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The Borders of England and Wales Through Time.

'The Marches' is the name given to the border area of England and Wales—a land of rolling green countryside, hills, forests and pastures. Ellis Peters said of the Middle Marches 'No ground in England has been more tramped over by armies, coveted by chieftains, ravaged by battles, sung by poets and celebrated in epics of legend and tragedy.' This tour is a journey through history to present day including Edward Marston's eleventh-century Domesday books, Ellis Peters' twelfth-century Brother Cadfael series, Andrew Taylor's Lydmouth novels and Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins series. The sense of history and the heritage of the borders are brought alive by these border country writers.

The following trips are organised by Cumbrian Discoveries / Tours of Discovery, long-time UK collaborators of Smithsonian Tours' Classic Mystery Lover's England. All excursions are accompanied by a Blue Badge Guide.

Friday 13 May: Arrival
Delegates arrive for collection at London Heathrow (or make their own way to the Chase Hotel in Ross-on-Wye.) On arrival at Ross-on-Wye, settle into the Chase Hotel before enjoying a short walking tour around the picturesque small market town in a dramatic setting on the River Wye with timber houses and market hall. 

(Collective Heathrow pick-up, welcome drinks and dinner included.)

Saturday 14 May: Phil Rickman, Hereford and the Mappa Mundi
The county of Herefordshire provides the setting for several of Phil Rickman's novels. Delegates begin the day by exploring the nearby city of Hereford, visiting the cathedral and seeing the Mappa Mundi, an unique map showing how medieval scholars interpreted the world in spiritual and geographical terms. Both Hereford and its cathedral feature in Phil's Midwinter of the Spirit as well as Edward Marston's The Dragons of Archenfield. Meet Phil Rickman for lunch and a talk before enjoying time at leisure in Hereford. 

(Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.)

Sunday 15 May: Edward Marston and Brother Cadfael's Shrewsbury
A delightful circular drive through border country to Shrewsbury, where Ellis Peters based her Brother Cadfael series. In Shrewsbury, delegates meet the Cadfael guide who will talk over coffee about Peters and her twelfth-century monk. Have lunch with Edward Marston, who will talk about his novels set here in the Welsh borders as well as more on Ellis Peters. Visit the impressive sandstone Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul where Peters based the Cadfael series. Return by way of Stokesay castle, one of England's most delightful fortified medieval manor houses. 

(Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.)

Monday 16 May: Kate Charles and Ludlow
Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins is a 'deliverance consultant' for the Diocese, and in the morning delegates will explore some of the delightful villages with timber-framed houses, cobbled streets and a history of cider and beer making—all of which provided inspiration for the series. The afternoon sees a visit to the small town of Ludlow with its castle and winding streets that provided the setting for Phil Rickman's The Smile of the Ghost. Explore the nooks and crannies of Ludlow on a walking tour which includes the castle. Join Kate Charles, author of clerical mysteries, for afternoon tea. En route back to the hotel stop at Bodenham wines for an early evening supper and wine tasting. 

(Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.)

Tuesday 17 May: Andrew Taylor, Monmouth and the Forest of Dean
Andrew Taylor set his Lydmouth series around the Monmouth area and the Forest of Dean. The day starts with a visit to Monmouth on which Lydmouth is based. There will be time to wander through the streets of Georgian buildings and see the eleventh-century castle ruin. From here the journey continues into the Forest of Dean which Andrew describes as 'an enigmatic and very beautiful strip of land which isn't quite England and isn't quite Wales but is wholly itself'. Delegates have lunch in the Verderers Court at the Speech House with Andrew Taylor. On the way back to Ross, there will be a stop to visit Hellens which was built as a monastery and then a fortress in 1292 by Mortimer, Earl of March. It is still lived in by descendants of the builder and offers one of the most atmospheric visits imaginable! 

(Breakfast, lunch and dinner included. See below for single trip option.)

Wednesday 18 May: Hay-on-Wye—the world's largest second-hand bookshop
A pretty drive through the Herefordshire countryside towards the Welsh Borders. Visit Hergest Court, home to the notoriously cruel 'Black' Vaughan, one of Britain's most ferocious ghosts—an immense black dog with flaming eyes which haunts Hergest Ridge—and which allegedly inspired Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles. From here follow the line of Offa's Dyke—an eight-century rampart which once defined the border—through spectacular border scenery to Hay-on-Wye. Time at leisure here to enjoy the second-hand bookshops and have lunch. The return journey travels back through the beautiful Golden Valley with a stop for tea at the Skirrid Inn, reputed to be the oldest public house in Wales. 

(Breakfast and dinner included. See below for single trip option.)

Thursday morning 19 May: Berkeley Castle
Leave Ross-on-Wye for Bristol with a stop at Berkeley Castle, setting for Edward Marston's short story Perfect Shadows, about the fate of Edward II. Arrive in Bristol at 12.30 in time for the start of CRIMEFEST

(Breakfast and lunch included.)

Thursday 19 - Sunday 22 May
CRIMEFEST, the international Crime Fiction convention. Marriott Royal Hotel, Bristol.

Sunday afternoon 22 May: A panoramic tour of Bristol
A panoramic coach tour of Bristol to include the Avon Gorge, Clifton Suspension Bridge, the elegant Regency terraces and crescents of Clifton village and the Bristol waterfront. This will be followed by a short guided walk through the city.

(See below for single trip option.)

Monday 23 May: John Curran and Agatha Christie's Torquay
Drive across the Somerset Levels and hear of the dreaded deeds of Judge Jeffreys and the 'Bloody Assizes'. Arrive in Torquay—birthplace of Agatha Christie—mid morning to taste the sea air and follow the Christie Trail. Lunch will be at the olde world pub, Churston Court Inn, then visit the nearby church to admire the Agatha Christie window. In the afternoon we enjoy a special private visit to Greenway, Agatha Christie's home with a guided tour by John Curran, author of The Secret Notebooks of Agatha Christie. The house will open especially for delegates allowing for the opportunity to savour the atmosphere of this delightful home on the banks of the river Dart. 

(Lunch included. See below for single trip option.)

Tuesday 24th May
Delegates depart for London Heathrow drop-off (or make their own way home). 

(Collective Heathrow drop-off included.)



- British Mystery Trips, part of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, are offering an all inclusive package that covers all the excursions, a full CRIMEFEST pass, the joint pick-up from and return drop-off at Heathrow, all accommodation, and most meals—including the CRIMEFEST gala and buffet dinners. (Participants make their own flight arrangements.) For more details visit British Mystery Trips.
Cost: $3,748

- Cumbrian Discoveries/Tours of Discovery offers the above trips including accommodation during the trips and the meals listed. Not included are the full CRIMEFEST pass, meals or accommodation at the convention.
Cost: £1590 (Excludes Agatha Christie/Greenway trip.)
Cost: £1685 (Includes Agatha Christie/Greenway trip.)

To register visit CRIMEFEST TRIPS



- Tuesday 17 May: Andrew Taylor, Monmouth and the Forest of Dean. [Includes: Coach from and to the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel, lunch.]

Cost: £85 

To register visit CRIMEFEST TRIPS

- Wednesday 18 May: Hay-on-Wye—the world's largest second hand-bookshop [Includes: Coach from and to the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel, afternoon tea.]

Cost: £75 

To register visit CRIMEFEST TRIPS

- Thursday morning 19 May: Berkeley Castle [Includes: Coach from and to the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel.]

Cost: £48 

To register visit CRIMEFEST TRIPS

- Sunday afternoon 22 May: A panoramic tour of Bristol [Includes: Coach from and to the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel.]

Cost: £35 

To register visit CRIMEFEST TRIPS

- Monday 23 May: John Curran and Agatha Christie's Torquay [Includes: Coach from and to the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel, lunch.]

Cost: £95 

To register visit CRIMEFEST TRIPS