1703 | Spring in Kent & Sussex

Classic spring gardens in and around the High Weald of Kent & Sussex

This corner of England is littered with fine gardens, and this tour takes you to a selection of them - and some of them are the finest gardens in England.

We have completely remodelled this tour, we have looked afresh at the many lesser-known gardens, where spring is a particular feature of the garden, and included the best of them, combining them with the classic, well-renowned and well-visited gardens, like Sissinghurst and Great Dixter.

High Weald & Romney Marshes
Throughout the tour the landscape is dominated by either the High Weald a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or Romney Marshes - two contrasting landscapes, each with a rich cultural heritage which we will explore further, during the week.

The Weald (from the German word wald, a wood or forest), is a medieval landscape of wooded, rolling hills studded with sandstone outcrops, small, irregular-shaped fields and scattered farmsteads, whereas Romney Marshes, including the third largest coastal wetland in Europe, are bounded by the English Channel to the South and the Weald to the north.

New customers
This tour is particularly well-suited to new customers, indeed, we had new customers in mind when we planned it. Its length, of just six days, its compact area, to reduce travel times and distances, and its keen pricing, is designed to tempt those of you, who may have looked at our tours but, who have not wanted to commit yourselves to one of our longer or more expensive tours.

Sleeping & Eating
We are returning to Romney Bay House Hotel, a charming, seaside hotel expertly run by hands-on owners, Lisa and Clinton Lovell, where Lisa's charm is matched only by Clinton's superb food. We will dine-in, at Romney Bay House Hotel, on three evenings and eat out twice, at The Fish Café, a favourite establishment of ours in Rye, and at The Three Chimneys near to Sissinghurst Castle, another favourite, which I think we have frequented since 2003!

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At a glance
Garden tour
10 gardens including:
Pashley Manor Tulip Festival
Max group size 12
Sissinghurst Castle
private visit to Great Dixter
Great Dixter
Chapel Down winery tour
Wonderful seaside hotel
Hever Castle
High Weald & Romney Marsh
Excellent food
Sheffield Park
Fully escorted
Day 1 | Monday, 1 May

From the airports to Hever Castle & Romney Bay House

Tim will collect you from either Stansted Airport or from the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, just north of Terminal 5 Heathrow Airport, and, once assembled, drive to Hever Castle, the 13th century childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I.

We will arrive at lunchtime and have the afternoon to explore the castle and the magnificent gardens, both of which are the result of the remarkable efforts of William Waldorf Astor, a wealthy Anglo-American, who used his fortune to restore and extend the Castle in the early 20th century, and lay out the gardens between 1904 and 1908.

From Hever, we cross the Kentish countryside to our hotel, the charming Romney Bay House, in good time to settle in and relax before one of Clinton's wonderful dinners.

Today's total driving is about 160 miles/260 km, for those of you setting off from Stansted, or about 100 miles/160 km, for those of you joining us at Heathrow

And please note that, in order to reach Hever Castle in time for a relaxing lunch, we plan to depart Stansted Airport at 10:00 and the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel by about 12:00.

Monday, 1 May
Hever Castle and topiary
Day 2 | Tuesday, 2 May

Scotney Castle, Hole Park & the medieval town of Rye

We start our day with a visit to Scotney Castle. The old castle dates from the late-14th century and the new house, an example of the Tudor Revival architectural style, from the mid-19th century. Its garden is of the Picturesque style, and is ablaze with spectacular magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas.

Late in the morning we drive to nearby Hole Park, the first of three gardens this week, which we haven't previously visited on a tour, but we have heard of Hole Park for years - its reputation preceding it. We have lunch at Hole Park, before an afternoon exploring its 15-acres/6 ha of immaculate gardens, a series of garden rooms around the house, sweeping lawns, topiary and an extensive woodland valley, with yet more magnificent azaleas and rhododendrons.

Our day ends in Rye, the most wonderful medieval hill top town. Once surrounded by sea, and frequently raided by the French and Spanish, Rye became a haven for smugglers and outlaws! We will have time, late in the afternoon, for some sightseeing before dinner at The Fish Café.

Today's total driving is about 80 miles/130 km

Tuesday, 2 May
Springtime at Great Dixter
Day 3 | Wednesday, 3 May

Emmetts Garden, Riverhill House & Royal Tunbridge Wells

Our first garden today, Riverhill Himalayan Garden, is the second new garden on this tour and, again, another garden with a great reputation. Riverhill House was bought by John Rogers in 1840, and was originally one of the great smaller country-house gardens of Kent. Rogers, a friend of Charles Darwin, subscribed to plant-hunting expeditions and housed a plantman's collection of trees and species shrubs. Although subsequent generations continued the planting, a shortage of manpower and a lack of money meant that the garden deteriorated, but the garden is being brought back to life by the current generation of Rogers.

After lunch, at Riverhill, we drive across to Emmetts Garden, a long-time spring favourite of customers, for the views across the Weald of Kent and for its collection of trees and shrubs, and the carpets of woodland bluebells.

En route home to Romney Bay House, we visit Royal Tunbridge Wells, a spa town made famous during the Restoration by Beau Nash. We return home for a relaxing evening, and another of Clinton's wonderful dinners.

Today's total driving is about 120 miles/195 km

Wednesday, 3 May
Woodland carpets of bluebells at Emmetts
Day 4 | Thursday, 4 May

Bedgebury National Pinetum & Sissinghurst Castle Gardens

We have driven past Bedgebury for the better part of twenty years, thinking it was yet another Forestry Commission plantation, and little realising the importance of what lay hidden inside - the Bedgebury National Pinetum, possibly the world's most important single-site conifer collection! It's high time we visited and spring, when it is awash with a wide range of rhododendrons, seems the best time.

From one national treasure to another, as we head to Sissinghurst Castle for lunch and the whole afternoon at leisure in these world-famous gardens. Few gardens in Britain have such iconic status, and it is richly deserved; Sissinghurst rarely fails. The gardens were created in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson, probably with echoes of Hidcote Manor, which they visited on acquiring Sissinghurst. There is little more to say, other than you will have as long as you like in the gardens - until they close.

Dinner is around the corner, at The Three Chimneys, a wonderful foody-pub which we have been patronising for as long as we've been driving past Bedgebury.

Today's total driving is about 70 miles/110 km

Thursday, 4 May
Sissinghurst Castle gardens from the tower
Day 5 | Friday, 5 May

Great Dixter, Pashley Manor & Chapel Down winery

Our final full day starts with a private visit to Great Dixter - that is to say, we have an hour before the garden opens to the public, and it is a magical hour. These gardens are magnificent and bountiful, and inspirational at every turn. Created by Christopher Lloyd and maintained by him until his sad death in 2006, they are now in the care of head gardener, Fergus Garrett, Christopher Lloyds trusted lieutenant - and they are flourishing, indeed, it may be said that the gardens are looking as well as they ever have.

We leave as the crowds get ever larger, and drive to nearby Pashley Manor, for lunch, a beautiful garden and their annual Tulip Festival, where 30,000 tulips, from palest pink to nearly black to brightest red, create dazzling mantles of colour in every flower bed, pot and border.

An increasing amount of decent quality wine is being grown in this part of southern England, and we will visit one such grower, Chapel Down, on our way home to Romney Bay House, for an end-of-tour dinner.

Today's total driving is about 50 miles/80 km

Friday, 5 May
Tulips at Pashley Manor
Day 6 | Saturday, 6 May

Sheffield Park, the airports and reality

After saying our farewells to Lisa and Clinton, we set off west to Sheffield Park for our final garden visit. The garden was created in 1776 for the Earl of Sheffield by 'Capability' Brown and is an excellent example of his work. Today, the garden has grown into magnificent maturity, with towering specimens underplanted by huge rhododendrons and azaleas.

We will have lunch at Sheffield Park and then drive to the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, for those of you wishing to go to Heathrow Airport, and then Stansted Airport, in good time for evening flights home, where the tour will end.

If you are staying on, in the UK, and don't need, or wish, to return to either airport, then please let us know your onward travel plans, so that we may assist you in getting to your next destination.

Today's total driving is about 115 miles/185 km for those of you returning to Heathrow and about 180 miles/290 km for those of you leaving us at Stansted

Saturday, 6 May
The main lake at Sheffield Park
General Notes

During our tours, we endeavour to be as faithful to our itineraries as possible, but sometimes changes do occur, either necessarily or unavoidably.

Need some help?
We have prepared some helpful information - under 'Essential Information', and this information is designed to enhance your holiday. The pages are, 'An Introduction', 'Additional Information', 'Booking and Paying' and 'Travel Information'.

The tour area map
Click on the Google map of the tour area, and it will open in a new window. The various tour locations are marked GREEN (for gardens), ORANGE (for other attractions), RED (for pubs, hotels and restaurants) and BLUE (for transport) - and click on these markers for more information.

Tour Information
01 - 06 May
6 days
17 400,00
Single person suplement:
3 600,00

Fully Booked - Spring in Kent & Sussex
The joining points for this tour are Stansted Airport, including its on-airport hotels, and the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel.

NB. It may also be possible to be met at Sevenoaks Railway Station, to the south east of London, but only if nobody requires to be met at Sheraton Heathrow Airport, which will take priority.

Additionally, you may join the tour at Hever Castle, our first destination, or at Romney Bay House Hotel, our hotel. But do let us know if any of these locations are difficult for you.

Confirmation of our precise meeting arrangements and introductions to your fellow travellers will be sent to everyone two weeks before the tour starts.
There are no specific notes for this particular tour.
Click to see where we visit