Cambridgeshire & the Origins of the Mayflower 400

Retrace the Pilgrims' steps through England's Heartland

Prices From $5,400p/p

Ahead of 2020’s Mayflower 400 celebrations, we discover the origins of the Pilgrim Fathers in the heart of England. From a congregation of disgruntled English Protestants from the village of Scrooby, Nottinghamshire through to a voyage into the unknown in the New World, we look at the origins of the Mayflower Pilgrims as we travel north to Boston and Gainsborough, taking in landmarks around Scrooby itself before we head to Cambridge and Essex to explore their role in the story. We also visit Harwich where the Mayflower was believed to be built and started her journey.

Special extras included in your itinerary
Guided tour of Woburn Abbey (TBC)
• Guided walking tour of Nottingham
• Guided walking tour of Cambridge
• Talk at Lavenham Guildhall
• Themed evening talk by a guest speaker

Day 1
Tuesday: Arrival

On arrival at Heathrow airport, a private transfer will take you to our overnight hotel, the Macdonald Windsor Hotel. In the evening you are invited to join the group for a welcome drink, followed by dinner.

Day 2
Wednesday: Woburn Abbey

We head northwards, where we step back to the time of the Pilgrim Fathers, stopping to visit Woburn Abbey, family home of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford. Originally a monastery, Woburn Abbey was given by Edward VI to the Russell family in 1547. Since then, several leading architects of their day have helped create the stunning historic house we see today. We explore nearly 500 years of one family’s history on our guided tour as well as discover a unique art collection, a treasury of silver, porcelain and fine English and French furniture.

Afterwards, we make our way to the Stapleford Park Country House Hotel where we stay for the next three nights. Dinner is included on every evening of our stay here. 

Day 3
Thursday: Scrooby, Austerfield and Gainsborough Old Hall

Today we enjoy a drive through the scenic countryside, taking us first to the village of Scrooby. There are few rural villages with which the early history of the colonisation of the United States is entwined. It was here that a group of Puritan Separatists initiated the emigration of the Pilgrim Fathers to America in 1620 aboard the Mayflower. Scrooby is also the birthplace of William Brewster, one of the founder Pilgrim Fathers.

We then make the short journey to the village of Austerfield, home of William Bradford who joined the Separatist cause and rose to become one of the principal figures in 17th-century New England. Both William Bradford and William Brewster led the foundation of Plymouth Colony, the first settlement of New England.

Our final visit is to Gainsborough Old Hall. Built by the noble Burgh family around 1460, it is one of the best-preserved, timber-framed medieval manor houses in the country. The house boasts an impressive Great Hall, an original medieval kitchen and original brick built tower.

Famous visitors include Richard III, Henry VIII and the Mayflower Pilgrims. 

Day 4
Friday: Boston Guildhall, Boston Stump* and Nottingham

The market town and historic port of Boston has many links to the Pilgrim Fathers. Our first visit is to the magnificent 14th-century medieval Guildhall. Part of the building’s fascinating history includes the famous trial and imprisonment of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1607, when they were thwarted in their first attempt to leave England and find religious freedom in Holland. Today the Guildhall houses the town’s museum where displays and exhibitions bring many of these stories to life.

Next, we visit St Botolph’s Church, otherwise known as Boston Stump. The church is most notable for its magnificent tower which, at 272ft high, is one of the tallest medieval towers in England. The church is particularly well known for its close ties to the Pilgrim Fathers. The Rev. John Cotton urged members of his local congregation to join the Massachusetts Bay Company in an attempt to establish an English settlement for religious Puritans in New England. In the 1630's he helped to found the city of Boston, Massachusetts.

We end the day in Nottingham where we enjoy a guided walking tour to explore the city’s rich history. One-time lace capital of the world, Nottingham is renowned for its landmark buildings, each which tells of its own chapter in Nottingham’s history, including the Lace Market with its stunning architecture.

*St Botolph's Church is undergoing restoration in 2019 so may be closed at short notice.

Day 5
Saturday: Stamford and Cambridge

Our first stop today is the picturesque market town of Stamford, described as the finest stone town in England. The town prospered from the wool trade and boasts a variety of 17th and 18th-century stone buildings, older timber-framed buildings and no fewer than five medieval parish churches.

We then make our way to the historic city of Cambridge. Renowned for its world-famous university, its prestigious list of alumni includes William Brewster. The city is home to many architectural wonders and landmarks that we have the chance to discover as part of our guided walking tour. From punters on the River Cam to the majestic college buildings such as King’s College Chapel, we explore the many sights of this fascinating city.

We travel on to the stunning Ickworth Hotel on the Ickworth Estate – a magnificent National Trust property and our base for the next four nights. Later, we enjoy dinner together at the hotel.

Day 6
Sunday: Fitzwilliam Museum and Peterhouse College

We head back into Cambridge where we visit the Fitzwilliam Museum. The art and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge contains a vast collection of treasures from paintings and armour to ceramics, furniture, textiles, sculptures and manuscripts.

In the afternoon we visit Peterhouse, the oldest college of the University of Cambridge, founded in 1284 by Hugo de Balsham, Bishop of Ely. Highlights include the Chapel, the Libraries and the Hall, where the communal life of the students is centred.

This evening, we enjoy dinner together at the hotel.

Day 7
Monday: Lavenham, Harwich and Saffron Walden

We pay a visit to picturesque Lavenham, a remarkably well-preserved Tudor village in Suffolk. The woollen-cloth industry turned the town into one of the richest in the country during the 15th century, with the church of St Peter and Paul built from the proceeds of local industry. We enjoy a talk at the National Trust’s Guildhall of Corpus Christi – a potent reminder of Lavenham’s former prosperity.

We continue on to the port of Harwich on the North Sea coast. Harwich has a long and fascinating seafaring history – it is believed that the Pilgrim Fathers built and launched the Mayflower here and it is also the birthplace of its captain, Christopher Jones. The Mayflower Project is underway at the yard with the building of a replica of the famous ship with the plan to sail to America in 2020 for the 400th anniversary.

En-route back to the hotel, we make a short stop in Saffron Walden, a charming medieval market town with many historic buildings including the half-timbered Guildhall.

The evening is free for you to make your own dinner arrangements. 

Day 8
Tuesday: Ely Cathedral and Anglesey Abbey

We visit magnificent Ely Cathedral. Founded as a monastery in 673, work on the present building dates from the early 1080s. A remarkable example of both Romanesque and Norman architecture, its most famous feature is the central Octagon Tower which, along with the West Tower, gives a unique exterior landmark that dominates the surrounding landscape.

We then make our way to Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill. Don’t be fooled by the name; the house’s interior is a vestige of 1930s luxury, complete with rich furnishings, silver, paintings, books and rare clocks. Outside, discover an exceptional array of sculptures in the landscape gardens.

After dinner back at the hotel, we are treated to a fascinating talk by a guest speaker.

Day 9
Wednesday: Wimpole Estate and Windsor

This morning we head to the unique working estate of Wimpole, still a hive of activity with a beautiful hall at its heart. The largest house in Cambridgeshire boasts some unique interior flourishes, including the graceful Yellow Drawing Room and Bath House. The wonderful library was specially built to house an enormous collection of books that went on to form the core of the early British Library. Outside there is a landscape park, colourful parterre garden, a walled kitchen garden and herbaceous borders to enjoy.

Later, we return to Windsor where we have some time at leisure. Lying on the south bank of the River Thames, this ancient royal town, which grew up around the castle, has a rich mix of culture and history. The Old Town retains its picturesque medieval appearance with cobbled streets, winding alleyways and lovely half-timbered houses.

Afterwards, we check back in to the Macdonald Windsor Hotel, where we enjoy a farewell dinner together.

Day 10
Thursday: Departure

A private transfer will take you back to Heathrow airport for your return flight home.

What’s Included
• Airport transfers from London Heathrow*
• 2 nights at the Macdonald Windsor Hotel
• 3 nights at the Stapleford Park Country House Hotel
• 4 nights at the Ickworth Hotel
• Welcome drink and canapés
• Full English breakfast each day
• 3-course table d’hôte dinner on 8 nights at the hotels (with after dinner tea and coffee)
• Services of a tour director throughout your stay
• Travel to and from all excursions
• All entrance costs
• Porterage

*supplement applies for transfers from all other airports

Special extras included in your itinerary
• Guided tour of Woburn Abbey (TBC)
• Guided walking tour of Nottingham
• Guided walking tour of Cambridge
• Talk at Lavenham Guildhall
• Themed evening talk by a guest speaker

Nights One and Nine – Macdonald Windsor Hotel
The Macdonald Windsor Hotel is situated in the heart of the historic town of Windsor, opposite the famous Windsor Castle. The classic interiors, with a contemporary edge, fit perfectly with the Georgian elegance of this townhouse hotel. The luxury bedrooms are individually-designed and the hotel also offers a stylish bar and restaurant.

Nights Two to Four – Stapleford Park Country House Hotel
Stapleford Park Country House Hotel is a beautiful country house hotel and golf course surrounded by 500 acres of Capability Brown grounds. The mansion bears the imprint of architectural styles, from Tudor to Victorian with all of the 21st century amenities you would expect in a luxury hotel. Each room is individually decorated and many have been designed by famous names.

Nights Five to Eight – Ickworth Hotel
Set in the East Wing of the National Trust’s historic Ickworth House, the Ickworth Hotel is a luxury country house hotel that enjoys some spectacular views across the grounds of the estate. Each room is uniquely decorated, while the hotel features a spa with an indoor swimming pool to relax in. During our stay, we also enjoy exclusive after-hours access to the Italianate Gardens until dusk.