KnollGardens of Hidcot Manor, protected by the National Trust.KnollSissinghurst Tower

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The Garden of England & Artistic Retreats of the South Coast

25th May 2014 - 31st May 2014 — £1,695 approx. $2,650

The lush green landscapes of south east England hide a veritable treasure trove of historic gems, from the beloved homes and enchanting gardens of some of Britain's best-known writers and artists to fascinating relics of the country's past.

Sunday 25th May: Arrival

On arrival at Heathrow you will be able to catch a 'Hotel Hoppa' bus direct to our overnight hotel, the Crowne Plaza London Heathrow. In the evening you are invited to join the group for a cocktail, followed by dinner.

Monday 26th May: Eltham Palace

After breakfast we travel to Eltham Palace where we join a guided house tour. This stunning 1930s Art Deco mansion was built by the wealthy Courtauld family next to the remains of Eltham Palace, childhood home of Henry VIII. The result is a fascinating blend of glamorous 20th century interiors in ancient surroundings, including the magnificent medieval Great Hall, plus 19 acres of beautiful gardens.

We then continue on to Buxted Park Hotel and check in. There'll be time to unpack and freshen up before dinner.

Tuesday 27th May: Great Dixter and Sissinghurst Castle Garden

We start the day at Great Dixter, home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd. We'll enjoy a private guided tour of the famous gardens which feature topiary, mixed borders, an orchard and wild flower meadow. We'll also take a private guided tour around the house which, although largely medieval, has several later additions by Edwin Lutyens. Highlights here include the Great Hall, one of the largest surviving timber-framed halls in the country.

We then head to Sissinghurst Castle Garden in the Kent countryside. Created in the 1930s by novelist Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, these world-famous gardens are laid out as a series of enchanting, individually-planted 'rooms' including a fragrant Herb Garden and Rose Garden.

Wednesday 28th May: Bateman's and Scotney Castle

17th century Bateman's so enchanted Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling when he discovered it, that he made it his home in 1902. With its stone-mullioned windows and Sussex oak beams, it's a romantic retreat that has been left virtually untouched since Kipling's tenure here. We'll also join a guided tour of the tranquil gardens here.

Wealthy Victorians liked nothing more in their gardens than a picturesque ruin and the partially-ruined, 14th century moated example at Scotney Castle is particularly romantic, with roses and wisteria adorning its walls. The lovely Victorian country house overlooking it combines 19th century revival style furnishings with domestic comfort.

Thursday 29th May: Charleston House, Firle Place and Alfriston Clergy House

We visit Charleston, the home of artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell (sister of Virginia Woolf), and country meeting place for the writers, painters and intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury Group. The house was transformed by the artists who painted walls and furniture, and filled rooms with textiles, ceramics and works of art from their collection. We enjoy a lecture and private tour here followed by refreshments.

From here, we continue on to Firle Place, seat of the Gage family for over 500 years, where we'll enjoy a 2-course lunch before our guided tour. Nestled in the heart of the Sussex Downs, Firle Place was originally built in Tudor times but transformed into the house we see today in the 18th century. A number of interesting architectural features of the original Tudor house are exposed to view.

We then make a short stop at Alfriston Clergy House, a 14th century thatched, timber-framed house surrounded by a delightful cottage garden. This was the first property to be acquired by the National Trust back in 1896.

Friday 30th May: Down House and Claremont Landscape Garden

After breakfast, we check out of our hotel and travel back to London via Down House, home of scientist Charles Darwin and his family for 40 years. Several rooms have been recreated as they appeared when he lived here including the study where he wrote 'On the Origin of Species'. The house is surrounded by extensive gardens; Darwin's 'outdoor laboratory'.

We'll also make a short stop at Claremont Landscape Garden, a green oasis of trees and shrubs with a serpentine lake.

From here we travel back to the Crowne Plaza Hotel close to Heathrow, where we'll enjoy dinner before departure the next day.

Saturday 31st May: Departure

Special extras included in your itinerary

  • Guided house tour at Eltham Palace
  • Private house and garden tours at Great Dixter
  • Garden tour at Bateman's
  • Lecture, refreshments and private tour at Charleston House
  • 2-course lunch and guided tour at Firle Place

Your Hotels

Nights One & Six

The Crowne Plaza London Heathrow is a modern hotel within a couple of miles of the airport. Comfortable en-suite rooms are matched by great leisure facilities, including a large indoor swimming pool and sauna.

Nights Two to Five

The Buxted Park Hotel in East Sussex is an imposing stuccoed house built almost 300 years ago by Thomas Medley, whose family collected taxes for Henry VIII. Buxted's famous connections are numerous; the Prince Regent and Queen Victoria both stayed here and in the 20th century – when a film studio boss had taken over ownership – it welcomed stars such as Marlon Brando and Gregory Peck. The excellently appointed en-suite rooms are complemented by stylish communal rooms.

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At a Glance

  • 2 nights at the Crowne Plaza London Heathrow
  • 4 nights at Buxted Park Hotel
  • Full English breakfast & 3-course table d'hôte dinner each day
  • Travel by comfortable motor coach
  • Services of a tour director throughout your stay
  • All entrance costs
  • Welcome cocktail on your first evening

Single Supplement has been waived for this tour.

The member's price in US dollars is $2,650. As a British company, all our tours are priced in sterling rather than dollars. Obviously the exchange rate will fluctuate very slightly each day so the prices shown are correct at the time of this webpage going live.

The prices shown are Royal Oak members' prices. Non-members will be required to pay an additional £100 per person, if booking online please check the non-members box. If you are a member please take your Royal Oak membership card with you as some National Trust properties will require proof of membership to be shown on entry. If you're not a member why not join now?

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