THE 2020 PENINSULAR WAR SPAIN CAMPAIGN TOUR
Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, switches from defence to attack
We visit the historic treasures of Toledo, Trujillo, Merida, Salamanca, Burgos & Ribera Del Duero
ALL-INCLUSIVE SMALL GROUP TOUR
Epic Landscapes & The Spirit of Spain
“This battle is the most cleverly fought, the largest in scale, the most important in results, of any that the English have won in recent times. It brings up Lord Wellington’s reputation almost to the level of that of Marlborough.”
The Duke of Wellington’s switch from defence to attack marked a turning point in the war against Napoleonic France, inspiring allies to renew arms against an enemy that had controlled so much of Europe for almost 20 years. It is a truly fascinating period that we richly bring to life on our journey across Spain.
Visiting the sites of Wellington’s Spanish Peninsular War battles and campaigns from 1809-12, we enjoy countryside of stunning natural beauty with ancient castles, monasteries, Roman bridges, palaces, gothic cathedrals, dramatic mountain tops and rivers, including many remote places missed by most travellers to Spain.
Along the way we explore the major battlefields of Talavera, La Albuera, Salamanca, the actions of Alba de Tormes, Alcantara, Almaraz, Barba del Puerco, El Bodon, Arroyo dos Molinos, Garci Hernandez, Tordesillas, the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo, Olivenza, Badajoz and Burgos, plus the great Portuguese border fortress of Elvas.
Gathering at Madrid Airport, we head off to the masterpiece that is UNESCO Toledo, the ‘city of three cultures’. We check into our Superior rooms at the hotel, admiring the best views across the river to the old city. We then take a late afternoon wander through the captivating streets before retiring and dining with the views. Over this and the following day we visit the exceptional Alcázar military museum, the ancient bridges and gates, cathedral, monastery and museums.
The next day we make a detailed study of Wellington’s first major battle fought alongside the Spanish, Talavera, witness to lessons in the military art of co- operation, outposts, hard fighting, logistics and the bravery of the French opponents. We’ll view and discuss the battlefield and its features from numerous original viewpoints and perspectives.
We head on to view Hill’s exceptional action at Almaraz, site of the famous bridge of boats, and up to the mountain-top fort. We end the day relaxing in the enchanting medieval town of Trujillo and our hotel, a former Palace, with Superior rooms for the night.
After time to wander the finest medieval square in Spain, the next day we visit the sleepy village of Arroyomolinos, site of another of Hill’s great actions, and the route of a future Marshal of France. Then on to the once Roman provincial capital, Mérida, with its fascinating UNESCO Roman Theatre, Circus, Temple, Walls and Bridge, checking in for the night at our 5-star Palace on the main square.
Over the next two days we explore Beresford’s extraordinarily bloody battle of La Albuera, the terrible sieges of Badajoz, nearby Olivenza and the border town and fortress of Elvas with its delightful Nossa Senhora da Graça Fort. We stay in a newly converted monastery within the town, our base for two nights.
Whilst in Elvas we visit the enchanting British cemetery, before heading to the spectacular Roman bridge and action of Alcantara. Our drive North beside the Portuguese border takes us to the action of El Bodon where infantry charged cavalry, and to consider the very different siege-craft required to overwhelm Ciudad Rodrigo. We then head to Fort Concepcion, former border fortress and now romantic hotel telling many a Napoleonic tale, for a stay of two nights.
The next day sees an optional early start for the intrepid, walking down to (and back up!) the dramatic gorge of Barba del Puerco, scene of numerous French incursions, a great escape (to the fury of Wellington) and the famed action of the 95th Rifles. On our return we collect our more leisurely colleagues, heading across the border country, featuring many Light Division skirmishes and many eye-witness memoirs. The next day we concentrate on Ciudad Rodrigo for a full exploration of the town, the sieges, and we stay a night in Superior rooms within the old castle.
We then head on to the fabled beauty of the UNESCO Old City of Salamanca. We check into our centrally located 5-star palace before a walking tour of the nearby ancient bridge, Napoleonic forts, Cathedral and the beautiful main Square.
Then a truly great and atmospheric day of Wellington’s momentous 1812 victory against Marshal Marmont across the open plains of Salamanca. In addition to a full exploration of the battlefield we follow the French escape route across Alba de Tormes and the dramatic breaking of squares at Garci Hernandez, before heading back for another evening in Salamanca and its wonderful illuminations.
The next day we take in the tactical movements at Tordesillas bridge, en-route to the jewel that is Burgos, a tiny City with its extraordinary UNESCO Cathedral and Castle, scene of Wellington’s aborted siege, trigger to the terrible retreat back to Portugal, staying in Superior rooms at our riverside hotel.
It’s now time to relax, as we head for Spain’s highest rated wine region of Ribera Del Duero. There’s interest here for the military minded, but the core attraction is “The Golden Mile”, home to the greatest Spanish wine estate of all, Vega Sicilia. It is in a 5-star monastery on the Mile that we’ll check in for our last evening on tour together. During the afternoon we’ll enjoy a private tour and tasting at the winery where the great regional wine following started, Tinto Pesquera, whilst those who prefer may stay in the hotel, enjoying complimentary spa treatments before we gather for dinner. And we’ll visit the beautifully restored monastery (of which the hotel forms part), an extravagant delight of art and architecture.
On our final day we return to Madrid Airport for flights home, or central Madrid for those electing to stay on for a few days.
Amongst the battlefields, culture and comfort, we will sample great regional cuisine, international fare and casual fine dining throughout the tour, together with a wonderful range of Spanish wines, stimulating minds and palates along the way.
Our Small Group tours are carefully designed to minimise travel time between each destination, increasing the time available for visiting, exploring battlefield and cultural history and landscapes in depth, enjoying and relaxing. Our tour also takes in no fewer than five UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
We’ll be delighted to talk you through any aspect of the tour and explain our approach to top quality battlefield tourism, so please do get in touch.
Day by Day Summary
Saturday 2nd May Early PM: Meet & Greet
We gather early afternoon at Madrid Airport for a warm welcome, heading straight to our Toledo hotel, with magnificent views from our Superior rooms, for the tour introduction and outline of the history of the era. You’ll also receive your unique leather campaign journal and enjoy a walk through historic Toledo before dining overlooking the illuminated city.
Sunday 3rd May: A full relaxing day in Toledo
We now benefit from a full day to explore the glories of Toledo, including the Alcazar Military Museum, the Cathedral, Monastery San Juan de los Reyes, City Gates, Ancient bridges and more.
Monday 4th May: Battles of Talavera & Almaraz, Medieval Trujillo
We visit Wellington’s battlefield of Talavera, exploring many different viewpoints and features as we describe the unfolding battle. Onwards to Hill’s raid on Almaraz which had such a positive impact on Wellington’s freedom of movement, with it’s mountain-top and riverside fortresses. We stay in Superior rooms at our palace hotel in the medieval hilltop town of Trujillo, dining out on the most beautiful medieval square in Spain.
Tuesday 5th May: UNESCO Heritage, untouched Spain
Onwards to UNESCO Mérida to enjoy its extensive and remarkable Roman architectural remains. We hotel in a 5 star Palace on the central square.
Wednesday 6th May: Bloody Battlefields & Sieges, Relaxing Beauty
We tour the hills and bridges of La Albuera, where Beresford fought a bloody battle to defend his nearby siege of Badajoz. On to Badajoz where a succession of French and British sieges ended in terrible scenes. It is almost a relief to head across the border into Portugal to see mighty Elvas, a strong base for Wellington’s Anglo-Portuguese armies. We stay here within the fortified walls, in a newly restored monastery, for two nights.
Thursday 7th May: Elvas, Olivenza and Fortress Country
We take an extra day to enjoy the border town and nearby points of interest to place the campaigns here in full perspective, including Olivenza’s ancient bridge and the evocative and atmospheric British Cemetery to remind us of exceptional stories of some of the officers remembered there.
Friday 8th May: Peace, Architecture & Compelling Combat
On to the mighty Roman bridge of Alcantara, spanning the Tagus and scene of a famous Portuguese action. Then a quick stop to view an intriguing infantry v. cavalry action at El Bodon, before checking in to the truly atmospheric hotel of Concepcion, our special hotel for a two night stay in remote border country.
Saturday 9th May: Exceptional Action Adventure
An optional early start for those keen to climb down to the narrow Roman Bridge at Barba del Puerco, famed for its tale of the 95th Rifles, and scene of many more stories that we’ll bring to life. It’s a long walk back up, but worth it!
Sunday 10th May: Border Battles, Castles, Sieges & Forts
We head to the frontier town of Ciudad Rodrigo, viewing it as besieger and defender, scene of mighty walls and surrounding heights where the French and British sieges succeeded in very different ways. We stay in Superior rooms at the historic castle, strolling the walls and historic squares in both daylight and moonlight.
Monday 11th May: Pre-eminent Salamanca
We then travel to the distinguished old City of Salamanca, our central 5 star hotel for two nights, surrounded by the majesty of ancient religious buildings. A gentle walking tour takes in the Roman bridge, the forts, Cathedrals and the magnificent Plaza Mayor, before dining at our central 5-star hotel.
Tuesday 12th May: Battle of Salmanca, Alba de Tormes, Garci Hernandez
The Battle that permanently changed French perceptions of Wellington; his sudden seiziure of the initiative led to comparisons with Marlborough. We study this remarkable landscape in the depth it truly deserves. We follow in the steps of the French who escaped across the Alba de Tormes, and the legendary rearguard rout at Garci Hernandez. We dine out in the Plaza Mayor.
Wednesday 13th May: The Cathedral & Siege of Burgos
Onwards again, via the Bridge of Tordesillas, scene of multiple actions, to the small but beautifully formed riverside city of Burgos. Home to the legendary El Cid, this was also a major Napoleonic staging post. We visit Spain’s first Gothic and Royal Cathedral, before climbing to the castle to view the scene of the successful French defence. We stay in Superior rooms at our hotel alongside the river looking across to the city.
Thursday 14th May: Wine Country & Spa
Wending our way back towards Madrid, we not only visit Spain’s greatest wine region, Ribera del Duero, but stay in a former monastery, now a 5-star spa hotel along The Golden Mile, Spain’s richest ‘terroir’. Home to legendary wine labels, we visit the winery where the excitement started. Those less intrigued by wine are welcome to enjoy complimentary spa treatments at the hotel which has won “Best Spa in Spain” and hit the Condé Nast Traveller Gold List 2018.
Friday 15th May: Fond Farewell
We return to Madrid airport for your homeward flights, or to central Madrid if you choose to stay on stay on for a few extra nights.
A Blend of City, Fortress, Historic, Palace & Monastery 4-5 Stars
Our tour takes in 10 top quality hotels, hand-picked for your comfort, reflecting the best character of each location.
This adds to the variety of your experience and, critically, avoids long travel times during and at the end of each day.
From modern to rustic, charming to boutique, each is designed to give us a great end to the day, a good night's sleep and a refreshing start.
At most hotels we book superior rooms to ensure you enjoy the best comfort and views.
We believe that these carefully selected hotels offer the best facilities in each location, and we’ve tried and tested each one to suit your tour enjoyment.
The evening food experience is just as critical to the tour, mostly casual fine-dining, always A La Carte.