1812 | Devon Gardens & Dartmoor Walks

Devon, as quintessentially English as the Devonshire Cream Teas it serves

We have been walking on Dartmoor for a number of years, but we re-wrote this tour completely in 2016 and it was so successful that, save only for a couple of modifications, we are re-running it in 2018 too.

Devon is England's fourth largest county, and is undoubtedly one of its most rural and most beautiful. Bounded to the north and the south by two wonderful coastlines, Devon's lush rolling countryside is dominated by Dartmoor, a landscape of stunning views, awe inspiring granite tors, deep wooded valleys with fast flowing rivers, and rugged, wide open spaces.

The Gardens
Devon is blessed with many wonderful gardens, especially along its south coast, where they are warmed by the mild air of the Gulf Stream, and we will visit a selection of the very best of the gardens.

Dartmoor is a National Park and much information can be gleaned from two principal websites, Dartmoor National Park Authority and Visit Dartmoor, the official tourist authority for the area. Its history is fascinating and is littered with the evidence of human habitation and activity from earliest times to living memory, and a summary of its heritage may be found here

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.

Walking on Dartmoor is a delight and, despite its rugged character, much gentle-to-moderate walking can be enjoyed on its periphery and in the valleys surrounding the moors. We will only undertake walks suited to the party's ability and not at all in foul weather.

Sleeping & Eating
We have taken rooms at the award-winning, family-run Rock Inn, a traditional Dartmoor Inn in the lee of the moors. It was constructed in the 1820s to serve the new community of Haytor Vale, built for workers to extract the high quality granite from Haytor Down. Haytor granite was used to construct London Bridge, which opened in 1831 and moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona in 1970. The last rock was quarried in 1919 and was used for the Exeter War Memorial.

This will be our third visit to the Rock Inn, and there is good reason it is in the Good Hotel Guide and has a starred entry in the Good Pub Guide. We will make it our home for the week, dining-in on four evenings and dining-out on two, at two favourite pubs, the Nobody Inn, Doddiscombsleigh, and at the Church House Inn, Rattery.

Cream teas
Talking about eating, I ought to mention cream teas, because both Devon and its neighbouring county, Cornwall, are famous for them and, indeed, we talk about a Devon or Devonshire Tea. Essentially, a cream tea is the scone element of an afternoon tea, served with jam and clotted cream and, of course, tea - there are variations of this too, but we'll explain that over a 'cream tea' during the week.

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At a glance
A gardens-with-walking tour
8 gardens including:
Gentle walking in wooded valleys
Max group size 10
Bronze-age Grimspound
RHS Rosemoor
Full-day on Dartmoor's Tors
Traditional Dartmoor inn
Coleton Fishacre
Superb food
Knightshayes Court
Fully escorted
Day 1 | Tuesday, 4 September

From the busyness of London airports to the peace and calm of Devon

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 break at Montacute House, a masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture and design, built by Sir Edward Phelips and completed in 1601.

From Montacute, it is about a ninety-minute drive to The Rock Inn, where we will arrive in good time to check-in, relax and gather for drinks before dinner at The Rock.

Today's total driving is about 250 miles/400 km from Stansted and about 185 miles/300 km from Heathrow

Tuesday, 4 September
Montacute House
Day 2 | Wednesday, 5 September

Two very different gardens in the east of the county

We spend the day in east Devon, at Burrows Farm Garden, a 13 acre/5 ha garden set in idyllic countryside. Created by Mary Berger since 1960, the garden comprises a number of gardens, the Woodland Garden being the oldest and the Anniversary Garden - created in 2010 to celebrate 50 years at Burrow Farm - the newest. We'll have lunch in the tea rooms at Burrow Farm, before setting off for Knightshayes Court, where we'll spend the afternoon.

Built between 1869 and 1873 by Sir John Heathcoat Amory, the grandson of John Heathcoat, who created the mechanised bobbin lace making machine and who owned the lace factory in Tiverton - which the house looks down upon! - Knightshayes Court is Gothic Revival on a grand scale.

There is much to see and do and besides the house, which is an enjoyable diversion in itself, it boasts a very fine formal garden, a splendid woodland garden and, as if that wasn't enough, a wonderful walled kitchen garden. Restored in 2001, this enormous Victorian edifice - complete with fairytale turrets - specialises in varieties of produce grown in Victorian times.

We return home via Doddiscombsleigh, for supper at the Nobody Inn, a pub we first dined at more that a dozen year's ago!

Today's total driving is about 135 miles/220 km

Wednesday, 5 September
The formal gardens, Knightshayes Court
Day 3 | Thursday, 6 September

A breathtaking garden followed by a breathtaking walk!

We cross Dartmoor for a morning visit to The Garden House, an elegant former vicarage purchased in the 1940s by Lionel and Katharine Fortescue who, over the next 40 years created a garden which is held to be one of the finest gardens in Britain. The 10 acre/4 ha garden is now in trust for future generations and in the care of head gardener, Nick Haworth, who arrived in 2013 and has begun a major refurbishment of the original Fortescue garden. The Garden House has a very decent Tea Room, where we can enjoy lunch, before our afternoon's walk.

Our first walk is an easy circular walk on the apptly-named Walkhampton Common, a short drive from The Garden House, and is designed, at least in part, to confirm everyone's capability and confidence on the moors. Walkhampton Common is a Premier Archaeological Landscape (PAL) and is littered with the evidence of some 4,000 years of man's presence.

We'll see one of Dartmoor's more famous landmarks, HM Prison Dartmoor, as we drive across the moors, for a drink at Two Bridges or Postbridge, on our return home for dinner.

Today's total driving is about 65 miles/105 km

Thursday, 6 September
St Andrew's Church, Garden House gardens
Day 4 | Friday, 7 September

A walk onto the moors - and back again! - all from our front door

Haytor Rocks, which some of you may even have a view of from your bedroom window, will be the centre of today's activity. After a hearty breakfast and checking the day's routes on our map, we will ascend Haytor Down via the National Park Visitor Centre, for a circular walk, taking in Haytor Rocks, Black Hill and, possibly, Hound Tor - we may even get as far as Widecombe in the Moor.

The walk will be about 7 miles/12 km in total, and we will return to The Rock Inn for dinner.

Today is a 'no driving day'

Friday, 7 September
Tim checking directions on Haytor
Day 5 | Saturday, 8 September

Two gardens, a stunning coast and a historic naval town

We spend today along Devon's stunning south coast, starting with a visit to Dartington Hall, to explore their gardens and a little of its fascinating history. The gardens date to 1390s when John Holand, half-brother to King Richard II, created a medieval manor house on the hillside overlooking the river Dart. Wind forward five centries, to 1925, when Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, an American heiress and her English husband, buy the run-down Dartington estate with the aim of creating a unique experiment in rural regeneration, education and the arts. Today, Dartington is the hub of a highly-respected Social Enterprise Charity, continuing the work of the far-sighted Elmhirsts.

We continue to the coast, 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 style house is imbued with 1920s' elegance whilst exotic and tender plants thrive in its wonderful garden. Leaving Coleton Fishacre, we descend into Kingswear, to cross the River Dart by ferry, to explore Dartmouth, a historic naval town and home to the Royal Navy's officer training college.

We dine at the ancient Church House Inn, Rattery, en route home to The Rock.

Today's total driving is about 105 miles/170 km

Saturday, 8 September
The Tiltyard Garden, Dartington Hall
Day 6 | Sunday, 9 September

RHS Rosemoor, a last gentle walk and cream teas to finish!

We can't come to Devon and not visit RHS Garden, Rosemoor, one of four Royal Horticultural Society gardens, so we do so this morning. Rosemoor turns on its head the expression that "you can't please all of the people all of the time", because Rosemoor does, and not only has it got something for everyone, it does it so well too.

We will have lunch at Rosemoor and return across the moors for a short walk and a well-deserved Devonshire Cream Tea in the pretty village of Chagford, before returning home for a relaxing evening and our end-of-tour dinner. 

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

Sunday, 9 September
Sunflower in the kitchen garden, Rosemoor
Day 7 | Monday, 10 September

Our final day and a final, magnificent garden

After a decent breakfast and loading the minbus, our last day starts with a drive to Stourhead, for lunch and a stroll around this world-famous landscape garden. Few such gardens can boast the absolute splendour of its magnificent lake, reflecting a host of classical temples, mystical grottoes, and rare and exotic trees.

From Stourhead the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel is about a two-hour drive, and a little more than one hour, after that, to Stansted Airport, where the tour ends and where we will be in good time for your evening flight home. For those of you staying on, in Britain, and not wanting to return to either Heathrow Airport or Stansted Airport, we will assist you in getting to your next destination.

Today's total driving is about 185 miles/300 km to Heathrow and about 250 miles/400 km to Stansted

Monday, 10 September
The Temple across the lake, Stourhead
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
04 - 10 Sep
7 days
21 600,00
Single person suplement:
3 800,00

There is one room, the Top of the Inn Balcony room, for which there is a supplement, should you wish to have this room.

Available - Devon Gardens & Dartmoor Walks
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 our hotel, but do let us know if any of these locations are difficult for you.

Typically, we aim to collect from Stansted at 08:00 and some two hour's later, at the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, but confirmation of our precise meeting arrangements and introductions to your fellow travellers will be sent to everyone two weeks before the tour starts.

Please note that we do not collect from Heathrow terminal forecourts.
This is a gardens-with-walking tour and, although the walking element is not compulsory, it is a major element of the tour.

We plan to have three walks on Dartmoor: a gentle afternoon's walk to assess everyone's capabilities; and two extended walks suited to the party's abilities and the prevailing conditions.

Dartmoor is an exposed upland area, renowned for its changeable conditions and you should be fit enough to cope with moderate walks up to some 12km over exposed moorland.

At the very least, you will need a day sack/small rucksack, a waterproof and windproof jacket, hat and gloves, and walking boots.

NB. We will design the walks according to the party's ability, and not attempt walks the party is neither capable nor confident of.
Click to see where we visit