The following itinerary describes a range of castles, country houses, museums and other sites which we plan to include. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.
York - 4 nights
Day 1: Monday 29 June, Manchester Airport – York Gate Gardens – York
- Arrive Manchester Airport and transfer to Leeds
- York Gate Garden: Guided tour of gardens and afternoon tea
- Evening meal
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Manchester Airport around midday. Upon arrival we transfer by private coach to York, where we spend the next four nights. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Manchester Airport Arrivals Hall – please contact ASA to arrange a suitable meeting time.
En route to York we visit the highly innovative ‘paradise’ garden of York Gate, a one-acre garden tucked away behind the ancient church in Adel, on the northern outskirts of Leeds. Created by the Spencer family during the second half of the 20th century, and in 1994 bequeathed to Perennial, the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society (founded 1839), it is a garden of extraordinary style and craftsmanship, widely recognised as one of the most innovative small gardens of the period. The garden is divided by yew and beech hedges into a series of smaller gardens, each with its own theme and style. From the formality of the herb garden with its topiary, to the dell with its half-hidden pathways and stream, every area has an intimacy and charm of its own. Traditional materials are used with creativity and invention. From pretty paths to pergolas, detailing throughout is exquisite. Evergreens, clipped into strong architectural shapes, are used to spectacular effect throughout the garden.
Tonight we enjoy a evening meal at our hotel. (Overnight York) D
Day 2: Tuesday 30 June, York – Beningbrough – York
- Guided Walking Tour of York, including York Minster
- Beningbrough Hall & Gardens
- Evening Welcome Reception at Fairfax House (Exclusive private visit)
This morning we will take a walking tour of the historic centre of York. This vibrant city was founded by the Romans in 71AD. As Eboracum it was an important town in the Empire’s north and in 208 the entire Roman world was governed from here. After being virtually abandoned following the fall of the Roman Empire and the withdrawal of the army, the town saw a period of population by the Anglo Saxons. York was first invaded by the Viking army on 1 November 866 and a new era began. After a short period of invasion and conquest, the Vikings chose to settle in York (which they called Jorvik) rather than return to Scandinavia. Archaeological excavations have revealed a wealth of evidence of the successful metal-based industries that were developed here, as well as the city’s role in trade. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, York was second only to London in size and prosperity.
The next chapter in the city’s history is Norman, when William the Conqueror marched on York intent on making this wealthy town part of his kingdom. He established a garrison here and built two castles to control access to the town from the River Ouse. There was considerable resistance to the Norman occupation of the town, with attempts to overthrow the new power. This was brutally suppressed in what is known as the ‘Harrying of the North’, when William extracted his vengeance on the population and many thousands died in a period of violence and famine, whilst the lively Viking city was systematically destroyed. The Normans rebuilt York and it is to this period a number of the city’s churches belong.
The medieval period was a Golden Age for York, when the town was a centre of trade and religion. However, following the War of the Roses and the defeat of Richard III to Henry Tudor, the city underwent another period of decline. The Reformation had a tremendous impact on York and its many churches and important religious houses which operated schools, hospitals, hospices and employed local citizens. The Dissolution of the Monasteries left a large hole in the finances of the city, and many religious buildings fell into disrepair. Elizabethan York saw a return to prosperity which continued until the Civil War, when the city was used as a Royalist stronghold and was besieged by the Parliamentarian army. Once again, the religious and business focus of the town allowed it to rise again to regional prominence, and the Industrial Revolution brought new business opportunities to the region.
The Georgian period coincided with a building boom and York now boasts many fine Georgian mansions. Our guide will point out the many layers of the city’s rich history that can be seen in the buildings, roads, walls and churches.
Our walking tour includes a visit to York Minster, one of England’s greatest cathedrals, which has a long, intricate history. The present building, which has the finest medieval stained glass in England, had a number of precursors. In 1069, for example, the Normans destroyed the Anglo-Saxon cathedral and so in 1080 its Archbishop, Thomas, began a new cathedral that was completed in 1100. In 1137 its east end was destroyed by fire. A new Romanesque choir was built in 1175, a south transept added in 1220, and the north transept completed in 1253. In 1394 the present choir was begun, and the foundations of the Lady Chapel laid in 1361. In 1338, the Great West Window was completed. The Great East Window followed in 1405, and the Minster, now completed, was consecrated in 1472. Meanwhile, the Minster’s original west towers had collapsed. The Minster became caught up in the Reformation – Thomas Wolsey was archbishop here – and in the Civil War, York remained a centre of Catholicism in England. 18th-century damage by fire and 19th-century restoration further modified this great building. Major restoration occurred again after another fire in 1984; in consequence York University has become one of England’s most important architectural conservation centres.
After the conclusion of our visit to York Minster the remainder of the morning is at leisure.
After lunch in York we drive out of the city to visit Beningbrough Hall. This beautiful brick Georgian mansion with stone dressings (1716) has one of Britain’s finest baroque interiors, with exceptional wood carving and an unusual central corridor running the full length of the house. It also retains its fully equipped Victorian laundry. In partnership with the National Portrait Gallery (London), Beningbrough displays more than one hundred famous paintings and seven new portrait interpretation galleries. It also has a functioning walled garden, which supplies produce to its restaurant and is notable for its lavender. The estate, whose gardens are surrounded by water meadows, also has an American garden, a Victorian conservatory, box-edged rose gardens, a lily pool, and interesting wooden sculptures.
This evening we walk from our hotel to Fairfax House, one of the finest Georgian houses in England. Here we enjoy the ambience of the house with beverages and canapés in a private reception, then take an exclusive tour of the house. (Overnight York) B
Day 3: Wednesday 1 July, York – Castle Howard – Beverley – Stillingfleet – York
- Castle Howard: Private Guided tour of house & morning tea
- Market Town of Beverley
- Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens
- Evening walk of the Shambles, York
This morning we will have a private tour of a masterpiece of the Baroque, one of England’s greatest country houses, Castle Howard, the setting for the BBC series Brideshead Revisited. The 3rd Earl of Carlisle commissioned the ‘castle’ (a term often used for country mansions with no military purpose) from the gentleman-dilettante Sir John Vanbrugh, a fellow member of the famous Whig Kit-Cat Club. Nicholas Hawksmoor, architect of a number of Oxford colleges, assisted Vanbrugh here and at Blenheim. Vanbrugh designed a Baroque structure with two wings projecting symmetrically on either side of a north-south axis.
Castle Howard’s crowning central dome over the Great Hall, where we have a morning tea of homemade shortbread, was added as an afterthought. The East Wing and the east end of the Garden Front, the Central Block (including the dome), and the west end of the Garden Front all received exuberant Baroque decoration of coronets, cherubs and urns. Doric pilasters are on the north front and Corinthian on the south. Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, the Venetian Rococo painter, designed many of the house’s interiors when he was living in England between 1708 and 1713. Much of his painting was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1940. The house remained incomplete on the death of the 3rd Earl in 1738, and Vanbrugh’s design was never completed. The West Wing was designed in a Palladian style for the 4th Earl by Sir Thomas Robinson and was not completed until 1811. Much of the house, including the central dome, was destroyed by fire in 1940. Most of the devastated rooms were restored and the house was opened to the public in 1952.
Castle Howard has extensive and diverse gardens, including a large formal garden immediately behind the house. The house, flanked by two lakes, is prominently situated on a ridge, which was exploited to create a landscape garden that lies beyond the formal garden and merges with the surrounding park. Occupying this landscape are the Temple of the Four Winds at the end of the garden and the Mausoleum in the park. Castle Howard also has an arboretum called Ray Wood, and a walled garden that contains decorative rose and flower gardens. The garden architecture at Castle Howard also includes the ruined Pyramid, an Obelisk and several follies and other motifs in the form of fortifications. Another huge arboretum, called Kew at Castle Howard, was established in 1975 as a joint venture between Castle Howard and Kew Gardens. Managed by the Castle Howard Arboretum Trust, it has one of the most important collections of specimen trees in the United Kingdom.
The historic market town of Beverley, originally known as Inderawuda, was founded around 700 AD by St John of Beverley, bishop of Hexham and then York. He was ascribed to many miracles of healing and was canonised in 1037. Beverley became a place of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages due to the popularity of his cult but it was also a significant wool-trading town. Beverley Minster is famous for its 13th century stone carvings and stained glass windows. Here there will be some time at leisure for lunch and to explore the town and, time permitting, the Minster. There is a small market on a Wednesday.
From Beverley we shall drive to Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens. Occupying a tranquil setting in the grounds of an 18th century farmhouse near York, Stillingfleet Lodge Gardens was selected as one of the top ten June gardens by the Independent (2006). The garden, begun by its present owners in 1976, is laid out in small enclosures around the house, with a cottage garden planting and lots of foliage and evergreen herbaceous plants that provide year round interest. The garden features many fragrant plants with seats placed around the garden so that visitors can enjoy the fragrance and birdlife.
We drive back to York in the late afternoon and take a leisurely walk around the city’s famous medieval street, the Shambles. (Overnight York) B
Day 4: Thursday 2 July, York – Scampston Estate – Mansion Cottage – Burton Agnes Hall – York
- Walled Garden of Scampston Hall
- Mansion Cottage
- Burton Agnes Hall
We begin this morning by driving to Scampston Hall, situated in peaceful North Yorkshire, to visit its famous Walled Garden. Sir Charles and Lady Legard’s stunningly beautiful contemporary garden is quite unlike any other. Opened to the public for the first time in 2004, it has been received with great acclaim by visitors from all over the world. Set within the 18th-century walls of Scampston’s original kitchen garden, today the Walled Garden has an exciting and unashamedly modern feel to it and complements the adjacent 18th-century ‘Capability’ Brown park. The garden had been derelict for nearly fifty years before Sir Charles and Lady Legard undertook the huge task of renovating. Having adopted a traditional approach to the restoration of the house and park, they here produced a stunning garden with a contemporary feel with the help of leading garden designer, Piet Oudolf.
We next visit the small, private garden of Chris and Polly Myers’ Mansion Cottage. This hidden garden offers beautiful views and a tranquil atmosphere. Lush, vibrant perennial planting is highlighted with grasses; features include a globe garden, mini hosta walk, 100-foot border, summerhouse, vegetable plot, cuttery, bee and butterfly border, ponds, decking areas and lawns.
Having visited two contemporary gardens we now travel back in time to visit Burton Agnes Hall, an exquisite Elizabethan house filled with fine art, furniture, porcelain and impressionist and modern paintings. Fifteen generations have filled the Hall with treasures over five centuries, from magnificent carvings commissioned when the Hall was built to French Impressionist paintings, contemporary furniture, tapestries and other modern artwork. Lawns and topiary bushes surround the Hall and its gardens contain a maze, giant games, a jungle garden, and more than four thousand plant species. Burton Agnes Hall’s walled garden won the Historic Houses Association and Christies’ Garden of the Year Award 2005. We shall be given a guided tour of this beautiful property before returning to York. (Overnight York) BL
Richmond - 2 nights
Day 5: Friday 3 July, York – Otley – Fountains Abbey – Newby Hall – Richmond
- Market Town of Otley
- Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal: Tour of Cistercian Abbey & Georgian Water Garden
- Church of St Mary
- Church of Christ the Consoler
- Newby Hall & Gardens
We have an early start today, to visit the market town Otley located in the countryside of Lower Wharfedale. On Fridays it has an open-air market where we will buy the ingredients for the picnic lunch we plan to have at Fountains Abbey.
England’s largest ruined monastery, Fountains Abbey, is situated in the beautiful Skell river valley, in which the 18th-century water garden of Studley Royal is also located. The view of the Abbey from the cliff above Studley Royal became a definitive instance of the ‘Picturesque’: a ruined Gothic abbey, evoking an ancient, pious culture, seen from a ‘modern’ 18th-century site. Flanked by two vast lawns set against awe-inspiring cliff faces, with the Skell running under its buildings, the Abbey is a masterpiece of 12th-century building ingenuity. Our tour of the site will take in spaces like the cellarium in which the lay brothers ate and slept; it retains much of its sophisticated vaulting.
In 1132 Fountains was founded in its isolated valley by Thurston, Archbishop of York, for a community that wished to return to a strict form of Benedictine rule; isolation being an ideal of medieval monasticism. The valley was sheltered from the weather and had clean water, plentiful wood, and building stone of high quality. The Abbey subsequently came under reforming Cistercian rule. The Cistercians followed a rigorous daily regime, committed to long periods of silence and a subsistence diet. They wore habits of coarse un-dyed sheep’s wool that earned them the name ‘White Monks’. After Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries (1536-40), glass and lead from Fountains found their way to Ripon and York. Its buildings and parts of its estate were sold to Sir Richard Gresham, whose family subsequently sold them to Stephen Proctor, the builder of Fountains Hall. In 1767 the ruins were sold for £18,000 to William Aislabie, creator of Studley Royal.
The Aislabie family created Studley Royal Water Garden in a wild and well-wooded part of the valley. Its formal, geometric design and its extraordinary vistas constitute a very imaginative, free and individualistic interpretation of French formal garden tradition. Ground level views emphasise its sweeping horizontality, relieved by fabriques and the kind of statues favoured by Grand Tourists to Rome; from higher up the garden’s complex structure reveals itself. Fabriques include the Neoclassical Temple of Piety (dedicated to Hercules), a rusticated Banqueting House, a Gothic octagon tower and a Temple of Fame, and a rotunda with wonderful views across the garden where 18th-century visitors picnicked. Other garden features include the Rustic Bridge, Hermit’s Grotto, Half Moon Pond, Cascades, Canal, Fishing Tabernacles, Drum Fall and the Seven Bridges Valley in the Deer Park. Our garden tour climaxes at the end of the High Ride at ‘The Surprise View’, also called ‘Anne Boleyn’s Seat’, because of a headless statue to be seen there! It gives a magnificent panorama of the distant Abbey ruins.
Returning from the end of the water gardens we climb a path through the fields to William Burges’ St Mary’s Church, one of Britain’s finest Gothic Revival churches. From outside its chancel you can see all the way to Ripon Cathedral.
We next tour the house and gardens at Newby Hall, one of England’s renowned Adam houses; its exceptional interior decoration and fine Neoclassical sculpture collection represent the epitome of 18th-century taste. Built in the 1690s in the style of Sir Christopher Wren, it was later enlarged and transformed by John Carr and subsequently by Robert Adam. It was the home of the Compton family and much of its superb collection was acquired on a Grand Tour by a Compton ancestor, William Weddell. The collection includes tapestries in the magnificent Gobelins Tapestry Room, a renowned gallery of classical statuary, and some of Chippendale’s finest furniture. Its glorious garden was designed in the 1920s by Major Edward Compton, who was strongly influenced by the garden of Hidcote. Newby Hall’s garden has many rare plants, including the National Collection of Cornus (Dogwood). It is famed for its main axis of double herbaceous borders, amongst the longest in Europe. Flanking this axis are numerous formal, compartmented gardens including a Rose Garden, a Water Garden, Autumn Garden and even a Tropical Garden.
We spend the next two nights in Richmond and tonight we shall have dinner together at the hotel. (Overnight Richmond) BLD
Day 6: Saturday 4 July, Richmond – Yorkshire Dales – Richmond
- Yorkshire Dales including the valleys of Wensleydale & Swaledale
This day will be spent exploring the Yorkshire Dales by coach and foot where we will be guided by a national park ranger through the valleys of Wensleydale and Swaldale and experience the various ‘moods’ of the dales. We start in Wensleydale, which is a wide open valley that is dotted with softly rounded hillocks left by retreating glaciers. It is renown for its cheese, historic villages and traditional markets and crafts. Water is an important feature of the landscape of Wensleydale with the River Ure meandering through along with the highest single-drop waterfall in England, Hardraw Force, and the stepped Aysgarth Falls. The Roman fort of Virosidum can be found at Bainbridge and across the River Ure is the village of Askrigg where the TV series All Creatures Great and Small was filmed. Here we stop for lunch in the Wensleydale Creamery, an award-winning, independent traditional cheese-maker.
We then travel through the dales to the most northerly valley of Swaledale, the wildest and most unspoilt. Wild flowers brighten the traditional hay meadows which are surrounded by drystone walls and dotted with stone field barns; this is a special feature of Swaledale. The names of many of the villages and tiny hamlets still reflect the names given to them by the Viking farmers who settled here. A leadmining industry once thrived in Swaledale but collapsed in the late 19th century, nowadays it is famous for its breed of hardy sheep. (Overnight Richmond) BL
Durham - 1 night
Day 7: Sunday 5 July, Richmond – Bowes Museum – Durham Sites – Durham
- Bowes Museum
- Durham Cathedral
- St Margaret’s Allotments
After leaving Richmond in the morning, we visit the Bowes Museum in the historic market town of Barnard Castle. It was purpose built in the 19th century with its foundation stone laid in 1869 by Joséphine Bowes, wife of John Bowes, son of the 10th Earl of Strathmore. It houses internationally significant collections of fine and decorative arts comprising 15,000 objects purchased between 1862 and 1874 by the owners who wanted to wanted to create a world-class museum. We have a light lunch in the Jubilee Room at Bowes Museum before moving on to Durham Cathedral.
Durham Cathedral occupies a dramatic site on a peninsula created by a loop in the River Wear; its west end towers look out over a precipitous gorge. A masterpiece of Romanesque architecture (called ‘Norman’ in the United Kingdom), it was begun in 1093 and largely completed within forty years. This short construction period and the fact that the cathedral was not altered greatly in later periods accounts for its unique integrity of form and decoration. Its nave, choir and transepts are all Norman. At the west end is the 12th century late Romanesque Galilee Chapel and at the east end is located the 13th century Chapel of the Nine Altars, which is Gothic. The west end towers date from the 12th and 13th centuries but the great central tower was constructed in the 15th century and has perpendicular Gothic detailing. A Benedictine house, Durham was constructed to display the shrine of St Cuthbert, making it a major pilgrim centre; the original medieval sanctuary knocker can be seen in the Treasures of St Cuthbert off the cloister. This cloister, located characteristically on the south side of the Cathedral to catch the sun, was begun at the same time as the cathedral but contains much work from the 15th century or later. The cloister, not the cathedral, was the centre of a medieval monastic community’s life. Off this cloister are such rooms as the large chapter house, rebuilt in its original style in 1895, in which the community met to govern itself. Durham made the transition from Priory to cathedral with the dissolution of the monasteries in 1541. In 1650 Cromwell used it to incarcerate 3,000 Scottish prisoners, but with the Restoration (1660) it was refurbished; its richly carved woodwork was added at this time. Much of the cathedral’s stained glass was added in the 19th century. The Bishop of Durham and the Cathedral Chapter founded Durham University in 1832.
After exploring Durham Cathedral, we shall visit the site of St Margaret’s Allotments, an area of small gardens set against the dramatic backdrop of the cathedral that has been cultivated since the Middle Ages. Saved from development some twenty years ago the gardens are now run by an association of enthusiasts and one of its members will guide our visit. The gardens have won the Britain in Bloom, Neighbourhood Award of Merit. (Overnight Durham) BL
Wark on Tyne - 3 nights
Day 8: Monday 6 July, Durham – Beamish – Gibside Chapel – Wark on Tyne
- Beamish Open-Air Museum
- Gibside Chapel
This morning we drive to Beamish’s large interpretive open-air Museum. The museum, set in a restored Georgian landscape tells the story of the people of North East England at two important points in their history – 1825 and 1913. In 1825, the region was rural and thinly populated. The Industrial Revolution, particularly the coming of the railways, accelerated change. By 1913 the heavy industries of the region were at their peak.
After lunch at the museum, we drive to Gibside one of a few surviving 18th-century designed landscapes. This estate in the Derwent Valley was previously owned by the Bowes-Lyon family (the Queen Mother’s family) but is now a ruin due it becoming vacant in the 1920s when it was stripped of its fixtures and fittings to furnish Glamis Castle and to parts of the structure, including the roof, being demolished in 1958. The Gibside Chapel, for which it is famous, is a great example of Palladian architecture, built between 1760 and 1812.
We then drive to Wark on Tyne, which will be our base for the next few days. Here we stay at the Battlesteads Hotel and Restaurant, a converted 18th century farmstead. We shall take over the whole Inn and dine at its excellent restaurant, which has gained an enviable reputation. The restaurant sources local fresh produce, including seasonal game, Cumbrian beef and Northumbrian lamb. Fish and seafood come from North Shields Fish Quay, oak smoked duck, chicken and salmon come from nearby Bywell Smokery. Vegetarian choices are always available and, naturally, their eggs are free-range and fresh herbs are grown in their herb garden. A gold award from the national Green Tourism Business Scheme recognises Battlesteads’ commitment to sustainable living; they have even installed an observatory in their new biomass boiler room so you can appreciate the clean air and lack of pollution in the valley! The bar at Battlesteads has five cask ales on handpump as well as a range of wines, but in keeping with part of its earlier history, when it was a Temperance Hotel in the early 20th century, it also stocks organic lemonade, dandelion & burdock and ginger beer from Fentimans of Newcastle. Fortunately we have three nights here to sample their wares. (Overnight Wark on Tyne) BD
Day 9: Tuesday 7 July, Wark on Tyne – Hexham – Whalton Manor – Wark on Tyne
- Market Town of Hexham
- Whalton Manor Gardens
We begin this morning by driving to the nearby town of Hexham, where we visit the Hexham Market. This country market takes place every Tuesday at the Trinity Church Hall, in the shadow of Hexham’s great Abbey, which was founded in 674 AD. There is also a market in the 18th century ‘Shambles’.
We next visit Whalton Manor, a beautiful private garden set in the heart of one of Northumberland’s most picturesque villages. It offers a rare opportunity to see a historically significant garden which has been lovingly restored and updated. Whalton Manor House dates back to the 17th century and was altered by the renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1908. With the help of Gertrude Jekyll, the leading light of the Arts and Crafts gardening movement, he designed the three acres of magnificent walled gardens around the house. They have been developed by the Norton family since the 1920s and include a rose garden, summer houses, pergolas and walls festooned with rambling roses and clematis, as well as magnificent herbaceous borders. After our private tour of these gardens by their owners, we shall return to Battlesteads Hotel and Restaurant for another fine evening meal. (Overnight Wark on Tyne) BLD
Day 10: Wednesday 8 July, Wark on Tyne – Chesters – Housesteads – Mile Castle – Vindolanda – Wark on Tyne
- Chesters Roman Fort
- Milecastle C37
We spend the day exploring Roman sites along Hadrian’s Wall, the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. Built in the early 2 century AD, Hadrian’s Wall stretches for 80 Roman miles (117km) from the Solway Firth in the west to the mouth of the River Clyde in the east. Some of the forts and mile-castles along its length are very well preserved, as are some stretches of the wall itself, and the central area traverses some spectacularly wild and rugged terrain. Tony Wilmott, an archaeologist and Roman military expert, will accompany us and explain how the wall was constructed, how the frontier functioned, and what its various purposes might have been. The forts to be visited include those at Chesters, Housesteads and Vindolanda. Vindolanda is not actually on the wall, but extensive excavations have taken place here. The most interesting objects found here are letters and accounts, written in ink on wooden leaf tablets, which give extremely important insights into the everyday lives of serving soldiers and their families in the late 1st and 2nd centuries. Experts in the British Museum in 2003 voted these ‘Britain’s Greatest Treasure’. There may well be some current excavations at the time of our visit, and, if so, we might be able to arrange for the excavator to show everyone the trenches! There will be a picnic lunch at Housesteads. We return to Battlesteads for another fine evening meal. (Overnight Wark on Tyne) BLD
Alnwick - 2 nights
Day 11: Thursday 9 July, Wark on Tyne – Cambo – Morpeth – Alnwick
- Herterton House (to be confirmed in 2020)
- Wallington Hall and Walled Garden
- Cragside House & Rock Gardens
We bid farewell to Battlesteads this morning. Our first visit is to the exquisite and jewel-like garden at Herterton House. Created over the last thirty years by Frank and Marjorie Lawley, this garden is not a period piece but an innovative design drawing on the Lawley’s fascination with the colour theories of the 20th century artists, Klee and Mondrian, and an extensive knowledge of unusual plants. A variety of topiary acts as a structural element throughout the gardens and a range of ideas inform the way beds have been planted. The flower garden to the north of the house, for example, captures the passage of time throughout the day. The delicate pinks, yellows, creams and whites plantings in the geometric beds nearest the house echo the colours of dawn, these are followed by beds sporting the vibrant orange and blue hues reminiscent of the midday sun in a cloudless blue sky, these in turn are followed by the deep reds, blacks and purples of sunset. While understanding how these gardens were conceived adds to their appreciation, they are simply beautiful to look at without knowing anything about them.
By contrast, we next visit the nearby 18th century estate of Wallington laid out by Sir Walter Blackett and helped by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who went to school in the estate village. This is Northumberland’s Middle March where formality underlies the ‘natural’ landscape in which walks offer a variety of lawns, shrubberies, lakes and woodland enlivened with buildings, sculpture and water features. We shall eat our picnic lunch (provided by Battlesteads) here before briefly visiting the village of Cambo where ‘Capability’ Brown was born.
From Cambo we head to an astonishing Victorian house, the wonder of its age, Cragside House. Built in 1863 as a modest, two-storey country lodge, it was subsequently extended to designs by Norman Shaw, transforming it into an elaborate mansion in the Free Tudor style. At one point, the building included an astronomical observatory and a scientific laboratory. Home of Lord Armstrong, one of the North-East’s great men, it was the first house in the world to be lit by hydro-electricity! Its fine woodland estate is one of the red squirrel’s last strongholds. The property also has possibly the world’s largest rock garden, a tricky rhododendron maze and a large collection of mostly coniferous trees, among which one Douglas-fir is the tallest tree in England, at 59 m tall. (Overnight Alnwick) BL
Day 12: Friday 10 July, Alnwick – Farne Islands – Alnwick
- RNLI Grace Darling Museum
- A trip to the Farne Islands by public boat
- Alnwick Castle: Out of hours tour of State Rooms and dinner (to be confirmed in 2020)
Today we explore the magnificent Northumberland coast by visiting the Farne Islands to experience the wildlife and ecology found on these rocky outcrops. Sir David Attenborough describes the Farne Islands as being his favourite place in the UK to see ‘magnificent nature’. There are 28 islands altogether which are divided into two groups, the Inner Farnes and the Outer Farnes that can only be reached by boat. Two of the islands, Inner Farne and Staple, are open to the public. You will find that July is the perfect time to view puffins and other seabirds. Pufflings should still be hatching, while some of the older puffins are heading towards the sea. Jumplings (baby guillemots) are leaving the cliffs by jumping into the sea, hence their name! This event does generally occur in the evening, but also occasionally during the daytime. Atlantic grey seals can be seen sunning themselves on the rocks or rolling about in the water. It is advisable to bring a hat to wear when visiting the Inner Farne Island as Arctic terns will still be nesting at this time of year and are protective of their chicks. Other seabirds such as kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots, razorbills, sandwich terns, common terns and shags can all been seen on the islands.
This evening, subject to confirmation, we will dine at Alnwick Castle where John Patrick’s grandmother grew up! Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in England, after Windsor, and has been the home of the Percys, Earls and Dukes of Northumberland, since 1309. Alnwick Castle is first mentioned soon after 1096, when Yves de Vescy became baron of Alnwick and erected the earliest parts of the citadel. William de Percy (d. 1096), founder of the Percy family, came to England from the Caen region of the Duchy of Norman where villages still bear the name Perci. He was one of William the Conqueror’s retainers. The first Lord Percy of Alnwick restored the castle in the early 14th century. Parts of this restoration remain today, including the Abbot’s Tower, the Middle Gateway and the Constable’s Tower. Throughout history, the Percy family have built, maintained and expanded the castle. A private tour of the castle completes our day. (Overnight Alnwick) BLD
St Boswells - 3 nights
Day 13: Saturday 11 July, Alnwick – Holy Island of Lindisfarne – St Boswells
- Holy Island including Lindisfarne Priory and Lindisfarne Castle
Today we visit Holy Island of Lindisfarne, whose Priory was responsible for the magnificent gospels that take its name. Lindisfarne Priory was one of the most important centres of early Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England. Founded by St Aidan in 635AD, the Abbey owes its fame to St Cuthbert, the greatest of Northumbrian holy men, who lived and died there.
After exploring Lindisfarne’s evocative ruins we visit Lindisfarne Castle, which is perched atop a rocky island crag. Originally a Tudor fort built to protect Holy Island harbour, in 1903 the great Edwardian architect Edwin Lutyens (1869–1944) converted it into a private house and holiday home for his friend Edward Hudson. The house’s small rooms are intimate in design and decoration, with views of the charming walled garden planned by Gertrude Jekyll in 1911. The ‘Lutyens-Jekyll’ garden overflows with hardy shrub and herbaceous plantings within a firm classicising architecture of stairs and balustraded terraces. This combined style, of the formal with the informal, exemplified by brick paths softened by billowing herbaceous borders full of lilies, lupins, delphiniums, and lavender, forms a strong contrast to the very formal bedding schemes favoured by previous Victorian gardeners. This new ‘natural’ style was to define the ‘English garden’ until modern times. After our guided tour of the castle and gardens we travel across the Scottish border to St Boswells, our base for the next two days. Like Battlesteads, the Buccleuch Arms Hotel where we will be staying, has an excellent reputation for serving fresh local produce and is committed to reducing carbon miles and supporting the environment. (Overnight St Boswells) BD
Day 14: Sunday 12 July, St Boswells – Melrose – Jedburgh – St Boswells
- Melrose Abbey
- Priorwood Garden & Harmony Garden, Melrose
- Monteviot House and Gardens, Jedburgh
Our first visit today is to the beautiful ruins of Melrose Abbey, which was originally founded in 1136 by the Cistercians at the request of David I of Scotland. Great agriculturalists, they chose the site for its excellent soil and it grew to be the Order’s motherhouse in Scotland. One of the United Kingdom’s most beautiful ruined abbeys it is especially famous for its wealth of well-preserved medieval sculpture, with likenesses of saints, dragons, gargoyles and plants. Scottish kings and nobles are interred at Melrose Abbey, and it is believed that Robert the Bruce’s embalmed heart is buried in its grounds. Damaged by Edward II in 1322, and Richard II in 1385, it was finally destroyed in 1544 by the English armies of Henry VIII, who was trying to force the Scots to betroth the infant Mary (Mary, Queen of Scots) to his son. Sacked again by Cromwell’s armies, the Abbey has been dug by archaeologists, and in 1996 what appeared to be Robert the Bruce’s embalmed heart was found. It was reburied in 1998.
Next door we visit the Scottish National Trust’s Priorwood Garden. This pretty site has an orchard containing historic apple varieties covering a long period from the Middle Ages to the present day, and the only dedicated dried flower garden in Scotland. It produces, processes and arranges dried flowers that it sells in its shop, along with organic vegetable produce in season and home-grown plants. After our tour of the garden there will be time at leisure for lunch.
After lunch we drive to Monteviot House and the adjacent Woodside Walled Gardens. Lord Lothian’s family have lived in Monteviot for three hundred years, and its fascinating mix of architecture reflects the changing tastes of generations. It has been the home of soldiers, diplomats, statesmen, artists and farmers, whose interests are reflected in its interior furnishings. Monteviot’s lovely garden exudes an atmosphere of surprise and innovation. The garden lies along a steep rise above the Teviot valley, a setting that gives drama to its many outstanding features. From the box-hedged herb garden in front of the house with its unique and breathtaking view of the river below, one descends through the sheltered terraced rose-garden, which slopes down between curved borders of herbaceous plants and shrubs to a broad stone landing stage. In the Water Garden, three islands are linked by elegant wooden bridges and planted with a variety of bog and damp-loving plants.
After exploring Monteviot and its garden, we return to St Boswells. (Overnight St Boswells) BD
Day 15: Monday 13 July, St Boswells – Floors Castle – Bughtrig – Mertoun – St Boswells
- Floors Castle
- Bughtrig Gardens
- Mertoun Gardens
We travel to Floors Castle in Roxburghshire which is the seat of the Duke of Roxburgh. It was built in the 1720s by the architect William Adam for Duke John. Here the Millennium Garden depicts the initials of the present duke and duchess carved out in a parterre-style garden.
After lunch we drive to Bughtrig in Coldstream which comprises a traditional hedged Scottish family garden filled with an interesting combination of sculpture, herbaceous plants, shrubs, annuals and fruit trees.
Merton House was designed by Sir William Bruce for Sir William Scott of Harden in 1703-05. It is possible that part of the gardens existed prior to that date because the former mansion house, known as Old Mertoun House, now the head gardener’s house, located in the walled garden dates from 1677. There is a circular dovecot dated 1567 which is thought to be the oldest in the county. The gardens extend about 26 acres from the north and east of Mertoun House. (Overnight St Boswells) BD
Peebles - 2 nights
Day 16: Tuesday 14 July, St Boswells – Mellerstain – Carolside – Abbotsford – Peebles
- Abbotsford House
This morning we visit the William and Robert Adam designed house of Mellerstain, and currently the home of the 14th Earl of Haddington. This grand stately home was the result of a collaboration between the Baillie family and two of Scotland’s greatest architects, William Adam and his son Robert. Built on the site of an old peel tower, it was begun in 1725 and completed in 1778. A tour of the house will include Robert Adam’s ‘enfilade’ of rooms that formally aligned with each other to enhance the vista to the far end to the house, the library and the art collection with works by Van Dyck, Ruysdael, Gainsborough, Ramsay and other Old Masters. Within the 100 acres of mature parkland, there are the formal gardens design in 1910 by Reginald Blomfield in an Italian style, Italianate terraces situated on the south side of the house that has a sweeping stretch of lawn descending to the lake, and a thatched Tea Cottage in its own enclosed parterre garden. A new element to the garden is the Borders Sculpture Park. Standing as sentinel is the statue of Mercury, which was included in the 1725 plans.
Afterwards we travel to Carolside, a late 18th-century house set in a former deer park that was designed by the architect Isaac Ware. This privately-owned garden has an oval walled garden with an historical collection of ancient roses including a national collection pre-1900 Gallica roses. The garden has also been compartmented into a Secret Garden, Winter Garden and Herb garden.
Abbotsford, the multi-towered and turreted house built and lived in by Sir Walter Scott, author of Rob Roy, Ivanhoe, and Lady of the Lake. The house was completed in 1821 and named after the river crossing used by monks travelling to nearby Melrose. Scott also laid out the original garden in the three sections you will see today, the South Court by the house, the Morris Garden and a walled garden replete with a Gothic orangery. The miscellany of a building and garden abound in quirky pieces salvaged, copied or acquired by Scott during his lifetime. There is a roof from Rosslyn Chapel and a doorway from Edinburgh’s old Tolbooth. In the Morris garden, named after one of the characters in Rob Roy, is a kneeling statue of an excise man pleading for mercy from Helen MacGregor, and, in another part of the garden are five medallions from the old Edinburgh market cross dismantled in 1756. The garden, now managed by executors since Scott’s last direct descendant died in 2004, also contributes to past traditions. Beyond the orangery, for example, are beds of iceberg roses enclosed in box hedges. The roses are used to make buttonholes, which were traditionally presented by the lady of the house to the principal riders of the Border Common Ridings reenacting the age old ritual of ‘riding the marches’. This pageant, still enacted in the borders today, dates back to the days when this land was known as ‘The Debatable Land’ and fought over – a history that Scott was steeped in – and when cavalcades of riders rode out of the towns into the hills and around the town’s ancient boundaries to check defences and send marauders on their way. (Overnight Peebles) BL
Day 17: Wednesday 15 July, Peebles – Little Sparta – Portmore House – Peebles
- The Ian Hamilton Finlay designed garden of Little Sparta
- Portmore Gardens
We begin the day with a visit to Little Sparta, a unique garden that was designed by the late artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay. We will have a guided tour with the Head Gardener, George Gilliland and then time to wander and experience the art history, sculpture and poetry of this garden in the manner that Ian Hamilton Finlay intended.
After lunch we head to Portmore Gardens for a tour of the old Victorian gardens that have been recreated by the current owners Mr and Mrs David Reid over the past 30 years. The original gardens and woodlands were created by Colin Mackenzie in the 19th century, who also built the existing Mansion House designed by David Bryce. See the herbaceous double borders, a pottage, rose garden, pleached lime walk and ornamental fruit cages within the 1.5 acre Walled Garden. The large Victorian glasshouses contain an Italianate Grotto. Beyond the Walled Garden is the Water Garden that leads to a Woodland Walk, and below the house is a formal garden of yew and box. (Overnight Peebles) B
Edinburgh - 4 nights
Day 18: Thursday 16 July, Peebles – Rosslyn Chapel – Carberry Tower – Inveresk Lodge – Shepherd House – Edinburgh
- Rosslyn Chapel
- Carberry Tower
- Inveresk Lodge
- Shepherd House Garden (to be confirmed in 2020)
We begin the day by driving to Roslin Glen to visit Rosslyn Chapel. The chapel was founded in 1446 by William St Clair, 3rd Prince of Orkney and has constantly been added to over five hundred years so that practically every surface is carved in an outstanding display of craftsmanship. The carvings in the Chapel tell many different stories, such as the Birth of Christ, the moral tale of the Dance of Death, and a farmer’s wife rescuing a goose from the jaws of a fox. There are unique motifs like the fallen angel Lucifer, who is depicted hanging upside down bound with rope: it is one of the depictions of angels in unusual positions that are significant in the rites of freemasonry. There are also interesting details, such as one of the earliest known representation of bagpipes (played by an angel), images of ‘Green Men’ and an interesting ‘apprentice pillar’. This pillar is associated with a strange story. An apprentice mason is said to have carved the pillar, inspired by a dream, in his master’s absence. On seeing the magnificent achievement, the master mason flew into a jealous rage and struck the apprentice, killing him outright. The Chapel has had a long and colourful history. In the 1500s this family chapel was seized by Protestant Reformers and in 1650, Oliver Cromwell’s army used it to stable horses during his siege of Rosslyn Castle. By the 18th and 19th centuries Rosslyn Chapel’s romance began to capture peoples’ imaginations and the Chapel became a muse for artists, poets and writers. More recently the Chapel hit the headlines as one of the settings in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and the subsequent film.
On our way to the historic village of Inveresk, located seven miles east of Edinburgh, we will stop at Carberry Tower for a historical tour followed by lunch in the Rose Garden Room. Carberry Tower is one of the great Castle Mansion Houses of Scotland with a history dating back to 1480 when the first foundation stone was laid. It also has a long connection with the Royal Family through the Queen Mother’s sister, Lady Margaret Elphinstone, who lived here. Her Majesty the Queen and Princess Margaret often visited when they were younger. Carberry Tower is privately owned but is run as a hotel within 40 acres of private Estate parkland including a parterre garden, sweeping lawns, landscaped ponds and a collection of trees planted throughout the last 300 years.
There are two gardens that we visit in Inveresk, the first being Inveresk Lodge Garden, a secluded National Trust garden featuring rare and unusual plants in an informal setting with wooded and wildlife areas. After an introductory talk by the Head Gardener, you will have time to explore the gardens. The terraced garden has colourful herbaceous beds, a rose border designed by Graham Stuart Thomas and the national tropaeolum collection. Its fine Edwardian conservatory has an aviary, tree ferns and hardy exotics.
Across the road is Shepherd House Garden, the second garden in Inveresk that we are visiting. Created by Sir Charles and Lady Ann Fraser, who have lived at Shepherd House since 1957, this garden is one of only two Scottish gardens featured in Rosemary Verey’s book, Secret Gardens. This formal one-acre garden has a rill running the length of the garden with a series of rose, clematis and wisteria pergolas and arches–it provides Ann, an artist, with much inspiration. (Overnight Edinburgh) BL
Day 19: Friday 17 July, Edinburgh Sites
- Edinburgh Castle
- St Giles Cathedral
- Canongate Kirk and Dunbar’s Close 17th Century Knot Garden
- Holyrood Palace
Today we walk Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. We begin our exploration of Edinburgh with a visit to its Castle, the history of which is intimately bound to that of the city that grew up below it. The rock on which Edinburgh Castle stands was formed 70 million years ago. Recent archaeological excavations in the Castle have uncovered evidence that Bronze-Age man was living on the rock as long ago as 850 BC. During the Iron Age there was a hillfort settlement here. Around 600AD three hundred armed retainers gathered around King Mynyddog in his stronghold of Din Eidyn, a name that slowly transmuted into Edinburgh. They were preparing to attack the Angles in Yorkshire. Shortly after, in 638AD, Din Eidyn was besieged and taken by the Angles and the place seems then to have received the English name that it has kept ever since. The oldest extant building in the castle is a tiny early 12th century chapel that holds the remains of St Margaret, wife of Malcolm III. In 1296 Edward I of England besieged and captured Edinburgh Castle. On the night of 14th March 1314 Sir Thomas Randolph, nephew of Robert the Bruce, and his men climbed the precipitous north face of Edinburgh Castle rock, took the English garrison by surprise, and won the castle back. Robert the Bruce immediately ordered that Edinburgh castle be dismantled ‘lest the English ever afterwards might lord it over the land by holding the castle’. Three months later the Scottish army crushed the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. The castle gained one of its most impressive possessions in 1457 when the huge canon, Mons Meg (named after the Belgian town in which it was manufactured and its recipient, Mary of Gueldres) was shipped to Scotland as a present to James I and his queen, the aforementioned Mary. On 19 June 1566 Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James in Edinburgh Castle. After she fled to England Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange, Keeper of Edinburgh Castle, gave his support to the exiled Queen and defended the Castle against a siege for two years. Eventually, the east defences of the Castle were destroyed by an eleven-day bombardment by the Regent Morton (May 1573), who then rebuilt the shattered castle. Much of what we see today dates from this time, including the mighty Half-Moon Battery and the Portcullis Gate. It was besieged again when its Keeper supported James II against the supporters of William of Orange. This proved to be the last real action the castle saw. In the subsequent Jacobite Risings of 1715 and 1745, Edinburgh Castle was picketed by the supporters of the ‘Old Pretender’ and ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ but was never seriously threatened. When, in 1707 the act uniting Scotland and England was passed in the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Crown, Sword and Sceptre were locked away in the Castle. They were found by Sir Walter Scott in 1818, and were thenceforth displayed in the room in which he had found them.
We next visit St Giles’ Cathedral, half way down the Royal Mile. This popular church only ever functioned as a cathedral twice, in the 17th century. It was, however, the high kirk of Scotland long before the 17th century. Extensive 19th century restoration changed St Giles’. At this time many of its very fine windows were added. Robert Louis Stevenson is buried here.
Further down the Royal Mile we visit the extraordinary Canongate Kirk, designed with Dutch gables by James Smith, once the parish church of Holyrood House. Opened in 1691, it is unique among Scottish churches of its period. Recently restored, it holds a new Frobenius organ 1000, which is the first in Scotland.
Buried in the churchyard are several famous Scots including the economist Adam Smith. Here we also visit Dunbar’s Close to see the recreation of a 17th century knot garden which was donated to the City of Edinburgh by the Mushroom Trust in 1978.
Our final visit for today is to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Informally called Holyrood Palace, its name derives from an Anglicisation of the Scots ‘Haly Ruid’ (Holy Cross). King David I founded a monastery here in 1128 and many early Scottish kings and queens were crowned and married in it. It was reduced to ruins after its roof collapsed in the 18th century; its remains are to be seen in the palace grounds. The present palace, which developed from a guesthouse in the Abbey grounds, has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scotland since the 15th century, and is an official residence in Scotland of Elizabeth II who resides here at the beginning of the summer. Many of Scotland’s medieval kings stayed in the original guesthouse. The palace that replaced this guesthouse (1498–1501) was built by James IV around a quadrangle, and contained a chapel, gallery, royal apartments, and a great hall. The chapel occupied the present north range of the Great Quadrangle, with the Queen’s apartments occupying part of the south range. A third range to the west contained the King’s lodgings and the entrance to the palace. James V added the present north-west tower between 1528 and 1536. This tower contains the famous suite of rooms once occupied by Mary Queen of Scots. The wooden ceilings of the main rooms are from Mary’s time and the monograms MR (Maria Regina) and IR (Jacobus Rex) refer to Mary and her son, James VI (James I of England). Shields commemorating Mary’s marriage to Francis II of France are believed to have been carved in 1559 but only placed in their present position in 1617. The suite contains an audience chamber and the Queen’s bedroom, leading from which are two turret rooms. It was in the northern turret room on 9 March 1565 that the infamous murder of David Rizio took place in Mary’s presence. When James VI became King of England in 1603 and moved to London, the palace was no longer the seat of a permanent royal court. Oliver Cromwell built much of the present palace after a fire in 1650. A coach will transfer us from Holyrood back to our hotel. (Overnight Edinburgh) B
Day 20: Saturday 18 July, Edinburgh – Broadwoodside – Greywalls – Edinburgh
- Guided tour of walled gardens attributed to Gertrude Jekyll at Greywalls
Today we head to East Lothian to the privately-owned garden of Broadwoodside. Set within an ancient agricultural steading and surrounded by farmland and woodlands, Robert and Anna Dalrymple restored the 17th century derelict yards to create a garden of “wit and elegance”. These two enclosed courtyards form the heart of the garden, and the other elements include the South Garden, Hall Garden, Horse Field, the Stable Yard, Orchard, and a Lime Avenue that leads to the Temple.
Following lunch at leisure in Haddington, we travel to Greywalls. Greywalls is now a hotel but it was originally built as a “dignified holiday home” in 1901 and was designed by the celebrated Edwardian architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. The walled gardens are attributed to Gertrude Jekyll and contain a grass tennis court, croquet lawn and putting green as well as borders filled with herbaceous plants. (Overnight Edinburgh) B
Day 21: Sunday 19 July, Edinburgh
- Georgian House
- Afternoon at leisure
- Farewell Meal at Stevenson House
This morning the magnificent Georgian House. At the end of the 18th century Edinburgh’s elite, finding conditions in the old city cramped and unsavoury, began to build in New Town. The creation of a new suburb for the grand houses of the wealthy is characteristic of European urban development of this time. We may think of the Marais in Paris. Edinburgh’s upper classes built magnificent town houses in the classical ‘Georgian’ style around Charlotte Square, which, like Place des Vosges in Paris, became an ‘exclusive’ precinct from which the lower classes and trades were excluded. Georgian House was one of these mansions, built by John Lamont, chief of Clan Lamont. He commissioned one of Britain’s greatest Georgian architects, Robert Adam, to design it. Adam was deeply involved in the development of Charlotte Square. The house was completed in 1796, and in 1815 the Lamont family sold it. Several prominent Scottish families owned it until 1966, when its last owner, the 5th Marquess of Bute, died. It then passed to the National Trust for Scotland. The elegant rooms of the house occupy three floors. These are decorated as they would have been when the house was opened and hold beautiful collections of period furniture, china, art, and silver. It is also possible to visit the ‘below stairs’ section where you will see the restored kitchen, wine cellars and china closet.
The afternoon has no organised activity to allow you to explore more of Edinburgh at your own leisure. You may want to take the opportunity to visit the National Gallery of Scotland, which has one of the finest European collections anywhere. The collection spans all styles from the Renaissance till the late 19th century. Some of its finest treasures are its Titian collection, Nicholas Poussin’s extremely important Passion series, and some fine Gaugins.
This evening we have a very special private dinner at Robert Louis Stevenson’s home. The house is a typical Georgian New Town house that was built between 1802 and 1806, which retains all of its original architectural features. From the age of six, Robert Louis Stevenson grew up in this house, and throughout his life was often ill in bed there. His illness inspired The Land of Counterpane, while the lamplighter who came along the street each night to light the gas was the inspiration behind his poem The Lamplighter. The old lamp outside the house has been preserved because of this poem. (Overnight Edinburgh) BD
Day 22: Monday 20 July, Depart Edinburgh
Our tour comes to an end this morning and participants travelling on the group flight will be transferred to the airport. B