This tour surveys the work of the passionate men and women who, over the past three hundred years, have created some of the best-loved gardens in the south of England – from the magnificent 18th-century Arcadian landscapes at Rousham and Stourhead, with their temples, lakes and grottoes, to idyllic Kelmscott Manor, the Arts and Crafts country home of William Morris. We also visit Britain’s oldest botanic garden, in Oxford, as well as one of its newest and most influential gardens, at Royal Highgrove.
The exquisite countryside of midsummer England, experienced through visits to fine gardens, stately homes, country houses and castles
The gardens of passionate professional gardeners and writers, from Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to Gertrude Jekyll, and Vita Sackville-West to Christopher Lloyd
The gardens of equally passionate amateurs, including Henry Hoare at Stourhead and Sir Roy Strong at The Laskett
The history of the English garden from 1700 to the present day
The private gardens of Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall
Stourhead, the most beautiful 18th-century Arcadian landscape garden in England
Blenheim Palace, steeped in more than 300 years of history, and its beautiful parkland landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown
Chartwell, the beloved home of Sir Winston Churchill
Jewels of the Arts and Crafts movement: Kelmscott Manor, Sissinghurst and Great Dixter
The gardens of romantic Hever Castle and the beautifully situated Arundel Castle
The gardens of the Bloomsbury Group
Days 1–4: Tour begins in Oxford. Visit the beautiful Oxford Botanic Garden, Kelmscott Manor, Rousham and Blenheim House.
Days 5–7: From our base in Bath we visit the Laskett Gardens, Stourhead, Royal Highgrove and other estates.
Days 8–10: Travel to Royal Tunbridge Wells from where we visit Sissinghurst, Great Dixter and Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s estate.
Days 11–14: From Lower Beeding, enjoy several wonderful castles, homes and gardens in the Sussex Downs.
Day 15: Transfer to London for flights home.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Singapore and Emirates fly to London daily. Contact us for competitive quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L, D and C for canapes.
Wednesday June 6: Arrival
If you have booked your air travel through Academy Travel we will organise a transfer from Heathrow to our hotel. Please note that hotel rooms may not be available until early afternoon. In the early evening we gather in the hotel for welcome drinks and canapés. Overnight Oxford (C)
Thursday June 7: Oxford and the Botanic Gardens
After a talk in the hotel, we take a guided tour of the historic university town taking in the Ashmolean Museum and Christopher Wren’s superb Sheldonian Theatre. In the afternoon we visit the Botanic Gardens, situated in the heart of Oxford, a 5-minute walk from our hotel. They were founded in 1621 and are the oldest in Britain. Its monumental arched gateway was designed by Inigo Jones (1573-1652) and is one of the earliest Classical structures in Oxford. Today, with its nearly 5,000 different plant species, and in their delightful setting, the gardens are a source of inspiration for design, research, and conservation. This evening we celebrate our welcome dinner together at a local restaurant. Overnight Oxford (B, D)
Friday June 8: Blenheim Palace
The picture-perfect British stately home of Blenheim Palace is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, sitting among more than 2000 acres of extraordinary landscaped Parkland and Formal Gardens. The inspired work of ‘Capability’ Brown has created a lasting legacy in the Park at Blenheim. The master landscaper constructed the Great Lake and planted thousands of trees in his ten-year tenure here. On our visit to Blenheim Palace today we explore the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site boasting a long and diverse history. It is the home to the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill. Overnight Oxford (B)
Saturday June 9: Buscot Park and Rousham
This morning we travel through the Cotswolds to Buscot Park, the much-loved and highly individual home of Lord Faringdon. Built in the 18th century as an Italianate country house in the style of Palladio, its magnificent gardens today include a Water Garden designed by the great Harold Peto (1854-1933) whose own home, Iford Manor we shall be visiting later in the tour. Afterwards we drive to Rousham, an 18th-century Arcadian Landscape garden. It is still lived in by the family who built the house and laid out the gardens, which remain largely as they were in the 18th-century. As well as its temples, glades and statues it has a Tudor/Stuart parterre, one of the largest dovecotes in the country, and the most perfect walled garden. Overnight Oxford (B)
Sunday June 10: Kiftsgate, The Laskett and Bath
We say farewell to Oxford as we head for Kiftsgate Court Gardens, the stunning creation of three generations of women gardeners. Created in the 1920s by Heather Muir, with help and inspiration from the great Lawrence Johnston at neighbouring Hidcote, it is today under the care of Heather’s grand-daughter Anne Chambers. Next stop on our way to Bath is The Laskett, the largest private formal garden laid out in England since 1945. Created over a period of forty years by the iconoclastic art historian Sir Roy Strong and his late wife, the designer Julia Trevelyan Oman. Early evening, we arrive in Bath, known for its natural hot springs and 18th-century Georgian architecture. Following check in we gather for dinner in the hotel. Overnight Bath (B, D)
Monday June 11: Iford Manor and Stourhead
Our day begins with the Peto Garden at Iford Manor, one of the finest Italianate gardens in England. It was constructed and planted by architect, traveller and landscape designer Harold Ainsworth Peto between 1899 and 1933. In the Italianate manner, flowers play a secondary role to the more structural elements of cypress trees, statuary, broad walks and pools of water. The garden includes Peto’s delightful ‘Haunt of Ancient Peace’, a cloistered Italian style courtyard. We continue on to Stourhead is probably the most famous and most beautiful 18th-century Arcadian Landscape garden in England. Between 1740 and 1780, banker Henry Hoare (1705-1785) created an idyllic mix of the Classical and the Gothic. The walk around the lake, crossed at one end by its beautiful Palladian bridge, takes in Classical temples, a Gothic cottage, and one of the most dramatic Rococo grottos in England. Overnight Bath (B)
Tuesday June 12: Highgrove Royal Gardens
The morning is free to explore and enjoy the delights of Bath. In the early afternoon, a delightful drive through the rolling Cotswold countryside brings us to Highgrove and the private gardens of Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall. Begun in 1980 and now run on the organic and sustainable methods of which the Prince is such a passionate advocate, the gardens include wild, formal and kitchen gardens. Throughout are busts of people who have inspired the Prince, including Sir Roy Strong of The Laskett fame who helped Prince Charles design the garden. Our exclusive guided tour is followed by a champagne cream tea. Overnight Bath (B, champagne cream tea)
Wednesday June 13: RHS Wisley and Royal Tunbridge Wells
This morning we say farewell to Bath and head east for the great gardens of Sussex and Kent. On the way we stop off for a guided tour of the Royal Horticultural Society’s masterpiece at Wisley, the second most visited paid entry garden in England (the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew is the first). Founded in 1878, Wisley is now a large and diverse garden covering 240 acres. In addition to numerous formal and informal decorative gardens, several glasshouses and an extensive arboretum, it includes small scale ‘model gardens’ which are intended to show visitors what they can achieve in their own gardens, and a trials field where new cultivars are assessed. This evening dinner is in the hotel restaurant. Overnight Royal Tunbridge Wells (B, D)
Thursday June 14: The Bluebell Railway and Gravetye Manor
Our day begins at Sheffield Park with a thirty-minute trip through the Sussex countryside on the Bluebell Steam Railway. Operating since 1960, the Bluebell is the oldest preserved standard gauge, steam-operated passenger railway in the world to be still operating a public service. On our arrival at Kingscote station, our bus will be waiting to take us ten minutes up the road to Gravetye Manor. Nestling on a hillside on the edge of the Ashdown Forest, the 16th-century Gravetye is the quintessential English country house. Its most famous occupant, until his death in 1935, was the garden designer William Robinson. A contemporary of Gertrude Jekyll, Robinson was the guiding light of what was to become known as the Wild Garden. Today, Gravetye remains almost as he planted it, a romantic evocation of woods and garden. Our visit includes a private tour of the gardens with head gardener Tom Coward. Now an exclusive hotel, Gravetye boasts both a Grade I Heritage listing and a Michelin star. Overnight Royal Tunbridge Wells (B, L)
Friday June 15: Hever Castle and Chartwell
This morning we head to Hever Castle, the romantic childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife. Hever’s 13th-century moated castle acts as a dramatic backdrop for the gardens laid out for William Waldorf Astor between 1904 and 1908. The Italian Garden includes Astor’s large collection of mainly Roman classical sculpture. We spend the afternoon at Chartwell, the family home of Winston Churchill. Filled with treasures from every aspect of Churchill’s life, the house provides an opportunity to explore the home of one of Britain’s greatest leaders. We also visit the studio to see a collection of Churchill’s paintings, before heading out to admire the wonderful walled garden, several of whose bricked walls were famously laid by Churchill himself. Overnight Royal Tunbridge Wells (B)
Saturday June 16: Great Dixter and Sissinghurst Castle & Gardens
First stop today is the world famous Great Dixter for a private tour of its stunningly rich and diverse garden made famous by the gardener and author Christopher Lloyd (1921-2006). Now under the stewardship of Fergus Garrett, the garden was originally designed in 1910 by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Lloyd’s father in the Arts & Crafts style. The tour also includes the family house, parts of which date back to the 1400s. In the afternoon we make the 30-minute drive through the rolling Kent and Sussex countryside to Sissinghurst Castle. Its gardens were created in the 1930s by the poet and garden writer Vita Sackville-West and her diplomat and author husband Harold Nicholson, both of whom were heavily influenced by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. The garden is laid out in the Arts & Crafts style as a series of rooms, each with its own distinctive theme and colour. There is a wonderful view of the garden and the surrounding countryside from the top of the Elizabethan Tower. This evening’s dinner is in the hotel restaurant. Overnight Lower Beeding (B, D)
Sunday June 17: Arundel Castle and Garden
Today we leave Royal Tunbridge Wells and head deeper into the Sussex countryside and our final stop at Lower Beeding. On the way, we stop at the beautifully situated, one-thousand-year-old Arundel Castle, the largest occupied country house in England. After touring the Castle, we move out to see the gardens, especially the Collector Earl’s Garden. This new garden, named after Thomas Howard, the 14th Earl of Arundel (1585-1646), was designed by two of England’s greatest contemporary designers, Isobel and Julian Bannerman. Conceived as a Jacobean formal garden, it is in fact an imaginative re-creation of what Howard’s early 17th century formal garden may have been like at Arundel House, his town palace overlooking the Thames in London. The grand centrepiece is a rockwork ‘mountain’ on top of which sits a green oak version of ‘Oberon’s Palace’, a fantastic spectacle designed by Inigo Jones for Prince Henry’s Masque on New Year’s Day 1611. It contains a shell-lined interior with a stalagmite fountain and gilded coronet ‘dancing’ on top of a jet of water. Overnight Lower Beeding (B)
Monday June 18: Charleston and Nymans
This morning we see Charleston, the home of the Bloomsbury Group’s Duncan Grant (1885-1978) and Vanessa Bell (1879-1961), the sister of Virginia Woolf. The garden is a delightful mix of Mediterranean influence and cottage garden planting. Following a private tour of the house and of the garden with head gardener Fiona Dennis, we drive to the nearby village of Berwick for lunch at a local pub and to visit the village church, famous for having been decorated by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant during WWII. In the afternoon we visit Nymans. High on a hill looking out across the Sussex Weald, Nymans was created by the banker Ludwig Messel, with help from close neighbour William Robinson. In 1915, his son Leonard knocked down the Regency house and built an extravagant mock Tudor palace. This was almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1947 leaving a now romantic Gothic ruin that acts as a spectacular backdrop to the garden. Overnight Lower Beeding (B, morning tea)
Tuesday June 19: Standen, Luctons and The Priesthouse
Our final day begins with a visit to Standen, one of Sussex’s finest Arts & Crafts houses. Following lunch, we will be taken on a tour of the recently restored gardens by head gardener, James Masters, before moving into the house itself. In the afternoon we travel 10 minutes by bus to Luctons in the small village of West Hoathly, where a warm welcome awaits us from owners, Hans and Ingrid Sethi. Here you will have the chance for a very personal chat with them about the joys and pitfalls of creating and maintaining one of the loveliest private gardens in Sussex. Leaving Luctons, we cross the lane for a brief visit to the tiny Priesthouse and its garden, once owned by Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, Anne of Cleves, Mary I, and Elizabeth I! And so to the 16th-century village pub, The Cat for well-deserved drinks and our farewell dinner. Overnight Lower Beeding (B, D)
Wednesday June 20: Departure
Gatwick Airport is close to Lower Beeding, and there will be a transfer for those departing from Gatwick. Depending on group members’ travel plans, there may also be transfers to the centre of London and/or Heathrow Airport. (B)
Michael Turner is a garden and art historian. The former Senior Curator of the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney (2005-2016).
Michael Turner is a cultural and garden historian. He has a strong personal and academic interest in the art, history, literature, and mythology of the Classical past and how these have shaped the gardens and landscapes of Britain and Italy – from the Renaissance, to the Grand Tour, to the present day.
Michael holds a BA (1st class Honours with University Medal) from the University of Sydney. In 2009, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in London.
In the early 1990s, following a high-profile career in women’s fashion in London, Michael returned to Australia to pursue his long-held passion for all things Classical. In 2004, he was appointed Senior Curator of the Nicholson Museum, home to the largest collection of antiquities in the Southern hemisphere. On his arrival, the museum had less than 10,000 visitors a year; when he left in 2016, annual attendance figures were in excess of 100,000. Michael, now a regular on radio and television, curated over twenty exhibitions on everything from Sigmund Freud’s collection of antiquities, to the Grand Tour, to the hugely successful series of Lego creations: the Colosseum, the Acropolis and Pompeii.
Michael returned to England the better to pursue his interest in garden history. He now lectures in London for the Garden Historians, is researching the collection of Roman sculpture at Hever Castle in Kent, and working on his next book on the most delightful and largest of all English gardens, the humble hedgerow.
Michael lives in Sussex from where he is ideally based to design and develop new garden tours for Academy Travel. To date, these include ‘Gardens of a Passionate Mind: The Great Gardens of Southern England’ (2016 and 2018); From Yorkshire to the Lake District: The Gardens of the North (2017 and 2019); ‘The Great Gardens of Italy’ (2018); ‘The Gardens and Castles of Scotland (2018); and ‘From Bath to Land’s End: The Gardens of the South West’ (2019).
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.