They may have been the principal battlegrounds of La Reconquista – the centuries long struggle to win Spain back for Christendom – but there is a lot more to Castile and León than the paraphernalia of mediaeval warfare. In León, the Royal Pantheon of San Isidoro is a master class in muscular Romanesque; Segovia is home to the last great Gothic cathedral built in Spain; El Escorial combines monastery, palace and administrative hub to monumental effect. Our trip knits hilltop castles, towering altarpieces and Renaissance quadrangles into a seamless eight-day itinerary, and bears witness to Spain’s rapid 16th-century transformation – from resurgent kingdom to imperial superpower.
Our coach leaves Madrid airport at 2pm for Ávila, with its mighty circuit of 11th-century walls, strengthened by 87 turrets. We visit the cathedral and the 12th-century Basilica of San Vicente. Thence to Salamanca, one of Spain’s most beautiful cities. Dinner together.
After a morning lecture, we walk to Salamanca’s two cathedrals. In the afternoon we will visit the convents of Las Dueñas and San Estéban. The west face of the latter is one of Spain’s finest examples of intricate Plateresque carving.
A free morning to explore other delights of Salamanca, such as the university, which had 8,000 students in its 16th-century heyday. Transfer to León, we stop at the 10th-century monastery of San Miguel de Escalada – a rare example of Mozarabic architecture, built by Christians under Islamic rule.
After our second lecture, a day of spectacular architecture is in store as we visit León’s richly decorated Gothic cathedral, followed by the Romanesque pantheon of San Isidoro in the afternoon.
To Burgos, to see the convent of Las Huelgas Reales. We also visit the Cartuja de Milaflores – home to one of the most magnificent Gothic tombs ever carved (for King John II and Queen Isabel) – and the cathedral, with its wonderfully ornate golden altar.
We start with the finest Romanesque cloister in Spain at Santo Domingo de Silos. Next the small town of Lerma, with its ensemble of early 17th-century buildings, raised by Phillip III’s favourite, the powerful and profligate Duke of Lerma. Then to Segovia, and dinner together.
The morning’s walk begins with the cathedral of Segovia, and continues to the Alcázar, rising up from a dramatic promontory like a giant stone ship. Free afternoon.
We drive to El Escorial, the enormous monastery, palace, library and seat of government commissioned by Philip II. Continue to Madrid airport where the trip ends by 3pm.
£1,605 per person sharing in a double room
£1,810 for one person in a double room
The price includes the speaker and a tour manager, accommodation with daily breakfasts, two dinners with wine, transport by private coach, admissions to sites as mentioned in the itinerary.
Please note flights are not included.
Accommodation and meals
Expect a lot of walking in the cities (some of it on cobblestones and stairs), a few long coach journeys, and four hotel changes.
Maximum group size
Between 5 and 25 participants.
Please check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice before you book to make sure you are happy with the advice for the places you are visiting.
"I thought Richard Plant was terrific -- very lively, clearly loves his subject, gave succinct helpful background lectures and was a very good leader. He was funny and good company."
"I thoroughly enjoyed myself, saw a lot, learnt a lot, and enjoyed meeting my companions."