We check in to the Hallmark Hotel Chester The Queen in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Monday: Bodrhyddan Hall & Tower
Reworked in 1875 by the famous architect William Eden Nesfield, Bodrhyddan Hall is a Grade I listed house and one of the few in Wales to still be in private hands. Nesfield not only enlarged the house but also rotated its axis, making a new west-facing entrance in Queen Anne Revival style. Home to Lord Langford and his ancestors for the last 500 years, we enjoy a guided tour of this splendid house and its collections, followed by refreshments. Of particular interest is the formal parterre, also designed by Nesfield, and a 3,000 year old Egyptian mummy and Sarcophagus.
Our next stop is Tower in Nercwys. As its name suggests, Tower is a Welsh fortified tower house, listed as a Grade I building with the distinction of being the only fortified Welsh border house still standing. Said to be built in the mid 15th century by Rheinalt ap Gruffydal Bleddyn, Tower has passed down through the same family for more than 500 years and has evolved from a hideaway for roaming villains to the tranquil home of the current owner.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Tuesday: Gwydir Castle, Betws-y-Coed & Llangollen Railway
We head to the beautiful Vale of Conwy in the foothills of Snowdonia to the fortified manor house, Gwydir Castle. Famed for its many ghost stories and its peacocks, the castle was the ancestral home of the influential Wynn family, descendants of the ancient Kings of Gwynedd. The current owners, Peter Welford and Judy Corbett, bought the castle in 1994 and have undertaken extensive restoration work. The interiors are furnished with their collection of early furniture, including some original pieces from Gwydir Castle. We enjoy an exclusive guided tour by the owners followed by morning coffee.
In the afternoon we make a short stop in the picturesque village of Betws-y-Coed in the Snowdonia National Park. The backdrop of coniferous forests has earned this area the name ‘Little Switzerland’.
We end the day with a trip into yesteryear as we board the Llangollen Railway in the picturesque village of Corwen. Our scenic heritage rail journey winds through the Dee Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, before finishing in the pretty market town of Llangollen, situated on the River Dee.
This evening, we enjoy an inclusive three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Wednesday: Arley Hall & Chester
We head to Arley Hall this morning, the much-loved home of Viscount Ashbrook and his forbears for over 500 years. The Hall provides a warm and intimate atmosphere with elaborate ceilings, oak-panelling and beautiful furniture while the formal gardens are home to a huge variety of plants, including a magnificent double herbaceous border. We enjoy a guided tour of the house followed by lunch.
We then return to Chester, exploring this historic city with a guided walking tour which takes in the rescued remains of its Roman Amphitheatre and the distinctive Medieval Rows that line its streets. We then enjoy a walk along the city walls, thought to be the most completely preserved of their kind in the country.
In the evening we enjoy an inclusive three-course dinner back at the hotel.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.