This is a cluster of medieval buildings that ranks among the greatest in Europe. Set in ancient towns and glorious countryside, the cathedrals and abbeys of the North are never short of ambition, and embody all the major architectural innovations of the Middle Ages in England. Anglo-Saxon simplicity, Norman power, late-Gothic finesse; over four days we see them all, alongside spectacular stained glass, sculpture and wood carving. Meanwhile, ecclesiastical art and architecture specialist, Dr James Cameron, is on hand to put each of these breathtaking buildings into the context of its time. Everything from the prodigious fundraising efforts of cathedral chapters to the skill of individual craftsmen is considered.
We meet at the hotel in York, and walk together to the Minster at 2pm. This is not only Britain’s largest Gothic cathedral, but home to the most extensive expanse of stained glass in the country. The vast, 600-year-old east window has just undergone a major restoration. Return to the hotel for the first lecture, and dinner together.
Enriched with Purbeck marble, Beverley Minster is one of the finest of all Gothic buildings, and it is here where we begin our day. In Lincoln, the cathedral is fascinatingly experimental and extraordinarily beautiful, built largely in Early English and Decorated styles, and set on a commanding hilltop site.
Drive to Rievaulx Abbey, one of the great Cistercian monasteries of England. Its evocative ruins lie in the foothills of the North York Moors, where sheep-rearing, as well as lead and tin mining, generated great wealth. On to Durham Cathedral, which is one of the most striking achievements of the European Romanesque.
Beneath the glorious Gothic of Ripon Cathedral lies a self-contained 7th-century crypt – the oldest surviving structure of any English cathedral. Then onward to Fountains Abbey, set in the enchanting valley of the River Skell, and the most impressive of the abandoned Cistercian monasteries. Finish at York Railway Station at 4pm, or at the hotel shortly after.
Dr James Cameron
Art historian specialising in ecclesiastical art and architecture. He initially studied art history at the University of Manchester, and subsequently at The Courtauld Institute of Art, where his PhD focused on sedilia in the medieval English church. In 2017, he co-organised the conference Towards an Art History of the Parish Church at The Courtauld. He is keen to promote the idea that art history should not end at the cathedral, and that parish churches are also serious objects of knowledge.
£905 per person sharing in a double room
£1,100 for one person in a double room
The price includes the speaker and a tour manager, accommodation with daily breakfasts, one dinner with wine, transport by private coach, local guides, admissions to sites as mentioned in the itinerary.
Please note trains or flights are not included.
Minster Hotel, York (3 stars).
Expect to walk on steps and uneven surfaces. There are some long coach journeys.
There is no minimum number of clients required for this trip to run.
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.