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A journey of discovery along the Great West Way

Two of our team, Janet and Neil, joined a journey of discovery along the Great West Way in south west England. This was an introduction to the highlights of one of England’s newest tourist routes.

Avebury_Stones.jpgAvebury Stone Circle on the Great West Way

The Great West Way winds its way through lush green landscapes from London to Bristol, touching Royal Windsor, Roman Bath and Stonehenge, and takes in many quintessential English villages and ancient market towns along the way.

Setting off from Windsor, the tour split into two groups. Janet joined one group and Neil the other, to get the most out the familiarisation tour and to see as many attractions as possible.

Jan began her tour in Reading, with a very warm welcome at the Novotel Reading Centre. This was the perfect base for exploring Reading’s historic Abbey Quarter early the next day.

The Abbey Quarter boasts the ancient ruins of Reading Abbey, burial place of the Norman king Henry I, beautiful Forbury Gardens and the Abbey Gateway, which once formed part of Reading Ladies' Boarding School, famously attended by Jane Austen.

Reading_Abbey.jpgThe classroom where Jane Austen studied

Next up for Jan was Stonor Park, near Henley-on-Thames (famous for its annual rowing regatta) in Oxfordshire. Nestled among the rolling Chiltern Hills, Stonor Park has been home to the Stonor family for over 850 years, defying reformation and revolution.

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The handsome French wallpaper at Stonor, which was printed in 1814, forms a continuous panorama of the principal monuments of Paris as if they had been built along the bank of the Seine.

Stonor_Wallpaper.jpgThe handsome wallpaper at Stonor

The first day of Jan’s tour concluded with a visit to West Berkshire Brewery. Founded in 1995, this state-of the-art brewery and packaging facility prides itself on brewing with traditional techniques, so is well worth a visit for anyone interested in the heritage and production (not to mention taste) of English beer.

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Neil’s tour began at Stonehenge, the ring of monolithic stones that form one of England’s most famous and mysterious landmarks. A must see on any tour of this part of England, the ancient site looked particularly atmospheric when Neil visited on a damp autumn morning. 

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For many on our tour, this was their first visit to the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, but this chap had clearly seen it all before!

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After a rewarding morning, Neil’s group enjoyed a delicious lunch and great welcome at the Abbey Hotel Bath.

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Lunch was followed by a visit to Dyrham Park, a dramatic deer park just eight miles from the city of Bath, where the group could appreciate the sweeping views leading down to the elegant 17th century mansion.

The day finished with dinner at The Old Bell in Malmesbury, purported to be England’s oldest hotel, before the group retired to the Angel Hotel, a sympathetically restored coaching inn with many modern facilities, in the nearby town of Chippenham.

Day two of Jan’s tour began with a short visit to Marlborough College, a famous English independent school, where the group learned about the college’s annual summer school, which offers inspirational learning opportunities for all ages.

Marlborough.jpgMarlborough College

Coincidentally, Marlborough College was where Nick, one of the Partners at Janet Redler Travel & Tourism, spent many happy school years!

Marlborough_1.jpgThe splendid chapel at Marlborough College

The next stop was Avebury Stone Circle and Avebury Manor in Wiltshire. The largest megalithic stone circle in the world, Avebury is part of the same World Heritage Site as Stonehenge and has a globally significant Neolithic and Bronze Age landscape.

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Jan and her group really enjoyed their fascinating introduction to this spectacular site, that many international visitors have yet to discover. What is especially appealing is the informality of the place, as visitors can walk freely among the stone circles or take a stroll along the stone avenue.

Nearby Avebury Manor, a wonderful 16th century manor house, has been transformed to tell the story of the different generations who once lived there, with each room having been refurbished in a different historical style.

Avebury_Manor.jpg16th century Avebury Manor

Jan’s group enjoyed lunch at one of the UK’s top tea rooms, the very quaint Bridge Tea Rooms in pretty Bradford-on-Avon, before going on to Bath to explore the world-renowned Royal Crescent. 

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Day two of Neil’s tour began with a visit to Westonbirt – The National Arboretum, the focus for the care and conservation of trees in the UK. Its 15,000 trees from all over the world, spread across 600 acres, looked spectacular in their autumn foliage.

In the afternoon the group visited the famous Roman Baths in the city of Bath (known to the Romans as Aquae Sulis). Bath was founded upon natural hot springs and the Roman Baths, in the heart of the city, were constructed around 70 AD as a grand bathing and socialising complex. It is now one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world.

At the end of day two, the groups met up at Bath Spa Railway Station for farewells and to catch trains home, after a thoroughly enjoyable and informative journey of discovery along the Great West Way.

Read more about the Great West Way on our website and if you would like to undertake your own journey of discovery on this fascinating tourist route through the heart of England and its past, please do contact us. We can put together the perfect tailor-made itinerary for you or your group.

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