Visiting London on a fully escorted tour is unnecessary because of its extensive public transport and wide network of taxicabs. Many tour companies offer day tours to the main sights, and getting around is fairly easy.
If you're traveling beyond London, packaged tours can be very useful, particularly if you don't want to rent a car. Because many sights are off the beaten track and not accessible by public transportation—particularly castles, great houses, and small villages—tour groups make the country accessible to all. There are a few downsides to escorted tours: rooms in castles and medieval houses tend to be small and can feel overrun when tour groups roll in. And as on a cruise, your traveling companions are inescapable.
Dozens of companies offer fully guided tours in Britain. Most of these are full packages including lodging, food, and transportation costs in one flat fee. Do a bit of research before booking. You'll want to know about the hotels you'll be staying in, how big your group is likely to be, how your days will be structured, and who the other people are likely to be.
Among the most reliable tour companies, two U.S.–based companies—Trafalgar Tours and Globus & Cosmos Tours—specialize in moderately priced trips that feature plenty of sights. Tauck is another well-established company. At the high end of the price scale is Abercrombie & Kent, known for luxurious tours that include everything from castle hotels to journeys on vintage railways.
Abercrombie & Kent (800/554–7016. www.abercrombiekent.com.)
Globus & Cosmos Tours (877/245–6287 in U.S. www.globusandcosmos.com.)
Tauck (0800/931-834 in U.K.; 203/899-6500 in U.S. www.tauck.co.uk.)
Trafalgar Tours (0800/533–5616. www.trafalgar.com/uk.)
Britain's foodie culture is increasingly rich and thriving. Gourmet on Tour, a U.S.–based tour company, offers vacations dominated by cooking, eating, and fine wine.
Gourmet on Tour (646/461–6088 in U.S.; 0207/558–8796 in U.K. www.gourmetontour.com.)
England is a land of garden lovers, and its gardens are varied and impressive. Adderley and Flora are British companies; the American tour companies Coopersmiths and Lynott Tours also offer tours of gardens around Britain. The website www.gardenvisit.com is a useful reference site.
Adderley Travel Ltd. (01953/606706. www.adderleytravel.com.)
Coopersmiths (415/669–1914 in U.S. www.coopersmiths.com.)
Flora Garden Tours (01366/328946. www.flora-garden-tours.co.uk.)
Lynott Tours (800/221–2474. www.lynotttours.com.)
Hiking and Walking
For those who prefer to spend their vacations on the move, Adventure Sports Holidays will have you surfing, kayaking, paragliding, or just walking. Country Walkers and England Lakeland Ramblers, based in the United States, or the U.K.’s Adventureline, have guided walks in Britain. The Wayfarers offer specialized walking tours, such as treks through Brontë Country.
Adventureline (01209/820847. www.adventureline.co.uk.)
Adventure Sports Holidays (01273/358092. www.adventuresportsholidays.com.)
Country Walkers (800/464–9255 in U.S. www.cwadventures.com.)
English Lakeland Ramblers (800/724–8802 in U.S. www.ramblers.com.)
The Wayfarers (01242/620871. www.thewayfarers.com.)
England is rich in history and culture, to the point where it’s developed what’s known as the "heritage industry." Inscape offers tours of four days or less, oriented toward fine art and architecture led by knowledgeable academics. Classic England specializes in private tours to castles, cathedrals, and areas of historic interest.
Classic England (01277/841651 in U.K.; 866/464–7389 in U.S. www.classic-england.com.)
Inscape Fine Art Study Tours (0208/566-7539. inscapestudytours.wordpress.com.)
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