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Wars of the Roses

(Tour code: WRH17)One of England’s most defining historical periods

Explore the history behind one of England's most defining historical periods, the Wars of the Roses. Discover the heroes, villains and colourful characters that shaped the future of the nation in this bloody and long-lasting civil conflict. Visit the strongholds of the Houses of York and Lancaster and travel to the key locations of this dark period of English history.

Tour Highlights
  • York and York Minster
  • Middleham Castle
  • Towton
  • Warwick Castle
  • St Mary’s Church
  • Bosworth
What’s Included (Full details)
  • Standard Class Rail
  • 4* Hotel Accommodation
  • 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.

Overview - Wars of the Roses

Wars of the Roses

The Wars of the Roses consisted of 30 years of civil strife and bloodshed, during which time the Houses of York and Lancaster fought to seize the English throne. Named for the emblem of each House - the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster - the Wars ended on August 22nd 1485, when Henry of the House of Lancaster (later Henry VII) defeated Richard III in battle at Bosworth.

Despite the infamy of the defeated King Richard, who was rumoured to have murdered his two young nephews to secure his claim to power, his body was lost in the aftermath of the battle. Unearthed over 500 years later, buried under a carpark in Leicester, the discovery of King Richard's remains caused a surge in popularity for this fascinating period of history, and the ways in which it shaped the English monarchy.

Having served as King for only two years prior to his death, Richard III was re-interred at Leicester Cathedral in March of 2015.

City Walls, York
Day 1

Meet in York

You meet your fellow guests and your Tour Manager in the Best Western Monkbar Hotel this afternoon.

  • Dinner
Middleham Castle
Day 2

Middleham Castle

This morning we enjoy an excursion to Middleham Castle accompanied by our University of York Professor. In 1270, the castle came into the hands of the Neville family, the most famous of which was Richard "the Kingmaker" Neville. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later known as Richard III lived at Middleham with the Neville family. After a guided tour of this ancient Norman keep, we travel by coach back to York. The scenic journey passes through the deep valleys and rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales, before passing into picturesque, traditionally English villages. After we return to York, the rest of your day is at leisure.

  • Breakfast
Day 3


Today we discover much of the city's long and fascinating story on a guided walking tour of its main attractions. These include the incomparable Minster, which is one of Europe's largest and most ornate gothic cathedrals, and the Shambles, a quaint street that has remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages. We then travel to the village of Towton, the site of the Battle of Towton during the Wars of the Roses, considered to be the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. The battle comprised large numbers of forces from both houses, estimated to be around 30,000 strong on each side of the field. On the 29th March 1461 the battle was joined, and as seen in many battles with English forces the longbow would play a pivotal role in deciding the outcome of the battle. The Yorkists moved first, sensing that the wind was in their favour, with many of their missiles carrying bodkin points (designed specifically to punch through plate armour) ensuring the first volley was crushingly effective.

The response from Lancastrian bowmen was made inert by the heavy wind carrying snow into the archer's faces, fatally affecting their accuracy. Before the responding volley from the Lancastrians Neville ordered his troops to temporarily withdraw from range of enemy arrow, and as the Lancastrians could not see well enough to know the efficacy of their shots, they expended all their arrows with almost zero effect on target, not only wasting all of their ammunition but leaving re-usable arrows on the field for the Yorkists to fire with devastating impunity. Neville then gave the order for his archers to expend their remaining ammunition and take advantage of the gifted arrows. The Lancastrians moved forward to engage the Yorkist line under heavy fire from the longbows.

The melee was joined and York's line held until it came under cavalry attack from Castle Hill Wood, the left flank buckled and many Yorkists began to flee until Edward stepped in to reform the line. The battle raged with Lancaster being able to commit fresher troops to the fray, the battle was swinging towards a Lancastrian victory until, unseen by Lancaster - the Duke of Norfolk's men advanced up the Old London Road, hidden by the ridge to the left of Lancaster's flank, the arrival of Norfolk swung the battle in York's favour, leaving the remaining Lancastrians to flee, many of whom were cut down easily in their flight. The battle heralded a new King to take the English throne as Edward, the Duke of York ascended, after this decisive Yorkist victory. We then carry on by coach to Leeds and then travel by train to Birmingham.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Richard III
Day 4

Bosworth Field and Richard III Centre

We enjoy an excursion to the legendary Bosworth Field today, site of the final battle of the Wars of the Roses. Fought on August 22 1485, the battle was won by the Lancastrians, with Henry Tudor later becoming the King of England. Richard III, leader of the House of York, was killed, and so ended the Plantagenet dynasty in England and Wales. Richard famously led a small unit of knights across the battlefield in search of Henry, only to find himself surrounded. Henry was later crowned under an oak tree in the nearby Stoke Golding. Later, we travel by coach to the recently opened Richard III Visitor's Centre in Leicester. Dedicated to the story behind the search for the body of Richard III, the museum recounts how the former King's long lost remains were discovered buried under a car park. The museum contains a 3D printed reconstruction of the skeleton, complete with his curved spine and the battle-wounds that lead to his demise at Bosworth. We then make the short walk to Leicester Cathedral, to view the burial site where Richard's remains were interred in 2015, over 500 years after his death.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Warwick Castle
Day 5

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle, home of Richard "the Kingmaker" Neville, Earl of Warwick. Richard was the wealthiest and most powerful nobleman in England and his backing to a would-be king was of vital importance during the Wars of the Roses. Neville rebelled against King Edward IV and imprisoned him within the confines of Warwick Castle, before attempting to seize the throne for himself. Public protest however forced Neville to release the King and Edward IV got his revenge when Neville was killed in the Battle of Barnet, in 1471. After exploring this stunning stronghold, we take the short walk to the iconic St Mary's Church. An imposing and breathtaking example of Gothic architecture.

  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6

Departure day

Following your final breakfast of the tour you are free to leave the hotel at your leisure.

  • Breakfast
Guest Speaker
Guest Speaker

Mark Ormrod

Mark Ormrod is a Professor in the Department of History and Academic Co-ordinator for the Arts and Humanities at the University of York. Mark specialises in political structures and ideas of later medieval England. He is a trustee of the Richard III and Yorkist History Trust. Mark is also a former editor of York Medieval Press and a member of the editorial board of the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal.

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