Visiting London on a fully escorted tour is unnecessary because of its extensive public transport and wide network of taxicabs. Many tour companies offer day tours to the main sights, and getting around is fairly easy.
If you're traveling beyond London, packaged tours can be very useful, particularly if you don't want to rent a car. Because many sights are off the beaten track and not accessible by public transportation—particularly castles, great houses, and small villages—tour groups make the country accessible to all. There are a few downsides to escorted tours: rooms in castles and medieval houses tend to be small and can feel overrun when tour groups roll in. And as on a cruise, your traveling companions are inescapable.
Dozens of companies offer fully guided tours in Britain. Most of these are full packages including lodging, food, and transportation costs in one flat fee. Do a bit of research before booking. You'll want to know about the hotels you'll be staying in, how big your group is likely to be, how your days will be structured, and who the other people are likely to be.
Among the most reliable tour companies, three U.S.–based companies—Trafalgar Tours, Globus, and Cosmos Tours & Cruises—specialize in moderately priced trips that feature plenty of sights. Tauck is another well-established company. At the high end of the price scale is Abercrombie & Kent, known for luxurious tours that include everything from castle hotels to journeys on vintage railways.
Abercrombie & Kent. Abercrombie & Kent. This company is known for high-end, luxurious tours that include everything from castle hotels to journeys on classic trains. 888/661–4711; www.abercrombiekent.com. From $2,990.
Cosmos Tours & Cruises. Cosmos Tours & Cruises. This long-established (50 years) firm specializes in budget trips that feature plenty of sights. 800/276–1241; www.cosmos.com. From $999.
Globus. Globus. Affordable escorted tours, travel packages, and river cruises have been this company's business for 85 years. 866/755–8581; www.globusjourneys.com. From $1,809.
Tauck. Tauck. Guided tours, small ship cruises, river cruises, and family travel are among the specialties of this company. 203/899–6500; 800/810–8020; www.tauck.com. From $2,990.
Trafalgar Tours. Trafalgar Tours. Tours by Trafalgar offer an insider's perspective and local knowledge. 0800/533–5619; 866/513–1995; www.trafalgar.com/uk. From $1150.
Gourmet on Tour. Gourmet on Tour. This U.K.–based tour company offers vacations dominated by cooking, eating, and fine wine. 646/461–6088; 0207/558–8796; www.gourmetontour.com. From $1080.
Adderley Travel Ltd.. Adderley Travel Ltd.. Call this company for small group garden tours across the U.K. 01953/606706; www.adderleytravel.com. From £990.
Coopersmith's. Coopersmith's. Guides with a minimum of 10 years' experience lead garden and fine art tours to stately homes and notable gardens. 415/669–1914; www.coopersmiths.com. From $4,495.
Flora Garden Tours. Flora Garden Tours. Call Flora for tours that visit both famous and lesser-known but lovely gardens, some rarely open to the public. 01366/328946; www.flora-garden-tours.co.uk. From £890.
Lynott Tours. Lynott Tours. This company provides self-drive and escorted (coach) tours, including garden-themed tours to different regions of England. 800/221–2474; www.lynotttours.com. From $103.
Hiking and Walking
Adventureline. Adventureline. The family-run firm offers weeklong walking tours that explore the area's history, culture, flora, fauna, and food. 01209/820847; www.adventureline.co.uk. From £750.
CW Adventures. CW Adventures. Call this company for both guided and self-guided walking tours of the Cotswolds, the Lake District, and Cornwall. 800/234–6900; www.cwadventures.com. From $1,798.
English Lakeland Ramblers. English Lakeland Ramblers. This company organizes guided hiking tours of the Cotswolds, the Lake District, Wales, and England's coast-to-coast hiking trail, which runs from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, as well as self-guided walking tours of these and other areas. 800/724–8801; www.ramblers.com. From $995.
The Wayfarers. The Wayfarers. Choose from among specialized walking tours, such as a explorations of "Jane Austen Country" or Hadrian's Wall and the Lake District. 800/249–4620; www.thewayfarers.com. From $4,195.
Classic England. Special interest tours (literature and movies, history, gardens, fine dining, or sports) and regional sightseeing tours, all private and customized, take in castles, cathedrals, and areas of historic interest. 01277/841651; 866/464–7389; www.classic-england.com.