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Britain / History / Sightseeing / Medieval
"Amateur Historians" guide to Medieval and Tudor sites in England
  About the authors
  Day trips south of London
  Heart of England


Are you interested in English medieval and Tudor history? On this page the authors of the "Amateur Historian's" guides (Sarah Valente Kettler and Carole Trimble) present their recommendations about the best places to visit.

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Professional writers by trade and historians by hobby, authors Sarah Valente Kettler and Carole Trimble discovered their shared passion for medieval and Tudor history through their work with the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC. Their combined fascination with fact-finding, insatiable love of London, and extensive background in their "favorite" period of history gave rise to the Amateur Historian's Guide series - inspiration assisted by post-Tower libations in a Knightsbridge pub.

Carole is the founder and president of Communications Management Strategies, a Washington-based public relations/public affairs firm. Sarah is the former owner and creative director of the award-winning advertising agency Valente Associates, Inc. Voracious readers, intrepid travelers, enthusiastic theatre patrons and fans of old movies, Carole and Sarah are best friends as well as co-authors.

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Sarah & Carole's Greatest Hits (London)
(extracts from the "greatest hits" section of the book below, used with permission)

The Amateur Historian's Guide to Medieval and Tudor London
(click on the above link to order the book from the UK)
(to order the book from the US, click: here)

Authors: Sarah Valente Kettler, Carole Trimble
Publisher: Capital Books
Date: September 2001

So, you only have a few days to indulge your hunger for medieval and Tudor history. So many attractions, so little time! Would you like our opinion on how to prioritize your visit? Of course you would. Here's our list of not to be missed treasures, divvied up over the course of several days.

~ One Day in London? Off the Beaten Track!
If you only have one day to spare, make it count by discovering the remarkable, but less-well-known attractions of London. We really do not think you can do justice to the Tower and Westminster in under half a day each, so avoid the crowds and take home pictures your friends and neighbors are less likely to have in their photo albums! Here's what we suggest you see.
- St. Bartholomew the Great,
- The Temple Church (if open),
- The Guildhall, or
- Southwark Cathedral/Winchester Palace/The Globe Theatre

~ Two - Three Days? The Creme de la Creme...
- The Tower of London: Allow at least four hours to enjoy fully - we've been known to spend six hours here and leave grudgingly!
- Westminster Abbey: Again, allow at least four hours, so you can be sure to include St. Margaret's church and the Jewel Tower.
- The Museum of London: You will want to see the entire Museum and peruse the shops - three hours should do it.
- Any or all of the "one-day" attractions.

~ The Luxury of Five Days or More? London is Yours!
You can easily complete all the tours of this book in a week, depending on the amount of time you want to devote to the more complex attractions, such as museums, the Tower, etc.

~ Ready for Exercise?
Walk the Wall. It gets your legs moving, your blood pumping, and your mind stretching!

~ It's Raining, It's Pouring?
It's London. Ignore it. (Although this isn't necessarily the time to catch an open-air performance at the Globe.)

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Sarah & Carole's Greatest Hits (Day Trips South of London)
(extracts from the "greatest hits" section of the book below, used with permission)

Medieval and Tudor England: Day Trips South of London - Dover, Canterbury, Rochester
(click on the above link to order the book from the UK)
(to order the book from the US, click: here)

Authors: Sarah Valente Kettler, Carole Trimble
Publisher: Capital Books
Date: September 2002

Suppose you're not quite ready for total immersion in the history of southeast England, amateur or otherwise. Maybe you only have a day or two to spare, or perhaps you'd rather just sample some of the delights outside of London before committing to the full menu. Or, maybe you'd rather just cut to the chase and have us prioritize your travels for you. That's what we're here for . . . glad to be of help! The following is our very subjective list of not-to-be-missed sites in southeast England, with some extra-added help in planning "theme" trips, for all you specialists. When you've seen 'em all, we'd love to know your top picks!

~ When time is of the essence . . .
See Eltham Palace. It's less than a half-hour from London, the history is compelling and the interior design is unlike any "medieval" site you've ever seen.

~ Best close-in day trip . . .
This is a toss-up between Faversham and Rochester. For some, a trip isn't worth its salt if there's not a castle or a cathedral involved; Rochester has both (see: Travel/Tours/England/Rochester), and a very nice side-trip to the charming village of Cobham, as well. However, for our money, Faversham has the slight edge. No castle, no cathedral, but an incredibly well-preserved medieval town, with houses, churches, inns and a guildhall, which date from the Middle Ages.

~ Want to go further afield?
It has to be Dover. Although almost too far to qualify for a day trip (2 hours, each way), Dover is easily accessible by direct train, bus and motorcoach. The castle is one of the very best we've ever visited, with fascinating history and engaging displays. If you have the time, you must visit!

~ Sleeping away from London, forsooth!
We suggest you set your sights on Rye. Rye is a convenient stop-over between day trips to Maidstone or Sevenoaks and Dover. There are a whole host of Ancient Inns and Eateries in a wide range of prices, and the medieval sites in Rye can be enjoyed in a few very easy hours.

~ Totally Tudor . . .
See Sevenoaks. The entire day trip is devoted almost exclusively to Tudor manor homes, including Anne Boleyn's childhood home, Hever. There are so many sites you'd be hard-pressed to see them in a day.

~ Castle crazed . . .
The Arundel day trip is all about castles - although you'll have to spend the night in one in order to see it first-hand. If you choose to spend the night and want to stick to the castle theme, combine this trip with a visit to Lewes.

~ Best cathedral . . .
We are taking a big risk here, but we both agree: Chichester Cathedral edges out most others we've visited, with fewer tourists and a very evocative sense of the spiritual. Of course, you can't beat the history of Canterbury Cathedral, and the town of Canterbury offers more than enough to keep you busy for the day (see: Travel/Tours/England/Canterbury). Your choice; we've given you our opinion!

~ Shopping spree!
Alright, alright, we admit it. Sometimes we've just had enough history and need some attitude adjustment to set us back on track. When it's too early for happy hour, shopping does the trick, and we have found the best shopping outside of London in the town of Guildford. By the way, the historic sites here are top-notch, too.

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Sarah & Carole's Greatest Hits (Heart of England)
(extracts from the "greatest hits" section of the book below, used with permission)

The Heart of England: Nearly 200 Medieval and Tudor Sites Two Hours or Less from London
(click on the above link to order the book from the UK)
(to order the book from the US, click: here)

Authors: Sarah Valente Kettler, Carole Trimble
Publisher: Capital Books
Date: May 2004

For those of you with limited touring time or who want only to dip a little into the medieval and Tudor treasures of the Heart of England, we are offering up our very subjective list of not-to-be-missed sites. One of the joys for us in writing this book was that most of the trips offer a cornucopia of attractions that run the gamut of the Middle and Tudor Ages. However, we recognize that such a wide swath is not everyone's cup of tea. We also found common threads running through the trips that historically linked sites in one area with those in another. Therefore, we decide to pull together some of these particular attractions in "theme" trips. We hope this will make it easier for those of who with special interest in a particular period or person to enjoy your visit to the Heart of England.

~ Best close-in day trip . . .
No doubt about it - go to Windsor Castle. It's just a half-hour train ride from London and we can't say enough good things about it. It's one of our very favorite spots in England. See: Travel/Tours/England/Windsor

~ Castle crazed . . .
If you truly love castles, add Kenilworth to your itinerary. The ruins are extensive and very evocative. The history is incredible.

~ Best cathedral . . .
St. Albans is our candidate here. It is a beautiful and deeply moving place. We lingered much longer than we had intended on our visit. It was difficult to tear ourselves away.

~ A night out of town . . .
If you're looking to escape the city for a night, we recommend you combine a trip to Oxford with an overnight stay at The Mill and Old Swan Hotel in Minster Lovell. You really need two days to truly appreciate all the medieval and Tudor wonders of Oxford (see: Travel/Tours/England/Oxford). Close-by Minster Lovell is really too special to be missed and makes for a nice bucolic break from the more intense atmosphere of Oxford.

~ So you're a Richard III fanatic?
The Heart of England is crammed with sites connected to Richard III, starting with Minster Lovell Hall and The Mill and Old Swan Hotel mentioned above. Richard visited his good friend Francis Lovell at Minster Lovell Hall. His retainers stayed at The Mill and Old Swan Hotel. The hotel boasts some interesting graffiti associated with that visit. Other sites in this book with Richardian connections include Warwick Castle (see: Travel/Tours/England/Warwick), the city of Leicester, Bosworth Battlefield (of course), St. Mary Fotheringhay and Fotheringhay Castle ruins.

~ Forget medieval, let's go Tudor!
Although we are loath to admit it, we do recognize that some amateur historians are devoted to the Tudors rather than the Middle Ages. Just for you, we have put together a list of the major sites in this book with Tudor affiliations. Windsor Castle is an absolute must for you (see: Travel/Tours/England/Windsor); Henry VIII is buried in St. George's Chapel along with Jane Seymour. Close to Windsor is Donnington Castle, once a favorite of Elizabeth. If you've got a full day to devote to your Tudor passion, we suggest you take in the Warwick trip (see: Travel/Tours/England/Warwick) which is packed with Tudor memorabilia including Lord Leycester Hospital, Beauchamp Chapel at St. Mary's Collegiate Church, Kenilworth Castle and Baddesley Clinton Hall. With more time to tour, other sites you can add to your itinerary include Greys Court, Christ Church College and Cathedral and St. Mary the Virgin Church in Oxford (see: Travel/Tours/England/Oxford), Stratford-upon-Avon (see: Travel/Tours/England/Stratford), Bradgate Country Park, Castle Ashby, Holdenby House, Boughton House, Kirby Hall, Fotheringhay Castle, Dunstable Abbey, and Hatfield House.

~ Feeling spiritual?
One of our great passions in tracing the history of the Middle and Tudor Ages is visiting the many ancient churches and abbeys with links to this period that abound in England. (We have to admit, however, that we do occasionally run out of adjectives to describe wondrous corbels when we've hit the fourth or fifth church of the day.) This book is chockablock with magnificent ones. For those of you who share this interest in ancient religious establishments, we have put together a list of those that have such unique and special features that they count as not-be-missed attractions. Combined in a theme trip, they would make for a truly rewarding venture into the Heart of England.
- St. Mary the Virgin Parish Church in Ewelme; burial site of Alice de la Pole, granddaughter of Geoffrey Chaucer.
- Dorchester Abbey, good quality medieval wall paintings and a wealth of other medieval treasures.
- St. Peter ad Vincula, South Newington, one of the most outstanding collections of medieval wall paintings in England.
- Beauchamp Chapel at St. Mary's Collegiate Church, Warwick, burial site of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (see: Travel/Tours/England/Warwick).
- Dunstable Abbey, site of the ecclesiastical court that declared the marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon "null and void."
- Elstow Abbey, founded by a niece of William the Conqueror.
- St. Albans Cathedral, a truly magnificent and very spiritual place.

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Middle Ages history: Britain/History/Middle
Tudor history: Britain/History/Tudor
Photos from tours around England: Travel/Tours/England

Oxford: Travel/Tours/England/Oxford
Rochester: Travel/Tours/England/Rochester
Canterbury: Travel/Tours/England/Canterbury
Stratford-upon-Avon: Travel/Tours/England/Stratford
Warwick: Travel/Tours/England/Warwick
Windsor: Travel/Tours/England/Windsor

Home page: Home

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