1702 | Cornwall, Devon & Bath

Celtic Cornwall, rural Devon & sophisticated Bath - the very best of south west England

Excellent accommodation, superb food, outstanding gardens and Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage city, combine to make this tour the outstanding tour for Spring 2017.

For more than a dozen years we have offered our popular Cornwall & Bath tour, ever conscious that, on our way to the southern tip of Cornwall, we were driving past a host of wonderful springtime gardens in eastern Cornwall and throughout southern Devon, and this tour goes some way to rectifying our omission.

Cornwall & Devon
England's most southwesterly counties enjoy an enviable position - climatically and horticulturally. Jutting out into the Atlantic and washed by the mild Gulf Stream, Cornish and Devonian gardens couldn't have it much better, and it is no wonder that many of them are open all year round, and those that aren't often open as early as mid-February!

Our hotel, Rock Inn, is within Dartmoor National Park, and we will cross it a couple of times during the first week, stopping for photographs and to explain this special landscape. Much information can be gleaned from two principal websites, Dartmoor National Park Authority and Visit Dartmoor, the official tourist authority for the area. Dartmoor's history is fascinating and it is littered with the evidence of human habitation and activity from earliest times and, amongst other things, it is famous for its prison, which housed both Napoleonic prisoners-of-war and American prisoners-of-war, and famous too, as the eerie setting for Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Surely, one of Europe's most elegant towns. Founded by the Celts, borrowed by the Romans and rediscovered by the Georgians, it is the perfect town to spend a free day. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Bath is independent, creative, unique and stylish, and the only place in Britain to bathe in naturally hot spa water and original Roman Baths.

Sleeping & Eating
We are returning to two award-winning hotels, firstly, for our five nights in Devon, to the family-run Rock Inn, a traditional Dartmoor Inn, oozing with charm and countryside warmth and, secondly, for our two nights in Bath, to the Queensberry Hotel, a sophisticated, but charmingly unstuffy hotel in the centre of Bath. Both hotels feature in the Good Hotel Guide, and both hotels have excellent kitchens, serving superb food.

We dine-in, at our hotel, on four evenings and eat out on three evenings, at Rockfish, overlooking the River Dart, in Dartmouth, at The Church House Inn, a 16th century country inn, dating to 1028, and at The Circus Restaurant, just off the Circus in central Bath. Both Rockfish and The Church House are new to us, but Rockfish is in The Good Food Guide and The Church House is in The Good Pub Guide, two highly-reputable and independent guidebooks we rely upon; we have dined at The Circus Restaurant, which is also in The Good Food Guide, for the past three years.

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At a glance
Spring garden & historic city tour
12 gardens including:
Free day in historic Bath
Maximum group size 12
Dartmouth river cruise
8 days/7 nights
Lost Gardens of Heligan
Plymouth & Dartmoor
5 nights Devon countryside
Eden Project
2 private guided tours
2 nights central Bath
RHS Garden Rosemoor
One private garden visit
Wonderful hotels & fabulous food
Antony Woodland Garden
Fully escorted
Day 1 | Thursday, 20 April

From Stansted & Heathrow to a Dartmoor Inn, via Stourhead

Tim will collect you from either Stansted Airport or from the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, immediately north of Terminal 5 Heathrow Airport and, once we are all together, we will drive south-west for lunch and a couple of hours exploration of the gardens at Stourhead. When Stourhead first opened in the 1740s, a magazine described it as 'a living work of art'! These world-famous landscape gardens are a place of peace and tranquility, and a wonderful place to start our tour.

From Stourhead, it is about a 2-hour drive to The Rock Inn, where we will arrive in good time to check-in and relax, before drinks and dinner at The Rock. 

Today's total driving is about 245 miles/395 km, for those of you setting off from Stansted, or about 180 miles/290 km, for those of you joining us at Heathrow

Please note that, in order to reach the Rock Inn in time for a relaxing evening, we need to depart Stansted Airport at 08:30 and the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel by about 10:30 - these times, together with a two-hour break at Stourhead, gets us to the Rock Inn by about 17:30.

Thursday, 20 April
The Pantheon, Stourhead
Day 2 | Friday, 21 April

Three gardens, probably a murder, a river cruise and Fish & Chips

We spend today on and around the River Dart, starting with a visit to Dartington Hall, to explore the gardens and a little of its fascinating history. The gardens date to the 1390s when John Holand, half-brother to King Richard II, created a medieval manor house here, but wind forward five centuries, to 1925, when Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, an American heiress and her English husband, buy the run-down Dartington estate. They undertook a unique experiment in rural regeneration, education and the arts and, today, Dartington remains the hub of a highly-respected Social Enterprise Charity, continuing the work of the far-sighted Elmhirsts.

After morning coffee, we continue along the river for lunch and a mid-day visit to Coleton Fishacre, the luxury 1920s country retreat of the D'Oyly Carte family - they of Gilbert & Sullivan operatic fame. The Arts & Crafts house is imbued with 1920s' elegance whilst exotic and tender plants thrive in its wonderful cliff-top garden. We depart Coleton Fishacre for a brief visit to neighbouring Greenway, the beloved holiday home of Agatha Christie and her family, and from where you will take the Greenway Ferry, for the short passage to Dartmouth, for a late-afternoon exploration of this historic naval town and dinner overlooking the river, at Rockfish.

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

Friday, 21 April
The Tiltyard, Dartington
Day 3 | Saturday, 22 April

Deep into Cornwall for lost historic gardens and futuristic biomes

We start the day in Cornwall at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, with a private guided tour of the Northern Gardens, just one section of these huge, marvellous gardens. The story of Heligan's restoration is a remarkable one, and it is not easy to imagine that the gardens were last at their height more than a century ago. In common with so many large estates, the outbreak of WW1 and the loss of the estate's workforce to the trenches, brought about great change and the gardens reverted to nature. Unusually, Heligan was neither sold nor developed and its lost garden remained untouched until it was re-discovered in 1990. It opened to the public a year later, and in 2014 welcomed its 5 millionth visitor: some story!

After discovering the rest of Heligan, and enjoying some well-earned lunch, we set off to the spectacular Eden Project, for the remainder of the day exploring the grounds and biomes of this unique attraction. This part-educational, part-experimental and part-engineering project is inspirational and enjoyable in equal measure, and the only place to see the world's largest captive rainforest. We will leave shortly before closing time and return home across Dartmoor, for dinner at the Rock Inn.

Today's total driving is about 150 miles/240 kms

Saturday, 22 April
The Mediterranean Biome, Eden Project
Day 4 | Sunday, 23 April

Along the Tamar for gardens old and new, and Plymouth Hoe

The River Tamar forms the boundary of Devon and Cornwall, and we spend a busy day along the river, starting at The Garden House, a long-established favourite garden of ours. Created by Lionel and Katharine Fortescue in the 1940s, the garden has now passed into a charitable trust and, under Nick Haworth, the garden's third head gardener, continues to be one of the finest gardens in Devon.

From The Garden House, we cross the Tamar for a short visit to Cotehele, a Tudor house perched high above the river, and lunch at the adjoining Cotehele Quay, before the rest of the afternoon at Antony Woodland Garden, a garden we have long-wanted to visit. Antony is home to over six hundred varieties of camellia, it is an 'International Camellia Garden of Excellence' and holds the National Collection of Camellia japonica, and, as if this weren't enough, there is a wonderful collection of nearly two hundred and fifty types of magnolia and a good many rhododendrons too!

When we leave, if we leave at all, we depart by ferry, across the Tamar to Plymouth, for a brief visit to Plymouth Hoe, where Francis Drake reputedly played bowls as the Spanish Armada was first sighted in the Channel, before dinner en route home, at The Church House Inn, a country pub dating to 1028!

Today's total driving is about 100 miles/160 kms

Sunday, 23 April
Buckland Monachorum church from The Garden House
Day 5 | Monday, 24 April

To the north of Dartmoor for two of Devon's most magnificent gardens

Although not strictly a 'Spring' garden, certainly not in the Cornish sense, we cannot come to Devon without visiting the Royal Horticultural Society's Garden, Rosemoor, the society's second most important garden after Wisley, and we spend the first part of today exploring it. Rosemoor was given to the RHS by Eric and Lady Anne Palmer in 1988. They had run a dairy farm here and, originally, had little interest in gardening, until Lady Anne met a famous gardener on holiday in Spain, in 1959. She became an avid plantswoman, travelling widely to South America, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, the USA and Japan to add to her collection, the basis of the collection we see today.

After lunch at Rosemoor, we cross central Devon to Knighthayes Court, for the remainder of the afternoon exploring its house and glorious gardens. Built in Victorian high-gothic style by Sir John Heathcoat Amory, the grandson of John Heathcoat, creator of the mechanised bobbin lace making machine, the house overlooks the family's lace factory in Tiverton. The park and gardens are beautifully laid out, with an exceptional walled kitchen garden, a formal garden, once one of the finest in England, with more than 1,200 species unique to Knightshayes, and extensive woodland gardens, including the 'Garden in the Wood' and 'Michael's Wood' complete with a back-drop of magnolias and rhododendrons.

We return to the Rock Inn for a relaxing evening and a final Devon dinner.

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

Monday, 24 April
Blossom at RHS Garden, Rosemoor
Day 6 | Tuesday, 25 April

Two very different gardens & onward to Bath

Our final two Devon gardens couldn't be more different from one another, and we enjoy short visits to each of them, en route to Bath. Our first visit is to Killerton House, a 2,600 ha working estate in the care of the National Trust, with beautiful rhododendrons, magnolias and champion trees. The Devon seat of the Acland family, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland hired John Veitch in 1772 as his gardener to create a landscape, garden and house at Killerton that reflected his family's importance and position in society. Veitch and his son, James, founded the famous nursery of the same name, sending off plant hunters around the globe, creating the first arboreta in the country, at Killerton, including the first giant redwoods, Sequoiadendron giganteum, to be planted in England. Unusually, though not uniquely, its final owner, John Acland, gave up the estate in deference to his socialist principles.

After lunch at Killerton, we drive to nearby Burrow Farm Gardens, for a short visit to John and Mary Benger's colourful gardens. John and Mary moved here in 1959 with their dairy herd and, whilst John worked the farm, Mary started her garden in the old roman clay pit, expanding it bit-by-bit, by stealing parts of the surrounding fields! It is a garden of many parts, with mature Rhododendrons, stunning luminous yellow Skunk Cabbage and Wisteria in April.

It's about an hour-and-a-half drive from Burrow Farm Gardens to the Queensberry Hotel, our central Bath home for the next two nights, where we plan to be, in time to check-in and have an early-evening stroll around the city centre, before dinner at The Circus.

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

Tuesday, 25 April
Wisteria at The Garden House
Day 7 | Wednesday, 26 April

A whole day, free to explore one of Europe's finest & most civilised cities

You have the whole day to explore Bath, a fabulous city; bustling with tourists, students and shoppers alike. Roman history, a medieval abbey, stunning Georgian architecture, two universities and some of the finest shopping in south west England. It is a wealthy city, financially, historically and culturally.

So much to do, so much to see, and together with the local tourist information centre we will assist you in getting the best from your day. We recommend that you take either a hop-on-hop-off-bus tour of the city, or a walking tour with Footprint guides, before embarking on the likes of the Roman Baths, Bath Abbey, the Assembly Rooms, Georgian Bath and the Jane Austen Centre.

You may wish to relax, take it easy and watch the world go by and, perhaps, enjoy a roof-top plunge at Bath's new thermal spa. However you spend your day, we will meet at 4 o'clock at The Pump Rooms for afternoon tea.

Early in the evening we will gather for drinks and a sumptuous dinner at The Olive Tree, the Queensberry's very own award-winning restaurant.

Today is a no-driving day

Wednesday, 26 April
The Roman Baths, Bath
Day 8 | Thursday, 27 April

One last day, one last garden

Our final garden, Iford Manor, is just a short drive from Bath and here we enjoy a private visit to this beautiful, tranquil garden; one of Harold Peto's most famous creations. Harold Peto began his career as an architect in partnership with Ernest George in 1871, and among their assistants was Edwin Lutyens. Harold became increasingly interested in garden design and, in 1899, when he visited Iford Manor he knew that this was where he wanted to settle. 

After morning coffee and home-made biscuits, we take our leave and, depending upon our customers' travel plans, we will go either to Chippenham, for direct rail services into central London, or return directly to the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, en route to Stansted Airport, where the tour ends, and where we plan to be in good time for evening flights home.

If you are staying on, in the UK, and don't need, or wish, to return to Stansted 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 110 miles/180 km, for those of you leaving us at Heathrow, or about 175 miles/280 km, for those of you returning to Stansted 

Thursday, 27 April
Iford Manor statue & topiary
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
20 - 27 Apr
8 days
23 880,00
Single person suplement:
4 800,00

There are opportunities at both The Rock Inn and the Queensberry Hotel to upgrade your room from a standard room to a superior room or, at the Queensberry Hotel only, a suite.

Available - Cornwall, Devon & Bath
The joining points for this tour are Stansted Airport, including its on-airport hotels, and the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel.

Additionally, you may join the tour at Stourhead, our first destination, our at the Rock Inn, 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 tour.
Click to see where we visit