If you're interested in England’s Royalty past and present, this is the tour for you. We start in the centre of London and meander past the outside of both St James’ and Buckingham Palaces which have been at the heart of many Royal events for centuries. If it is scheduled to take place on the day of your tour, we will watch parts of the ancient ceremony of the Changing of the Guard before walking through leafy St James’ Park to reach Horse Guards. This remains the official entrance to both palaces to this day. After lunch, we travel by train from London’s Waterloo station to Hampton Court where we explore Henry VIII’s Tudor palace and William III’s Baroque palace. We’ll marvel at Henry’s vast kitchens, his magnificent Great Hall and the eerie Haunted Gallery before admiring William’s impressive display of weaponry and his art collection. We return to London by train. The tour lasts approximately 8 hours.
The Four Palaces tour starts under the Colonnade of the Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly at 9.45 a.m. It begins by walking through Green Park, one of eight Royal Parks in and around London. I’ll introduce you to the Royal characters I’ll be mentioning during the tour and explain who’s who in the Royal dynasties which have existed since the end of the 1400s. Having found out how Green Park got its name, we’ll cut through side turnings to reach St James’ Street, one of the area’s main thoroughfares. It is home to exclusive shops, many of which have existed for centuries, and you’ll be able to pop into one of them. Walking on down the hill, you’ll see our first palace, St James’, built by that most notorious of kings, Henry VIII. You will hear how the palace has been at the centre of many Royal events and if the ancient ceremony of the Changing of the Guard is scheduled to take place on the day of your tour, this is where you will see the first bit of action! We’ll move smartly to see other bits of the ceremony at two other locations and, as we do that, we’ll get our first glimpse of Buckingham Palace and the world famous balcony where the Royals stand and wave to the crowds on important occasions. As we wander through St James’ Park enjoying the wild life on the lake, we’ll see more views of Buckingham Palace wondering how it could ever have been a small country house before coming into Royal hands in the late 1700s. On reaching Horse Guards, the official entrance to both palaces, you’ll hear how two ancient ceremonies take place here nowadays and how one rather unusual event was staged here during the 2012 Olympic Games! After a spot of lunch at the nearby Crypt of the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, we’ll walk across one of London’s bridges, with fabulous views of the City of London in the distance, to reach London Waterloo over ground station. The train journey to Hampton Court takes 30 minutes and when we arrive, we have not one but two palaces to explore! The more famous of the two was built for a Cardinal but commandeered by Henry VIII - that man again! We’ll look around his vast kitchens, his magnificent Great Hall and hear the tale of the eerie Haunted Gallery before moving on to see the second palace built for William III towards the end of the 1600s. It is a great example of Baroque architecture and we’ll admire the grandeur of William’s ceremonial staircase before enjoying the splendour of his state apartments including his impressive display of weaponry and his world class art collection. If we have the time, we can view the real tennis court and wander through the glorious gardens. We travel by train back to London. Whilst exploring the four contrasting palaces, I bring history to life with all manner of extraordinary stories from ghosts and executions to bizarre court etiquette and optical illusions. Food, drink, train travel and entry ticket to Hampton Court Palace are not included in the tour price.