English gardens

Hidcote Manor

Hidcote Manor

Seven years ago, I suggested to my mother I would take her on a trip to England to visit some of the famous gardens. With one thing and another, we never got round to it. Until recently, when my father reminded us of it (partly because he wants to go on a bird-watching trip to Southern Spain with my brother and had a slightly bad conscience towards my mother). I went to the travel agent’s yesterday and came home with information about three different trips we might take. Each is a bus tour, and would take us to quite different parts of the country. I have already been to several of the places scheduled in each case, albeit not with the garden focus, and I definitely don’t mind going back!

The cheapest trip (6 nights) would take us to Canterbury, Tunbridge Wells, Hastings, Brighton, Arundel, Winchester, Salisbury, Stonehenge and Windsor. The gardens we’d visit would be Leeds Castle, Sissinghurst and Stourhead.

The one priced in the middle (8 nights) would take us to the South-West: Stonehenge, Salisbury, Bournemouth, Falmouth, Land’s End, St. Ives, Glastonbury, Bristol and Bath. The gardens on the list are Trebah, Heligan and Pencarrow.

Either of these trips is a standard bus trip with only some focus on gardens and an equal focus on other sights, which of course in these cases are quite marvellous.

The most expensive trip (7 days) is what is called a study trip here (literal translation), a trip with a guide who is a specialist and with great focus on in-depth information. This one would take us to Oxford, Stratford, Chester, Lincoln and Cambridge. The list of gardens is much longer here: Hampton Court, Blenheim, Hidcote Manor, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Kenilworth, Shugborough, Biddulph Grange, Chirk Castle, Llangollen, Chatsworth, Renishaw Hall and Burghley House. I must admit that I haven’t heard of several of these before, but then I am not a garden specialist.

What do you think? Which one sounds best to you? My mother loves gardens and old houses; on the other hand she’s almost 71 and has never been to either Bath nor Stonehenge. Have you been to any of these gardens and can recommend one especially?

– Rike Horstmann

6 thoughts on “English gardens

  1. LeeB.

    Gosh, what a choice! I have been to some of those gardens and many of those towns. Though all the trips sound fantastic, I’d probably go with the 8 night trip first, then the 7 night trip and then the 6 day trip. The reason I choose the 8 night trip is that I love Cornwall and of course, one must visit Bath. It’s a beautiful town, though I do love Chester and the seaside at Brighton.

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  2. Lynette

    What a choice. I live in England, near Canterbury but I would say go for the West Country trip. If it includes the Eden Project, all the better. With that one you get fantastic scenery and as Lee says, if you manage to visit Bath that is a big bonus.
    The more expensive trip sounds as if you will be on the coach for long periods of time. I know you will initially travelling to the West Country but once there you should have plenty of time to see the lovely gardens down there.

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  3. Susanna Kearsley

    Rike, I’d definitely pick the West Country one. The gardens at Heligan are not to be missed – and before you go, I’d try to read the book about their discovery and restoration: THE LOST GARDENS OF HELIGAN, by Tim Smit (who also initiated the Eden Project). You can see the details at amazon.co.uk, here: http://amzn.to/fx1zrD, and there’s another book by him available at amazon.de that includes details of Trebah and the Eden Project, as well as Heligan, here: http://amzn.to/fi2oZ4

    Besides which, you’ll get to see Stonehenge, Salisbury and Glastonbury, which are all gorgeous, and Cornwall itself is unforgettable.

    Having done study tours in the past, my only warning about them is that sometimes the “experts” are so involved in telling you things “in depth” that they forget to give you time to enjoy the experience and soak up the scenery, and they do tend to pack the itinerary so full that you’re always on the run, which I find exhausting. I’d rather have some time to puddle around and sit on a bench… :-)

    Whatever you choose, I hope you and your mother have a wonderful time! I love travelling with my mom.

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