1707 | Gardens & Castles of North Wales

In a land of Princes, where majestic castles mirror the majestic landscape

This tour really does have it all. One of the finest collections of medieval castles in Europe, a complete Italianate village, a mountain railway adventure and an excellent selection of wonderful gardens - including two of Britain's finest and best-loved gardens, at Bodnant and Powis Castle - and all this, set amid the splendour of the Welsh coast and countryside and against the stunning backdrop of Snowdon.

This tour is a refinement of our original Gardens & Castles tour, of 2013, itself another tour born out of a family holiday! In July 2012 we spent 10 or so days camping in North Wales - something of a long-overdue return for Tim - and a new adventure for the rest of the family. And we can assure you that there is plenty to see and do, that the scenery is stunning, the food excellent and the hospitality warm and genuine.

Although the tour concentrates on the gardens and other major attractions in this corner of north-west Wales - an area largely within the Snowdonia National Park - we spend the final full day of the tour in mid-Wales, to visit Powis Castle and Dingle Nursery & Garden, and cross into Shropshire for our final night's stay.

Castles of Wales
Castles may not be at the forefront of your mind if, indeed, they have ever been, but any visit to North Wales would be incomplete without visiting at least a couple of them - and they do have the best ones! Wales has some 400 castles and we visit Caernarfon and Beaumaris, which are amongst the finest examples of medieval castle-building in Europe.

For a little insight into Welsh Castles, you might like to visit this excellent private website - Castles of Wales.

Welsh Culture & Language
North-west Wales is regarded by many as the cultural heart of Wales and not only is the Welsh language widely spoken in these parts, but it is the first language of many.

This BBC website page - here - provides a good background to Welsh history and its language.

Sleeping & Eating
We are returning to Ty'n Rhos Country House, where we enjoyed such wonderful hospitality on our last Gardens & Castles of North Wales tour, in 2013. Family-owned and run by Stephen & Hilary Murphy and their daughter, Laura, Ty'n Rhos is perfectly located for our five nights in North Wales.

Because we can't make it to Heathrow or Stansted, in time for evening flights, if we stay in North Wales on our last night, we need to stay somewhere more convenient - and what could be more convenient than a 15-minute drive from David Austin Roses? We have booked ourselves in, at the superbly-located Hundred House Hotel for our end-of-tour-dinner and final night's stay.

We eat out twice, at The Groes Inn, an established favourite of ours, and at The Peak Restaurant, in Llanberis, which has been getting rave reviews and is starring in many of the guidebooks.

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At a glance
A scenic gardens & castles tour
12 gardens including:
Set within Snowdonia National Park
Max group size 12
Caernafon & Beaumaris Castles
Powis Castle
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Superb accommodation
Plas Cadnant
Fantastic food
David Austin Roses
Fully escorted
Day 1 | Tuesday, 20 June

From Stansted & Heathrow to Wales, via Mosley Old Hall

Tim will collect you from either Stansted Airport or from the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, just north of Terminal 5 Heathrow Airport, and, once we are all together, we will drive north-west, to North Wales, breaking our journey at Moseley Old Hall - where King Charles II hid from Cromwell's troops in 1651, after he fled the Battle of Worcester - for lunch and a stroll around its gardens.

Moseley Old Hall is about half-way on our journey to the hospitality of Stephen and Hillary Murphy, and the comfort of their country house hotel, Ty'n Rhos - our home for the next five nights, and to where we will arrive in good time to check-in and relax, before the first of Stephen's wonderful dinners.

Today's total driving is about 320 miles/515 km, for those of you setting off from Stansted, or about 255 miles/410 km, for those of you joining us at Heathrow

Please note that, in order to reach Ty'n Rhos 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 Moseley Old Hall, gets us to North Wales by about 17:30.

Tuesday, 20 June
Fireplace dated 1560, Plas Mawr
Day 2 | Wednesday, 21 June

In at the deep end - Gwydir, Bodnant & Plas Mawr

We usually save the best until last, but we thought that we would dive in at the deep end this year, and spend the day in the Conwy Valley. Starting with a wonderful drive through the Snowdonia mountains, through the famous mountaineering village of Capel Curig and the pretty village of Betws-y-Coed to Gwydir Castle. This is our first visit to Gwydir, but the castle was rebuilt in 1490, so it's been around for a little while. It has a intriguing history and a very beautiful garden, and we will spend the first part of the morning taking it all in.

From Gwydir it is a short drive along the Conwy Valley to Bodnant Garden, one of the finest gardens in Britain. Established in 1874 by Henry Pochin, and developed by five generations of one family, it has been in the care of the National Trust since 1949. The 32 ha/80 acre garden is a garden of two halves, with manicured lawns and formal Italianate Terraces falling away into shrub-filled glades, water gardens and wild areas, and, of course, its famous Laburnum Arch, the longest in the UK.

We will have most of the afternoon at Bodnant, and then continue our progress, to Conwy, to visit Plas Mawr, a fascinating and rare surviving example of an Elizabethan town house. To round off our day, we venture out and around Great Orme Head, before dinner at the suitably historic Groes Inn.

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

Wednesday, 21 June
Bodnant's famous Laburnum arch
Day 3 | Thursday, 22 June

A busy day on the Menai Strait - a castle and a garden on each side

We start the day at nearby Crug Farm Plants, an extraordinary nursery and garden with an outstanding and unrivalled selection of plants. Originally beef farmers, Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones started their nursery in 1991, since when Crûg has become a Mecca for extraordinary plants, many discovered on their adventurous plant-hunting expeditions.

From Crûg, we continue to Caernarfon, the County Town of Gwynedd, for lunch and to visit Caernarfon Castle, one of a ring of 13th-century fortresses built by Edward I to suppress the Welsh. Tradition has it that Edward II was born at Caernarfon in 1284, and that Edward I invested him Prince of Wales, an unbroken tradition, continued by The Queen, when she invested Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in 1969.

Leaving Caernarfon, we cross the Menai Strait - the body of water separating the mainland from Anglesey (literally, isle of the Angles) - to visit Plas Cadnant, a transformational restoration of a historic garden, begun by the present owners in 1996. Plas Cadnant is a wonderful garden and a plantsman's paradise. 

Our final visit of the day is to Beaumaris, a well-heeled seaside town, and its castle - Beaumaris Castle - and if Caernarfon Castle is the 'king of castles', then surely Beaumaris would be the 'queen of castles', such is it's splendour and sophistication. We return to Ty'n Rhos for dinner.

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

Thursday, 22 June
Caernarfon Castle from its battlements
Day 4 | Friday, 23 June

On top of the world - well, the best we can do locally!

Our day starts a little earlier than usual, but only so that we may take the first train of the day from Llanberis to the summit of Snowdon - the highest point in England & Wales - on the Snowdon Mountain Railway. We have half an hour at the summit, which is time enough to take in the views, before descending the mountain to visit the National Slate Museum for lunch and to see Dinorwig Quarry, one of the world's largest slate mines.

From Llanberis, we are going to take a circular drive though Snowdonia, stopping to visit Caerau Uchaf Gardens, reputedly the highest gardens open to the public in Wales! This will be our first visit to Caerau, but Toby and Stephanie Hickish's reputation, as highly-respected professional gardeners, goes well before them.

Our circular tour of Snowdonia is completed on our return to Llanberis, for drinks and dinner at the award-winning Peak Restaurant

Today's total driving is about 110 miles/180 km

Friday, 23 June
Snowdon Mountain Railway nearing the top
Day 5 | Saturday, 24 June

Clough Williams-Ellis's garden, his Italianate village & coastal cottage

We start today at Plas Brondanw, the home and garden of gentleman architect, Clough Williams-Ellis, creator of Portmeirion. Built by his ancestor, John ap Hywel in around 1550, Plas Brondanw was given to the 25-year-old Clough by his father in 1908 and, although less well known than his masterpiece at Portmeirion, many think Plas Brondanw's gardens are the more important creation.

But you can be the judge of this, as we continue on to Portmeirion, for lunch and the early part of the afternoon, exploring William-Ellis's extraordinary Italianate village and its gardens on the north-west coast of Wales!

Our final journey is along the beautiful Llyn Peninsula to visit Plas yn Rhiw, a delightful 16th-century house with a charming garden and spectacular views across Cardigan Bay. We will return to Ty'n Rhos for dinner.

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

Saturday, 24 June
Portmeirion, William-Ellis's Italianate village
Day 6 | Sunday, 25 June

Off to the borders - Powis Castle and Dingle Nurseries

We bid farewell to Ty'n Rhos and set off to the Welsh borders to spend much of the day exploring Powis Castle and its magnificent gardens, much admired for the series of seventeenth-century terraces and huge clipped yew trees. The castle, a medieval fortress-turned-grand county house is just as interesting, and we will have time to explore that, too.

Late in the afternoon we leave Powis Castle to visit the nearby, family-run Dingle Nurseries & Garden. This internationally-acclaimed garden is the lifetime work of Barbara and Roy Joseph and is now run by grandson Duncan and his wife Clare. The garden is especially well known for its colour-themed and unusual planting, and the stream-fed lake and the huge array of plant species make this sheltered dingle a haven for all types of wildlife.

It's not too far to the Hundred House Hotel, in the sleepy wilds of Shropshire, where we are assured of a warm welcome, slightly wacky bedrooms and a wonderful end-of-tour dinner.

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

Sunday, 25 June
Powis Castle's 17th-century terraces
Day 7 | Monday, 26 June

To Heathrow and Stansted, via David Austin Roses

We wake up about fifteen minutes from David Austin Roses, the world-famous specialist rose breeder and grower, and that's where we will spend an hour or two before we must depart for the realities of Heathrow and Stansted Airports.

For those of you not needing to return to either Heathrow or Stansted Airports, there will be the opportunity to be dropped off at the local railway station, for trains into Birmingham, and onward into London. Otherwise we take the motorway directly to the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel and thence to Stansted Airport, where the tour ends, and where we plan to be in good time for your evening flight home.

If you are staying on, in the UK, and don't need, or wish, to return to the London area 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 215 miles/345 km, for those of you returning to Stansted, or about 150 miles/240 km, for those of you leaving us at Heathrow

Monday, 26 June
The Long Garden, David Austin Roses
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 - 26 Jun
7 days
22 560,00
Single person suplement:
4 200,00

The prices are for standard twin-bedded or double-bedded rooms, and there is an opportunity to upgrade to a superior room at Ty'n Rhos (although not at Hundred House Hotel), should you wish to. Additionally, there is one single room at Ty'n Rhos, the occupant of which will not be charged the single person supplement.

Fully Booked - Gardens & Castles of North Wales
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 Old Moseley Hall, our first destination, or at Ty'n Rhos, our hotel in North wales. 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