotel where we can really get to know the area well.


Q. Tell me about the trip leaders.

Barbara Wendell is an active member of Historic Annapolis and its Curator’s Circle; she’s a docent and garden volunteer at the Paca House. She has led group trips to England and South Africa for Politics & Prose, the large independent bookstore in Washington, DC. She’s traveled extensively both for pleasure and in her job as a focus group facilitator.  As a facilitator, she is very experienced in working with groups. 


Sheila Campbell of Wild Blue Yonder has managed trips for Politics & Prose for five years. In her day-to-day work, she’s a group retreat leader who understands how to ensure everyone is involved and having a memorable experience. She lives in Washington, DC, where she was a docent at the National Gallery of Art for many years. She spends a couple of months a year in Europe, mostly in England, France and Italy.


Q. What is the Spa hotel like?

It’s a beautiful 70-room “grand hotel” that first opened in 1880. It still has its graceful dining room – and of course you can have afternoon tea in the lobby. There’s also a new bistro for casual dining. The comfortable sleeping rooms have been recently upgraded. (And, of course, it does have a spa, in case you need a massage or facial.) Please note that, as in many historic hotels in England, not all rooms are air-conditioned.


The hotel is located on the edge of Royal Tunbridge Wells. You can walk to nearby restaurants, or take a bus or taxi to the city’s famous Pantiles shopping and restaurant area.


Q. Is there internet access at the hotel?

Yes, free wifi comes with your room.


Q. What will the weather be like?

It’s hard to tell. May and June can be cool and sunny, or cool and rainy. Or maybe a bit hot. This period is typically one of the most sunny, mild, and least rainy in England.


Our advice is to come prepared for just about anything. Bring clothes suited for spring weather, an umbrella, a light jacket and – most important of all – very comfortable walking shoes.


Q. What to wear?

You needn’t dress up for this trip. Wear your most comfortable clothes for walking. Just about every place we go will be quite casual.


Q. Why aren’t lunches and dinners included in the price?

Restaurants that accept tour groups are usually the last places we want to eat. On many days, we’ll be at a property with a National Trust café that features local favorites. They’re quite affordable, and you can decide when you want to break for lunch. (A personal favorite of ours is the Eton Mess dessert at Winston Churchill’s home Chartwell: strawberries, baked meringue and cream. Yum!)


In Tunbridge Wells, you’ll be able to choose from both casual and nicer dinner choices.


We often make lunch the biggest meal of the day and eat lighter at night. But you’ll choose where you’ll eat, when and with whom.


Q. Do you require us to buy travel insurance?

We strongly encourage you to buy travel insurance, both for trip cancellation and medical coverage and evacuation. Please read our Terms and Conditions carefully to see our cancellation policy. Also be aware that trip insurance companies are very strict about what they will and won’t reimburse you for, so read their policies closely. You generally have to purchase trip insurance at the time you pay your deposit.


Terms and Conditions

Please read this information carefully, as payment of a deposit represents your acceptance of the following Terms and Conditions.


Trip Prices

Trip prices include hotel accommodations on a single or double occupancy basis, breakfast at the hotel, transportation to locations as outlined in the itinerary, evening social events to plan the next day’s activities, and the services of the trip leaders as outlined in the trip description.


Not included in the trip price are entrance fees to museums and other attractions not mentioned in the itinerary; public transportation in Royal Tunbridge Wells; airfare and airline baggage fees; lunches and dinners; hotel, restaurant or airport tips; costs of passports and visas; personal expenses such as beverages, laundry or room service; internet wifi except as established in the trip description; airport transfers or any other services not specified in the trip description.


Please note that we cannot guarantee any special requests for hotel rooms.


Registration and Payment

A deposit of $650 per person confirms your reservation. Deposits may be paid by check made out to Wild Blue Yonder, Inc., or credit card via PayPal. There is a 3% surcharge for PayPal.


Your deposit is refundable for two weeks from the date it is received by Wild Blue Yonder, except for deposits made less than 90 days before a trip departs; those deposits are completely nonrefundable. Two weeks after the receipt of the deposit by Wild Blue Yonder, deposits are not refundable for any reason and will be forfeited if you cancel your trip reservation. Cancellations must be in writing by either letter to Wild Blue Yonder or email to Cancellations become effective on the date they are received by Wild Blue Yonder.


Once your reservation deposit has been paid, you will receive a confirmation email and further information to help you plan your trip.


We reserve the right to cancel any reservations that are not paid in full at any time after the final payment is due. If you make your reservation after the final payment due date, payment in full will be required immediately.


Full final payment is due February 9, 2018.

Cancellations and Refunds

If you must cancel your trip, the effective date of cancellation will be upon our receipt of your notification, which must be made in writing either by email or letter. For any cancellations made before February 9, you will forfeit your deposit and 60% of any remaining amount you have already paid. No refunds are possible after February 9, 2018. Should you have to cancel your trip after that date, we cannot offer refunds, because we will have already paid the costs of your trip to our vendors.


Changes to Your Reservation

If you would like to stay on for longer than the official days of the trip, we will make reservations for you at the hotel. We will not charge you for any changes to your reservation before February 9. After that date, if you make any changes to your reservation, a $100 per person administrative fee will apply. Changes are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed. If your reservation changes from double occupancy to single occupancy, you will be charged the single occupancy rate.


Travel Documents

You are responsible for securing your own passport, valid for at least six months after the completion of your trip. Your passport should have at least two blank pages for visas.


Health and Medical Issues

You must be in good health to participate in our trips. This trip requires a reasonable amount of walking – up to a mile, possibly uphill or on uneven pavements or cobblestone streets and streets without curb cuts. You must be able to climb several flights of stairs and board buses on your own. We regret that we cannot provide individual assistance if you require the use of a wheelchair or have other personal needs; in such cases you must be accompanied by a companion who will assist you, and you will have to incur the costs of taxis or other special transport.


If you are unable to navigate this amount of activity, you will not be able to participate fully in the trip, and we suggest you choose another type of trip. We cannot provide individual alternatives to the planned group activities. If your fitness level does not allow you to keep up with the group and/or travel on public transportation, you will be responsible for planning your own activities and for any additional costs incurred (for instance, but not limited to, personal taxis, train tickets, and entrance fees).


Trip Insurance

We strongly recommend that you purchase both trip cancellation insurance and traveler’s medical and evacuation insurance for your trip. Please note: Medicare is not valid outside of the United States.


Arrival and Departure Dates

It is your responsibility to make sure you arrive on the specified trip start date. We cannot refund part of your trip if you arrive late or leave early, unless you have notified us of your different start or end date before February 9, 2018.



The liability of Wild Blue Yonder and Historic Annapolis, individually or jointly (referred to hereafter as Trip Planners), is strictly limited. In no event will the Trip Planners be liable for amounts in excess of the amounts payable to the Trip Planners in accordance with the terms hereunder, nor will Trip Planners be liable for any consequential indirect or incidental damages arising from this agreement. Trip Planners purchase accommodations, transportation and other services from independent suppliers not under our control. We serve only as agents for these suppliers in securing trip arrangements, and therefore will not accept responsibility and liability for wrongful, negligent or arbitrary acts or omissions of these independent contractors, their employees, agents or representatives.


Trip Planners are not liable for injury, damage, death, loss, accident, or delay that may be caused by events not within our control, including but not limited to, without limitation, acts of terrorism, war, strikes, defects of any vehicle, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters or the negligence or default of any third party, nor for personal accidents.


In consideration of, and as part payment for, the right to participate in the trip, the undersigned, on behalf of himself or herself, your dependents, heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, agrees to release Historic Annapolis, Wild Blue Yonder and their officers, employees, representatives or agents, and the tour operator and its officers, employees and agents, from liability for personal injury, death, property damage or loss suffered by any person in connection with this tour, even if caused by the negligence (but not the reckless, willful, or fraudulent conduct) of tour staff or other related persons or entities. In addition, by registering for this trip, the applicant certifies that he or she is mentally and physically capable of full participation in this tour. By registering for this trip, the participant agrees to all of the Terms and Conditions herein.


Trip Planners reserve the right to correct errors in advertised prices. We reserve the right to cancel an advertised trip, decline to accept a reservation or remove a person from a trip if it is determined by us to be in the best interests of the health, safety or general well-being of other trip participants. Should you be removed, you will not be entitled to any refund for unused or missed services or costs incurred as a result of termination of your travel arrangements, including, without limitation, return travel, accommodations, meals and incidentals.


We will make every effort to conduct our trip as planned, but we reserve the right to make itinerary and other changes as necessary. If unforeseen circumstances require us to change a hotel, we will make every effort to select alternative accommodations of the same quality.


The foregoing terms and conditions and all aspects of the relationship between Trip Planners and you shall be governed by the laws of the State of Maryland.