Hearts of Oak

A four-day history holiday based in Rochester uncovering the foundations of Britain’s naval empire

Tour Dates

16/09/2022 - 19/09/2022 Book

Hearts of Oak – the foundations of Britain’s naval empire

On this expert-led history short break, you’ll spend a long weekend examining some of the key locations in Greater London where Britain’s naval empire was constructed.

You’ll visit the sites where the great ships of the Royal Navy were crafted to become the foundations of the British Empire and Britannia ruling the waves. 

After exploring how this mighty navy was built up, your guide will take you to the scene of a great naval encounter where Britain’s great Age of Sail nearly came to an early end, leading Samuel Pepys to write in 1667:

“Home, where all our hearts do now ake;
For the news is true that the Dutch have broke
The chaine and burned our shops, …
I do fear so much that the whole kingdome is undone”

The expert leading your tour

J D Davies is a historian and author who specialises in naval history from the 17th century. His award-winning non-fiction works includes Kings of the Sea: Charles II, James II and the Royal Navy, which won the Society for Nautical Research’s Anderson Prize in 2017, and his survey of the late seventeenth century navy, Pepys’s Navy: Ships, Men and Warfare 1649-89, which won the Pepys Prize for 2009.

His fiction covers the 16th to 18th centuries and includes the bestselling naval series The Journals of Matthew Quinton, described by The Times as a 'series of real panache', and his new trilogy, Jack Stannard of the Royal Navy.

Highlights of your history holiday

  • A guided walking tour of Rochester and its medieval castle and cathedral
  • Deptford, site of the first great ship-building dockyards 
  • Greenwich, to visit the maritime museum and the surrounding town
  • Upnor Castle, which resisted Dutch raiders in the Battle of Medway
  • Chatham Dockyard and museum, where many major vessels were built
Please note that due to COVID restrictions outside of our control, the places we visit on any tour may change. If this happens, we will replace with an appropriate alternative.

Tour map

From your base in Rochester, your expert guide takes you to a new destination every day.

Map of Hearts of Oak tour

Tour prices

This tour costs from £999 per person, based on two sharing if you are taking part in the tours, and from £799 if you are not taking part in the tour.

There is no single supplement for individuals staying in single rooms, and a small extra charge for individuals in twin or double rooms. 

Included in your holiday

  • Expert guide
  • Luxury hotel accommodation
  • Executive minibus travel to all sites
  • Entry to all attractions
  • Breakfast and dinner each day

Available dates

This tour departs on 16 September 2022 (book here). 

Numbers are limited, reserve your place with a low 10% deposit and enjoy the full flexibility of our COVID guarantee. 

Please note, that we require a minimum of five guests for this tour to go ahead. If this number is not reached within four weeks of the departure date we reserve the right to cancel the tour and will offer you a full refund or the chance to move your booking to a later date.


You'll be spending much of your time exploring sights and attractions with your tour expert, so when you return to your hotel we know how important it is to be somewhere you can relax and refresh in comfort.

For this tour, you'll be staying in a luxury hotel in Rochester. You'll have everything you need for a comfortable night's sleep with rooms that are ensuite and facilities including a TV, radio and complimentary wifi.

Each day we'll provide meeting times for tours, meals and evening activities, leaving you with time to enjoy your hotel or explore locally.  

Your booking includes:
  • Ensuite room 
  • In-room tea & coffee making 
  • Brakfast and a two course dinner (soft drinks included)

There are extra charges for:
  • All food and drink outside of breakfast and dinner

Transfers during your tour

For transfers between all tour destinations we use executive minibuses. Transfers will be a luxury experience and your minibus will have comfortable reclining seats with safety belts, a fully operational air-conditioning system, an on-board refrigerator and a fully functioning toilet maintained throughout your journey. Our drivers are friendly, smart, professional and punctual, so you are always in safe hands. 

Solo travellers welcome

Our tours are perfect for solo travellers who want to expand their knowledge and understanding of a subject, and prefer the choice of being as solitary or social as you like. Each tour is a journey of an independent mind – fellow travellers will be intelligent, well-read, knowledgeable and like-minded people, and a mutual interest in a particular topic can lead to life-long friendships.

Read more about our welcome for solo travellers here.​

Options for non-touring partners

Partners who don’t share your love of British Naval History can book this holiday at a lower price that doesn’t include participation in our expert-led tours. They’ll join the group for meals and evening activities, and can explore  Rochester and the surrounding area at their own pace each day.

Rochester has strong links with Charles Dickens - its cathedral, Guildhall and Restoration House were all locations in his books. The Guildhall, now a museum, is marking 150 years since the death of England's greatest novelist with a special exhibition. 

Rochester is also home to two of the UK's most impressive Norman buildings. Rochester Cathedral dates back to AD604 and is England's second oldest. Much of the present building was built in 1080 and the glorious Norman architecture of the nave, parts of the crypt and one of the finest Romanesque facades in England make this an inspirational place to visit. 

Close by is Rochester Castle, an imposing site overlooking the River Medway and still one of the UK's most impressive Norman fortresses.

Rochester is also home to Britain’s only museum of Huguenot history, telling how the religious group fled France after Louis XIV’s Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and became Britain’s first refugees, and the subsequent impact of their contribution on the development of our country.

The town also boasts an array of charming independent shops for fashion, art and antiques, and it is home to the UK’s largest second-hand bookshop, Baggins Book Bazaar. 

Excellent food options include everything from world food, cafés, tea rooms, pubs and bistros to fine dining restaurants, and all are within just a few minutes walk.

Picture credits for this page:

Main image, Attack on Chatham: Thaliastock / Mary Evans
Background, Upnor Castle: Paul J Martin / Shutterstock.com


Tour Dates

16/09/2022 - 19/09/2022 Book


Day 1

Arrive at the hotel in Rochester, your base for this trip. In the afternoon your guide will lead you on a walking tour of Rochester, visiting the medieval castle and the cathedral.

Day 2

You’ll travel by executive coach to Deptford, site of the first great ship-building dockyards. After a guided tour we continue on to Greenwich to visit the maritime museum and the surrounding town. Greenwich Palace was a royal favourite and is the site of the famous Tudor clock, the line that measures global (Mean) time, and a wonderful park with stunning views across London.

Day 3

We take a full day to explore Upnor Castle and Chatham. The castle across the River Medway from Chatham Dockyard featured prominently in resisting the famous Dutch raid of 1667. You’ll visit the exhibition commemorating this disastrous day for the British Navy, and explore the evocative castle and surroundings largely unchanged since the 17th century.

At Chatham in the afternoon you’ll visit the extensive Dockyard museum to see how many major vessels were constructed. The dry docks, mast ponds, and rope-making buildings all still exist. You may recognise some of these buildings, as many have featured in the popular TV show ‘Call the Midwife,’ standing in for Poplar in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Day 4

On your final day you’ll have free time to explore the town of Rochester at your own pace. The town has strong links with Charles Dickens and highlights include several buildings that appeared in his novels, plus an exhibition marking 150 years since his death at the Guildhall. There’s also a museum dedicated to the Huguenots who fled France in the 17th century and settled across Europe, with many becoming Britain’s first refugees.

*Our visits are all subject to the latest COVID-19 situation and regulations at the time of the tour.