1901 – Cornwall, Devon & Bath
AT A GLANCE
Excellent accommodation, superb food, stunning scenery, dramatic coastlines and Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage city – to say nothing of the wonderful gardens – combine to make this tour the outstanding tour for Spring 2019.
For more than sixteen years we have offered our perennially-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 – as they jut out into the Atlantic Ocean, washed by the mild Gulf Stream. Cornish and Devon gardens couldn't have it much better, and it is no wonder that many of them are open all year round, and those that are not, are often open as early as mid-February!
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 where one can bathe in naturally hot spa water and original Roman Baths.
Sleeping & Eating
We spend the first three nights of the tour in Truro, Cornwall's county town and cathedral city, at The Alverton, a superbly located hotel we have been returning to for about a dozen years, and which has recently undergone some extensive renovation. We move to neighbouring Devon for our second three nights, at the family-run Rock Inn, a traditional Dartmoor Inn, oozing charm and countryside warmth, and onto the Queensbury Hotel, for the final two nights, a sophisticated, but charmingly unstuffy hotel in the centre of Bath.
We dine-in, at The Alverton, on our first evening, and then at two favourite establishments, Tabb's, where we have dined for over a dozen years, and The Ferry Boat Inn, which we have enjoyed for the past few years. In Devon we dine-in at the Rock Inn twice and once in Dartmouth, at The Seahorse, a restaurant newly recommended to us, and in Bath we dine out at The Circus, a wonderful restaurant we discovered a few years ago and dine-in, for our end-of-tour dinner, at the Olive Tree, our hotel's Michelin-starred, award-winning restaurant.
You can see that we take our food seriously!
Please let us know if any of the website links become dysfunctional. Thank you.
9 - 17 April 2019 | 9 days
DAY 1 - TUE 9 APR
Tim will collect you from the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, immediately north of Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport and, once we are all together, we drive south west to Stourhead (pictured above) for lunch and a walk around these world-famous, eighteenth century landscape gardens.
Stourhead is a little more than half-way to our hotel, The Alverton, where we plan to arrive late in the afternoon, in good time to check-in and relax before dinner at the hotel. The Alverton, our home for the next three nights, is quietly located, 5 minutes walk from the centre of Truro, Cornwall's county town and only cathedral city.
NB. In order to be in Truro by our planned arrival time, we will leave Heathrow at about 08:30.
Today's driving is about 250 miles/400 km
DAY 2 - WED 10 APR
Our day starts at the world-famous Lost Gardens of Heligan, with a private guided tour of its Northern Gardens, just one part of this vast 200 acre/80 ha estate. Rediscovered some twenty-five years ago, Heligan's historic gardens were lost, unknown and unseen since its gardeners departed, over a century ago, for the First World War. You will have plenty of time to discover the rest of Heligan's gardens, and enjoy lunch from their superb Kitchen & Bakery, before departing, through the lanes, to nearby Caerhays for a veritable feast of magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons which, according to the Good Gardens Guide "…its collection of camellias and rhododendrons to be amongst the finest and its magnolias to be unrivalled".
From Caerhays, we cross the River Fal on the King Harry Ferry for a late-afternoon visit to Trelissick, a gardener's diary entry for which says "...however during April they truly begin to shine. Rhododendrons across the garden burst to life with each tree or shrub boasting a plethora of blooms...".
Dinner is at Tabb's, a restaurant we have frequented for about sixteen years.
Today's driving is about 40 miles/65 km
DAY 3 - THU 11 APR
We spend the day on the Land's End peninsula and the Helford Estuary, beginning with a brief visit to the gardens at Burncoose Nurseries, a well-known nursery owned by the Williams family of Caerhays Castle, before a late-morning visit to Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens. A relatively new garden to Cornwall, Tremenheere opened to the public in September 2012 and quickly attracted attention for its fascinating features, including some impressive installations – two by the American artist James Turrell – and a superb café, where we will have lunch.
Mid-afternoon we'll drive along the Helford River, catching glimpses of it as we go, for the rest of the day at Trebah (pictured above), one of our favourite gardens, a magnificent sub-tropical paradise with a stunning coastal backdrop and one of the Great Gardens of Cornwall.
Dinner is just a few minute's walk from Trebah, at the Ferry Boat Inn, where we can sit and watch the world go by, whilst we order some wonderfully fresh fish.
Today's driving is about 75 miles/120 km
DAY 4 - FRI 12 APR
We cross Cornwall to spend the day on the rivers Lynher and Tamar, the boundary with neighbouring Devon, firstly to visit Antony Woodland Garden (pictured above), one of the most beautiful and least known gardens in Cornwall. Home to over six hundred different varieties of camellias, it is one of only four "International Camellia Garden of Excellence" in the country and holds the National Collection of Camellia japonica, this and a wonderful collection of nearly two hundred and fifty different types of magnolias and, during spring, extensive drifts of wild primroses, bluebells and campion.
From Antony we drive north, along the Tamar valley, for lunch and the afternoon at Cothele, the ancestral home to the Edgcumbe family for centuries, a Tudor house perched high above the River Tamar. A garden of two halves, Cotehele has a formal garden next to the medieval house and the Valley Garden, home to many fine specimen trees and shrubs, and magnolias, azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons.
Today's driving is about 100 miles/160 km
DAY 5 - SAT 13 APR
We spend today on and around the River Dart, starting with a brief visit to Dartington Hall, to explore the gardens and a little of Dartington's fascinating history, which dates to the 1390s when John Holland, Richard II's half-brother, created a medieval manor house here. After morning coffee, we continue along the river for lunch and a mid-day visit to Coleton Fishacre (pictured above), the luxury 1920s country retreat of the D'Oyly Carte family – they of Gilbert & Sullivan operatic fame. Designed by Oswald Milne, a pupil of Lutyens, The Arts & Crafts house is imbued with 1920s' elegance, whilst the exceptionally mild setting allows a host of exotic and tender plants to thrive in its wonderful cliff-top garden.
We leave Coleton Fishacre after lunch to visit neighbouring Greenway, the beloved holiday home of Agatha Christie and her family, and its Camellia Garden, another of the seven International Camellia Gardens of Excellence in the UK. From Greenway Tim will take the minibus, whilst you take the Greenway Ferry to Dartmouth, meeting up for a late-afternoon exploration of this historic naval town and dinner overlooking the river, at The Seahorse.
Today's driving is about 80 miles/130 km
DAY 6 - SUN 14 APR
After a slightly earlier start than usual, we cross Devon to reach its north coast, venture into neighbouring Somerset and return home over Exmoor, all for the sake of some stunning countryside and two extraordinary gardens. Our first visit is to Marwood Hill, a plantsman's garden created by the late Dr James Smart from the 1950s. Located in a steeply-sided North Devon valley, the garden contains no fewer than five thousand different varieties of plants, and includes magnificent displays of blossom from the massed camellias and rhododendrons.
After lunch, at Marwood Hill's tea room, we drive along the North Devon coast to Greencombe (pictured above), a fascinating north-facing, organic garden, the life's work of custodian Joan Loraine, who has gardened here for some 53 years. The north-facing wooded hillside – which doesn't see any sun for a part of the year – overlooks the Bristol Channel and is traversed by a maze of narrow paths, all of them populated by a wide variety of rhododendrons and azaleas, and all sheltered by the mature woodland.
Today's driving is about 160 miles/260 km
DAY 7 - MON 15 APR
We visit two very different gardens en route to Bath, firstly to the house and gardens of Knighthayes Court, a Victorian high-gothic house. Built by Sir John Heathcoat Amory, 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' complete with collections of magnolias and rhododendrons.
After lunch, at Knightshayes, we drive to Burrow Farm Gardens, to visit John and Mary Benger's colourful spring 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, while John's back was turned! It is a garden of many parts, with mature Rhododendrons, stunning luminous yellow Skunk Cabbage and Wisteria in April.
It's a little bit less than a two hour's drive 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 driving is about 140 miles/225 kms
DAY 8 - TUE 16 APR
You have the whole day, free to explore Bath, a fabulous city, bustling with tourists, students and shoppers alike – where Roman history, a medieval abbey, stunning Georgian architecture, two universities and some of the finest shopping in south west England all collide. 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 start your day with a tour of the city, with a hop-on-hop-off-bus tour of the city, or a boat tour, or a walking tour with Footprint Tours, before embarking on the likes of Bath Abbey, the Assembly Rooms, Georgian Bath and the Jane Austen Centre.
Or 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 3 o'clock at The Pump Rooms for afternoon tea (pictured above), and we will organise tickets for the Roman Baths too.
Finally, we will gather for drinks and a sumptuous end-of-tour dinner at The Olive Tree, the Queensberry's very own Michelin-starred, award-winning restaurant.
DAY 9 - WED 17 APR
Our final – and some say best – garden of the tour is Iford Manor (pictured above), a short drive from Bath, this beautiful and tranquil garden is one of Harold Peto's most famous creations. Harold Peto (1854-1933) began his career as an architect in partnership with Ernest George in 1871, with Edwin Lutyens among their assistants, and, after time living and travelling abroad, he purchased and moved to Iford Manor in 1899, making Iford his permanent base. He re-designed and expanded the garden, emphasising particularly his Arts and crafts approach to architecture and garden design, trying out new ideas and incorporating the artefacts collected during his travels.
After morning coffee and homemade biscuits, we take our leave and, depending upon customers' travel plans, we will go either to Chippenham, for those of you wanting to take direct rail services into central London, or return directly to the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, where the tour ends.
If you are staying on in the UK and don't need, or wish, to return to London or Heathrow, then please let us know your onward travel plans, so that we may assist you in getting to your next destination.
Today's driving is about 110 miles/180 km
We will endeavour to be as faithful to the published itinerary as possible, but sometimes changes do occur, either necessarily or unavoidably.