London is the most visited city in England and as we are not talking about a territorially immense country, there is a wide range of tours that make day trips from there with the aim of exploring other cities and tourist regions.
***Article updated in January 2019
during my trip from 10 days across the UK I chose to do two of these tours, one of them was the London Tour to Leeds Castle, Dover and Canterbury which I will tell in this post and a second tour that went through Stonehenge, Bath and Stratford. I found it a practical way to get to know important places without having the discomfort of moving to another city (checking out, luggage, etc.).
It is a closed tour in which the guide together with the bus in which you will circulate all day pick you up at the hotel, the expert guide is the one who organizes the group, provides historical and important information about each attraction and also gives very cool tips (where eat, what to do, etc.). We start the tour with a visit to Leeds Castle, a 1.5 hour journey from London.
Curiosity: Leeds Castle, contrary to what it seems, is not in the city of Leeds, it is located in the city of Maidstone in the region of Kent. It takes its name because the land that houses it had as its first owner an Anglo-Saxon lord named Mr. Leed.
About Leeds Castle:
In 857 the lands of Mr Leed contained only a small wooden building destroyed in 1119 when Robert de Crevecoeur built the first version of the castle in stones and rocks. Surrounded by water, the castle was known as a Normandy Fortress and was in the possession of the Crevecoeur family until 1278 when King Edward I took possession.
The castle passed through several royal families (even Queen Elisabeth I was secluded in it before her coronation) until, in 1926, it was bought by the American Lady Baillie who renovated it and turned it into an institution, the Leeds Castle Foundation, the main objective of Lady Baillie was to keep the whole story around him alive.
Upon arriving at the castle, we tasted a Mild Wine made in the region, a sweetened wine consumed warm by the English during the winter, an old tradition that had been lost and is in fashion again. A delight!!!
Then we started the tour inside the castle that passes through several rooms, some reproduced exactly as they were at the time of Edward I, we went through the cellars where food and wines were kept, we could see important paintings including one of Lady Baillie with her daughters, dining rooms etc. The tour is very rich in information, it tells the history of the castle and its connection to what was happening in the world that year.
At the end we went for a walk around the castle because the landscape is beautiful, there are several parks next door and all with incredible views. For dads, you can have a picnic, feed the birds and even have a fun bush maze (only open in summer). To go to the castle on your own you need to take a train from Victoria Station to Maidstone East and then the Royal Star Arcade bus (stop M2) and get off at the castle.
The second stop on the tour is the city of Dover on the edge of the English Channel. To get to the city, we traveled 43 minutes along the road where the guide told us a little about the controversial region of Calais in France, which borders Dover.
Let me explain: the city of Dover is the exit point of the euro tunnel that connects England to France, where the train arrives through the city of Calais (see the map below). What happens is that Calais has become a large area where refugees live in sub-human conditions awaiting an opportunity to immigrate to England in search of a better life. A very sad story but our reality today 🙁
Dover is a typical English beach town: rocky and icy beach rs. It’s famous for two reasons: from the seaside you can see France, some say you can even see Paris with a good pair of binoculars, I bad bad saw Calais lol. The white cliffs known as White Cliffs of Dover also make Dover very popular with tourists, they are cliffs made of a white material that are bright with sunlight (the day I went was a little cloudy).
Historical fact: During the 100 Years War between France and England, the surviving English soldiers returning to their country arrive via Dover. With that the white cliffs meant proximity to the mainland and represented the security that they really were back safe and sound.
Leaving Dover we went to the main attraction of the tour: Canterbury. At that moment they distributed a Subway sandwich, a potato and a soda on the bus, it was enough to stave off hunger. Arriving in Canterbury we had free time to eat and/or tour the city after visiting the cathedral together with the guide, so this “hunger” issue was well controlled lol.
Canterbury is a historic city declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the few English cities that manages to convey the atmosphere and tell a bit of medieval history, it is home to the first and most important English cathedral: Canterbury Cathedral.
Canterbury Cathedral is the seat of the Anglican religion where the chair of the main archbishop of the country is located (the most important religious site in England), inside the cathedral you will be impressed by the details and the beauty of the architecture, including a visit to underground crypt, you can discover the tomb of Henry IV among other important figures in English history. Every hour, a small prayer is celebrated.
At the end of the tour we stopped in the neighborhood of Greenwich where our guide told a little more about the history of the place that determines the world time, how and why the Greenwich meridian was created etc.
We did not visit the complex called Península because it was extremely cloudy, raining and very cold, but if you are on a beautiful day it is worth leaving your group at this time and heading there. The complex is home to the Greenwich Landmark Line, a cable car and an attraction called Up at the O2 from which you have a nice view of London.
For those traveling with the group and not staying in Greenwich, the final part of the tour is a navigation along the Thames made with public transport to the central area of the city, keep your cell phones or cameras in hand as you will cross several tourist attractions Londoners that will yield beautiful photos such as London Bridge and Tower of London. And so the tour ends, take advantage of this night to explore the Covent Garden neighborhood, the last stop of the cruise is at the feet of this bohemian and delicious neighborhood.
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