- Visit the spectacular Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel
- Take a private evening walk among the stones of Stonehenge
- View an original copy of the 1215 Magna Carta
- Explore the charming Church of Notre Dame de Tronoën, where excavations in the 19th century revealed the remains of hundreds of terracotta figures
All meals included.
Dr Roy Larick
Our flight departs for France.
May 17: PARIS
We arrive in Paris, an elegant city steeped in history, sophistication and, of course, romance. After some time to relax in our centrally-located hotel, perhaps taking a gentle stroll in the surrounding streets, we come together this evening for our first dinner as a group, followed by an introductory lecture from our Guide Scholar.
May 18: PARIS
After breakfast we head west to Saint-Germain-En-Laye, an affluent Parisian suburb beside the River Seine. Here we visit the Musée d’Archaeologie Nationale, a 12th-century palace housing an astonishing 3 million artefacts from the Paleolithic era to the Middle Ages. Don’t miss the ivory Venus of Brassempouy: at around 25,000 years old, this Venus is one of the earliest realistic depictions of a human face.
After lunch we board the train for a scenic ride to Nantes, ending the day in our hotel at Carnac on Brittany’s picturesque south coast – our base for the next three nights.
May 19: SAINT-MICHEL
We begin our fourth day exploring sites of the Carnac Alignments: long, parallel rows of great standing stones dating from the pre-Celtic era, some thought to have been placed here as long ago as 4500 BC. An awesome, enigmatic sight, and the largest of its kind.
Our next stop is Carnac’s Museum of Prehistory, the world’s first museum of the Megalithic age, displaying finds from local excavations and burial mounds – such as our afternoon destination, Saint-Michel Tumulus.
Stopping for lunch at the Michelin-rated restaurant Le Tumulus, we continue on to Saint-Michel, the biggest Megalithic burial mound in all of Europe. On its peak we find a 16th-century chapel, and amazing views of the surrounding countryside.
We proceed to the Cromlech of Kerbourgnec, a stone circle with free-standing offshoots that rise out of a nearby beach.
Returning to our hotel by way of a beautiful coastal road, tonight we enjoy a second lecture from our Guide Scholar, with the evening free to dine and unwind at our leisure.
May 20: GAVRINIS
After a hearty breakfast we set out for Locmariaquer Village, where we discover no less than three world-renowned Megalithic monuments: the Table des Marchand, a large decorated dolmen, or stone burial chamber; Er Grah, a paved tumulus dating from around the 4th millennium BC, and the stupendous Broken Menhir, the largest single block of stone ever known to have been transported and erected by Neolithic man.
Our morning continues with more accessible dolmens at Mané Lud and Mané Rethaul, before we stop for lunch at the quaint local restaurant of Saveurs Marines.
In the afternoon we take a reviving boat ride across the Gulf of Morbihan to Gavrinis, a small, uninhabited island famous for its Neolithic passage grave, an amazingly well-preserved set of tombs first excavated in the 1830s.
Later we return to the mainland, where the evening is once again free for us to enjoy at our own pace.
May 21: PONT-AVEN
Today we start at the Kerzerho Alignments, some 190 standing stones covering more than a mile overall. As well as several notable dolmens, we take in Tumulus le Moustoir, a chamber tomb in which artefacts such as jewels, pottery, and animal offerings have so far been discovered.
Later we make our way to gorgeous Pont-Aven, where we embark on an enlightening walking tour, learning more about this riverside port’s history, including its links with the artist Paul Gauguin.
Taking lunch at the celebrated L’Amiral restaurant, which has now been serving Breton cuisine for more than 100 years, we then proceed to the Breton-Celtic town of Quimper, our base for the next three nights.
This afternoon we take a walking tour of Quimper’s rustic sights, stopping at the illustrious Fine Art Museum, which showcases works from the Northern Italian and French painting schools, as well as other breathtaking works inspired by the region.
The day ends with a lecture at our hotel, leaving the evening free to rest or wander as we wish.
May 22: MENEZ DREGAN
Menez Dregan is our first destination this morning. Here we find a Lower Paleolithic site, showing evidence of habitation from as long ago as 500,000 BC. In the recently opened Museum Center, we discover some of the finds unearthed in this area since excavations began in 1991.
For lunch we dine at the stunning ocean-side restaurant of Le Sterenn, before continuing on to the Finisterian Museum of Prehistory in Saint-Guénole. This innovative museum houses full reconstructions of early burial sites, as well as more than 3,000 artefacts recovered from nearby archaeological digs.
Later this afternoon we visit the charming Church of Notre Dame de Tronoën, where excavations in the 19th century revealed the remains of hundreds of terracotta figures, including an enchanting representation of Venus emerging from the sea.
May 23: LOCRONAN
We set off for the elegant village of Locronan this morning, where a walking tour sheds light on a heritage of revered Irish travelers, expert weavers, and Celtic pilgrimage routes.
Lunch today is at the celebrated family-run restaurant Le Mutin Gourmand in Camaret-sur-Mer. After sating ourselves with their gourmet Breton cuisine, we head for the Lagatjar Alignments, rows of white quartz stones said to mirror the sun’s position at the time of the Winter Solstice.
Following this we embark on a walking tour of La Faou, a splendid 16th-century settlement on the banks of the Brest Estuary, before returning to our hotel for an informative evening lecture.
May 24: MOUGAU-BILHAN
This morning we leave Quimper and head for the covered alley of Mougau-Bihan, an extraordinary structure some 14 meters long, comprising of a chamber with stone-slabbed walls and roofs.
Later this morning our group divides, and we take it in turns to view the little-known site of Roc Toull Cave, as well as Guimiliau’s beloved Parish Close, a sumptuous 17th-century complex featuring an ossuary and ornate bell-tower.
Lunch is served at Le Viaduc, a restaurant highly rated in the Michelin guide, with a heavy emphasis on seasonal cuisine.
This afternoon we visit the Tumulus de Barnenez, one of Europe’s earliest and more artistic Megalithic cairns, as well as the covered alley of Crech-Quille, an ancient site first excavated in the 1960s.
We finish the day at the wonderful Ti al Lannec Hotel, a four-star beauty perched right beside the sea. A perfect place to rest, listen to this evening’s lecture, and enjoy dinner together as a group.
May 25: SAINT- MALO
Having checked out of our hotel, our journey continues by way of La-Roche-Aux-Fées, a Neolithic passage grave known in English as Fairies’ Rock. Constructed with 500 tons of stones all mined in 3000 BC, the seeming impossibility of Neolithic man achieving such an architectural feat unaided has earned this site its supernatural name.
We proceed to Maison-des-Fées, or the Fairies’ House, a woodland grave unexpectedly decorated by two carved pairs of breasts.
In Brittany’s capital, Rennes, we stop for lunch at a local restaurant, before continuing on to the Menhir de Champ-Dolent, the region’s largest standing stone, which towers at a height of over 9 meters.
From here we make our way to the atmospheric port of Saint-Malo, a historic city founded by the Gauls in the 1st century BC. We explore the sights within its old walled town, before checking in to our fifth hotel of the trip.
May 26: MONT SAINT-MICHEL
The delights of the magical Mont Saint-Michel await: we drive to this renowned little island at the mouth of the Couesnon River, a UNESCO World Heritage site, on which sit a beautiful Benedictine abbey and village. Taking a guided tour of both this morning, we learn all about the island’s humble beginnings as a commune founded by an Irish hermit, moving on to its feudal heights.
We lunch on the island, in the homely Auberge Saint-Pierre, taking the afternoon to explore the pleasures of the village at our own pace.
Returning to Saint-Malo in the late afternoon, we have time for the next in our series of lectures before heading out independently to eat.
May 27: SALISBURY
This morning we set sail for foreign shores, boarding the ferry for a day-long crossing to Portsmouth, on England’s south coast: a chance to breathe the fresh sea air, and watch the waves of the Channel sweep past.
On arrival we transfer to Salisbury, a lovely Medieval city clustered around the mighty spire of its cathedral – the tallest in all of Britain. This evening we settle in to our hotel.
May 28: SALISBURY
It’s an early start this morning, as we enjoy private access to Stonehenge before it opens to the public: an unmissable encounter with the world’s most iconic prehistoric monument, and a major high point of our tour.
Following this, the excitement is far from over. We also visit Woodhenge, a timber circle dating from the Neolithic period – thought to have been used for both ceremonial and defensive purposes – and the neighboring Durrington Walls, site of a late Neolithic settlement. Recent theories posit that Durrington was a contemporary of Stonehenge, with both sites designed to complement the other.
We drive to Old Sarum next, Salisbury’s prehistoric predecessor: an Iron Age fort established in around 400 BC, and subsequently inhabited by Romans, Saxons and Normans. View the remains of its Norman castle, as well as the foundations of Salisbury’s original cathedral.
This afternoon we return to the city for a tour of the majestic 13th-century cathedral that still stands, and a special glimpse of the world’s best-preserved copy of the Magna Carta – one of only four in existence.
We round off the day’s adventures at Salisbury Museum, discovering a host of relics unearthed from the Wessex region, including the remains of an archer discovered at Stonehenge.
Tonight we come together for a special dinner at the brilliant British restaurant, Bernieres, in Cathedral Close.
May 29: AVEBURY
Our final full day of the tour begins at Avebury, where we find a Neolithic henge and stone circles – including Britain’s largest – within which a quintessentially English village has long stood.
Pausing for a delicious lunch at the 17th-century pub The Waggon and Horses, we carry on to the Alexander Keiller Museum, an engaging collection of archaeological finds, including pottery and tools retrieved from Avebury. We finish at West Kennet Long Barrow, an expansive and accessible tomb in which the remains of some 50 bodies have been found.
In the late afternoon we bid farewell to wonderful Wiltshire and enjoy a comfortable transfer to our four-star hotel at Heathrow Airport, in preparation for tomorrow’s departure.
We head to the airport and take our return flight home.