We check in to the Hilton Puckrup Hall Hotel in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Monday: Eastnor Castle & Perrycroft Gardens
We travel the short distance to Eastnor Castle, lying at the foot of the Malvern Hills and surrounded by a beautiful deer park, arboretum and lake. On arrival, we enjoy morning coffee before our guided tour. This 19th-century revival castle was built by the 2nd Baron (Lord) Somers and continues to be inhabited by his descendants, the Hervey-Bathurst family. The richly decorated interiors have an eclectic mix of styles including Gothic Revival and Renaissance and the magnificent State Rooms are home to collections of medieval armour, fine art and tapestries. We enjoy lunch here after our tour.
We continue on to Perrycroft Gardens located on the upper slopes of the Malvern Hills with magnificent views over the rolling Herefordshire countryside. Partly designed by architect CFA Voysey around a well preserved Arts and Crafts house, also designed by Voysey, the ten acres of formal and informal gardens have been restored and extended by the current owners and include a walled garden with mixed and herbaceous borders, yew and box hedges, topiary, plus natural wild flower meadows, ponds and woodland. We discover the gardens in more detail with an introduction followed by free time to explore at your leisure.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Tuesday: Burton Court & Hampton Court Castle and Gardens
Home of the Simpson family since 1960, Burton Court is a typical squire’s country manor house with a history dating back to the 11th century. The property’s architectural influences are broad, ranging from the Norman, Medieval, Regency, Victorian and Edwardian periods including the spectacular 14th-century Great Hall, the Norman cellars and Victorian servants’ quarters. We explore the main rooms, gardens and archaeological mound (believed to be the remains of a Norman castle) on our guided tour, followed by refreshments.
After free time for lunch in Leominster, we visit Hampton Court Castle and Gardens. This 15th-century medieval castle is surrounded by 1,000 acres of stunning parkland with the River Lugg running alongside. The interiors present a fascinating look at how a historic property changes over time and on our guided tour we view the medieval Great Hall, original chapel, stunning Ballroom, library and a selection of the sumptuous bedrooms. The core of the award-winning gardens is encircled by the original Victorian garden walls and highlights include a kitchen garden, beautiful herbaceous borders, a sunken garden with a waterfall, island pavilions, lawns, ancient trees and a yew maze.
This evening, we enjoy a three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Wednesday: Ragley Hall & Spetchley Park Gardens
Our first visit of the day is to Ragley Hall, one of England’s earliest and finest Palladian mansions. Built for the 1st Earl of Conway in 1680, the Hall is the ancestral family home of the 9th Marquess of Hertford. The State Rooms are adorned with impressive art, ceramics and furniture and other features include the elaborately plastered Great Hall and stunning 20th-century mural The Temptation, all of which we discover on our guided tour. Outside are well-maintained formal gardens within beautiful ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped parkland. After our tour, we enjoy mid-morning tea and biscuits.
In the afternoon, we visit Spetchley Park Gardens. The legacy of the Berkeley family, these 30 acres of beautiful Victorian gardens, surrounded by ancient parkland and lakes, have remained largely unaltered in the last century and boast an enviable collection of plants from across the globe. The gardens offer a wonderful contrast; from formal to informal and quintessentially English to unmistakably Mediterranean. On our guided tour, we learn about many aspects of gardening and how the team of gardeners cope with tending a garden of this size.
We return to our hotel for a three-course dinner.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.