This set of tours travel through the countryside of the fictional character, Cadfael, who is a Welsh Benedictine monk living at Shrewsbury Abbey in the first half of the 12th century. The historically accurate stories are set between about 1120 AD and about 1145 AD and tell his story from leaving his family farm in Trefriw, his time as a soldier in the Eastern Mediterranean, and through to his conversion to the religious life of a brother at Shrewsbury Abbey. His travels were far from over and in his monastic life he travelled from Shrewsbury to the North Wales coast (Tour 1) to Coventry, Oxford and Gloucester ( Tours 3 & 4) as well as around South Shropshire.(Tour 2)
It is these monastic travels that we follow and will be able to see the remains of many ecclesiastical buildings of the time, all set in countryside which has remained largely unchanged in 900 years. It only takes a small amount of imagination to step back in time and see what Cadfael could have seen.
There are many other places to see on these tours, and we take the opportunity to visit them where time permits.
Total Driving Time 2hrs 30min; Total Mileage 77.
A Morbid Taste for Bones; Raven in the Foregate, Leper of St. Giles, Heretic’s Apprentice, Monk’s Hood, Dead Man’s Ransom; & Summer of the Danes.
Much of this route is that taken by the procession of St.Winifred’s bones on their journey to Shrewsbury. It starts with a short visit to Cadfael’s ‘Home’, Shrewsbury Abbey, and we will tell you about the real history and how well it is reflected in the Chronicles. We will point out the likely locations of Wat’s Tavern, Judith Perle’s House (Rose Rent), Cadfael’s workshop, the Refectory pulpit and the start of the Abbey Foregate (Raven in the Foregate, and many others). We travel along the Foregate passing Bishop Roger de Clinton’s house (Leper of St. Giles) and the tallest Doric column in the World before pausing briefly at St. Giles’ Church (Leper of St. Giles) before leaving Shrewsbury on our way to Wales. We will pass one of the possible locations of Godric’s Ford Nunnery and follow Thomas Telford’s 19th century Holyhead Road through tranquil Shropshire countryside until we turn to Hugh Beringar’s home estate at Maesbury. We next start climbing from the flat agricultural lands of Shropshire into the foothills of the Berwyn Hills. We pass near the Commote of Llansilin, near Mallilie,(Monk’s Hood) and the Abbey’s sheepfolds at Rhydycroesau (Dead Man’s Ransom) and climb through the remote countryside hills with very narrow roads before descending into Owain Glyndwr’s stronghold of Tregeiriog. (Dead Man’s Ransom) and then following the River Ceriog to Glyn Ceriog where we start our steep climb to the ridge of the Berwyn Hills, with outstanding views on both sides, and then descending into the beautiful Welsh market town of Llangollen.
We usually stop here for lunch and with a chance to look around this riverside town. The Cambrian mountains loom in front of us and we drive up the precipitous Horseshoe Pass, passing the remains of the Cistercian Valle Crucis Abbey, on the route the monks would have used to travel to and from Holywell. (Morbid Taste for Bones)
On our return to Shrewsbury we stop at Whittington Castle which dates back to before the Norman Conquest in 1066 and is typical of fortifications along the Welsh/ English Border.
We also stop at the British Ironworks, which is a most unusual attraction – almost indescribable!
Total Time( including Day 1) 6hrs 30min; Total Mileage 230 miles
This addition involves leaving the Tour 1 route at Llangollen and driving through the spectacular mountains of Snowdonia towards the Menai Strait between Anglesey and mainland Wales to visit the place where the Danes landed (Summer of the Danes) and made their camp. We will stay overnight in Caernarfon with a chance to see the spectacular Castle, where Prince Charles was inaugurated as Prince of Wales.
The following morning, we drive along the Menai Strait passing Thomas Telford’s magnificent Menai Bridge and Robert Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge, to Owain Gwynedd’s camp at ‘Aber‘ . We continue along the scenic coastline until we reach Conwy with its spectacular 13th century castle, and we turn inland and follow the River Conwy to Cadfael’s birthplace at Trefriw.
We will slowly drive through here before going through the narrow roads to St. Winifred’s grave at Gwytherin.
St Winifred’s Well, Holywell.
We will have a short 20-minute stroll around St Winifred’s churchyard before driving back towards the coastline at St. Asaph where we will be able to see the lovely white marble church of St. Margaret.
We will take a break for lunch before continuing to St. Winifred’s Well at Holywell where we will stop to take in all this shrine has to offer.
We now turn inland through the hills to follow the route of St Winifred’s bones and rejoin the Tour 1 itinerary at the top of the Horseshoe Pass, Llangollen
Distance driven 88 miles.; Total mileage 2hrs 45min
Sanctuary Sparrow; Rose Rent; Potter’s Field; Monk’s Hood; Hermit of Eyton Forest; Raven in the Foregate; St. Peter’s Fair, Virgin in the Ice; Morbid Taste for Bones, & Leper of St. Giles.
We start with a short stop at Cadfael’s ‘Home’, Shrewsbury Abbey, (Sanctuary Sparrow & Rose Rent) before continuing along the Foregate (Leper of St. Giles, Raven in the Foregate) and crossing the River Severn with ‘The Potter’s Field‘ on our right before briefly stopping at Haughmond Abbey and then tracing Edwin Gurney’s route where he led the Sheriff’s men. (Monk’s Hood)
We continue through Atcham (St. Peter’s Fair) and pause at the remains of the Roman City of Wroxeter. Following the river through the Hermit of Eyton Forest area we pass Buildwas Abbey and drive past Ellis Peters’ house before descending into the World Heritage site of Ironbridge Gorge and stop to walk over the World’s first iron bridge.
We pass through Wenlock and St.Milburga’s Church (Morbid Taste for Bones) before arriving at Bridgnorth(Brigge).
The drive continues into ‘Virgin in the Ice‘ country and follows the route of Sister Hilaria and the children took to Bromfield Priory.
We usually stop in Ludlow for lunch and then make a stop at Bromfield Priory (Virgin in the Ice) to visit St. Mary the Virgin church.
This tour takes in many of the places from 10 of the Chronicles and allows us to ‘step back’ in time through countryside largely unchanged since Cadfael’s time. We also see the first ‘Black & White’ house in the UK and find out how Bronze Age man found his way around the country.
We also visit the ancestral home of a signatory of the ‘Declaration of American Independence’ and his descendant who was a leader in the American Civil War. Also the site of the first ever English Parliament meeting.
Our route now takes us back to Shrewsbury through very scenic countryside ,and a possible site of Godric’s Ford, before passing St. Giles’ Church before rejoining the Abbey Foregate.
Tour 3 – ‘The Confession of Brother Haluin’, ‘Hermit of Eyton Forest’, ‘Potters Field’, and ‘Monk’s Hood’.
Distance Driven 100 miles; Total Mileage 2hrs 50 min.
Following his Confession, Brother Haluin imposed a penance on himself to walk, on crutches, to the outskirts of Lichfield. Accompanied by Brother Cadfael, they took nearly a week to arrive, but our tour will only take half a day to travel very similar route across the flat lands of East Shropshire, following the Roman Road, Watling Street, for much of the time.
As we travel across the fertile Shropshire plain, we will pass the locations where they stayed overnight, Uppington and Wombridge, before reaching their original destination of Hales. Here Adelais de Clary told them they needed to continue to Elford, near Lichfield and nearly twice the distance which they had already travelled. We will, again, follow their route as closely as possible, skirting the extensive Cannock Chase, and with visits to Hargedon and Chenet before arriving at Elford.
On the return journey we will have time to visit the three-spired Lichfield Cathedral, the diocesan church of Bishop Robert de Clinton, which originated in 700 AD to commemorate St. Chad.
Will also visit the site of the manor at Vivers and the nunnery at Farewell before a stop at the historic Ironbridge before driving through the remains of the Eyton Forest (Hermit of Eyton Forest) and the site of Cuthred’s hermitage and then we will pass the remains of the fourth largest Roman City in Britain, Wroxeter
before our final stop at Haughmond Abbey (Monk’s Hood) and our return into Shrewsbury passing the Potters Field and St Giles Church (Leper of St. Giles).
There is an option on this tour to stop and spend longer at their overnight stops, before having extended time to spend in Lichfield and maybe visit Samuel Johnson’s house before staying overnight and joining Tour 4 and travelling the places visited by Cadfael in ‘The Road to Woodstock’ ,‘Brother Cadfael’s Penance’, and ‘The Virgin in the Ice’.
Tour 4 – ‘Brother Cadfael’s Penance’, ‘A Light on the Road to Woodstock’ (A Rare Benedictine), and ‘A Virgin in the Ice.’
(The ‘Confession of Brother Haluin’ (Tour 3) route from Shrewsbury to Coventry may be taken in association with this tour, which would make it a 4-day, 3-night tour)
3-days,2-nights;Total Hours Driven-7hrs 50 min. Total Distance Driven-276 miles.
This tour commences with tales from Brother Cadfael’s Penance, before exploring the short section which deals with Cadfael’s decision at Woodstock (A Light on the Road to Woodstock), before returning to Cadfael’s journey and the cause for his penance. (Brother Cadfael’s Penance).
We drive east from Shrewsbury to Coventry noticing the countryside change from the rural setting of Shropshire to the metropolitan landscape of north Birmingham and then back to the rural Staffordshire. We will stop for approximately an hour to visit the evocative Cathedral, and the seat of Bishop Roger de Clinton in medieval times. It is only a short drive to Warwick and its magnificent Medieval Castle where we halt for lunch and have time to look around the town.
Our tour now takes the short distance to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, where we will arrive early afternoon and have time for you to explore the sights of the town or take a cruise on the River Avon. Our accommodation will be in the town centre.
On the second day, our trip continues through the picturesque Cotswolds, with its honey coloured buildings, and gently undulating landscape, to Woodstock, near Oxford, which is where Cadfael ap Meilyr ap Dafydd laid down his arms and decided to join the Benedictine community as Brother Cadfael. (“A Light on the Road to Woodstock”, the first story in “A Rare Benedictine“)
We continue southward and visit the site of Faringdon Castle, (Brother Cadfael’s Penance) where Olivier de Bretagne, Cadfael’s son, had refused to change allegiance from the Empress Maud to King Stephen. Although there are no remains of the castle, a tower (Faringdon Folly) was erected on the site.
Our route now continues towards Cirencester with its impressive remains of the Augustinian monastery alongside one of the largest parish churches in the country.
In the afternoon our drive takes us to Miserden where you will be shown the site of La Musarderie,(Brother Cadfael’s Penance) the powerful castle of Robert, Duke of Gloucester although there are no remains still visible.
It is possible to a real, working Benedictine monastery at Prinknash to see what a modern day monastery looks like. We are welcomed their own products shop and café. We now travel into the city of Gloucester which is situated at the ‘end’ of Britain’s longest river, the River Severn.
We will have the opportunity to visit another magnificent Cathedral, Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity which originated in 678 or 679 with the foundation of an abbey dedicated to St. Peter.
We overnight accommodation in the attractive Gloucester Quays.
Our final day’s journey back to Shrewsbury starts follows Cadfael’s return route to the Abbey to find if he will be given a penance for disobeying the Abbot or expelled from the monastery. He travelled through blinding blizzards and torrential rain with deep mud on the road and streams only passable with extreme care. There will be a stop at Deerhurst to see where Cadfael received a vital piece of information. We will follow the same route as Cadfael through the Vale of Gloucestershire before entering Worcestershire and continuing as far as Ledbury, where we make a diversion to follow the Malvern Hills and visit the Baroque church of St. Bartholomew at Great Witley. Its wonderful, ornate decoration is truly breathtaking.
We will now intercept the route taken by Sister Hilaria and the Hugonin children on their flight from Worcester. (‘The Virgin in the Ice’).
We continue following their route to their meeting with Brother Elyas and the tragic decision to split up on the Titterstone Clee. We will follow Yves and Ermina’s route over the wild lands of the Clee, also passing the Lutwyche Brook before reaching Bromfield Priory.
From here we rejoin Cadfael’s route back into Shrewsbury, along the old Roman Road Watling Street which ran from Wroxeter City to Caerleon (Cardiff).
All tours listed are examples: we put together a tour tailored to your needs, simply tell us what interests you, or let us suggest some options.
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