A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – PENSHURST PLACE

By Kristine Hughes Patrone

The next stately home on our Familiarization Trip hosted by Visit Britain was Penshurst Place, a 14th century manor house owned by Lord and Lady De L’Isle. Penshurst Place has been owned by the Sidney family since 1552; after passing through the hands of two of Henry IV’s sons, followed by Henry VIII who used it as a hunting lodge. Given to Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement from Henry VIII, it was then briefly in the hands of Sir Ralph Fane and was finally gifted by Henry VIII’s son, Edward VI, to his loyal steward and tutor, Sir William Sidney. The Sidney family have been in continuous occupation for more than 460 years since.

 

 

Once inside, visitors find themselves in the Baron’s Hall, used as a set in the film The Princess Bride. Described by the writer John Julius Norwich as ‘one of the grandest rooms in the world’, Baron’s Hall belongs to the original part of the house and was completed in 1341 and features a magnificent chestnut roof, arcaded windows, a 16th century Minstrel’s Gallery and unique octagonal hearth.

What we saw of the house was terribly medieval and thrilling, with the highlight of our visit being the tea and cakes, made by and served to us by Lady De L’Isle. I remember the open fire, which was welcome on a cold day, and the hot tea, equally welcome, but truthfully little else stays in my memory, as we saw three homes/castles/manors all in a single day. I suppose I could fudge things and pull photos and narratives off of the internet, but that wouldn’t be any fun. Or very honest.

We did have time for a quick tour through the grounds, some of which are Grade I listed. You’ll find an interactive map of the gardens on the Penshurst Place website.

 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – THE DRIVE TO PENSHURST PLACE

By Kristine Hughes Patrone

Travel with me on the next leg of my journey on the Visit Britain Familiarization Trip – the ten minute drive from Hever Castle to Penshurst Place, above. The narration was provided by our Blue Badge guide, Amanda, who accompanied us throughout the trip.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO

 

 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: THE FOOD – PART 3

Another Ploughman’s lunch for both Diane and myself at the Three Crowns, London.
Wanting a quiet night in, Diane and I shopped for meats and wine at Fortnum and Mason, ordered a bowl of cream of mushroom soup and bread for each of us from room service and added the cheese we each had left over from our lunch. 
Glace fruits from Fortnum and Mason for dessert, along with a glass of wine. 
Diane’s editors at Harlequin treated us to a spectacular afternoon tea at the Swan at the Globe, 
with stunning views over the River and St. Paul’s.
Drinks and nibbles at Trader Vic’s on our last night in England.
A glass of port while we packed.
And beef filet and string beans for dinner on my flight home. 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – HEVER CASTLE: PART TWO

After a good night’s sleep in one of Hever Castle’s guestrooms, I met up with our group for breakfast, after which we set out for a tour of the impressive Castle grounds and gardens. Click here to view a very short video I took of the front of the Castle and topiary, complete with morning birdsong.

The beautiful gardens at Hever Castle were laid out between 1904 and 1908 by Joseph Cheal and Son, turning marshland into the spectacular gardens we see today. Areas that you can stroll through include the Tudor Garden, Rhododendron Walk and Anne Boleyn’s Walk, with its collection of trees planted more than 100 years ago.

One of the most magnificent areas of the gardens is the Italian Garden, which was designed to display William Waldorf Astor’s collection of Italian sculptures. Over 1,000 men worked on the grand design, with around 800 men taking two years to dig out the 38-acre (14.2 ha) lake at the far end of the Italian Garden. Within four years the 125 acres (50 ha) of classical and natural landscapes were constructed and planted. The garden is only now reaching its full maturity and includes the colourful walled Rose Garden which contains over 4,000 bushes.

There are many water features around the gardens, including Half Moon Pond, the Cascade, the cool and shady grottoes, the formal Loggia fountain inspired by the Trevi fountain in Rome, and the less formal Two Sisters’ Pond.

Located just 30 miles from London, a visit to Hever Castle makes for a wonderful day out. Visit the Castle’s website here.

 

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND – HEVER CASTLE: PART ONE

As some of you will know, I was recently invited to attend Visit Britain’s travel Expo in Brighton, where tour operators and travel suppliers had the opportunity to meet and network while discussing travel products and sites. Representing Number One London Tours, I was able to discover a host of museums, behind the scenes tours, historic sites and stately homes that I will be including in future tours.

I was also invited to participate in a five day Familiarization Trip immediately following the two day Expo, which took us to Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire. Our first stop was stunning Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife and mother to Queen Elizabeth I. More recently, Hever Castle was owned by William Waldorf Astor, who spent a considerable sum on the Castle’s restoration.

Today, the Castle is open daily to visitors and features several guest rooms, although these are only available to those who rent the entire Castle for private use. Below, my bedroom for the night, which was both lovely and enormous.

After freshening up from our travels, our group reassembled for cocktails and we were given a private tour of the Castle beginning in the Inner Hall, below, which was the Great Kitchen in the Tudor period. The Italian walnut panelling and columns were designed in 1905 by the sculptor William Silver Frith as part of William Waldorf Astor’s restoration of Hever Castle. The gallery above the hall was inspired by the rood screen at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. The ceiling is in the Elizabethan style and incorporates the Tudor rose emblem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The room above contained the domestic offices in the Tudor period and became the Drawing Room in 1905. It was designed and panelled by the architect Frank Loughborough Pearson for William Waldorf Astor. The oak panelling is inlaid with bog oak and holly and was inspired by the Elizabethan Inlaid Chamber at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria.

The Long Gallery, above, was constructed in the sixteenth century and extends across the entire width of the Castle. It was used for entertaining guests, taking exercise, and displaying art collections. The panelling dates from the sixteenth century. The ceiling is an early twentieth-century reconstruction in the Tudor style created by Nathaniel Hitch.

Our tour concluded with our going in for dinner to the dining room, below. In the fifteenth century this room was the Great Hall and was originally open to the roof rafters. The linenfold panelling, the ceiling and the fireplace surmounted by the Boleyn coat of arms were designed by William Silver Frith. The sculptor Nathaniel Hitch carved the Minstrels’ Gallery in 1905.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part Two, the Hever Castle Gardens coming soon!

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: THE FOOD – PART 2

Dinner at the Devonshire Arms, Baslow.
Lamb burger for Diane Gaston (Perkins), prime rib, chips and onion rings for me.
Fabulous Ploughman’s lunches above for both of us at
The Cavendish Restaurant, Chatsworth House.
Dinner at La Petite Maison in Brighton; duck for Diane and the pork special for me.
Tea, below, at the Hotel du Vin, Brighton.
Dinner at the Hotel du Vin, below
Beef for Diane
and a large pot of mussels, moules, for me. Sorry, Victoria!

TOUR SCOTLAND WITH AUTHOR SUE ELLEN WELFONDER

 Sue Ellen and Kristine at a working slate mine in the Lake District
My special guest today is USA Today bestselling author Sue Ellen Welfonder, who writes historical romances set in medieval Scotland under own name, as well as Scottish-set paranormal romances as Allie Mackay. On a personal level, Sue Ellen and I have been sister/friends for close to thirty years. Yup. Thirty.

Sue Ellen’s heart has always belonged to Scotland – she’s traveled there extensively and has an in-depth knowledge of it’s history. So who else would I have called upon to head up the Scottish Tours division of Number One London Tours? My initial phone call to Sue Ellen went something like this:

SEW: Hello?
KHP: Hey, Bozzy, it’s me.
SEW: Gorgeous!

(Note: I have called Sue Ellen “Bozzy,” after diarist James Boswell, since our first trip to England together. Like Boswell, Sue Ellen documents everything with copious diary entries. She calls me “Gorgeous” because she’s nuts).

KHP: Can you put together a Scottish itinerary for Number One London? Oh, and by the way, you are now Vice President in charge of the Scottish Division.
SEW:What? I am? What does that even mean?
KHP: It means you’ll be coming up with the itineraries for all of our Scotland tours. Oh, and you’ll be coming along on the Scottish tours as the tour guide.
SEW: I will?
KHP: You’ll have to, Bozzy. I don’t know anything about Scotland. Think of a theme for the tour and then build an itinerary around that. Easy peasy.

Naturally, Sue Ellen came up with a pip of a tour theme – Scottish Castles. The 10 day tour includes six castles, plus visits to Edinburgh, a Loch Lomond cruise and a Highland Safari. Full Tour details can be found here.

Of course, we couldn’t possibly plan a tour to Scotland without actually going over there. Just to be certain we’d gotten everything right, you understand. Our visit also included the Lake District, as above at Newby Bridge, Lake Windermere.

 And we did some mudlarking on the River while we were in London.
Eventually, we made our way to the George Hotel in Prince’s Street, Edinburgh, above. In addition to visiting sites we’ll be including on Number One London’s Scottish Castles Tour, I was able to revisit this sweet cottage in the Prince’s Gardens.

And then we set out for some of the sights included in the upcoming September tour to Scotland, including a cruise on Loch Lomond, below.


Scotland must be the land of rainbows because we saw them on Loch Lomond, above, and at Inveraray, below.

And then it was on to Inveraray Castle, home to the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of the Clan Campbell, below.

The Castle is a magical place, easily walkable from the Loch Fyne Hotel and what an approach! 
The interiors, as you may imagine, are incredible, with hundreds of years of history oozing from every wall.

 

There’s much to see at the Castle, as the photos show, everything from medieval arms to Georgian furnishings and costume displays.

There’s also a Wellington connection – Henry Paget (Lord Uxbridge, later Marquess of Angelsey, who fought under Wellington at Waterloo) ran off with Wellington’s sister-in-law, Charlotte, wife of his brother Henry. The wife Paget left in order to do so was Lady Caroline Elizabeth Villiers, daughter of the 4th Earl and Countess of Jersey.  By that time, they had eight children together. But it all ended well for Lady Caroline, as she went on to remarry – the Duke of Argyll.

Leaving Inveraray, Sue Ellen and I did a drive by of Loch Ness and the iconic Urquhart Castle, below. No, we didn’t see Nessy, more’s the pity.
From there it was on to Blair Atholl and our atmospheric hotel, the Atholl Arms, located just over the road from Blair Castle.
The Hotel is chock full of Scottish atmosphere, with an abundance of tartan, open fires and grand rooms. Truly the perfect place to stay in the Highlands.
Here’s Sue Ellen at the dinner table at the Atholl Arms, getting warm by the coal fire.
Next day, we visit the House of Bruar, known as “the Harrods of the North”, where fine cashmere and tweeds are on offer for both ladies and gentlemen, in addition to a wide array of leather, hats, food and accessories.
 
Yes – we’ve included it on the itinerary for our Scottish Castles Tour!
Also on the itinerary is a stop at Pitlochry, below, one of the most charming period towns to be found in the Highlands.
A true highlight of our time in the Highlands was our visit to Blair Castle. Again, we walked there from our hotel and the grounds are simply spectacular.
The Blair Estate is huge, with thousands of acres under their control, as well as a whole host of livestock – cattle, sheep, horses, deer and rivers full of salmon.
The absolute highlight of our visit to Blair – or anywhere in Scotland – was the Land Rover Highland Safari Sue Ellen and I were given by our guide, Izzy, one of the Rangers on the estate.
There’s truly something magical about being the only people out for miles around. Izzy took us through streams, up craggy hillsides and into glens where we easily spotted herds of deer.
Truly, our Safari was a once in a lifetime experience, a chance to get down and dirty in the Highlands.
As evidenced by Sue Ellen’s shoes, below.

 

Majestic sights met us round every bend and Sue Ellen and I were blessed to have experienced the adventure together. Yes, we’ve included the same adventure on the Scottish Castles Tour in September.
Our guide, Izzy, below. She will be one of the Rangers who will take our group on the same adventure in September.
Below, ghilly Stewart, who we ran into on our return journey. He and the pony had just taken a stag off the mountain as it was culling season. Sue Ellen and I are convinced that Izzy called Central Casting and ordered a true Scotsman to show up at the most picturesque spot.
Truly, it doesn’t get much more “Highlands” than this!

We hope you’ll consider joining us for a true Scottish adventure including town, castles and the Highlands on Number One London’s Scottish Castles Tour in September 2017. Full itinerary and details can be found here.

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: THE FOOD – PART 1

Above – A cheese plate to share with Diane Gaston (Perkins) at Boulestin in St. James’s Street
Prime rib and chips at the St. James’s Court Hotel
A yogurt and berry parfait for Diane and what was listed as an
“egg crepe” for me at Cote Brasserie, Sloane Square.
Lunch at the Duke of Wellington, Strand, with Jo Manning: fish and chips for Jo,
bangers and mash for me and a beef and kidney pie for Diane.
Jo Manning digs in!
Tea and scones for Diane and I at Edensor. It was a glorious day.
Too bad the view was so terrible. . . . . .

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

by Kristine Hughes Patrone

The day after the recent attacks on Westminster Bridge in London, I was contacted by a journalist from the Travel Market Report for my views on how the events would impact travel to the UK. In short, my considered opinion as a UK Tour Operator was “not at all.”

Random acts of violence will not keep Londoners and Anglophiles from enjoying one of the greatest cities on earth. We are made of sterner stuff. Unfortunately, in the present world climate, tourists must be aware of their surroundings, wherever they may travel.

In the great scheme of things, random acts of senseless violence will no doubt continue to periodically occur. We cannot allow them, or the people behind them, to change our lives, our daily activities or to limit our enjoyment of the things we love and that bring us joy, wherever they may be. The Duke of Wellington did not allow terrorists to change his way of life, nor did Queen Victoria or the Queen Mum, or Princess Anne or Queen Elizabeth. It did not stop Winston Churchill, whom I quoted in the above referenced piece for Travel Market Report, from urging the British public to “Keep calm and carry on.” You can read the full article here.

Should you feel the need to visit Britain any time soon, we hope you’ll consider joining Number One London on one of our upcoming tours.