"They built castles far and wide throughout the land, oppressing the unhappy people, and things went ever from bad to worse. When God wills may the end be good!"
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1066
When William, Duke of Normandy, led a merciless army of Norman knights to fight Harold, the Earl of Wessex, at the legendary Battle of Hastings in 1066, he drastically changed the course of British history. Never before or since, had a ruling class be replaced so efficiently and effectively by another in English history. William’s transformation of the English landscape with the construction of Norman castles, subdued and terrorised the Anglo-Saxon population, helping the new ruling French aristocracy ruthlessly held on to power.
Join us on an epic journey of discovery, as we travel through historic Normandy, to Battle at Hastings and onwards to the castles of Rochester and the Tower of London, to tell one of the most fascinating and historically significant stories in English history.
Expert-led tour by one of the UK’s most renowned medieval historians
Private viewing of the Bayeux Tapestry, the UNESCO-listed embroidery that depicts the story of the Norman invasion.
Visit the Norman towns and cities of Dieppe, Bayeux, Caen and Rouen, and the castles and abbeys built by William and his wife, Matilda
Private dining in authentic Norman restaurants with Expert lectures
Follow in the footsteps of William the Conqueror, from the beach of his departure in Normandy, to the site of his landing near Pevensey castle, the story fascinatingly told by your expert historian
Gain an understanding of Norman warfare, architecture and power
Expert-led tour of the Tower of London, a World Heritage site, with access to view the Crown Jewels and other exhibitions at your own leisure. Lunch within the inner keep of the Tower.
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Day 1 London - Dieppe
Afternoon | Travel by Eurostar/Coach to Dieppe
From St Pancras International train station, you will be transferred via Eurostar to Calais, before taking a coach transfer to your hotel in Dieppe.
Evening | Welcome Dinner with Introduction to Tour by your Expert
Group Welcome Dinner with introduction to the tour by your Expert.
Overnight | Dieppe
Meals included: D
Day 2 Dieppe - Arques-la-Bataille - Jumièges Abbey - Bayeux
Morning | Visit the castle of Arques-la-Bataille and Jumièges Abbey near Rouen
This morning we visit the castle of Arques-la-Bataille, close to Dieppe, one of the earliest and most impressive fortresses in northern France. Built in the 1040s by William’s uncle, the count of Arques, it was besieged by William a few years later, and eventually surrendered when the count and his men were close to starvation. Your expert historian will explain the origins of castle-building and medieval warfare.
Afterwards we travel onwards to Jumièges Abbey, near Rouen, the most impressive eleventh-century monastic ruin in Normandy. Founded in the 1030s, the abbey’s story is intimately bound up with that of the Conquest, and it was dedicated in William’s presence in 1067 to celebrate his victory. The abbey’s imposing ruins reflect the spirituality of the monks who lived there and the power of the dukes who patronised them. We travel to your hotel in Bayeux, where we stay for the two nights.
Afternoon | Lunch in Bayeux followed by time at leisure
As well as being the location for the world famous UNESCO-listed tapestry depicting the Norman Conquest, Bayeux is a fabulous historic city. It had the great good fortune to be swiftly liberated by the allies in June 1944 which means it was spared any destruction. Whilst well known for its tapestry, it is the splendid cathedral that dominates the scenery and signals that you’re entering a glorious city of historic importance.
Evening | Dinner in Bayeux
Overnight | Bayeux
Meals included: B, L, D
Day 3 Bayeux - Falaise - Caen
Morning | Visit Falaise, Caen City and Castle
In the morning we visit Falaise, birthplace of William the Conqueror, and the spectacular stone castle built by his son and successor, Henry I, before travelling onwards to Caen, where we have lunch.
Afternoon | Visit William's Abbeys; Abbaye aux Hommes and Abbaye aux Dames
Caen was a creation of William the Conqueror himself, transformed from a settlement of no significance to the second most important urban centre in Normandy, it became a rival to the Normandy capital, Rouen. We visit the castle established by William and the abbeys, Abbaye aux Hommes, Abbaye aux Dames founded by him and his wife, Matilda. Your expert historian will lead you on a tour of all three sites, bringing their past to life.
Evening | Dinner in Bayeux
We return to Bayeux to freshen up at the hotel before dinner at leisure.
Overnight | Bayeux
Meals included: B, L
Day 4 Bayeux - Rouen - Newhaven
Morning | Bayeux Tapestry, Travel to Rouen
This morning we visit the Bayeux Tapestry. Whilst its images are familiar to so many of us, being able to see them close up is a powerful experience. The scale of the work is staggering; it measures over 70 metres (or 230 ft) in length. This exceptionally ambitious piece of craftsmanship was almost certainly commissioned by William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Bishop Odo of Bayeux. It presents a fascinating, detailed, Norman interpretation of the events leading up to and including the invasion of England in 1066.
We travel to Rouen, where William often held court and where he died on 9 September 1087 at the priory of Saint Gervase.
Afternoon | Lunch in Rouen at Leisure, Ferry Crossing from Dieppe to Newhaven
Free time in the afternoon to take in the sites of Rouen, before we travel to Dieppe by early evening ferry crossing to Newhaven.
Evening | Dinner at Leisure (on board ferry)
Overnight | Eastbourne
Meals included: B, D
Day 5 Newhaven - Pevensey - Hastings - Rochester
Morning | Pevensey Castle, Battle at Hastings
After breakfast, we follow in the footsteps of the invading Norman army, visiting Pevensey Castle, the landing place of William the Conqueror's army in 1066. During the century after the Conquest the castle was rebuilt in stone, with a great square keep and powerful gatehouse.
So the Normans have landed, now it is onwards to the Battle!
Walk with your Expert historian as he brings to life this most momentous battle in English history. Picture the battlefield full of life (and death) on the day that England's history changed forever. Today peaceful with wild flowers and birdsong, this evocative landscape once played host to thousands of men, fighting to the death for their respective rulers. Visit the site of the abbey’s high altar, which marks the spot where King Harold was killed.
You will be able to get a whole new perspective of the battlefield and surrounding landscape from the top of the abbey gatehouse, open to the public for the first time this year. An exhibition inside the gatehouse explores the history of the battle, including a blow by blow account of the day itself. A new interpretation of the battle will also be installed in the visitor centre and across the battlefield.
Afternoon | Lunch near Battle, Rochester Castle
After lunch we travel to Rochester to visit two of the greatest buildings constructed during the early decades of Norman rule.
Strategically placed on the road from London to Dover, guarding the point where it crosses the River Medway, Rochester Castle is the tallest 12th-century castle in Europe, soaring to a height of 125ft (38m). Built in 1127 by the archbishop of Canterbury at the command of William’s son, King Henry I, it was besieged a century later by King John, one of the greatest sieges of the entire Middle Ages. Rochester Cathedral, rebuilt at the same time as the castle and in the same style, remains one of the finest examples of Norman ecclesiastical architecture in Britain.
Transfer to the hotel in Rochester.
Evening | Dinner at your hotel in Rochester
Overnight | Rochester
Meals included: B, L, D
Day 6 Rochester - London
Morning | Tower of London
This morning we travel to the magnificent Tower of London, one of the most famous castle keeps in the world and a World Heritage Site, as well as a remarkable example of Norman architecture. Inside is a unique Romanesque Chapel, the beautiful 11th-century Chapel of St John the Evangelist.
Begun in the 1070, the White Tower, designed by Bishop Gundulf of Rochester, was the most prestigious building in William’s newly conquered realm. Norman masons were employed for its construction and hundreds of tonnes of high quality stone was transported by ship from Normandy. So ambitious was this mightiest of towers that it took almost three decades to complete.
Your expert historian will guide you through the Tower’s story, explaining its origins, its symbolic importance and its later medieval history. You can visit all four floors of the White Tower and explore the Royal Armouries Collection.
Afternoon | Farewell Lunch at the Tower of London
We will have a farewell lunch in the new Armouries Café, situated within the White Tower itself.
After lunch you will have access to the Crown Jewels display, exhibitions including ‘Coins and Kings’ and ‘Line of Kings’ and live historical re-enactments (still to be confirmed) in the White Tower.
*Please advise during the booking process whether you would like to also include options to tour Bayeux or guided tour of its cathedral.
Meals included: B, L
B = Breakfast included, L = Lunch included, D = Dinner included
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5 nights in 4 star hotel accommodation with breakfast and 4 lunches* and 5 dinners*
The services of an expert in medieval history from start to finish
The services of a professional UK Tour Manager from start to finish
All transportation (includes luggage transportation) including Eurostar, high-quality air-conditioned coaches and ferry
Expert-led tours of Arques-la-Bataille Castle, Jumièges Abbey, the Bayeux Tapestry, Falaise Castle (birth place of William the Conqueror), the town of Caen, with its castle and abbeys founded by William and Matilda, Pevensey Castle, Battle Abbey and battlefield, Rochester Castle and the Tower of London
Visit to the towns of Dieppe, Rouen, Bayeux, Falaise, Caen and London
Medical and travel insurance
* All lunches and dinners are three courses and include wine, beer, juice, water, tea and coffee
Local Expert Guides
Our Local Expert Guides are experienced licenced tour guides with special access to museums, art galleries and other cultural institutions.
Professional and gifted communicators with unparalleled local knowledge, each one specialises in bringing the past to life.
For more information about our Expert Guides, please contact us on 020 8877 2883 to speak with a Grand Cultural Tours representative.
Accommodation with breakfast in 4 star hotels throughout
Dates & Prices
15th September 2017
* Please click here for more information regarding flights for this tour.