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The best of British history tours

Jo Carlowe / 19 October 2018

Delve deeper into Britain’s rich heritage on an organised tour.

Warwick Castle TheLiftCreativeServices /
Warwick Castle has a wealth of history. Photo © TheLiftCreativeServices /

The Roman Baths – Above and Below Tour

The Roman Baths, at the heart of the City of Bath World Heritage Site, consists of the remarkably preserved remains of one of the greatest religious spas of the ancient world. The city’s unique thermal springs rise in the site and the Baths still flow with natural hot water. Unsurprisingly, it attracts more than a million visitors a year. Avoid the crowds by pre-booking yourself into the Above and Below Tour. An enthusiastic guide will take you through the tunnels under the site as well as the adjacent streets. Standard museum charges apply (£16.50 adult), with no extra charge for the tunnel tour on selected Wednesdays.

More information: The Roman Baths

Warwick Castle – VIP Exclusive Tour

From its foundations as an Anglo-Saxon settlement through to its use as a medieval fortress, Tudor prison and stately home, Warwick Castle has a wealth of history. For something really special, try the VIP Exclusive Tour Package. A dedicated expert from the castle’s history team will take you deep behind the scenes to explore areas usually closed to the public, including the locked rooms within the towers and ramparts, plus all-day dining, and a personalised coat-of-arms souvenir. It costs £150 (adult).

More information: Warwick Castle

The Tower of London – Yeoman Warder guided tours

Built as a secure fortress and a symbol of royal power, the Tower of London – one of the UK’s Historic Royal Palaces – is a must-see for anyone visiting the capital. The oldest part of the tower is thought to date from 1078, built under the orders of William the Conqueror. Tours take place every 30 minutes, last an hour and are hosted by the Yeoman Warders, dubbed ‘Beefeaters’, a nickname apparently derived from their position in the Royal Bodyguard, which permitted them to eat as much beef as they wanted from the king's table. Expect tales of intrigue, imprisonment, execution, torture and much more. Tours are included in the admission price (£22.70 adult)

More information: The Tower of London

Stone Age and Iron Age Orkney

‘If you scratch the surface of Orkney it bleeds archaeology,’ so it’s claimed. This Pre-history Tour with Lizzie’s Orkney Tours encompasses both Stone Age and Iron Age sites. You’ll start with a visit to a subterranean earth house or ‘souterrain’ – originally the cellar of an Iron Age round house; continue to the Cuween Cairn, a 5,000-year-old chambered tomb; a neolithic henge and stone circle; Skara Brae, a remarkably well-preserved Neolithic village; and the Broch of Gurness – an important Iron Age site that went on to be used by the Picts and then the Vikings. Other tours include the Orkney World Heritage tour, Skapa Flow tour and a Tasting Orkney tour.

More information: Stone Age and Iron Age Orkney

Oxford University history tour

Learn about the city and its historic colleges, and why Oxford is called the City of Dreaming Spires, with qualified guides from award-winning company Walking Tours of Oxford. On the Simply Oxford University Tour (£16.76), you can hear the stories of the university’s most famous students from across the centuries. Highlights include entry to a college building (subject to availability), the Bodleian Library, the Weston Library, the Old Schools Quadrangle and the Radcliffe Camera, the Clarendon Building, the Museum to the History of Science, the Sheldonian Theatre, the Bridge of Sighs, the University Church, All Souls College, Brasenose College, plus many other fascinating facts along the way. ‘To visit Oxford and learn of its history is to delve deep into our heritage,’ says Heidi Boon Rickard, the company’s founder.

More information: Oxford University history tour

Shakespeare – After Hours Tour, Stratford-upon-Avon

Spend an evening at Shakespeare’s childhood home, which contains the first documentary evidence linking the Shakespeare family to this house from April 1552 in Stratford-upon-Avon. Wine and a selection of canapés are provided at the start of this exclusive tour by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and as you explore the house, costumed actors perform excerpts from the great bard’s works, knowledgeable guides fill in the history, and you’ll have the opportunity to take in the Famous Beyond Words exhibition at leisure. The evening ends with a taste of traditional mead. The tour costs £35. Also popular, is the Shakespeare Experience with a tour of all five houses: Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Shakespeare's New Place, Hall’s Croft, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Mary Arden’s Farm. This costs £20.25 if booked online.

More information: Shakespeare After House Tour

Salisbury Cathedral and Magna Carta

Discover more than 800 years of history at Salisbury Cathedral, one of the UK’s most quintessential medieval buildings, and learn the legacy of the 1215 Magna Carta. The manuscript at Salisbury Cathedral is the best preserved of the four surviving original copies of Magna Carta. The cathedral also houses the world’s oldest working mechanical clock. Three historic tours are on offer – the Tower Tour, a 332-step climb to the foot of the famous spire (£13.50); a Medieval Graffiti Tour to view ancient Arabic carpentry markings (£12.50, selected dates only); and the Library Tour and Tea (£22), which includes a visit to the cathedral’s 15th-century library containing 10,000 books that date back to the 9th century, topped off with a cream tea.

More information: Salisbury Cathedral and Magna Carta

Manchester taxi tours

Multi-award-winning and top ranked on TripAdvisor, Manchester Taxi Tours offers a variety of itineraries that delve into the city’s past. From the comfort of a black cab that seats five, discover Manchester’s 2,000-year history – from its rich musical heritage and Roman origins to its industrial past. Highlights include the medieval cathedral, Georgian houses, the mills that made Manchester the first industrial city in the world, the stunning Victorian town hall and the neo-Gothic John Rylands Library. Tours start from £120 per taxi and are tailored to your interests. Booking is essential.

More information: Manchester taxi tours


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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