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The Industrial Revolution

(Tour code: REH17)Discover the industries that brought Britain to the summit of its power

Discover the industries that brought Britain to the summit of its power by the end of the 19th century. Learn about the people who drove these industries, visiting four World Heritage sites along the way.


Take advantage of our latest saving of up to £25 per person when booking your Europe, UK and Ireland Summer 2017 holiday on or before 31st October 2016. Terms & Conditions

Tour Highlights
  • Saltaire Village Experience
  • Clifton Suspension Bridge
  • Salt’s Mill & Quarry Bank Mill
  • Museum of Science & Industry
  • Llangollen Railway and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
  • Iron Bridge & Tollhouse
  • Coalbrookdale Museum & Blist Hill
  • Big Pit National Coal Museum
  • Blaenavon Steam Railway & Ironworks
  • SS Great Britain
What’s Included (Full details)
  • Heritage Rail Excursion
  • 4* Hotel Accommodation
    Breakfast Every Day
  • Optional Bag Concierge

Itinerary & Map

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Departure Times

On many of our UK & Ireland tours, you may check in at the first hotel on your itinerary anytime after 14:00; your Tour Manager will be available between 16:00 and 18:00. However, if you are arriving later, you can meet your Tour Manager before dinner from 19:00.


The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution was a turbulent yet exciting time in British history, which saw the introduction of machines and new manufacturing processes into the world of production.

Although sometimes controversial, the development of new technology, including steam-powered engines, the spinning jenny and the power loom, allowed for the mass production of goods and gradually led to the improvement of life and livelihood for the British population. This fascinating era also saw the rise of the locomotive, and with it, the beginnings of the British rail network. Although Britain has one of the oldest railways, with its first opened in 1825, it was the Industrial Revolution that spurred on a new wave of network development, allowing for easier transportation of goods for manufacturing.

One of the greatest engineers of this period was Isambard Kingdom Brunel. His contributions included a large part of the Great Western Railway, which linked London with Bristol, and its iconic London terminus, Paddington.

Day 1

Meeting in Shrewsbury

This afternoon, meet your Tour Manager in Shrewsbury at the Mercure Albrighton Hall Hotel & Spa.

  • Dinner
Llangollen Railway
Day 2

Llangollen Railway & Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

This morning we embark on a scenic rail journey on the vintage Llangollen Railway. This steam-hauled service is the longest preserved standard gauge steam railway in Wales, at around 10 miles long. The route runs from Llangollen to Corwen and passes through the former Goods Yards of this one-time mining industry route. Upon returning to Llangollen, we transfer to a motorised canal boat for a trip through the beautiful Vale of Llangollen, passing over the mighty Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Aqueduct crosses over the valley of the River Dee and the waterway is 126 feet above the river itself, supported by giant hollow masonry pillars, each pillar spanning 53 feet alone. It was built by Thomas Telford and completed in 1805.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Iron Bridge
Day 3

Ironbridge, Coalbrookdale & Blists Hill

Today we visit the wondrous Iron Bridge, built in the 18th century by Abraham Darby, the bridge is now one of the most iconic symbols of Britain's industrial revolution and offers fantastic views of the gorge and the River Severn below. We enjoy a guided tour of the magnificent bridge and the tollhouse that many traders and travellers have passed through over the preceding centuries. From here we continue to the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and discover the revolutionary techniques that made this small town one of the world's leading ironwork establishments.

The Museum boasts some fantastic works of iron art, including the magnificently crafted and intricately detailed Boy and Swan Fountain. We tour the mighty furnace where much of the ironworks here were crafted and smelted before being shipped all over the globe.

Our tour continues to the Darby houses, home of the Darby family and owners of the ironworks. The opulent interiors are still very much as they were at the height of the Industrial Revolution and offer a fantastic glimpse into the past, complete with much of the furniture and decor of the time period. Our tour concludes at the Blists Hill Victorian town, a recreation of a typical Industrial town that would have housed the workers of the ironworks. After time to explore the quaint homes and market place in the recreated village, we return to the hotel.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Cardiff at night
Day 4

To Cardiff

This morning we leave Shrewsbury and travel by local service to the Welsh capital of Cardiff. Upon arrival in the city, you are free to explore its many sights and attractions. You may wish to visit the popular Cardiff Bay area and enjoy the many shops, restaurants and leisure facilities available here. Alternatively, explore the history and art of Wales in the capital's National Museum. Perhaps take a stroll through Bute Park and marvel at the impressive grounds and the abundance of unique and rare plant breeds. The stunning architectural design of the Wales Millennium Centre is also worth a visit or alternatively, engage in a more traditional piece of Cardiff history with a visit to the Cardiff Castle.

  • Breakfast
  • Free Day
Blaenavon Ironworks
Day 5

Blaenavon and the Steam Railway

Today we travel to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Blaenavon. We charter Blaenavon's heritage railway including a ride up to the Whistle Stop and Blaenavon High Level, with a visit to the Railway Museum. The Curator will give a talk about the history of the railway and how the line was used to take coal and iron down to the docks. In addition, the Curator will give a special tour around the yard and sidings. The train will then continue to the Big Pit Halt, to visit the National Coal Museum. Here we go 300 feet underground with a real miner and see what life was once like for the thousands of men who worked here. The day will finish at Blaenavon Ironworks, where we have a chance to view the extensive remains of the blast furnaces, cast houses and the water balance tower, as well as the 17th century cottages, still furnished as they would have once appeared. The Ironworks here were key components in the local industry, which was built around the production of cheap, low quality iron ore. At its height, the Blaenavon Works was one of Wales' most prominent producers of ore, with its industry being shipped worldwide as the country became one of the world's leading figures in iron production.

  • Breakfast
SS Great Britain
Day 6

Bristol, Clifton Bridge & the SS Great Britain

We depart Cardiff and travel to the city of Bristol for a guided tour on the former passenger steamship, the SS Great Britain. Designed by Isambard Brunel, the mighty vessel was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic, which she did in 1845. The SS Great Britain was the first vessel to combine both an iron hull and a screw propeller, rare industrial advancements in ship building at the time. Able to carry close to 500 souls, upon its first launch in the early 1840's, the SS Great Britain was the largest vessel on the seas. Her primary use was to ferry immigrants to Australia before retiring from service to the Falkland Islands to be used as a warehouse for the coal industry. It was not until the 1970's that the boat returned to UK waters to be rebuilt as a cultural and maritime museum, financed in part by Sir Jack Hayward. From here, you are free to explore the port city of Bristol. Perhaps wander through the city centre and explore the popular St Mary Redcliffe Church. Additionally, the heady heights of Cabot Tower are also worth a visit. Alternatively, use this free time to explore Bristol Cathedral, boasting some of the most impressive interiors of any of the UK's most iconic religious buildings. You may wish to enjoy lunch in one of the city's many fine restaurants and cafés. After lunch, we make the short trip to Brunel's spectacular Clifton Suspension Bridge. Here we enjoy an informative talk on the history of this iconic landmark, which has linked Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset, crossing the River Avon, since 1864.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7

Homeward bound

After breakfast, the tour concludes and you are free to depart at your leisure.

  • Breakfast
Guest Speaker Emma Griffin
Guest Speaker

Emma Griffin

Having completed her studies in London and Cambridge, Emma is now a Professor of Modern Britain at the University of East Anglia. She is the proud author of multiple books of Industrial era Britian and has also presented a number of BBC Radio 4 documentaries on the subject. She most recently co-presented the More 4 historical series 'The Real Mill' alongside Tony Robinson.

Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour features the same excursions, they may not necessarily be in the order listed above.

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