Join Phil Cousineau and special guest Geoffrey Ashe, MBE on this sacred tour of King Arthur’s England, from London to Glastonbury, Bath to Tintagel, Stonehenge & more.
Our Quest for King Arthur’s Avalon and the Holy Grail will weave myth and legends with the splendours of the English landscape. From the medieval manuscripts of the British Museum to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon, the Great Round of Arthurian stories will come to life as we visit key sacred sites in this ancient land. Our journey includes St. Michael’s Mount, Marlborough’s Merlin’s Grave, the Arthur’s Round Table in Winchester Cathedral & more. Excursions to the West End & Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre will indulge our passion for English literature. READ MORE
Phil Cousineau is a writer, teacher, independent scholar, documentary filmmaker, travel leader, storyteller and author of over 40 books including the national best-seller The Art of Pilgrimage, The Book of Roads, and Stoking the Creative Fires, winner of the Book of the Year Award from “Spirituality & Health Magazine.”
I'm beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to travel with Phil. He brought the myths and stories to life; transforming a group of strangers into a soulful cadre of pilgrims!Deena Chappell Smith, Cambridge, NY
For the last thousand years the great round of stories called the Arthurian Matter, the adventures of King Arthur and the Quest for the Holy Grail, has enchanted the world. Join writer and filmmaker Phil Cousineau on this sacred sites tour of England as he leads you on a quest into the wondrous world of legends and myths of King Arthur and Lady Guinevere, Lancelot and Morgana Le Fay, Parsifal, and the Grail Castle.
Our approach will be spiral, which is reflective of the Celtic symbolism that imbues the Arthurian legends, as we begin in the manuscript room at the British Museum and then explore the legend-laden past, from Stonehenge to Glastonbury, Tintagel to Dartmoor, and end our tour back in modern times with lunch at the Oxford pub where The Inklings, J. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and other literary friends, revived the ancient art of mythmaking in such works as The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.
Our journey will also include the most recent archaeological evidence of Anglo-Saxon England, such as swords and jewellery, discovered at Sutton Hoo, and discussions about the Roman influence in Bath and the Christian influence at Glastonbury on the legend of the Grail.
Besides the multi-layered history we will revel in the magnificent landscape of Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall, stopping at country inns for lunch, and archaeological sites associated with the Arthurian stories.
The many attractions to be visited include the British Museum, Ye Olde Cheshire Inn, where Dr. Johnson and Charles Dickens dined, St. Michael’s Mount, Marlborough’s Merlin’s Grave, the Arthur’s Round Table in Winchester Cathedral, and the Bath Spa. Our visit to Glastonbury will be highlighted by a visit and walking tour with the renowned scholar and novelist Geoffrey Ashe, whose book King Arthur’s Avalon: The Story of Glastonbury is considered the definitive work on the historical origins of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. We will also meet up with Geoffrey in Bath, where we will share High Tea with him at the Pump Room, and will enjoy a guided walk through London with the English architect Jonathan Wimpenny (tbc).
Other highlights include visits to the archaeological site of Cadbury, believed by many to be ancient Camelot, the ruins of Tintagel Castle, birthplace of King Arthur, Dartmoor, the quaint village of Clovelly, Penzance, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and The Eagle and Child Pub, in Oxford.
As we explore the Arthurian World, Phil will guide us in daily discussions and devote time each day along our route to writing and drawing in our journals about both the ancient and modern guises of the Arthurian and Grail legends, such as the phenomenal success of The Lord of the Rings, The Mists of Avalon, Merlin, The Da Vinci Code, as well as Renaissance Fairs around the world and the magic of Celtic music.
Join us on our quest for the Grail, that immortal symbol of inexhaustible sustenance, the magic cauldron of myth and mystery.
(Photo credits on Overview page: View of London: Visit Britain/Andrew Pickett; West End Theatre: Visit Britain/Parvel Libera; Salisbury Cathedral: Visit Britain/David Norton; Glastonbury Tor: Visit Britain/Martin Brent; Oxford: Visit Britain/Daniel Bosworth; British Museum: Visit Britain/Britain on View; Selfridges: Visit Britain/Britain on View; Bath Cathedral: Visit Britain/Ingrid Rasmussen; Tintagel Caves: AnnaOurLittleAlice/Wikimedia Commons)
Sun, May 8
Arrive London; Welcome Dinner (D)Read more
We will be met at Heathrow Airport by a professional guide who will assist us with our transfer and check-in at our hotel. The transfer to central London will be by executive motorcoach. We can then enjoy some free time to rejuvenate after our flight before gathering with our fellow travellers as we embrace the start of this sacred tour.
Our Welcome Dinner this evening will be at a traditional London Pub, where we can meet our tour leader, Phil Cousineau, and the kindred spirits who are accompanying us on our journey while enjoying the best of English pub food. Executive motorcoach provided for round-trip evening restaurant transfer. (Overnight in London at the Lancaster Gate Hotel)
(Photo: Visit Britain/David Angel)
Mon, May 9
London Tour; Westminster Abbey (B, L)Read more
London England is one of the world’s most popular cities. People have flocked to the city for tourism and business alike for over two thousand years. Today London has the greatest concentration of major attractions in Britain, boasts four World Heritage Sites, and is renowned throughout the world for its shops, museums, parks, and cosmopolitan life. A coach and guide are provided for our full day sightseeing tour of all the major sights of London.
Take a tour of the British Museum, the oldest, and one of the largest museums in the world. Where else can you see some of the greatest treasures of all time under one roof? Here see at first hand The Elgin Marbles, The Portland Vase, The Lewis Chessmen, The Sutton Hoo Treasure, to name only a few of the wondrous collections.
Enjoy lunch today at a local pub/restaurant. This afternoon we visit Westminster Abbey, one of Britain’s most important churches. Built in the eleventh century by King Edward the Confessor, the Abbey now houses the tombs of many royals from the subsequent centuries. Evening at leisure. (Overnight in London at the Lancaster Gate Hotel)
Tue, May 10
Silbury Hill; Salisbury Cathedral; Stonehenge; Bath (B, D)Read more
This morning we depart for Bath, stopping at Silbury Hill, Old Sarum and Stonehenge en route. The largest man-made mound in Europe, mysterious Silbury Hill compares in height and volume to the roughly contemporaneous Egyptian pyramids. Though clearly important in itself, its purpose and significance remain unknown. (There is no access to the hill itself.) We stop off at Old Sarum before continuing to Salisbury Cathedral, one of the finest medieval cathedrals in Britain. During our visit we will climb the 332 steps to the top of the Tower and enjoy the spectacular views.
Next we stop to marvel at the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge, one of the wonders of the world. What visitors see today are the substantial remnants of the last in a sequence of such monuments erected between circa 3000BC and 1600BC. We continue to Bath, one of England’s most beautiful, elegant and historic cities, classed as a World Heritage City. The Romans were captivated by the area of Bath, when it was a vast green valley with a miraculous stream of endless hot water. Bath became a fashionable health resort in the 18th century and today the remains of the Roman Baths and graceful Georgian architecture make it one of Britain’s most popular destinations. A traditional Pub dinner is provided this evening! (Overnight in the Bath area at the Leigh Park Country House Hotel & Vineyard)
Wed, May 11
Bath; Glastonbury Abbey & Tor; Cadbury Castle (B) Read more
We are joined by a local Bath Guide today for a short walking tour of the city, including the Roman Baths. Perhaps the best preserved Roman religious spa from the ancient world, there are four main features: The Sacred Spring, The Roman Temple, The Roman Bath House and finds from Roman Bath. We'll also see the Georgian Pump Room. We then enjoy an excursion to Glastonbury. It is traditionally the first Christian Sanctuary in Great Britain visited, so legend has it, by Joseph of Arimathea and Saints David and Patrick. Many believe that the Holy Thorn tree that can be seen in the grounds originated from Joseph of Arimathea’s staff and it has also long been believed that King Arthur was buried in the Abbey beside his lovely wife Queen Guinevere.
Our afternoon visit to the Tor will be highlighted with a confirmed talk and discussion with Sir Geoffrey Ashe, the most renowned of Arthurian scholars, and a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his contributions to heritage. Afterwards visit the site of Cadbury Castle, a Bronze and Iron Age hillfort. It is a Scheduled Monument and associated with King Arthur’s supposed court at “Camelot”, an association credited to Geoffrey Ashe, who has been invited to accompany us there. The site has been excavated revealing artefacts from human occupation and use from the Neolithic to post-Roman eras. (Overnight in the Bath area at the Leigh Park Country House Hotel & Vineyard)
Thu, May 12
Dartmoor; River Cam (B, D)Read more
This morning we head out to Dartmoor and stop at the Dartmoor Visitor Centre in Princetown. En route we stop at Queen or West Camel on the River Cam in Somerset, which some think is the site of Camlann, where Arthur was fatally wounded in his last battle.
Dartmoor’s landscape is spectacularly rugged with its great granite Tors and Dartmoor Ponies dotted throughout. Located in the heart of Devon, it is the perfect place for walking and enjoying the gentle southern breezes, while taking in the beautiful views. (Overnight on Dartmoor at the Passage House Hotel, Kingsteignton)
(Photo: Phillip Capper/Wikimedia Commons)
Fri, May 13
Clovelly Village; Tintagel (B, D)Read more
This morning we visit the quaint English village of Clovelly, a tiny fishing village that is secluded but easy to find. The village is traffic-free and the main street, known very simply as “up-a-long” and “down-a-long”, tumbles its cobbled way down 400ft of solid rock to the tiny harbour and lifeboat station, both protected by an ancient stone breakwater. It is a descent past flower-strewn cottages, broken only by tempting little passageways and tiny winding lanes that lead off to either side and offer the prospect of discovering even more peaceful, picturesque treasures of Clovelly.
Afterwards we continue to Tintagel. With its spectacular location on one of England's most dramatic coastlines, Tintagel is an awe-inspiring and romantic spot, a place of legends. Joined to the mainland by a narrow neck of land, Tintagel Island faces the full force of the Atlantic. On the mainland itself, the gaunt remains of the medieval castle represent only one phase in a long history of occupation. Even before Richard Earl of Cornwall built his castle, Tintagel was already associated with the conception of King Arthur. The connection was later renewed by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his poem, “Idylls of the King”. (Overnight in Falmouth at the Meudon Hotel, Mawnan Smith)
(Photo of Tintagel Caves: AnnaOurLittleAlice/Wikimedia Commons)
Sat, May 14
St. Michael’s Mount; Mousehole (B, D)Read more
This morning admission is arranged to St Michael’s Mount, one of the most famous Cornish landmarks, with a spectacular castle. Access is on foot across the causeway at low tide, or by short ferry crossing at high tide. St Michael’s Mount is the jewel in Cornwall’s crown, a national treasure and a must for every visitor to the far West of England.
Mousehole (pronounced “Mowzel”) is one of Cornwall’s most picturesque hamlets; a stunning collection of yellow-lichened houses, built from the local finely grained Lamorna granite, huddled together around the inner edge of the harbour and protected from the force of the sea coming across Mounts Bay by two sturdy breakwaters. (Overnight in Plymouth at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel)
(Photo: Visit Britain/Daniel Bosworth)
Sun, May 15
Marlborough; Winchester Cathedral (B)Read more
Today we head to Winchester, stopping at Cerne Abbas along the way to see the ancient naked figure sculpted into the chalk hillside called the Cerne Giant. Standing at 180ft tall this is Britain’s largest chalk hill figure and the most controversial. Many theories surround the giant’s identity. Is it an ancient symbol of spirituality? The Greco-Roman hero Hercules? Or a mockery of Oliver Cromwell? Local folklore has long held it to be an aid to fertility. We also visit the town of Marlborough. In the grounds of Marlborough College stands a rather bizarre conical mound of grassed earth with a spiralling path all the way round. It is known locally as “Merlin’s Mount” or “Merlin’s Grave” for here the great wizard is supposed to have been buried.
We then visit the Great Hall in Winchester, the first and finest of all 13th century halls, with the greatest symbol of medieval mythology, “The Round Table of King Arthur”. Used as a Law Court until the 1970s, it is the only remaining part of Winchester Castle. Take a breather in the beautiful Queen Eleanor’s Garden, a faithful recreation of a medieval garden. Also visit Winchester Cathedral where the first English King, King Egbert, was crowned in 827. The magnificent building is the city’s greatest monument and features the longest nave of any English church, as well as some fine examples of Norman architecture. Also in the church is the tomb of author Jane Austen. Continue to London. (Overnight in London at the Lancaster Gate Hotel)
(Photo: Visit Britain/Daniel Bosworth)
Mon, May 16
London; Optional Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (B)Read more
Today you have a full day to explore London at your leisure. Tube tickets can be provided for you if you’d like to travel around the capital today.
We also have the opportunity to visit the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the bank of the River Thames in Bankside’s Cultural Quarter. Enjoy an authentic performance of one of Shakespeare’s works, in Shakespeare’s Globe - just as the Bard would have intended! The Globe also has an excellent onsite gift shop for souvenirs and offers a delightful afternoon tea. (Cost of optional theatre excursion to the Globe and a London travel card is £68pp; cost of just travel card is £18.) (Overnight in London at the Lancaster Gate Hotel)
(Photo of Globe Theatre: Visit Britain/Simon Winnall)
Tue, May 17
Optional Excursion to Oxford; London Pub Farewell Dinner (B, D)Read more
Executive motorcoach provided for an optional full day excursion to Oxford (cost of optional excursion to Oxford is approx. £37pp depending on number of people). Oxford is known as the city of dreaming spires as it has been home to the many colleges of the world famous University of Oxford for over 700 years! Over this time many of the world’s most influential writers, statesmen, and thinkers have passed through the University. We will lunch at The Eagle and Child Pub, which dates back to 1684, and was the weekly meeting place from 1933 and 1949 for “The Inklings,” a group of writers including J. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Hugo Dyson.
We will also have time to visit the many literary and cultural attractions Oxford has to offer. The Bodleian Library is the second biggest in Great Britain, after the British Library itself. The Bodleian collection includes more than 8 million volumes and is the main research library of the University of Oxford. This evening we will gather for a traditional London Pub Farewell Dinner – a time to enjoy a hearty meal, and maybe even a pint of ale, with our new friends. We can also reflect on our Quest for the Holy Grail and the many sacred sites we have seen on this unique tour. Executive motorcoach provided for round-trip evening restaurant transfer. (Overnight in London at the Lancaster Gate Hotel)
Wed, May 18
Depart Heathrow (B)Read more
Today we bid farewell to the land of King Arthur and Lady Guinevere, the home of C. S. Lewis, J. R. Tolkien, and the Cornish pasty. Thanks to the lively discussions and quiet time for journaling, our hearts and minds are filled with our own myths, and our memories of this profound spiritual travel experience will indeed endure.
This morning an executive motorcoach is provided for transfer from the hotel to Heathrow airport. We will be met at our hotel by a local guide who will escort us to Heathrow and assist us with check-in for our flight.
(Photo: Visit Britain/Joanna Henderson)
(B = Breakfast; L = Lunch; D = Dinner)
Note: This itinerary is subject to change due to conditions beyond our control.
King Arthur’s Avalon and the Quest for the Holy Grail with Phil Cousineau
May 8 - 18, 2016
10 nights accommodation in 3 and 4 star hotels, based on double occupancy
Arrival and departure airport/hotel transfers
Breakfast daily, 1 lunch and 6 dinners
Ground transportation by private coach to all sites on itinerary
Admission to all sites as per itinerary
Fees and gratuities for Tour Leaders
Hotel taxes and service charges
Tips for bellboys, housekeeping & restaurant waiters
Travel with author & filmmaker Phil Cousineau
A special visit with famed Arthurian scholar Geoffrey Ashe
An inspection of medieval manuscripts at the British Museum
Optional West End theatre outings
Optional day excursion to Oxford
Daily discussions and devoted time for journal writing
Special welcome and farewell meals
Tour Does Not Include:
Airfare to and from London Heathrow
Cancellation & medical insurance (ask us for a quote)
Meals and drinks not specified
Cost to obtain valid passport
Any items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks and telephone calls
Any item that is not specifically detailed on our website or in the final retreat itinerary