Inklings Abroad 2020
This year, late May through early June 2019, we are taking a single trip over 2ish weeks. Here's the scoop:
Phase 1: OxfordMay 30 - June 4
We’ll explore the city of the dreaming spires, visit C.S. Lewis’s home, raise a pint in the Bird and Baby, and discuss the lives of the Inklings in depth. There will also be several optional day-trips. such as to London, Stratford and the Cotswolds.
Phase 2: CornwallJune 4-10
We’ll hike the breathtaking coasts of Cornwall, exploring locations that inspired Tolkien’s writings about the sea. Among them are the island fortress of St. Michael’s Mount, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur (Tintagel), and more.
Phase 3: Highlands & EdinburghJune 10-15
We’ll ride the real life Hogwarts Express through the Scottish Highlands, take speedboats to the Isle of Skye, and some may even dare to climb Ben Nevis. Then, we’ll explore Edinburgh and its connections to the Harry Potter mythos.
Don't Just Take Our Word For It
This trip was the best experience of my life. Worth every penny. Not only did I learn a lot about some of my favorite authors, I got to spend a lot of time with great friends, wandering all over Europe. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone.
Emily Casuccio2016 Traveler
You cannot, I think, truly enjoy the journey if you are not among friends and travelers who share the same passion for it as you do. Treasure those who open their arms and take you in. They are rare and wonderful souls. I had not laughed as hard, thought as deeply, and walked as far as I did on this trip. Amid all the wonderful photos of ancient architecture, stunning mountains, and deep waters were these in-betweens of friends that made the travels worthwhile.
Alisson Memmler2018 Traveler
``An excellent experience for anyone who loves Tolkien, Lewis, traveling, England, or adventure! I saw so much and loved all of it.``
Kaitlyn Beck2016 Traveler
``Highly recommend this trip for anyone longing to see the best of what the UK has to offer. The destinations and the stories you learn along the way are sure to make this a trip you won't forget.``
Erika Kimmich2016 Traveler
It was delightful to be around people who truly educate themselves outside of school and work. I personally was spiritually impacted, creatively inspired, and intellectually stimulated.
``Truly a perspective broadening time spent with both new and old friends in the land of some of my ancestors and, more recently, that of two of the English speaking world's greatest literary minds.``
David Hyde-Volpe2016 Traveler
You've got questions? Here's the fine print.
We’ve all heard of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, whose works, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, continue to capture the hearts and imaginations of millions around the world. But few of us know the story of the Inklings, the literary group frequented by Lewis, Tolkien, and other great fantasy writers and apologists of the twentieth century.
Inklings Abroad seeks to tell that story.
We’ll trek out to Cornwall on the southwestern tip of England, exploring the rugged and spectacular Cornish coast which inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythology. There we’ll see the breathtaking Tintagel, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur, as well as St. Michael’s Mount, a majestic castle in the midst of the sea.
We’ll take you to Oxford, England, the “city of dreaming spires” and the gateway to so many fantasy worlds. You’ll see the Kilns, home of C.S. Lewis, raise a glass at the Bird and Baby, where in their time the Inklings swapped their world-changing stories with each other before sharing them with the world.
In 2019, travelers will also have the opportunity to travel to Northern Ireland and Ireland. We will delve into the childhood, writings, and legacy of C.S. Lewis while staying in a variety of locations near Belfast, as well as explore natural wonders such as Slieve Donard and Giants Causeway. We will also visit Dublin, and tour Trinity College.
For lovers of fantasy and myth, this is the adventure of a lifetime.
Here is the current draft of the 2020 itinerary. At this point, it could still change, but this should give you an idea of the trip’s pace and timeline.
Fly out on Friday PM May 29 (or earlier) and arrive in England on Saturday May 30
Oxford: Saturday May 30 through Thursday June 4
May 30 – Arrival: We will walk along the Thames to the Trout, one of the many pubs frequented by the Inklings, for our arrival meal.
May 31 – Inklings Walk: We will go on a walking tour of Oxford to see many of the sites that were important to the Inklings, such as the Bird and the Baby pub and the colleges where they lived and worked. We’ll read Lewis’ famous sermon The Weight of Glory in the church where it was originally delivered.
June 1 – Lewis Day: We will head out to nearby Headington to tour the home, nature preserve, and church of C.S. Lewis, learning about his life and marriage to Joy from the scholars who preserve his house and memory. We will also visit his grave, where we will read from The Last Battle.
June 2 – The Cotswolds: Trip out to the Cotswolds to explore some perfectly Shire-esque countryside, including Broadway Tourt. Optional horseback riding.
June 3 – Optional Day Trips or Rest Day: Some may take the day easier by exploring Oxford at their own pace. Others may head to London, Cambridge, Stratford, or elsewhere.
Coverack: Thursday June 4 through Wednesday June 10
June 4 – Travel Day: This day will be spent primarily traveling by train out to Cornwall. Our favorite driver Gary will pick us up in Redruth and take us to Coverack, our favorite place in the world.
June 5 – St. Michael’s Mount: We’ll travel to Marazion to explore the island fortress and gardens, which can only be reached by boat at high tide. This is a great place to discuss Tolkien’s captivation with the sea.
June 6 – Tintagel: We’ll learn about the Arthurian mythos and its connection to the works of Tolkien, Lewis, and Williams at Tintagel, a Roman and Celtic ruin where a young Arthur was supposedly kept hidden by Merlin in the hidden caves.
June 7 – Kynance Cove: Gary will take us to Lizard, where we’ll have local pasties, explore the village, and then walk to Kynance Cove, one of the most beautiful places in the world. Just look up the pictures!
June 8 – TBA: Due to popular demand, we are adding another day of adventure in Cornwall. We are not sure yet, but we may explore St. Ives.
June 9 – Rest in Coverack: This is a day just to sit back and enjoy the beauty of Coverack and prepare for the next stage of the journey. Walking along the coastal paths to find Shetland ponies, hanging out at the local pub, and even watersports in the bay are all great ways to spend your day.
Fort William: Wednesday June 10 through Sunday June 14
June 10 – Travel Day: We’ll take a combination of busses, trains, and planes up to Scotland.
June 11 – Hogwarts Express and Isle of Skye: One of the most magical days of the trip. We’ll take the Jacobite Express / Hogwarts Express across the Highlands to a port, and from there take boats out to explore the Isle of Skye. Then we’ll do it all in reverse.
June 12 – Ben Nevis: Some may choose to climb the tallest mountain in the British Isles. It’s so high that there is snow at the top in June and really helps one envision the Inklings’ love of mountains and hills. We believe in “challenge by choice” though, so there will be other, more sane options as well.
June 13 – Rest / Free Day: We are building in a day for additional adventures for some and recovery from Ben Nevis for others.
Edinburgh: Sunday June 14 through Monday June 15
June 14 – Travel / Edinburgh: We will pop down to Edinburgh as early as possible and explore the many J.K. Rowling / Harry Potter sites.
Fly home on Monday AM June 15 (or stay longer)
Though typically built for youth, college students, and young adults, our trip are open for anyone to participate. We sometimes have married couples, parents with children, and senior adults join us for Inklings Abroad.
We do not allow children younger than 13 to come on our trips without a parent or guardian except under special circumstances. Students 13-17 are welcome to travel with us even without a guardian, but will be more closely chaperoned by our leaders.
Estimated Trip Costs
Base: Inklings Abroad (lodging, in country transport, most activities, most breakfasts) 2375 US $
Estimated Cost of Airline Tickets 1000 US $
As far as international trips go, Inklings Abroad is one of the most cost-efficient options available. We keep costs low by staying in hostels, rather than hotels, as well as with friends in the Nailsea area, who graciously host us in their homes.
The base figure which you pay us, includes your lodging, your in-country transportation, most of your breakfasts, the majority of your activities, and the guidance and assistance of our experienced team of leaders. This will cost you $2375.
Travelers are responsible for purchasing their own international airline tickets, although we are happy to help you find a good flight. This usually costs around $1000, but can sometimes be purchased for as low as $500 on certain airlines.
How much you spend on meals, souvenirs, and extra activities is up to you. Some travelers have done it on $200 or less, while others have spent as much as $500. However, our estimate of $350 is usually enough to eat well while staying frugal.
A $500 deposit is required to claim your spot. We require that you pay the remaining amount at the very least by the first day of the trip.
We will have at least one “choose-your-own” day-trip.
On these days the leaders will be splitting up to take smaller groups to London, Stratford, and the Cotswolds. Since the costs of these day-trips always vary (for instance, travelers may want to pay to ride the London Eye or see a play), they are not included in your base trip costs. There will also be free options for day trips.
We keep trip costs down dramatically by staying in hostels, rather than hotels. There are certainly unsafe, seedy hostels out there, but these are not the ones we stay at.
Most of the hostels we frequent are old favorites, ones that we’ve enjoyed our stay at over and over again. We’ve never had any problems with cleanliness, crime, or safety at any of the hostels hosting us this year. All of them will have a full English breakfast included.
Check out this stunning view from Coverack YHA. Some of the best hostels are in places where you can’t even find a hotel.
Good question. On one hand, there will be a lot of walking. Some of the coolest things you’ll see on this trip are things that only your legs can carry you to. This is how we steer clear of the crowds and stay off the beaten path. There are also long periods of remaining on one’s feet, such as waiting in airports or in customs, navigating through various train stations, and exploring vast locations like St. Michael’s Mount and Tintagel.
On the other hand, most running and serious hiking is, as we like to call it, “challenge by choice.” Expect once or twice to have to sprint with your luggage to catch up with whatever train is trying to leave our group behind, but other than that, you should be fine. In 2014, a woman completed the entire trip on her cane and walker. Granted, she was probably the most epic traveler we have ever had, but still, she gives the rest of us hope.
For those who savor the physical exercise, you won’t be disappointed. Every day, there will be opportunities to challenge yourself, such as hiking the Cornish coast, climbing a Scottish mountain, diving into the frigid waters of the channel, or playing some intense English football during the evenings.
Optional group discussions are held each evening. They are usually facilitated by Dr. David Conley, who wrote his dissertation on Tolkien’s theology of creativity.
The first 10-15 minutes of each meeting involve a short lecture from David regarding one aspect of Tolkien myth-making approach. The titles of these talks are Fantasy, Recovery, Escape, and Consolation and can be researched ahead of time by reading Tolkien’s essay On Fairy Stories.
After the talks, there is a time for open discussion. The topics of these discussions tend to vary based on the interest of the group. We can go into greater depth regarding the night’s lecture, discuss the places we’ve seen, learn more about the lives of the Inklings, and of course occasionally nerd out over our favorite parts of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. This time is also used to finalize the agenda for the next day.
During the day, shorter talks are sometimes held at the sites we visit in order to more fully appreciate their historical or mythical significance. Occasionally we’ll read from the works of Inklings in important places, such as our readings from The Last Battle at Lewis’ grave or Mythopoeia at Addison’s Walk.
Inklings Abroad is not a project of any specific church or denomination, nor are our trips designed to explicitly promote the doctrines of any church or denomination.
It is indeed true that most of the original Inklings identified with one or more branches of Christianity. C.S. Lewis was a devout Anglican, and has since become a household name in American evangelical circles due to his skill as an apologist. J.R.R. Tolkien described his Lord of the Rings as “a fundamentally Catholic work”, and the books and life of Charles Williams are awash in Christian mysticism.
Certainly then, Christianity will be a common theme of our group discussions. Tolkien’s theology of creativity, as outlined in his essay On Fairy Stories, will be discussed in detail, as will the Christian meanings and symbolism behind The Chronicles of Narnia and Leaf by Niggle.
However, engagement in these discussions is always optional. We want all travelers to feel like they can enjoy the journey without the need to conform to religion in general or to Christianity in particular. This was, in fact, one of the traits that made the original Inklings so successful as writers: their ability to infuse their works with beauty and truth while remaining far from what we would call “preachy”.
Also of note, travelers will have two opportunities to attend a religious service. These are of course entirely optional and are outlined below:
While in Oxford, travelers may attend a candlelit Evensong service at Magdalen College. This is an unforgettable experience, featuring a boys-choir, candlelight and the historical musical traditions of the Church of England.
For our weekend in Nailsea, we will be hosted by families who likely attend the same village church. Travelers may, if they wish, attend Sunday service, followed by a casual teatime.
Our organization is called Inklings Abroad. The vision of our trips is Chasing Creativity in Community. We want to equip travelers with the tools to pursue beauty and truth through beautiful places, friendships, and works of creativity.
We have been conducting these trips for almost 20 years, mostly to the same set of favorite places in the U.K, so you can trust that we’ll get you “there and back again” in one piece. Our leadership team is composed of a small group of friends who enjoy traveling together. You can learn more about each of us by clicking on our portraits below or more about our philosophy of travel here.
We will keep accepting travelers until the trip fills up. We have currently booked at accommodations for a group size of 30, although we may be able to stretch this if there is significant interest after we reach that cap.
The best way to guarantee yourself a spot is to mail in a $500 deposit by November 1, 2019. Checks should be written out to:
The Inklings of Clemson
106 Chandler Court