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 Highgrove House.
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, Hidcote, 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 Lewes, 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: Kelmscott Manor and Rousham
This morning we travel through the Cotswolds to Kelmscott Manor, the delightful and much-loved country retreat of William Morris from 1871 until his death in 1896. Situated on the Thames, Kelmscott’s Arts & Crafts garden was to have a profound effect on Morris. Several of his fabric designs are based exclusively on its flora and fauna, Strawberry Thieves for example. 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: Hidcote and Bath
We say farewell to Oxford as we head for Hidcote, one of the best-known Arts & Crafts gardens in the country. It was created out of bare Cotswold fields by the horticulturist and explorer Major Lawrence Johnston (1871-1958). Influenced by Gertrude Jekyll (as were Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson at the same time at Sissinghurst), Johnston combined a series of themed outdoor ‘rooms’, rare trees and shrubs, and magnificent herbaceous borders. Early afternoon we arrive in Bath, known for its natural hot springs and 18th-century Georgian architecture. This evening we gather for dinner at a local restaurant. 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: The Laskett and Royal Highgrove
We head north into Herefordshire, crossing the mighty Severn Bridge. Our destination, for an exclusive and private visit, is The Laskett, the largest private formal garden laid out in England since 1945. Created over a period of 40 years by art historian Sir Roy Strong and his late wife, the designer Julia Trevelyan Oman. The iconoclastic Sir Roy is the former Director of both the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Typically, Sir Roy has threatened to have the garden destroyed on his death. Not to be missed in case it disappears! A delightful drive through the countryside brings us to Highgrove 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 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: Woolbedding and Tunbridge Wells
Our next garden is the little-known gem at Woolbeding. Created over a period of 40 years by the late philanthropist and supermarket supremo Simon Sainsbury and his partner Stewart Grimshaw, it opened to the public just five years ago. The house and gardens are set in countryside described by Benjamin Disraeli in the 19th-century as ‘the prettiest river and nicest valley in England’. Meticulous in matters of taste and detail, no expense was spared by Sainsbury in the creation of the garden. The finest gardeners and craftsman have all worked there over the 40 years. This evening dinner is in the hotel restaurant. Overnight Royal Tunbridge Wells (B, D)
Thursday June 14: Sissinghurst and Great Dixter
After a talk in the hotel, we travel to Sissinghurst, probably the best known and most popular of all 20th-century English gardens. It was created by the poet and garden writer Vita Sackville-West and her diplomat and author husband Harold Nicholson in the 1930s, 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. In the afternoon we make the 30-minute drive through the rolling Sussex countryside to Great Dixter, the beautiful, yet provocative garden made famous by the gardener and author Christopher Lloyd (1921-2006). The garden was originally designed in 1910 by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Lloyd’s father in the Arts & Crafts style. In 1993, Lloyd controversially dug up Lutyens’ 80 year-old rose-garden planting in its place a now very popular Exotics Garden. Lloyd described the sound of the rose roots coming out of the ground as ‘music to my ears’! The garden is now under the stewardship of Fergus Garrett. The tour includes the family house, parts of which date back to the 1400s. Overnight Royal Tunbridge Wells (B)
Friday June 15: Heaver 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: Lewes via West Hoathly
Lewes is an old county town with a long history and lively present. This morning we explore the town on a walk to the Castle and Town Museum, Anne of Cleves’ House and the Priory Ruins. In the afternoon we travel to the village of West Hoathly, to visit Luctons, for a personal welcome from its owners, Hans and Ingrid Sethi and a chance to chat with them about the joys of one of the finest private gardens in Sussex. Afterwards, we take a private tour of The Priest House, once owned by Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, Anne of Cleves, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. We also visit the Church of St Margaret of Antioch, dating back to Norman times. Opposite the church, we end the day with a drink and bite to eat at the 16th-century village pub, The Cat before continuing on to our hotel. Overnight Lewes (B, D)
Sunday June 17: 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. In the early afternoon we visit the nearby Arts & Crafts garden at 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 the late 19th-century. 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 romantic Gothic ruin that acts as a spectacular backdrop to the garden today. Leonard was the father of the theatre designer Oliver Messel and grandfather of Lord Snowdon. In the 1920s and 30s, Nymans was a playground for the rich and famous. Overnight Lewes (B)
Monday June 18: Arundel Castle
The beautifully situated one-thousand-year-old Arundel Castle is the largest occupied country house in England. The grounds, open to the public since 1800, now include The Collector Earls’ Garden, The Stumpery, The Cut Flower Garden, The Organic Kitchen Garden, as well as the hot and cool herbaceous borders. The Fitzalan Chapel also has its own ‘white garden’. Overnight Lewes (B)
Tuesday June 19: Bluebell Railway and Gravetye
Nestling on a hillside on the edge of the Ashdown Forest, the 16th-century Gravetye Manor 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. Gravetye remains today almost as he planted it, a romantic evocation of woods and garden. After our farewell lunch at Gravetye, we take the historic Bluebell Steam Railway through the Sussex countryside to nearby Sheffield Park. The historian Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) was a frequent guest at Sheffield Park, writing much of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the library. Despite his dislike of the great outdoors – ‘Gib is a mortal enemy to any person taking a walk’ – it was he who introduced the 1st Earl to ‘Capability’ Brown. Both Brown (1716-1783) and Humphry Repton (1752-1818) were responsible for beginning the transformation of the Park into the delightfully informal landscape garden that it is today. Overnight Lewes (B, L)
Wednesday June 20: Departure
Gatwick Airport is close to Lewes, 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 now lives in Sussex from where he writes and lectures on garden history as well as creating garden tours. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in London and a member of The English Gardens Trust. When in Australia, Michael appeared regularly on television, radio, and in the press. He has been a featured guest on the ABC’s In Conversation with Richard Fidler and on Classic FM’s Midday with Margaret Throsby talking about the 18th century English landscape architect Capability Brown.
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.