Europe & Britain | Destination Guides

We spent 24 hours in Britain with Travel Director, Stephen

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a Trafalgar Travel Director? We met up with Stephen to see what life is like on the road. And specifically, what 24 hours is Britain looks like for guests on our Real Britain tour.

Trafalgar guests

Originally from Sydney (Australia), Stephen moved to South East England in 1996 and never looked back. His Italian father and Scottish Grandma helped spark his love for other cultures and travel. And with almost a decade of Travel Director experience under his belt, this love keeps growing every day.

Stephen is passionate about learning new things about the places he visits. He says the key to being a great Travel Director to get to know guests’ interests and share stories.

“I enjoy looking after my guests, getting to know them and sharing a laugh or two. It feels like a big family! Taking care of everyone’s needs is a key to your success. I always try to add something new to my repertoire that I can share with the group, as well as revealing hidden treasures along the way.”

Stephen De Martin

Here’s what 24 hours in Britain is like with Stephen as your guide…

Today Stephen shares his travel diary from Trafalgar’s Day 5 (the final day on tour) of our Real Britain trip, which includes a visit to a castle from Harry Potter, exploring charming York and the historic Hadrian’s wall. Get ready to enjoy 24 hours in Britain!

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7.30am: Journey from Edinburgh to York

It’s rise and shine – and time to hit the road. So we wave goodbye to the mesmerising medieval city of Edinburgh and our happy memories there to take a blissful trip south towards the old Roman capital, York. Our guests are sleepy… but I’ve promised them a hidden gem this morning. They have no idea what to expect.

We skirt along the north-sea coast on a glorious morning with the sun glistening on the sea, and I quietly announce we’ve crossed over the Scottish border. The excitement builds.

9.15am: Meet medieval Northumberland

Alnwick Castle during 24

We touch down in Northumberland and in the medieval land of the Dukedom’s. It’s time for a look at the enchanting Alnwick Castle – hailed as an ‘unexpected treasure’ by one of our inquisitive guests. The 11th century castle has been described as the Windsor of the North and has been a template of castle constructions since. It belongs to Ralph Percy, the 12th Duke of Northumberland. You might also recognise it as the setting of movie scenes in Harry Potter’s Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets, Robin Hood and Downtown Abbey. Back on the coach, we cross the perfect Alnwick River guarded by a walled lion just in time for a well-deserved comfort stop.

11am: Northumberland to Hadrian’s wall

We head back on the road, appreciating the rolling countryside as we drive and tucking into some Scottish shortbread treats as we continue south. Our next stop is the iconic Hadrian’s Wall.

11.45pm: Touch history at Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian's wall (24 hours in Britain)

We get to Heddon on the Wall (a quaint village tucked on Hadrian’s Wall) to breathe it all in. Roman Emperor Hadrian built the wall over a 2 year period in 122 AD to keep Barbarian tribes from the north away from the Roman occupation of the south. It spans 117 kilometres across the country and we get to know it on a personal level at our next stop.

Guests enjoy walking across it, taking pictures and exploring its old fort castles and ruins. Plus all its 2000 years of fascinating history.

2pm: Explore charming York on foot

Excitement is in the air as we arrive in York, or as the Romans called it ‘Eboracum’. It was the Roman’s most northern city and garrison town, later attacked by the Vikings and occupied by the Normans in the middle ages, so the city has a layered and fascinating history to tell.

The city is made to be explored on foot. And that’s exactly what we do. First, we walk under Bootham bar and under the city wall which was built to protect the city from attack. Some guests choose to walk the 3 miles on the still sturdy walls. Next, we pass snickelways (ultra thin streets) and come face to face with York Minster: the most important gothic medieval church in Europe. Guests are in awe as I explain its history and admire the gargoyles outside its imposing entrance.

We continue on and pass Guy Fawkes birth place and come up to Constantine’s statue: he was a Roman Emperor who was crowned here. York is flat and pretty easy to walk around and mostly pedestrian which is easy for our guests. We admire the imagery outside the old shops and we meet in the city square above the sights and sounds of the local busker.

4pm: Meander down The Shambles

We make our way down Europe’s oldest medieval street called The Shambles, where little houses reach out across the street and the old butcher’s hooks remain where carcasses of bloody meat once hung.

We check out the shortest street in York (Whip- Ma- Whop- Ma-Gate – meaning ‘neither one thing nor the other’ or ‘nothing at all’ in Middle English). And then our happy group peel off for some free time. Some venture onto the City walls. Some explore the Viking centre. And others revisit the beautiful York minster followed by a delicious chunk of local fudge or chocolate. There is so much to explore including the local shambles market.

GET INSPIRED BY: Real Britain tour

6pm: York to Westow Hall

Westow Hall during 24hours in Britain

We jump back on the coach head to our farewell ‘Be My Guest’ dinner (one of the most special parts of a Trafalgar tour). I explain the concept and my guests are intrigued, unsure what to expect. We drive about 30 minutes into the heart of the Yorkshire countryside and pass the ruins of an old Abbey and cross a gorgeous old stone bridge as suspense builds.

6.30pm: Be My Guest Dinner at Westow Hall

24 hours in Britain: at Westow Hall

The early evening sun shines on us when we arrive at Westow Hall. The hostess, Susanna Beckett, warmly greets us and gives a short talk on the house… it was built in 1696 and has mainly been a family home since, but also a school in the 19th century and a retirement home for soldiers in the First World War. It was a gloriously hot evening after this. With a glass of Prosecco in their hands and canapés on offer, the guests were able to wander through the gardens at leisure before they had dinner.

Dinner is locally sourced cooked meal: chicken breasts, wrapped in Parma ham and a creamy tomato sauce, new potatoes, peas and salad followed by chocolate roulade and raspberries from the garden. Danny, the host, poured the wine for those that wanted it.  

The food and wine flowed as did our conversations with our new found friends. At the end of 24 hours in Britain, Susanna bids our guests farewell with a souvenir card and a happy bunch of guests come back full and fulfilled from a great day.

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This what 24 hours in Britain is like. Have you been on a tour with Stephen or are you thinking of taking the Real Britain soon? Leave us a comment below…

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