Glorious Gardens of Great Britain
Delight in the springtime bloom at the best of Great Britain’s flower exhibitions, country estates and private gardens in the company of gardening author Julie Kinney.
In London, spend a day at the world-renowned Chelsea Flower Show before travelling to East Sussex to homes and gardens once owned by members of the Bloomsbury group, including the home of Virginia Woolf. Explore the privately-owned Chisenbury Priory in Wiltshire and, near Salisbury, the house and grounds of Highclere Castle, setting of television series Downton Abbey. Discover ornamental country gardens in Wales, before finishing in Oxford with a visit to Waterperry Gardens, former site of the celebrated Waterperry School of Horticulture.
Note: At time of publication (April 2018), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than two to three months prior to the visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.
Suggested departures on flights from Australia or New Zealand to London. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
Arrive in London and make your own way to the hotel. Tour arrangements begin at 15:00. Join Julie and fellow travellers and enjoy a quintessential English afternoon tea before an evening at leisure.
Today, visit the glorious Chelsea Flower Show, with exclusive members’ access ahead of its opening to the public. Held for over 100 years on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, this prestigious horticultural show exhibits innovative garden designs, rare plants, emerging garden trends and ideas for the home gardener. Wander at your own pace through the award-winning displays and dazzling floral tapestries.
The remainder of the afternoon and evening are at leisure.
This morning, depart London for Sissinghurst Castle in Kent. Created in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West, gardening author and member of the early 20th century Bloomsbury Group, the castle gardens are considered among the most famous in England with its ‘garden rooms’ and use of colour themes in the planting design. Enjoy a talk and explanation of the grounds by Vita’s granddaughter, author Juliet Nicolson, before the gardens’ public opening.
Next, travel to Great Dixter, the former home of garden writer Christopher Lloyd, for a tour by one of the gardeners. A patchwork of perennials, annuals, shrubs and climbers, Great Dixter’s plantings are bold experiments of colour and form. Afterwards, continue to the village of Alfriston for check-in and dinner at the hotel.
After breakfast, visit Charleston House, home of Bloomsbury artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, for a special private garden tour. Later, wander through Monk’s House, the home and garden of Virginia Woolf. With ornamental blooms, narrow garden paths and views over the Downs, the garden was Woolf’s inspiration for her short story The Orchard.
After lunch at a local pub, return to Alfriston, stopping en route at a small church in Berwick where murals painted by the Bloomsbury artists cover the nave walls and chancel arch. The remainder of the day is at leisure, with the opportunity to take a walk on the Sussex Downs or pay a visit to Alfriston Clergy House.
Depart Alfriston for Colemore House, an exquisite private garden with woodland walk, arched roses and thatched pavilion. Explore the Norman church next door, which dates from the 12th century.
In the afternoon, visit Upton Grey Manor, a private home with a garden designed by British horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll. With a ‘Wild Garden’ and a ‘Formal Garden’, the gardens are considered the most faithfully-restored of Jekyll’s designs. Continue on to Salisbury for hotel check-in and dinner.
Enjoy a morning at leisure to discover the sights of Salisbury or amble through the famous Salisbury charter markets.
Later in the day, enjoy a tour of the private Chisenbury Priory garden, with its unusual plants, herbaceous borders and orchard. Then, visit Caen Hill Locks, a spectacular engineering feat along the Kennet and Avon Canal. In the late afternoon, travel to Wudston House, where the formal structures of the garden blur into the perennial meadows beyond. Dinner is at a local pub en route back to Salisbury.
Check out of the hotel and depart for the private garden of Iford Manor. The Italianate garden, created by architect Sir Harold Peto in the early 20th century, is characterised by its structural use of cypresses and terraces, cloister garden and statues. Enjoy a tour of the Peto gardens followed by the private Walled garden, normally closed for the family’s exclusive use.
After lunch, visit Hanham Court Gardens. Previously owned by garden designers Isabel and Julian Bannerman, the traditional English gardens feature Romantic elements of rambling roses, bubbling streams, miniature parkland and wildflower meadows. Of particular note is its stumpery, similar in style to the stumpery created for the Prince of Wales at Highgrove by the Bannermans. Arrive in Bath in the late afternoon.
Enjoy a day at leisure in the town of Bath, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site with a legacy from the Roman, Regency and Georgian eras. Spend a day exploring its boutique shops and cafés, its plethora of museums or relax in the thermal waters of its Roman baths.
Today, explore the gardens and estate of Highclere Castle, the filming location of award-winning television series Downton Abbey. Home to the Earls of Carnarvon since the mid-17th century, the sweeping parkland was designed by 18th century landscaper Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, with the grounds containing 250-year-old cedars and several follies, including a Temple of Diana and an Etruscan temple.
Today, cross the border into Monmouthshire in Wales. En route, visit the Special Plants Nursery, owned by British garden author Derry Watkins, renowned for its collection of plants from Bulgaria, South Africa and Nepal. Arrive at High Glanau House in Monmouthshire for lunch and a tour of the Arts and Craft-style garden. Designed in the 1920s by Henry Tipping, a former editor of Country Life magazine, the four-hectare garden draws inspiration from the style of Gertrude Jekyll, with spectacular views across the valleys.
Next, travel to the unique and unusual gardens of Veddw House on the Welsh border. With its grass parterre, wave-shaped hedges, and dramatic reflecting pool, the contemporary garden incorporates an interest in the local landscape history and modern ecological gardening practices.
Check out from the hotel and travel north to the town of Barnsley. Stop en route at Tetbury, a historic wool town with medieval cobbled streets and original 16th century merchants’ houses. Arrive in Barnsley for a visit to the garden at The Little House, the first private garden created by renowned British designer Rosemary Verey.
Following free time in Bibury, a village once described by William Morris as “the most beautiful village in England”, visit Kingham Hill House, where the geometrical garden designed by Verey features avenues of maple trees, stepped pools and yew hedging. Check in to the hotel in Chipping Campden, with dinner at the hotel.
Begin the day with a tour and talk at Upton Wold, a private garden with undulating landscapes, open vistas and an innovative walnut arboretum. Continue on to the privately-owned Westwell Manor, where an imaginatively-designed garden surrounding the 16th century manor features multiple garden rooms, including the Kitchen Garden, Breakfast Garden and Moon Garden.
Afterwards, enjoy a scenic stop at Bampton Village, the market town used as a setting in Downton Abbey. In the evening, delight in a Pudding Club Dinner, a culinary extravaganza which celebrates the traditional British pudding, officiated by a Pudding Master and featuring the delectable Parade of Seven Puddings.
This morning, travel to the private cottage garden of a leading British garden journalist for morning tea, before heading to Hidcote Manor Gardens, considered one of the best gardens of the Arts and Crafts movement and a strong influence on the design of many significant gardens, including Sissinghurst Castle (visited earlier in the tour).
Then, explore another Arts and Craft garden at Kiftsgate Court Gardens, the creation of three generations of female gardeners and famous for its Kiftsgate rose, a scented climbing rose claimed to be the largest rose in Britain. Arrive in Oxford in the late afternoon for check-in and dinner at the hotel.
Spend a morning at leisure in Oxford, a city with architecture and history reaching back to Saxon times, and a rich selection of botanical and college gardens interwoven through the sandstone buildings of the city.
At midday, strike out for a scenic journey across Oxfordshire. Arrive at Waddesdon Manor, a grand French Renaissance château, built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the 1870s. Enjoy a tour of the gardens and explore the house at your own pace before partaking in an afternoon tea in the former Servants’ Hall. The evening is at leisure.
In the morning, travel from Oxford to Waterperry Gardens, the previous site of Beatrix Havergal’s Waterperry School of Horticulture for Ladies. A formal knot garden, a waterlily canal and a famous herbaceous border are just a few of the garden’s highlights across its three hectares of ornamental gardens.
Conclude your garden explorations with a visit to a rarely opened private home and garden, which has been described by Britain’s garden writers as the finest garden and restoration in the country. Return to Oxford in the early afternoon for time at leisure.
In the evening, enjoy a cruise on the Thames and a special farewell dinner with Julie and fellow travellers.
Check out from the hotel in the morning and depart Oxford.
For those leaving today, transfer to London Heathrow Airport in time for flights departing from 14:30 (transfer included in tour price).
For those continuing on to London, transfer to central London, arriving at approximately 12:00 (transfer included in tour price). Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at Heathrow Airport or in central London.
Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including post-tour accommodation.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
21 March 2019
Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit the United Kingdom.
Tour prices includes
- Accommodation in centrally located 4 star hotels and English country inns, with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner, T = Afternoon Tea), including wine with dinners
- Entry into the Chelsea Flower Show on the Royal Horticultural Society members’ day
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Hotel/airport transfer on departure
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour prices does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfer on arrival
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis, minibar, room service etc.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
London – Pestana Chelsea Bridge Hotel ****
Alfriston – The Star Inn ***
Salisbury – Best Western Red Lion ***
Bath – Francis Hotel Bath MGallery by Sofitel ****
Chipping Campden – The Noel Arms Hotel ***
Oxford – Mercure Oxford Eastgate Hotel ****
NB: Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted. As some of the hotels have retained their historical features, some rooms are accessible by stairs only. Ground floor and lift-accessible rooms have been requested where possible.