Giving to
Bryn Mawr

Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center

Britain's Fantasy North

June 18 – 27, 2014

We invite you to join us on "The Fantasy North" a custom-designed tour created exclusively for Bryn Mawr by Professors Katherine Rowe and Elly Truitt. Our tour is inspired by the distinct landscapes and cultures of the northern British Isles and by the classic fantasy and historical fiction they have fostered. Fans of these genres will venture northwards, exploring together the works of writers such as George R. R. Martin, Dorothy Dunnett, Susannah Clarke and Shakespeare.

Your custom itinerary features spellbinding historical settings including Hadrian's Wall, Edinburgh Castle and Rosslyn Chapel, and the UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Orkney Islands. Begin in the early Viking town of York, where ancient timber houses render the cobbled streets a truly romantic departure for your quest. This is a totally unique Bryn Mawr experience

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Preliminary Itinerary
(please click on location to reveal details)


Day 1: Departures for York, UK

Independent departures from the United States to Manchester International Airport, UK.

Day 2: The North Country

Monk Bar Hotel, York, England (D)

  • Independent arrivals at Manchester Airport.
  • Board a private motor coach and transfer across the northern terrain of England to the picturesque city of York, the most important permanent Viking settlement in England.
  • Check-in at our centrally located 3-star hotel in York, the Monk Bar Hotel, just a few blocks from York Minster.
  • Enjoy a welcome dinner at a historic restaurant that features quintessential Northern England cuisine.

Day 3: Medieval York

Monk Bar Hotel, York, England (B)

  • This morning visit the Jorvik Viking Centre, where we will explore the remains of the early Viking settlement in York from one thousand years ago.
  • Take a guided walk through the historic cobblestone streets of York, stopping by King’s Square, the famous Holy Trinity Church, and the ominous Clifford’s Tower that overlooks the streets of York.
  • Enjoy an independent lunch with fellow travelers at one of the many quaint public houses in central York.
  • Next, take a short walk to York Minster for a guided tour of the largest Gothic church north of the Alps, and an established center of medieval education. See where Susannah Clarke sets key scenes from the alternative history novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. The interior boasts the largest collection of medieval stained glass in Britain and a striking central tower.
  • Enjoy free time to further explore the medieval streets of York, then join your faculty hosts for the first of several conversations about the historical and fantastical literature would through this itinerary .

Day 4: Traversing the North: York to Edinburgh

Apex City Hotel, Edinburgh, Scotland (B, L)

  • Depart York this morning on a private coach traveling north to Edinburgh, the so-called “Athens of the North.”
  • Stop en route at Hadrian’s Wall, which marks the northern limits of Britian when it was part of the Roman Empire, and remained a crucially important physical and psychological barrier between Scotland and England for the next 1500 years. Next, visit Hexham Abbey, which towers over the modern market square, and holds a curious Saxon crypt decorated with ancient stone carvings .
  • After a pub lunch nearby, we continue onto Edinburgh, arriving at our stylish 4-star hotel, the Apex City Hotel. The hotel, located at the foot of Edinburgh Castle, boasts stunning views of the impressive medieval fortress.
  • Enjoy the rest of the evening and dinner at leisure, or join our study leaders for further exploration of the storybook streets of Edinburgh.

Day 5: Royal Streets and Legendary Fortresses

Apex City Hotel, Edinburgh, Scotland (B, L)

  • Begin the day with a special visit to Edinburgh Castle, the historic assemblage of buildings atop of an extinct volcano. Tour the fortress, which contains a twelfth-century chapel, a royal palace, and a military garrison. See the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, and the famous Mons Meg cannon, an important setting for Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles.
  • After touring the Castle, enjoy a group lunch in Edinburgh’s medieval streets.
  • Next, on a walk down the Royal Mile, fronted with Georgian mansions and Renaissance buildings, .
  • we will explore St. Giles Cathedral, where John Knox directed the Scottish Reformation. The 15th-century Gothic interior soars and the Thistle Chapel captivates with its elaborate vaulting and sublime stained glass. Stroll Edinburgh’s High Street down to Canongate, where you can see the medieval and Renaissance buildings, like the famous Canongate Tollboth.
  • Enter Holyrood Palace, built on the ruins of a twelfth-century abbey, and now the Queen’s official Scottish residence. The Royal Collection comprises the State Apartments, the Throne Room, and Mary Queen of Scots’ Chamber, all of which are closely associated with Scotland’s rich history.
  • Join our study leaders for an exciting scavenger hunt to visit key locations from books of Dorothy Dunnett.
  • Return to our hotel where dinner and the evening are free to further explore Edinburgh.

Day 6: Sacred Roslin

Apex City Hotel, Edinburgh, Scotland (B)

  • This morning, journey to Rosslyn, just south of Edinburgh, to explore one of the most remarkable pieces of church architecture Europe, the Rosslyn Chapel. This chapel possesses a rich history that proved irresistible to authors like Sir Walter Scott and Dan Brown, who wrote about its legendary secrets and mystical association with the Holy Grail.
  • Next, visit the nearby Rosslyn Castle, built around 1450 by William, Baron Rosslyn and Prince of Orkney. The remarkable structure represents the pinnacle of 15th century construction. Early in the afternoon, return to our hotel in Edinburgh where the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure .
  • Dinner at leisure, or join our faculty hosts for an informal Scotch tasting at one of Edinburgh’s legendary taverns.

Day 7: Into the Mist: Arrivals in Kirkwall

Ayre Hotel, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands (B, D)

  • Check out of our Edinburgh hotel and transfer by private coach to the Edinburgh Airport.
  • Board a group flight to Kirkwall, Scotland, the home of the historical warrior-king Macbeth and seat of powers that ruled the medieval North from Iceland to Scandinavia.
  • Arrive in Kirkwall and transfer by private coach transferring to our lovely seaside hotel, the Ayre Hotel.
  • Enjoy an introductory guided tour of Kirkwall highlighting local treasures like Earl’s Palace, built in the seventeenth century by the famously tyrannical first and second earls, and the Bishop’s Palace, which dates from the early thirteenth century.
  • Gather for a cordial welcoming meal where we will join in shared conversation of the journey north to the Orkney Islands.

Day 8: Voyage to Rousay

Ayre Hotel, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands (B, L)

  • We depart in the morning on a North Sea voyage to Rousay, where travelers will wander amongst 5000 years of history and extraordinary natural beauty.
  • Travel to Midhowe Broch, the “Great Ship of Death” that looks across the churning waters of the Eynhallow Sound toward the Mainland. Constructed between 200 BC and 200 AD, the stone structure is a famous archeological puzzle.
  • Next, visit Midhowe Cairn, part of the Neolithic complex of ancient structures. This chambered tomb is a remarkable extant example of an early civilization with a spellbinding history.
  • Enjoy lunch this afternoon on the island of Rousay at a characteristic restaurant by the sea.
  • Visit the Blackhammer Tomb, Yarso Cairn and Taversoe Tuick, small chambered Neolithic cairns inserted into the moorland in elaborate compartments.
  • Return by boat to Kirkwall where the remainder of the evening and dinner are at leisure.

Day 9: Journey’s End in the Orkneys

Ayre Hotel, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands (B, D)

  • Board our private coach to discover the vastness of the mysterious Orkneys. We begin the day at Stromness, a stunning seaside village and site of an early Viking harbor.
  • Next, visit the Ring of Brogdar, circular henge of massive standing stones that dates from the Neolithic Period. Built almost 3000 years ago, the Ring of Brodgar is the northernmost circular henge in the British Isles and remains an archaeological mystery.
  • We then journey forward through history, to visit Maeshowe, the largest Neolithic burial cairn in the Orkneys. This monumental structure is strikingly situated on the plains leading to the Loch of Harray. Archaeologists believe that Maeshowe was built to demonstrate the power of a “social elite” class within the prehistoric tribe.
  • Enjoy an independent lunch in Stromness at a local restaurant.
  • Continue onto Skara Brae, a beautifully preserved Neolithic village, older than the Pyramids and Stonehenge. The village, along with Maeshowe and the Ring of Brodgar, comprise “the Heart of Neolithic Orkney,” and like the others is a UNESCO World Heritage Site..
  • Return to Kirkwall in the late afternoon for a discussion of King Hereafter.
  • Gather for a lovely farewell dinner with fellow travelers reflecting on the passage from York to Edinburgh and Edinburgh to the Orkney Islands: The Fantasy North.

Day 10: Return to U.S.A

Take a group transfer from the hotel in Kirkwall to the Kirkwall Airport for independent departures. (B)

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Cost and program Inclusions

Land Only . . . . . . . . . . . . $4,995
Single Supplement . . . . . . $ 995

Tour Highlights
  • Journey north from England to the outer limits of Scotland’s domain to the Orkney Islands.
  • Discover the mysterious beauty of the Orkneys, a remote and unspoiled treasure trove of ancient civilizations, Viking posts, and panoramas unique to these islands.
  • Explore the historic cobblestone streets of medieval towns and through the scenic landscapes that inspired the settings and plots of classic fantasy and historical fiction, from George R. R. Martin, to Dame Dorothy Dunnett, and Susannah Clarke.
  • Visit some of the best-preserved landmarks from Stone Age, Roman, Viking, and Gothic England and Scotland, including the awe-inspiring York Minster and the majestic Ring of Brodgar.
  • Join our expert local guides, who will share their knowledge of the local culture as well as the influences the land and people had on writers over the centuries.
  • Cruise the North Sea in the churning waters that Vikings sailed in centuries past.
  • Visit some of the most mystifying and momentous sites in the world including Hadrian’s Wall, Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Rosslyn Chapel, the Ring of Brogdar, Midhowe Broch, and Skara Brae.
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Faculty Study Leader

Katherine Rowe, (Ph.D., Harvard), Professor of English, Director of the Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center and Director of Digital Research and Teaching
Katherine Rowe

Katherine Rowe teaches and writes about literature and media change. Trained as a scholar of Renaissance drama, she turned her attention to questions of media history and adaptation. Her courses explore the history of reading, writing and performance, from the Renaissance to the digital age. A recipient of grants from the NEH, the Mellon Foundation, and the PA Department of Education that support her work in media history, Prof. Rowe is Associate Editor (responsible for the online edition) of The Cambridge World Shakespeare Encyclopedia. She currently serves on the Association of Departments of English Executive Committee and has contributed to several MLA initiatives including the MLA Ad Hoc Committee on the Structure of the Annual Convention. She has longstanding interests in faculty development, undergraduate research, and curricular innovation.

Elly R. Truitt (Ph.D., Harvard), Assistant Professor of Comparative Medieval History at Bryn Mawr College.
Elly R. Truitt

Elly Truitt writes and teaches about cultural and intellectual medieval history, with a focus on the history of science, technology, and medicine. She has an interdisciplinary background in the history of science, medieval history, and medieval literature, and she teaches survey courses on medieval history, as well as topical courses on the crusades, the history of the liberal arts, medieval medicine, and the history of the occult sciences. More recently, she has begun teaching and writing about medievalism, fantasy literature, and science-fiction. Her scholarship has appeared in several scholarly journals and has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Huntington Library. Her first book, Medieval Robots: Automata, 800-1450, will be published by the Press of the University of Pennsylvania in 2014.

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