From small private gardens to great estates, from rediscovered 18th and 19th-century masterpieces to world-famous, ultra-modern concept gardens, enjoy the great gardens of Cornwall and Devon in their English summer glory. This 10-day tour also takes you to the gardens of some of the most famous names in modern garden and landscape design, including Sir Tim Smit and Isabel and Julian Bannerman. The beauty of the gardens is complemented by their situation: the dramatic coastline of Cornwall, the curious microclimate of the Isles of Scilly and the wild moors of Devon.
Key gardens visited:
Stourhead, the most beautiful 18th-century Arcadian Landscape garden in England
Scilly’s Tresco Abbey Gardens
The Lost Gardens of Heligan, tended by generations of the Tremayne family
Sir Tim Smit’s Eden Project, an extraordinary exercise in conservation
Bannerman’s masterpiece, Trematon Castle
Wildside, Buckland Monachorum: a visionary nursery and garden
Lanhydrock in Cornwall: from the Middle Ages to World War I
Montacute House, a masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture
Rosemoor: the showpiece of the Royal Horticultural Society
Days 1–3: Coach from London to Cornwall, stopping en route at Stourhead. Explore the idyllic harbour town of St Ives and visit St Michael’s Mount. Fly to the Isles of Scilly; admire Tresco Abbey Gardens’ exotics.
Days 4–5: Travel to St Austell in Cornwall, via the Eden Project’s biomes. Explore Victorian Lanhydrock House, the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Wileys’ extraordinary Wildside in Buckland Monachoram.
Days 6–10: Travel to Devon’s vast Dartmoor National Park; visit Lutyen’s garden at Castle Drogo, the Elizabethan Montacute, the Tudor mansion of Barrington Court, and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Rosemoor’s rose garden. Travel by coach to London.
The tour starts and ends at London Heathrow airport. Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Emirates all offer direct flights to London from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Monday May 31: Arrive Cornwall
Meet your tour leader Michael Turner at London Heathrow airport to commence the tour. We have an early departure by coach to Cornwall, stopping en route at Stourhead. 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. Following lunch of locally-sourced produce at the Spread Eagle Inn, we will continue to Cornwall arriving in the early evening. We gather together this evening for dinner in the hotel. Overnight St Ives (D)
Tuesday June 1: St Michael’s Mount and St Ives
Following an introductory talk this morning, we travel by coach to Marazion, where we either, depending on the tide, walk the pilgrims’ causeway or cross by boat to St Michael’s Mount. Once a sister abbey to Mont St Michel off Normandy, the island and castle have been owned since the 17th century by the St Aubyn family. After touring the castle, we explore its extraordinary gardens, parts of which date back to the 18th century. This afternoon we return by coach to St Ives to explore the idyllic harbour town with its maze of quaint cobbled streets lined with fishermen’s cottages. The town also has a rich artistic heritage which is celebrated with a plethora of galleries including Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, that you may wish to visit. The Hepworth Museum offers a remarkable insight into the work and outlook of one of Britain’s most important twentieth-century artists who came to live in Cornwall at the outbreak of war in 1939 until her death in 1975. Hepworth described her St Ives studio and garden as ‘a sort of magic’. This evening, we go to The Minack Theatre to enjoy an open-air performance. Overnight Saint Ives (B)
Wednesday June 2: Tresco Abbey Gardens on the Isles of Scilly
Today, we take an early morning flight from Land’s End airport across the sea to the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago off the Cornish coast. Following our arrival on the island of St Mary’s we take the short picturesque boat trip to Tresco, one of the five inhabited islands. Tresco Abbey Gardens are home to subtropical plants and the Valhalla Museum, displaying wooden figureheads from local shipwrecks. First laid out in the 1830s by Augustus Smith around the ruins of a Benedictine Abbey, Tresco Abbey Gardens are still owned and run by the same family. “Here off the coast of Cornwall, spring comes early, autumn stays late, and winter hardly exists at all”: truly a subtropical paradise, brimming with plants that would stand no chance at all just thirty miles away on the Cornish mainland. The garden is home to species from across the world’s Mediterranean climate zones, from Brazil to the Antipodes, from Burma to South Africa. In the late afternoon we take a flight back to the mainland. Overnight Saint Ives (B)
Thursday June 3: The Lost Gardens of Heligan and Eden Project
We leave Saint Ives and the beautiful Mount’s Bay heading east to our next hotel in the countryside outside St Austell. Our first stop on the way is at the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Laid out in the 19th century they are a classic example of the Victorian ‘Gardenesque’ style and as such are highly prized for their botanical diversity. A genuine secret garden, the once-thriving Heligan estate was lost for decades under dense undergrowth until a door to one of the walled gardens was discovered by accident in 1990. An award-winning restoration project followed and today we’re able to explore 200 acres of subtropical gardens, ancient woodland and a jungle filled with strange and marvellous plants and trees. The world’s attention was focused via television programs on the gardens ‘rediscovery’ in the 1990s, in which one of the central figures was Tim Smit. The experience was to prove pivotal for Smit, now Sir Tim Smit, in the creation of his Eden Project. Opening in 2001, the Project’s central attraction are its two remarkable biomes, the smaller simulating a Mediterranean environment, the larger a rainforest. In addition to this there are miles of paths that twist and turn up and down the slopes. Overnight St Austell (B, D)
Friday June 4: Trematon Castle and Wildside
A day of modern greats: the first stop is Trematon Castle, home, since 2012, to Julian and Isabel Bannerman, the ‘haute Bohemian’ designers of the magical gardens of Highgrove, Woolbeding, and Arundel Castle, among many others. Their Georgian house sits inside the walls of the Castle (dating back to the Norman Conquest) while the garden plays to the Castle’s romantic and pre-Raphaelite glories. It boasts wild flowers, woodland and orchards all intensified with bold borders full of scent, colour, lustre and Bannerman panache. In the afternoon we travel to nearby Wildside. Since 2004, the garden has been Kevin Wylie’s experiment in ‘new naturalism’, a movement which seeks to work in harmony with nature, allowing plants to thrive much as they would in the wild. Overnight St Austell (B)
Saturday June 5: Lanhydrock and Padstow
This morning we visit Lanhydrock, a late Victorian country house, and one of the loveliest National Trust properties in Cornwall. Dating back to the 17th century, much of the house was destroyed by fire in 1881 and subsequently rebuilt. At the same time, the formal gardens as we see them today were laid out. There is time to stroll the extensive gardens admiring the herbaceous borders, a formal parterre and colourful higher gardens filled with camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons. Next we head north to the coastal village of Padstow, famous for its association with celebrity chef Rick Stein. After a lunch at one of Stein’s restaurants the afternoon is free to explore this charming village. Overnight St Austell (B, L)
Sunday June 6: Castle Drogo
Today sees us heading for the wilds of Dartmoor and our hotel for the last three nights, the beautifully situated Bovey Castle, originally the home of the son of newsagent millionaire, WH Smith. On the way we call in at Castle Drogo, the last castle to be built in England. Constructed between 1911 and 1930, it was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, and is now considered one of his finest achievements. Lutyens also designed a beautiful garden influenced by the work he had done in designing New Delhi. Although much of the planting was done by George Dillstone, Lutyens called in his long-time collaborator Gertrude Jekyll for advice. In the evening, we gather at Bovey Castle for dinner. Overnight North Bovey (B, D)
Monday June 7: Montacute House and Barrington Court
Our first stop today is Montacute House: built at the end of the 16th century, Montacute is one of the few Elizabethan houses in England to survive almost unchanged. Its Long Gallery, the longest in England, has, since 1975, been an outpost of the National Portrait Gallery. Its gardens, although replanted in the 19th century, retain much of their original 17th century lay out and form. In the afternoon we drive to Barrington Court. A Tudor mansion, it was the first house acquired by the National Trust in 1907. Its present state of immaculate conservation owes much to the fact that the house was leased by the Trust in the 1920s to Abram Lyle of Tate & Lyle, the sugar conglomerate. The celebrated garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll, was consulted by Colonel Lyle’s wife, Elsie, on the layout and best planting schemes for the garden. At the time, Jekyll was well into her seventies and almost blind, but she was able to advise what would grow best in the limy earth just by crumbling the soil, which was sent to her in biscuit tins. Elsie Lyle visited Jekyll to discuss the plans for the garden in person, and much of what you see today was inspired by these early plans. Overnight North Bovey (B)
Tuesday June 8: RHS Rosemoor
The final day of our tour takes us to north Dartmoor to the most beautiful and romantic of all Royal Horticultural Society gardens in England, Rosemoor. The garden was initially created by Lady Anne Palmer and later, when the garden was taken over by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1990, a master plan was produced by Elizabeth Banks Associates to develop the garden. Aptly, given its name, its rose garden alone includes over 2000 plants. Rosemoor is a public display garden offering examples of new and innovative planting using the widest possible variety of plants. Its summer Hot Garden is a perennial favourite. There are also fine examples of trees from around the world. in its arboretum. Our final night sees us gathering for a farewell dinner at an excellent local restaurant. Overnight North Bovey (B, D)
Wednesday June 9: Departure
This morning we travel by coach to Heathrow airport, where the tour ends. (B)
A garden and art historian, formerly the Senior Curator of the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney.
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 and in 2018, a Fellow of the Linnean Society, the world’s oldest active biological society.
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).
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, taxis or public transport are 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
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required and when stated as included
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?
Our 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
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