Category Archives: Previous Day Visits

Day visits

May 15th 2024 – Grimsthorpe Castle, Gardens and Park Tour

May 15th 2024 – Grimsthorpe Castle, Gardens and Park Tour. The castle was open especially for our visit.

Used with permission of Grimsthorpe Castle

Patricia Weinbren and Lynne Henderson escorted 49 members of our Arts Society to Grimsthorpe Castle and Park. We travelled by coach provided by Catteralls coach company from Royal Leaminton Spa, the journey took  just over an hour and half. On arrival we were greeted with light refreshments in the barn after which we walked (buggies were provided if needed) to the Castle and divided into 3 groups, each group was given a guided tour of the house which was beautiful and well worth the visit. The tour took approx. one hour. The castle has been owned for 500 years by successive generations of the same family united under one ancient title, The Barony of Willoughby de Eresby.

Following the tour we had a ‘tea lunch’ of sandwiches, scones, cream/cake. The newly opened gift shop was available for us to browse in. After lunch there was a guided coach trip round the extensive park land. The members commented on how lovely the house and grounds were and there was great interest in the fact that we were ‘ahead of the game’ by visiting before the new series of ‘Bridgerton’, (which was filmed at Grimsthorpe) was released by Netflix since once that had been launched the castle was expecting many more visitors.  

Used with permission of Grimsthorpe Castle

Day – August 2023 – Sezincote and Batsford Arboretum

Wednesday 9th August 2023

Sezincote and Batsford Arboretum

Sezincote Palace and Gardens
Image © Sezincote website
Used with permission

Sezincote is a family run estate, covering over 4,500 acres of rolling countryside and featuring waterfalls and canals. At the heart of the estate stands a 200 year old Mogal style house complete with temples and grottoes and a beautiful orangery.

Following our trip and refreshing morning coffee, we were treated to tours of the house. Lunch was taken nearby at a local establishment in a countryside setting, before we departed for Batsford Arboretum.  Created in the late 1800s by Lord Redesdale and now run by the Batsford Foundation, the Arboretum is heavily influenced by the Far East. It houses a unique collection of beautiful and rare trees, shrubs and bamboos.

Batsford Arboretum
Image © Batsford Arboretum
Used with permission

We had free flow of both the garden, garden centre and garden terrace cafe before departing for home.

The weather was very kind and an enjoyable day was had by all.

Day – May 2023 – Dorneywood House and Dorney Court

Wednesday 10th May 2023

Dorneywood House and Dorney Court

Dorney Court
Image © Ann Pitt

Dorneywood House is an 18th century house in Buckinghamshire traditionally used as the grace and favour house of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  Originally a Georgian farmhouse, it has Victorian and later additions, and following a fire in 1910, was remodelled in 1919 by Robert Lorimer. The house will be opened especially for us in the morning. 

After our journey the day began with a refreshing coffee, followed by a tour of the house and free flow of the gardens. We then enjoyed a private finger lunch under the marquee at Dorneywood.

Close by is Dorney Court, a grade one listed Tudor Manor House dating from around 1440.  It is one of England’s loveliest houses renowned for its architectural importance and often used as film and television settings.  It has been in the Palmer family for nearly half a millennium, and we had guided tours of the house, followed by a visit to the nearby garden centre.

Day – August 2022 – Weston Park

Wednesday 10th August 2022 – Weston Park

Weston Park

Image © Weston Park website
Trustees of the Weston Park Foundation
Used with permission

Weston Park in Shropshire is the former home of the Earls of Bradford.  The opulent 17th century Mansion, housing some wonderful fine art, is set in 1,000 acres of Capability Brown landscaped grounds.

The Mansion contains tributes to the 3rd Earl’s love of horses.  The Victorian library contains over 3,000 books and has unique Gobelin tapestries, specially commissioned for the house. The stunning dining room houses one of the country’s most impressive collections of paintings including works by renowned artists such as Sir Anthony Van Dyck.

The visit included travel by coach followed by coffee on arrival.  The day included two tours, a two course lunch, and free time to explore the house and grounds.

To end the day we had a reviving cup of tea and cake before departing home. 

Click here for Weston Park website

Day – May 2022 – Chatsworth

Wednesday 11th May 2022 – Chatsworth


Image, Chatsworth © By Tookapic
Used under licence: Pexels

Chatsworth, the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, has been home to the Cavendish family since 1549. It is a beautiful grade 1 listed English Baroque house in Derbyshire.  The house is set in expansive parkland and contains an important collection of paintings, furniture, old master drawings, neoclassical sculptures, books and other artefacts.

Following our excellent study day on Chatsworth, and by popular demand, we will revisit the house.

After our coach journey, there will be time to wander round the grounds before a special treat of lunch in a private dining room.  Lunch will be a 2 course hot meal with tea or coffee.

In the afternoon we will have a full tour of the house in small groups to learn more about the wonderful treasures to be found there.

Chatsworth has been selected several times as the nation’s favourite Country House.

This event is now sold out.

Click here for Chatsworth House website

Day – May 2021 – “Curtain Up! The Story of London’s Theatreland”

Wednesday 19th May 2021

“Curtain Up! The Story of London’s Theatreland”

Theatre Royal

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

We joined actor and London Blue Badge Guide Simon Whitehouse on this virtual tour exploring 350 years of London’s West End Theatre heritage.

From plays and musicals to opera and ballet, we remembered the star studded first nights (and the odd spectacular flop!)

Highlights included:

– The story of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane: the birthplace of West End theatre & the world’s oldest theatre site in continuous use since 1662. 

– The Agatha Christie Memorial and the story behind the longest running play in the world; “The Mousetrap”

– The Actors’ Church where two actresses are laid to rest & where we uncover the somewhat darker origins of Shaw’s “Pygmalion” – and much more….

This virtual tour was streamed online on Wednesday 19th May 2021 at 11:00am.

This was a replacement for the postponed Dornywood House & Dorney Court visit which has been rearranged for May 2023.


Day – August 2020 – “The Old East End of London”

Tuesday 11th August 2020

“The Old East End of London”

The Spirit of Christmas
Kindertransport, The Arrival Memorial, Liverpool Street Station. Image: Wjh31 Own Work.
Used under Creative Commons licence

In place of our postponed visit to Weston Park in August 2020, we enjoyed an excellent virtual tour by award winning Pepe Martinez, a London Blue Badge Guide and tutor, on one of London’s most fascinating districts.

This told us the story of wave after wave of people coming to London to seek refuge, looking for a better life. Using powerful images, video and google street views we saw the arrival of French Huguenots and the 1680’s through to the more than 10.000 Jewish Kindertransport children who arrived at Liverpool Street station in 1939.


Day – December 2020 “The Spirit of Christmas”

Friday 18th December 2020

Virtual online tour – “The Spirit of Christmas”

The Spirit of Christmas
The Spirit of Christmas
Lecturer’s own image

This Christmas special live online virtual day visit will be celebrating all things Christmassy. 

We recommend a mince pie and glass of Christmas cheer to hand as you enjoy this extra treat.

Presented by Tourist Guides Pepe Martinez, an award- winning London Blue badge Tourist Guide and accredited Institute of Tourist Guide Trainer who is currently tutoring on the London Blue badge training course, and Simon Whitehouse, also an award- winning Blue badge Guide and Lecturer at the Ithaca College London Centre.

This extra special Christmas extravaganza will be in two parts.  Part one will explore the history of all those Christmas traditions we now take for granted such as Christmas crackers, mince pies, Christmas cards and the Christmas tree.

After a short interval, part two will be a virtual Version of “Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol” which will be presented jointly by Pepe and Simon.

This event will be streamed online on Friday 18th December 2020 at 11:00am via a link sent to members only and available by this link to YouTube for 48 hours only.

You might also be interested in Pepe’s “Blue Badge Premium Virtual Tours”. Click here for more information.

Day – August 2019 – Belvoir Castle

Wednesday 14th August 2019 – Belvoir Castle

Belvoir Castle

Our visit to Belvoir Castle was a fascinating excursion into the history of the Duke of Rutland’s family since 1067.  We saw one of the finest examples of Regency architecture in the world in the castle today which was built in the early 1800s for the 5th Duke and is the fourth castle to stand on this site. The numerous paintings and treasures, which have been collected by the family for nearly 1,000 years, were wonderful.

The weather was against a full exploration of the gardens but a few intrepid members ventured to see how the lost plans of Capability Brown had come to fruition. Some also did the walks through formal gardens, woodland, Japanese, Duchess’s and Hermit’s gardens.

We also had very tasty food, drink, some retail therapy and good company.  In all a most enjoyable day.

Image – Belvoir Castle © By Nancy, Used under Licence: Creative Commons by SA 3.0

Day – May 2019 – Stonor & Hughenden

Wednesday 8th May 2019 – Stonor & Hughenden

Stonor and Hughenden

After delays due to traffic and a very wet start to the day we had a most interesting visit to Stonor Manor.  This is one of England’s oldest manor houses housing outstanding displays of portraits, tapestries, bronzes and ceramics.

It has been the family’s residence for over 850 years making it one of the oldest family residences still lived in.  The guides brought the most interesting family history to life while we toured the house before lunch in the restaurant in the manor.

After lunch we visited Hughenden Manor which is the handsome home of Benjamin Disraeli, set in a Chiltern valley where the sun made a brief appearance. It houses a fascinating collection of personal memorabilia of this colourful statesman.  Disraeli’s hillside retreat later became the headquarters for a top secret Second world war operation that put Hughenden high on Hitler’s target list. The basement exhibition, 1940s living-room and ice house bunker was fascinating bringing wartime Britain to life.

In all a most interesting day visiting two of England’s famous Manor houses.

Images – Stonor and Hughenden © Ann Pitt