Glorious Suffolk: From Gainsborough to Canaletto

September 2-3 2018

Enjoy a late summer break to one of Britain's most glorious villages, staying overnight at the famous Swan at Lavenham, one of the finest luxury hotels in Suffolk.

We will enjoy guided tours of Woburn Abbey, home to one of the greatest collections of Canaletto paintings; Bletchley Park, the home of British codebreaking and Gainsborough's House at Sudbury. We are also arranging two private visits: an out-of-hours guided tour of the magnificent Tudor mansion Kentwell Hall with the owner and an artist's sculpture studio at Lavenham Hall, famous for its beautiful gardens which will be in full bloom in September. All meals are included - two lunches, dinner with wine at The Swan and afternoon tea.




You will be picked up at approx 8.15am from Cobham in Surrey* (there will also be a pick-up from Richmond-on-Thames, times TBC) and we then drive by executive coach to Woburn Abbey (journey time approx 1¾  hours) which has been the historic home of the Earls and Dukes of Bedford for nearly 400 years. Founded as a Cistercian abbey in 1145, it was rebuilt in the 18th century in the Palladian style and boasts one of the finest private art collections in Britain as well as exceptional collections of French and English furniture, silver and porcelain. Woburn has many notable works such as The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I and boasts the largest private collection of Venetian views painted by Canaletto on public view. Siân will give a talk en route on the history of the Canaletto collection.

There will be time before and after the tour to relax and enjoy the magnificent landscaped gardens. Lunch is included.

We then drive to nearby Bletchley Park, home of the Codebreakers and once Britain's best kept secret. Explore the different types of machines and codes that were used during World War Two and visit various codebreaking huts and exhibition spaces, all set within an atmospheric Victorian estate.

Following our visits we make our way to our hotel in the beautiful medieval village of Lavenham. The Swan is world-famous and one of the finest luxury hotels in Suffolk.

Lavenham is one of Britain’s best preserved medieval wool towns and still contains many beautiful examples of Tudor architecture. There are no less than 320 listed timber framed buildings, many of them protected by English Heritage - these include our hotel which originally dates from the 15th century and combines contemporary elegance with historic charm. There is an excellent restaurant and luxury spa - hotel guests enjoy complimentary use of the sauna, relaxation suites and vitality pool.

There will be some free time on arrival to enjoy the hotel’s facilities, explore the village or simply relax with a drink before dinner with wine (included) which is served in the beautiful, timbered private dining room. You may like to join us for a short informal talk before dinner about the hotel’s famous Airman’s Bar which takes its name from the many servicemen from RAF Lavenham who would come to relax here. An inspiring collection of signatures and mementos adorn the walls.


After breakfast and some time to explore at leisure we depart on foot and walk to the nearby Lavenham Hall Gallery for a specially-arranged private opening of Kate Denton’s sculpture gallery and the beautiful gardens at Lavenham Hall. Kate Denton is one of the UK's leading figurative sculptors and is particularly interested in classical traditions, combining the subject’s form with a sense of dynamism and movement. Her animal sculptures are absolutely breathtaking. Lavenham Hall is a magnificent Tudor building, famous for its beautiful gardens which will be in full bloom in September.

When then depart by coach for nearby Kentwell Hall for our second private visit of the morning.

Kentwell Hall is a splendid moated Tudor manor which was built in the early 16th century by the Clopton family who became wealthy thanks to the local wool trade. The house is still privately owned although open in the summer for visits, however we will arrive for a private guided tour (with the owner) before it opens to the public. We will learn how the Tudor exterior has been combined with a mixture of successive periods within the 16th century layout, including neo-Gothic, Georgian and Classical influences. There are also a a number of surprises such as a Brueghel-style ceiling, a camera obscura and a brick-paved maze. Lunch is included, after which there will be a little free time to explore the beautiful gardens which combine ancient features, landscaping and organic planting.

We then drive to nearby Sudbury where there will be a guided tour of Gainsborough’s House. This is the house where Thomas Gainsborough was born in 1727 and has been converted into a museum and art gallery which exhibits a fine collection of his paintings, drawings and prints. The house's permanent collection encompasses the whole of Gainsborough's career, from his early portraiture and landscapes to later works from his London period.

En route home we will stop for afternoon tea (included) at Cressing Temple Barns. Given to the Knights Templar, these unique Grade I-listed Barley and Wheat Barns built in the 13th century are among the oldest timber barns and few surviving Templar buildings in England. Tea and scones are served in the tea room next door to the barns and Tudor pleasure garden.

We return in the afternoon and should arrive home by 7.00.

* For those for whom Cobham is not so convenient and wishing to join us en route, optional pick-ups can be discussed – please get in touch. Pick-ups times are approximate and will be confirmed in writing approx 2/3 weeks before travel.

Further Tour Information

Overnight accommodation including breakfast and dinner with wine has been arranged at the 4-star Swan Hotel in Lavenham. All rooms are very comfortable and spacious and equipped with tea and coffee-making facilities, irons, luxurious toiletries and bathrobes, flat screen TV, safes and complimentary wifi. Single rooms are doubles based on single occupancy.  Porterage is not included. Guest areas include an excellent restaurant, a bar, lounges and a luxury spa. Hotel guests enjoy complimentary use of the sauna, relaxation suites and vitality pool. Treatments should be booked in advance.

Itinerary and Meals
A detailed, confirmed itinerary including timings will be provided approximately two weeks before travel and all reservations made where necessary. Further information regarding travel will also be provided but our coach should depart at approx 8.15am from Hollyhedge Road in Cobham, Surrey - TBC

A three-course dinner with wine is included as is breakfast and afternoon tea on Monday and lunch on both days.

Please inform us when booking of any food intolerances, allergies or special dietary requirements so that these can be catered for. Thank you

How Strenuous?
Please note that there is some walking and standing involved in the trip, although at a gentle pace and not strenuous. It is not necessary to visit the gardens in all the properties if you prefer to just visit the houses and then rest.

The price will be £399 per person for those sharing a standard double room (twins are also available, please let us know when booking) and a single room supplement of £40.

The price includes 4-star hotel accommodation for 1 night including breakfast and dinner with wine; transfers by private coach; guided tours and specially arranged private visits; 2 lunches; afternoon tea; reservations and all entrance fees in the itinerary. It does not include insurance or personal spending.

The full payment is payable on booking (hence the "deposit" tab shows as the full price). For single rooms please pay the full payment (tour price plus single supplement) at the time of booking. Thank you.

If you would like to join the tour please complete the online booking form. If you would prefer to send a booking form by post please download a copy hereUK tours do not involve flights and so you will not receive an ATOL certificate with your booking receipt, nor do we require any Advanced Passenger Information (passport details). Please leave this section blank on the online booking form, thank you. Travel insurance is optional for all UK tours, so you may also prefer to leave this section blank.

Once your booking has been accepted, we will notify you by email. If you have not received an email confirmation, please check your ‘deleted items' and 'junk mail' folders. If you have not received a confirmation please do contact us to ensure that we have received your booking

A full itinerary and practical details will be sent approximately two weeks in advance. We regret we are unable to offer refunds on unused tickets, but tickets may be transferred to someone else for the event you have booked (please do let us know if you would like to do so, and give us the name of the person who will be taking your place). Availability is limited but friends and relatives are as always welcome!

Please refer to our Terms and Conditions for booking this event


  • Dinner, bed and breakfast at one of Suffolk's most beautiful hotels, the Swan at Lavenham
  • Visits to Woburn Abbey and Bletchley Park
  • All-inclusive price, with all meals included
  • Private house and garden tours
  • Visit artist's studio in Lavenham


  • Tour Price: £399.00
  • Single Supplement: £40.00
  • Room Upgrade: per room per night
  • Deposit: £399.00
  • Lecturer: Siân Walters
  • Guest Speakers: Various


Booking is now closed.

If you have any questions regarding the tour or booking please send us an email or
call on +44 (0)1932 267322

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