Sunday, 20 February 2011

Sightseeing Tours of Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds

A Guided Coach Tour of the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley

During the morning our tour revealed some of the mysteries and beauty of the Forest of Dean, which lies between the River Severn and the River Wye and then in the afternoon we explored the picturesque and dramatic limestone gorge of the lower Wye Valley.

We took the scenic route into the Forest to enjoy the broadleaved woodlands and conifer plantations carpeted with dense green bracken and grazed by deer, wild boar and sheep. This wooded red sandstone plateau was once very heavily mined and quarried for its rich sources of coal, iron ore and building stone. Today we got interesting glimpses of The Forest of Dean’s past industrial activities. From the comfort of our luxury coach, we enjoyed the tranquil and natural beauty of the landscape and heard stories about Free Miners, Admiral Lord Nelson and even the fictional Harry Potter.

For lunch we stopped in the historic town of Monmouth, which lies alongside the River Monnow.  In the town centre are interesting statues to two of its most famous sons, King Henry V who was born in Monmouth Castle (now a ruin) and Charles Rolls who created the Rolls Royce Car Company with Henry Royce.  There's also a museum with a gallery containing memorabilia of the famous Admiral Lord Nelson which people enjoyed looking around.

After lunch we set off to travel alongside the dramatic and picturesque River Wye.  In the early 19th century this area attracted the first English tourists, including famous writers, poets and artists. We continued this tradition and admired the river valley.  We stopped to view the romantic ruins of Tintern Abbey, which had been much painted and written about by previous visitors.

We drove into Chepstow, known as the gateway town to Wales.  We saw the towering Norman castle, probably the first stone castle to be built in the country perched right on the cliff edge above the mouth of the tidal river Wye.  We stopped for some refreshment and took the time to look around this interesting border town before making our way home.

A Guided Coach Tour of the North Cotswolds      
Arranged by Blue Badge Guide - Anne Bartlett

Our full day tour started from Gloucester and we drove into the Regency town of Cheltenham, famous for its 19th century spas. We  explored the historic town centre with its impressive buildings, beautiful gardens and attractive ironwork. There were stories about its famous sons, composer Gustav Holst and explorer Edward Wilson before travelling north passing Cheltenham Race Course, home of the National Hunt Festival and the Gold Cup. We drove along the western edge of the Cotswold escarpment to enjoy stunning views across to the Malvern Hills. We travelled through the ancient Saxon town of Winchcombe, through some charmingly pretty honey coloured Cotswold stone villages as we made our way to Broadway for coffee. This famous village, was much enjoyed by our visitors, it had lots of stylish cafes and historic coaching inns to enjoy, as well as many individual quality shops to discover. After coffee we travelled further into the Cotswolds to enjoy the beautiful landscape and discover more medieval towns and villages.

We drove through some of the best know places like Chipping Campden and Moreton-in-Marsh.

Our lunch stop was Stow-on-the-Wold, famous for its market square and many antique shops. We enjoyed the town's hospitality, explored the narrow lanes and courtyards, browsed around the interesting shops and even sat on the village green to study the medieval buildings.

After lunch we continued on through some lesser known villages, a little off the beaten track, towards the town of Burford. Here we stopped for afternoon tea before taking a look at Bibury, nestling alongside the River Coln which William Morris described as ‘the most beautiful in England.’
Finally we dragged ourselves away, got on the coach and returned home.

A Guided Coach Tour of the South Cotswolds and the Severn Vale
Arranged by Blue Badge Tour Guide - Anne Bartlett

From Cheltenham our full day tour took us via Gloucester to the edge of Coopers Hill where the weirdest of sports takes place. Coopers Hill is the venue for the internationally famous Cheese Rolling Competition. We drove on to Painswick village, known as ‘The Queen of the Cotswolds’ which is famous for its church and 99 yew trees. We took  a coffee stop in Stroud, a friendly town famous for its quality art and craft work and its local produce, before travelling on to explore the variety of Cotswold stone villages that nestle spectacularly in river valleys.
After lunch we drove toward the town of Berkeley where a dramatic sandstone castle, still lived in by the Berkeley family, overlooks the east bank of the River Severn. It was here in the town that Dr Edward Jenner famously inoculated a young boy with cowpox to prevent him from getting the deadly and virulent disease smallpox. We explored some riverside villages and see how people have lived, worked and enjoyed the longest river in Britain which, in the past, has brought trade and prosperity to the area. We made our way to Gloucester which, because of the river, became an important inland port.

A Guided Coach Tour of the East Cotswolds
Arranged by Blue Badge Tour Guide - Anne Bartlett

The Cotswolds cover 790 square miles and is the largest area of outstanding natural beauty in Britain, so this week we travelled east from Gloucestershire into the county of Oxfordshire to discover more of this historic and beautiful area and admire more Cotswold towns and villages that have been frozen in time. Stone and wool have shaped this landscape. We saw fine merchants houses built by the wealthy medieval clothiers. There are many interesting scenic routes to take and today we drove past stone relics left by prehistoric man, as we made our way towards the glorious village of Woodstock for a stop.  We visited the museum, also spent time browsing around the shops and lunched in one of the selection of fine coaching inns and quaint little tea shops. Here we found out about Blenheim Palace built as a reward for the Duke of Marlborough for winning a great battle.

We made our way back through The Cotswold Water Park, said to have more lakes than the Norfolk Broads to Lechlade a riverside town on the banks of the River Thames. St Laurence church with its tall spire was where Percy Bysshe Shelley composed his poem ‘Stanzas in a Summer Evening Churchyard.’ We enjoyed an interesting stroll over Halfpenny Bridge and watched the boats on the upper reaches of the navigable river.

We enjoyed our riverside walk and feeling refreshed we made our way back to the coach for our journey home.

To book a Blue Badge Tour Guide contact Anne Bartlett:

Leave your car behind and take a Guided Coach Tour of Gloucestershire's Royal Connections

With:  Blue Badge Tour Guide - Anne Bartlett

As this is the year of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton this full day tour will explore some of Gloucestershire’s royal connections past and present.

We will depart from Cheltenham Race Course, famous for its Gold Cup Festival, beloved by the Queen Mother and visited by Her Majesty, the Queen in 2009. Prince William’s girlfriend Kate Middleton attended the race meetings in 2006, 2007 and 2008 as well as many other royals and famous celebrities, who come to enjoy the excitement and the atmosphere of Gold Cup Week in March. We will travel through Cheltenham, where Zara Phillips and Mike Tyndall have their home. We will admire the fine Regency architecture and hear about the visit of King George III, which really put this Spa town on the map. We will make our way through some interesting Cotswold towns and villages, with royal connections, towards Cirencester, where Princess Anne and Princess Diana and their families have enjoyed shopping from time to time. After a coffee stop in Cirencester, we will travel to the attractive market town of Tetbury, famous for its Woolsack Races. A lunch stop in Tetbury will allow you to visit the Highgrove shop opened by Prince Charles in 2008. Tetbury shops have served the Royal Household for many years and some have gained the prestigious Royal Warrant. After lunch we will travel past Highgrove, the Cotswold home of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. We will explore some of the lesser known south Cotswold villages, hearing more royal stories, as we weave our way through interesting narrow country roads towards the western edge of the Cotswolds and its spectacular viewpoints. We will then gradually make our way north, passing Berkeley Castle where a king was said to be murdered, and on to Gloucester where he was taken for burial.
We will stop in the city of Gloucester and make our way towards the Cathedral visited by The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in 2003 for the Royal Maundy Service.
They visited Gloucester again in 2009 on a Royal Naval patrol boat to see the newly transformed Docks and then went to enjoy a lunch cooked by students at the nearby college. You will hear many more royal stories and be shown places they visited. There will be an opportunity to find somewhere to enjoy an afternoon cup of tea before returning to Cheltenham.

The Tour will take place on Thursday 21st April.  Cost £20 per person

Leave your car behind and take a Guided Coach Tour of the 'Three Choirs' Country

The Three Choirs Music Festival has been held every year since 18th century and rotates around the Cathedrals of Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester. This year the festival will be held in Worcester.

Our guided coach tour will start from the cathedral city of Gloucester, the venue for last year’s Music Festival. We will pass the market town of Newent and drive on to the picturesque village of Dymock, made famous by a group of poets who met here just before the First World War. They walked and talked and wrote poetry about the countryside between the Malverns and May Hill. Hopefully we will see lots of flowering wild daffodils for which this area is particularly well known.

We will drive across the county border into the cider growing countryside of Herefordshire around the fascinating village of Much Marcle, with its ancient 13th century church and family tombs of the Mortimer family.

The coach will stop to give you time to explore the historic black and white Herefordshire town of Ledbury where the attractive 17th century timber framed market hall dominates the main street. Here you will be able to do some sightseeing, a spot of shopping or enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee in the town that was the birthplace of Poet Laureate John Masefield and childhood home of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

After your coffee break we will head for the Malvern Hills crossing the border into Worcestershire to discover some of the places that one of our greatest composers, Edward Elgar, knew and loved. We will take the Wyche Cutting to the top, and cross the border into Herefordshire to travel along the western edge of the Malvern Hills, a scenic drive created to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. We will be able to enjoy the Herefordshire countryside and on a clear day will see Hay Bluff and the Black Mountains in Wales.

We will cross the borders again into Worcestershire to see more views across the Severn plains to the distant Cotswold escarpment. We will make our way into the town of Great Malvern where we will stop at The Winter Gardens so you can explore the Priory church, admire the abbey gateway shop or find some lunch.

In the afternoon we will make our way towards the city of Worcester, the venue for the 2011 Music Festival. Here we will make a short stop for sightseeing, where you can take the opportunity to look around the Cathedral or do some shopping before we travel back to Gloucester at the end of the day.

1st Tour will take place on 23rd March 2011.  Cost £20 per person.

Pick up points in Cheltenham town centre and Gloucester city centre