In Any Event (IAE) has been recognized by Conde Nast Traveler for five straight years as the specialist that open doors and gates throughout the U.K.
Award-winning travel writer Wendy Perrin says IAE’s Philip McCrum, a former editor of The Economist, is the go-to person if you want to get access to places not open to the public or mingle with the Royals. In this issue, Philip has put together a seven-day itinerary of suggested highlights, including some of the beautiful countryside made closer via helicopter.
Day 1 – Arrive at Syon House and explore this historic venue
Arrive in London and you will be met with a transfer to Syon House. You’ll stay overnight here on your first night at the Duke’s Apartments.
Heathrow is just seven miles away, and VIP arrival services can be arranged if you are landing on a commercial flight. There is an FBO for private aviation, although there are restrictions for slots.
Originally the site of a medieval abbey, Syon House was named after Mount Zion in the Holy Land. It is known worldwide as one of Robert Adams’ best examples of neo-classical splendor, and houses an array of art and antiques collected over centuries by the Percy family, a noble family whose connections not just to royalty, but also to some of the most significant events in English history, dates back to the Middle Ages.
It was at Syon where Henry VIII lay in state and where his body was said to have been eaten by dogs. It was also here where Charles I last saw his son, before his execution.
The Percy’s, who hold the Dukedom of Northumberland, first created in 1551, has lived at Syon for over 400 years. Its 200-acre park and gardens were designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the famous Georgian landscape architect, producing a remarkable rural idyll, so close to London. The Duke’s sister will give you a private tour of the house.
Recently, the Duke’s apartments were converted into luxuriously appointed guest rooms. You will be attended by your personal butler.
Day 2 – River Cruise on the Thames in luxury Venetian River Launch
You will be picked up from Syon and taken to your luxury river launch, which will transport you down the Thames to the Houses of Parliament. Your water limo is the very first Venetian-crafted type to grace London’s historic river. The perfect combination of Italian style and British flair, sporting the unmistakable Union Jack hull, the Thames Limo’s elegant lines, plush comfort, and understated power, exudes sophistication and provides discerning guests with a luxurious and sumptuous river experience.
An hour’s jaunt along the Thames in this beautiful launch will give you a different perspective of London, all in luxury and comfort. Champagne provided, of course.
Private tour of Houses of Parliament with MP, followed by lunch
The seat of the British government, the Palace of Westminster (also known as the Houses of Parliament) is London’s oldest royal palace. After the original medieval parliament was almost completely burned down in 1834 it was rebuilt as a Gothic masterpiece, but visitors today can still visit the original Great Hall (built in 1097), the cloister, the beautiful Chapel of St Mary Undercroft (1297), and the Jewel Tower (1366). Of course, the best-known feature is Elizabeth Tower, the clock tower more commonly known as Big Ben, the beating heart over this great bastion of British democracy.
This is a wonderful opportunity to be shown behind the scenes of Britain’s Parliament by someone who actually works there. You will see areas not open to the public (for whom it is very difficult to visit in any case) and learn the history of the building and how democracy works. Afterward, a Member of Parliament will invite you for lunch on the terrace overlooking the Thames.
Inspiration Table at Gordon Ramsey, Royal Hospital Road
The Inspiration Table is a hub of creativity where the most exciting and current dishes are developed, bringing the artistic finesse of the kitchen to your own private table.
Experience Restaurant Gordon Ramsay’s exquisite menu in a unique and intimate setting, with dishes created and prepared right in front of you. Dining on the Inspiration Table brings you a step closer to understanding the art and science of creating exquisite dishes and the ingredients used.
It is quite simply an experience like no other to interact with the chefs who offer an exclusive insight into the methods and creative process behind each dish.
While you were out and about, your luggage and belongings will have been transported to The Beaumont, your home for the next four nights.
Opened in September 2014, The Beaumont is a five-star luxury boutique hotel located in a historic 1926 building on a quiet garden square in the heart of Mayfair, within one block of Selfridges department store on bustling Oxford Street.
The rooms at The Beaumont have been designed in a soft Art Deco style with a perfectionist’s eye for detail; original works of art abound and the selection of classic in-room movies and books – new and vintage – should enthrall.
In a city with dozens of amazing suites, yours here is probably the most unique. Stay in the three-story-high inhabitable sculpture called ROOM by Antony Gormley.
Described as a dark, mysterious, cave-like space, ROOM encourages its occupants to enter a different state of consciousness, to enjoy at the very least a quiet, meditative pause, a prelude to a good night’s sleep and the chance to withdraw, for a while, from the busy world outside.
The wood-paneled bedroom is approached upstairs from the sitting room and the marble bathroom, which are decorated, like all the rooms in The Beaumont, in a soft Art Deco style. The suite also has a large private hallway and a guest bathroom.
Phillip says, it’s the hotel’s effortlessly elegant style combined with the impeccable service, that won The Beaumont the accolade of London’s Hotel of the Year in 2016.
Day 3 – Helicopter to Kent to visit privately-owned medieval Castle
From Battersea Heliport, you will be flown down to the depths of the Kent countryside to visit an art-filled medieval castle.
Reputed to have been the meeting place of the four knights who carried out the assassination of Thomas Becket in 1170, the castle was once an important stronghold on the Kent coast, and as the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, a key feature in the turbulent history of the Middle Ages.
It fell into disrepair after an earthquake in 1580. More recently, in 1953, the castle was bought by the famous art historian Kenneth Clarke who wrote his acclaimed TV series ‘Civilisation’ in the study. His prized art collection is still displayed throughout the property and features Renoirs, Cezannes, Rodins, Moores, and many others. It has been augmented in recent years by his daughter-in-law, the current proprietor.
Not only is the castle living history, but it is one of the finest surviving examples of Norman architecture, complete with moat, battlements, secret garden, and extensive grounds populated by equally beautiful peacocks!
Visit Rye, one of England’s ancient ‘Cinque Ports’
Used as a fortress against French invasion from 1200 to Napoleonic times, the town of Rye was built on a granite outcrop known as the Citadel and reinforced by a castle and town wall. Together these defensive features made Rye one of the Cinque Ports, a confederation of maritime towns and villages spread throughout Kent and East Sussex.
Centuries later, Rye still boasts cobbled lanes, mysterious passageways, crooked half-timbered Tudor buildings, and one of the oldest inns in England. But one thing has changed: once on the coast, the south of England’s quaintest town is now two miles inland!
Visit one of Kent’s award-winning vineyards
English sparkling wines have been winning a slew of international awards in recent years, showing that English vintners are now capable of producing sparkling wine on a par with their European competitors.
You will visit “one of the best-known and biggest-selling sparkling wines in England”, according to the Wall Street Journal. Chapel Down is set amongst 22 acres of vineyards in the High Weald of Kent, recognized as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. Its world-class range of sparkling wines are created using the Traditional Method, the same as Champagne, from fruit sourced from the South-East of England.
On your guided tour of the vineyard and winery, you will learn all about the intricate Traditional Method and the processes used to transform great fruit into great wines. And you will, of course, get a chance to try a range of products, during the post-tour tutored tasting session. Afterward, your helicopter awaits to take you back to London.
Day 4 – Exclusive visit to Westminster Abbey with the Dean
Benedictine monks first came to the site of Westminster Abbey in the middle of the 10th century, establishing a tradition of daily worship which – incredibly – continues to this day.
Neither a cathedral nor a parish church, the spectacular 700-year-old abbey is actually a “Royal Peculiar” – a church responsible directly to the Sovereign. As such, it has been England’s official Coronation church since 1066 and hosted 16 royal weddings since 1100.
On a more funerary note, many of the nation’s most significant people from history are buried here, including poets, musicians, scientists, statesmen, and an astonishing seventeen English sovereigns, including the Abbey’s founder, Edward the Confessor, Henry V and all the Tudors except Henry VIII.
Once described as offering the ‘best view in Europe’ by English poet John Betjeman, the Triforium Gallery runs 70 feet above the Abbey floor, and has been hidden to the public for over 700 years.
The new galleries will not only give visitors the magnificent views so loved by Betjeman into the Palace of Westminster and the church, but will also display treasures and collections reflecting the Abbey’s rich and varied thousand-year history.
On this private tour, the Dean will meet you in the Cloisters and personally escort you through the Abbey, telling you all about the history of this magnificent building in an informative, but entertaining and deliciously irreverent manner! He will also take you to parts of the Abbey, such as the Jerusalem Room in the Deanery, that are not accessible to the public.
Private Royal Warrants tour
Royal Warrants are historical rights conferred on businesses by the monarch to supply the royal household with their goods ‘By Appointment’. Some of Britain’s luxury retailers, including Paxton & Whitfield (cheesemakers), Penhaligon (perfumers), Berry Bros & Rudd (vintners), Garrard & Co. (jewellers), John Lobb (shoemakers), Lock & Co (milliners), and Fortnum & Mason (grocers), have collaborated to offer a collective glimpse of the commitment to the highest standards of service and excellence required to be awarded a Royal Warrant.
The tour will take the group behind-the-scenes and secure access to usually secret archive material, special viewings of treasured brand assets and heritage pieces, along with an opportunity to meet ‘By Royal Appointment’ craftsmen, company archivists and enjoy food tastings.
Dinner in the Tower of London, followed by Ceremony of the Keys
The wonderfully vaulted room of the Wakefield Tower was originally created as part of Henry III’s (1207-1272) lodgings and was probably used by the King as a private audience chamber.
Here you will enjoy a private group dinner and afterward, you can stroll along the Wall Walk to enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the White Tower, Tower Bridge, and the River Thames.
Later, head down towards the Byward Tower, where every night, for more than 700 years, Yeoman Warders have performed a gate-closing ritual known as the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. It is one of the oldest and most colorful surviving ceremonial enactments that takes place in Britain today.
At exactly 21.52 the Chief Yeoman Warder of the Tower comes out of the Byward Tower, dressed in red, carrying a candle lantern in one hand and the Queen’s Keys on the other hand. He is challenged by a sentry, who calls out: ‘Halt, who comes there?’ The Yeoman Warder replies, ‘The keys.’ ‘Whose keys?’ ‘Queen Elizabeth’s keys.’ ‘Pass then, all’s well.’
While a visit to the Tower of London is on every tourists’ checklist, having the chance to watch the Ceremony of the Keys at night is an experience on a completely different level. It is a wonderful slice of ancient pageantry that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck.
Day 5 – Private, before hours, Director’s tour of Cabinet War Rooms
For anyone who wants a little more light shed on our ‘darkest hour’, a trip to the Churchill War Rooms is a must. The museum is made up of two parts. The first is the underground complex known as the Cabinet War Rooms where Churchill and his government sheltered during the Blitz and from where Churchill directed the war.
The second is the brilliantly interactive Churchill Museum that focuses on the life of the great man, from birth through the wilderness years, to his time as Prime Minister, and on to his death and famous funeral. A perfect pairing.
Your private tour of the Churchill War Rooms, with the Museum Directors, and before the venue is open to the general public, offers you an unparalleled opportunity to walk back in history.
You will be taken inside the historic rooms, behind the glass that general visitors only look through and see details only viewable up close, with privileged access to where Winston Churchill, his War Cabinet, and Chiefs of Staff met and worked during the Second World War.
An exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of the National Gallery
The Gallery’s Conservation Department works with curators and scientists to ensure that future generations can enjoy the collection. This involves everything from regular checks on the condition of paintings, to control of the light, temperature, and humidity in the Gallery. Conservators also carry out major restorations, which can sometimes take many months or even years.
The cleaning and restoration process is carefully monitored and documented, making extensive use of photography. This may be the most visible work of conservators, but the treatment of the paintings’ supports (the panels and canvases) is often just as important. Conservators collaborate closely with scientists and curators to decide the most appropriate form of treatment for each picture. They also work together to study the techniques used by artists represented in the collection.
This exclusive tour will give you the chance to see the conservation work in action and close up and to see the works that the team is currently working on.
A private guide will also be on hand to show you works that are hanging in the gallery that have benefitted from the restoration process and you will see examples of before and after restoration. This is a fascinating insight into how the world’s top galleries ensure that works of art of historical global importance are saved for future generations to enjoy.
VIP, after hours, a champagne tour of Sir John Soane Museum
As a world-famous neo-Classical architect, Sir John Soane’s creations included the Bank of England and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. But perhaps the fullest representation of this great man is the Sir John Soane Museum.
Sir John’s home in his last years, the house has been left untouched since his death in 1837 and remains one of the most intimate and eccentric of London’s museums. To this day, the displays of his private art collection (including Canalettos, Turners, Hogarths, and Piranesi’s) are so creative and eclectic that each room is really a stunning work of art in itself.
On this private, after-hours tour, a senior curator will lead you around the museum in candlelight and take to areas of the house not open to the public. Champagne will be served.
Day 6 – Helicopter trip to Northamptonshire; visit a privately-owned stately home
Check out of the Beaumont and again we head to the helipad.
Set deep in the heart of rural Northamptonshire, this stately home has been the ancestral home of an illustrious aristocratic family for 500 years. In 1508, Sir John acquired the 300-acre estate and began the construction of the first house built on the site, red-brick with a surrounding moat. His grandson, another Sir John, finally completed the original structure so that by his death in 1586, the house had acquired the shape that remains to this day.
Charles, the current Earl, inherited the estate in 1992, aged 27. In his time the house has received a new roof, a reworked exterior, and several major improvements to the house’s infrastructure.
The Earl will welcome you to his house and host you during your stay. He will give you a private tour of the house and estate. A private dinner will be personally hosted by the Earl.
Day 7 – Meet the Cotswolds locals
This is a Cotswolds tour is like no other. Behind the chocolate box image, the Cotswolds is a working agricultural community. So meeting the real locals inevitably means visiting a farm.
But the day is not just about being shown around the farm and learning the lay of the land; your friendly and entertaining farmer will regale you with anecdotes and take you around the local area and community, showing you the impossibly pretty villages and out of the way hamlets which most tourists unknowingly pass by.
He might even invite you for a drink at his local pub! That said, if you want to stay on the farm and get your hands dirty then you can; you can learn to make dry stone walls, or even help with lambing in the spring!
On your final night, you’ll stay at Heckfield Place. Its opening in September 2018 was the longest anticipated and eagerly awaited hotel launches in recent years.
But the wait has been worth it: Forbes called it “quite possibly the most impressive country house in England.” It won the accolade of England’s Best Hotel just two months after opening.
Rooms are homely yet stylish, celebrated chef Skye Gyngell is on-hand as culinary director and guests can swim in the lake, indulge in the spa or sit back in the glamorous film screening room. All in English country house splendor.
Stay in the Long Room (above), a private apartment with vaulted ceiling, sitting and dining rooms, a private terrace, and balcony with breathtaking views of the lakes, gardens, and surrounding countryside.
Day 8 – Departure to Farnborough Airport
You won’t have to rush. Arrange for your plane to meet you at Farnborough Airport, an uncongested haven for general aviation just 11 minutes from Heckfield Place. If you can, have a treatment at its Little Bothy Spa before you head out.
Philip McCrum, Director, In Any Event (Tours) Ltd at +44 (0)7342 107621, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.iaetours.com.