Upcoming tours in 2018

Two tours have been arranged for 2018, one foreign tour in the mode of Sicily last year and one home tour, arranged at the behest of a group of our members. Bookings are now being taken for both these tours.

Crete: History, Heritage and Flora, April/May 2018

Day 1 We meet at Gatwick Airport for our direct scheduled Easyjet flight to Heraklion. On arrival we are met by our guide who accompanies us on all transfers and included day excursions, and transfer to the 5* Fodele Beach Resort Hotel for a seven stay on half board basis.

Day 2 This morning we enjoy a guided tour through the old town of Rethymnon with its wonderful old Venetian buildings and maze of attractive narrow streets. During our tour we visit the Archaeological Museum, displaying exhibits from the Neloithic to the Roman eras. We then visit the Fortezza Fortress, built on the Paleokastro Hill on the west side of the city. The fortress was built between 1573 and 1580 by the Venetians in order to protect the citizens from the Turkish threat. The rest of the day is at leisure in Rethymnon.

Day 3 Our tour focuses on the Minoan era today. We firstly visit the Minoan Tombs of Armeni, where over 200 chamber tombs and one tholos tomb lie scattered through an olive grove. We then visit the Palace of Phaistos, the second largest palace of Crete after Knossos. The palace, just like the other palaces of Minoan Crete, was destroyed three times before it was rebuilt on the ruins of the old buildings in 1700 BC. Aesthetically, Phaistos is built on the most spectacular setting of all palaces in Crete, high on a dramatic hill, overlooking the entire Messara plain. We also see the ruins of the Royal Villa of Agia Triada. The site at Agia Triada was first settled during Neolithic times and the remains of the palace date back to around 1600 BC. The site was first excavated in 1902 and is believed to be the summer residence of the King of Phaistos.

Day 4 Our first visit of the day is the pottery village of Margaritas. We then visit Melidoni Cave, one of the largest three tourist caves on Crete. The Melidoni cave has been inhabited almost continuously since the Stone Age, and during the Minoan times the cave was used for religious ceremonies. En route back to our hotel we pass through the region of Eleftherna, considered to be one of the most important and largest ancient areas in Crete. We will as well today explore the flowers of Crete with an included Farmhouse lunch.

Day 5 Heading to the west of the island, our tour today focuses on the history of the Roman, Hellenistic, Venetian and Byzantine eras. We firstly see the extensive ruins of the Roman and Hellenistic site of Aptera, offering spectacular views over the bay of Souda. We continue to the harbour town of Chania, built on the ruins of ancient Kydonia, which according to the mythology was founded by king Kydon.

Day 6 Today we visit the most famous of the Minoan palaces on the island, Knossos, excavated and controversially restored by Sir Arthur Evans. Knossos was undeniably the capital of Minoan Crete, as it is grander, more complex, and more flamboyant than any of the other palaces on the island. Knossos was inhabited for several thousand years, beginning with a Neolithic settlement sometime in the seventh millennium BC, and was abandoned after its destruction in 1375 BC which marked the end of Minoan civilization. We then visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, one of the greatest museums in Greece, and the best in the world for Minoan art. It houses representative artefacts from all the periods of Cretan prehistory and history, covering a chronological span of over 5,500 years from the Neolithic period to Roman times.

Day 7 Today we visit the Byzantine Monastery of Arkadi, one of the most important centres of the Cretan resistance during the years of the Turkish occupation. It is thought that the first fortified group of buildings of the monastery was built in the 14th century BC by a monk named Arcadios who gave his name to it. The church, which stands in the middle of the fortification enclosure, was built in 1587 and has a magnificent baroque frontage.

Day 8 Today we transfer to Heraklion Airport for our direct scheduled Easyjet flight back to Gatwick.


Historic Houses and Heritage of The Peak District 11-15 Oct 2018

Day 1 We depart by executive coach from our designated pick up points and en route to our hotel we visit the National Trust’s Sudbury Hall, a grand 17th century family home with richly decorated interiors, including woodcarving by Grinling Gibbons, and the Great Staircase, one of the most elaborate of its kind. Housed in the 19th century service wing of Sudbury Hall, the National Trust Museum of Childhood traces the fascinating experience of childhood over the last 200 years. We continue to the 4* Copthorne Hotel in Sheffield for a four night stay on a half board basis.

Day 2 Our Blue Badge guide meets us at our hotel this morning and accompanies us throughout the day. We firstly visit Chatsworth, one of Britain’s best loved historic houses and estates, offering something for everyone to enjoy, from famous works of art and the spectacular fountains in the garden to the finest shopping, food and drink and many miles of free walks. The home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire is set in the magnificent landscape of Derbyshire’s Peak District National Park, and is seen in the film of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. This afternoon we visit Eyam. Struck by the Bubonic Plague in 1665 when a flea infested bundle of cloth was delivered to tailor George Vicars from London, the village of Eyam went into voluntary isolation. The Plague raged in the village for 14 months and it is stated that it killed at least 260 villagers with only 83 villagers surviving. During our guided tour of the village we visit Eyam Museum which focuses on the Plague.

Day 3 We visit Bakewell with our Blue Badge guide this morning, famous for the production of the ‘tart’, or Bakewell Pudding as it is known locally. We continue to Haddon Hall for a guided tour, a fortified manor house dating back from the 12th century. This remarkable old house is surrounded by terraced Elizabethan gardens.

Day 4 Renishaw Hall and Gardens is our destination this morning for a guided tour, home to the Sitwell family for almost 400 years. There is some free time to explore the Italianate gardens, before continuing to Hardwick Hall and gardens, an Elizabethan treasure house and National Trust property dating from the 16th century. A magnificent statement of the wealth and status of its builder, Bess of Hardwick, Hardwick Hall is remarkable for being almost unchanged since she lived here and gives a rare insight into the formality of Elizabethan courtly life.

Day 5 After checking out of our hotel and before returning home we visit the National Trust’s Kedleston Hall, built between 1759 and 1765 for the Curzon family who have lived in the area since the 12th century. Kedleston boasts the most complete and least altered sequence of Robert Adam interiors in England.

Our last tour in April 2017 was to Sicily

Please click twice on each group of photos to enlarge

before returning for another group

I think I may claim that the Sicily Tour detailed above and recently completed was a resounding success. Three couples unfortunately had to pull out for health problems but we were still left with a healthy 24 participants. The weather was good for the whole week and in consequence we were treated to premature displays of swathes of wild flowers. The tour manager, despite a delayed flight from the outfall of the Etna eruption, was absolutely first class as were all but one of our guides. Our hotels were comfortable. We saw a wide variety of wonderful buildings which reflected the many civilizations who had inhabited this lovely island including interesting structures like the Ear of Dionisius and the Palermo Opera House, in both of which we heard singing. We ate well and imbibed some good Sicilian wine. Some of us even had the interesting experience of being taken to a superb alfresco lunch on a hay cart.

Sicily was well worth the visit.

Kenneth Parker


Previous visits

1999  Dublin

2003 May  East Anglia

2005 Sept  St Petersburg

2006 Sept  Northumbria

2007 Sept  Baltic States

2008 Sept  Wessex and Wales

2009 Sept  Liverpool and The Lakes

2010 May  Northamptonshire

2012 Apr The Art and History of Puglia

2013 May Malta and Gozo