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About the course:
Whether you are searching for the past or want to better understand the world as it is today, travel—even virtually, from the comfort of home—offers a unique opportunity to see the world in new ways. Perhaps you would like to wander the cosmopolitan streets of London, roam the 1,000-year-old campuses of Oxford and Cambridge, or tour world-famous museums like the Tate Modern and the National Railway Museum. Or maybe you are aiming for a more pastoral adventure, like an expedition across the romantic wilds of the Scottish Highlands, or a journey to see the breathtaking vistas of the Jurassic coast. No matter what experience you are hoping to find, a tour of England, Scotland, and Wales rewards visitors with an astonishing array of historical, cultural, and scenic pleasures and reveals the heritage of a nation that has influenced the world immeasurably.
With so many beautiful and fascinating places to see, where do you start? What famous sites are most worth seeing—and where are the hidden gems that many tourists miss? Let us help you get the most out of your journey across this superb island.
No matter what you are hoping to discover in this magnificent region, The Great Tours: England, Scotland, and Wales is the perfect guide. Taught by acclaimed Professor Patrick Allitt, a British-born scholar who teaches at Emory University, these 36 engrossing lectures give you an insider’s take on traveling through Great Britain. Whether you are planning a week-long vacation; a month-long grand tour; or just want to experience England, Scotland, and Wales from afar, this visually immersive course brings Great Britain into your living room and gives you all the background you need to plan the trip of a lifetime.
Go beyond the Guidebook
Gain the historical and cultural context you need to appreciate some of Britain’s most popular sites, including:
- Buckingham Palace
- The Houses of Parliament
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- The English Lake District
- Edinburgh, Scotland
- Cardiff, Wales
- and many more
Professor Allitt shows you worthwhile destinations that are often swamped with tourists and long lines, giving you access to these sites without the crowds, but also showing you which of these destinations really are worth braving if you visit in person. Perhaps more important, he introduces you to many overlooked or little-known gems that will surprise and delight even the most seasoned traveler to Britain. This is the insider look that the travel guides and tour programs can’t match. For instance, as Professor Allitt guides you across Great Britain, you will:
- Consider Avebury, a breathtaking set of stone monuments largely overlooked in favor of the more famous Stonehenge;
- Venture to Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire, the single best place in Britain to study the history of the Industrial Revolution;
- Spend some time in the beautiful (and tragic) Scottish valley of Glencoe, and tour a ring of UNESCO World Heritage Site castles in Wales; and
- Explore the fascinating history of the often-overlooked English Midlands, tour the country houses of East Anglia, and take a hike through the wild moorlands of Cornwall.
All the World’s a Stage
One of the many pleasures of travel is seeing places you have only heard about in books or seen in glimpses on television. Likewise, knowing something about a place before you visit it deepens your experience of seeing it in person. With that in mind, Professor Allitt’s first job in this course is to survey the more than 1,000-year history of Great Britain.
The early history of Britain was largely shaped by a series of invasions. First the Romans came, and you can visit the edge of the Roman Empire at Hadrian’s Wall, near the Anglo-Scottish border. After the Roman retreat, the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Normans all raided the coast and eventually settled. War dominated early British history, which resulted in the construction of many of the medieval castles that must be near the top of any tourist’s itinerary. Some of the many monuments and fortifications you will encounter are:
- Lindisfarne, a monastery that was the site of a major Viking attack;
- The Tower of London, with its remarkable stone keep and outer wall;
- Dover Castle, overlooking the great cliffs; and
- Warwick Castle, a must-see crowd-pleaser at the heart of the kingdom.
Christianity was the other great force in early British history, a facet of history you will explore through its astonishing cathedrals. Among them, consider Norwich Cathedral, Canterbury, and—most famously—Westminster Abbey.
After the many invasions of the Middle Ages, Britain saw several hundred years of political change—with tension between the monarchs and Parliament, between the English and the Scots, between Catholics and Anglicans, and a host of other struggles. Professor Allitt illuminates the story from the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 through the rein of Queen Victoria and into the 20th century.
Modern Britain was an industrial dynamo, so in addition to highlighting the famous monasteries, government halls, country houses, and battlefields where history was made, Professor Allitt also shows you the villages, mills, quarries, canals, and railroad lines that made Great Britain the powerhouse it is today.
The Road Not Taken
A visitor could spend a year in London and still not see everything worth experiencing. The city is home to an abundance of museums, monuments, parks, and lively neighborhoods. Among the highlights of Professor Allitt’s London tour are the wonderful Victoria and Albert Museum; the British Museum; Trafalgar Square; Kensington; Piccadilly Circus; and, of course, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament.
But as Professor Allitt notes, London is in many ways the least representative part of Great Britain. To really understand this nation, you must venture beyond the city—and this course takes you region by region around the island, including four rich lectures dedicated to Scotland and Wales. You’ll visit the royal mile in Edinburgh, ride a locomotive to the summit of Mount Snowden in Wales, and much more.
In England, you will head to the West Country to track Arthurian legends at iconic places like Tintagel Castle and Glastonbury Tor; spend time in the northern industrial cities of Manchester and Liverpool; stroll through Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire; and experience the gentle, rustic, and often remote land of East Anglia. Any one of these regions is worth a day trip or an extended stay.
Though this course is not concerned with the specific details of transportation options, Professor Allitt does offer many interesting tidbits about the history of Britain’s canals and railroads, the London underground, and the island’s major highways. For his part, he recommends walking as an ideal mode of transportation, and hiking enthusiasts will discover opportunities in every part of Britain, from the gentle Cotswolds to the dramatic coastal paths of Southwest England.
From Baker Street to the Lighthouse
Great Britain offers opportunities to explore almost every artistic and cultural interest you can imagine. Lovers of literature will be able to connect numerous sites with their favorite authors, from the picturesque Lake District beloved by Wordsworth to the Oxford haunts of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien—and, of course, the famous Baker Street of Sherlock Holmes. Professor Allitt introduces you to places associated with hundreds of years of great writers, including:
- The national bards Chaucer and Shakespeare
- Poets Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and Byron
- Novelists Austen, Dickens, the Brontës, Woolf, and Orwell
He also introduces you to the great tradition of visual arts and artists. In addition to reflecting on the lives and works of artists such as William Hogarth, Joseph Turner, and Thomas Gainsborough, you’ll also learn about some of the best art museums in the country:
- The National Gallery in London
- The National Portrait Gallery
- The Tate Modern
- The Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh
- The National Museum in Cardiff
Great Britain’s literary and artistic heritage is tremendous, but its centuries-long culture of gardening is equally astounding. Because of the island’s mild and damp climate, it is an ideal location for floral displays—and the gardens throughout England, Scotland, and Wales arguably are unmatched around the world. Professor Allitt takes you to some of the finest, including:
- Stourhead Estate in Wiltshire
- The Botanic Garden at Oxford University
- Kew Gardens in London
- Bodnant Garden in Wales
- and more
Ode to an Island Nation
There is no substitute for travel. Some things you simply have to see for yourself. That said, The Great Tours: England, Scotland, and Wales is the next best thing. Visually dazzling with hundreds of photographs from your professor’s own archives, you will see all the sites Professor Allitt describes—and, thanks to the help of a professional accent specialist in several of the lectures, you will also be able to hear the sounds of the Scottish brogue, the Welsh voice, the Cockney accent, and more.
If you have an upcoming trip to Great Britain, you will be well-prepped to have a rich experience—with insight on where to go, what to do, and what it all means. But even if you simply plan to enjoy Great Britain from your home, Professor Allitt grounds you in the history, the people, the land, and the cultural touchstones to enhance your understanding of this mighty nation. Every lecture in The Great Tours: England, Scotland, and Wales offers an immersive experience and astonishinginsight into this small island that has had an outsized influence on the world’s stage.
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