We check in to the Nottingham Belfry Hotel in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Monday: Arbury Hall & Catton Hall
Standing in the midst of rolling lawns and wonderful landscaped gardens, the beautiful Elizabethan mansion of Arbury Hall was transformed into the Gothic style by Sir Roger Newdegate during the second half of the 18th century and now stands as one of the most breathtaking examples of early Gothic Revival architecture. The elegant interiors contain fine collections of antique furniture, pictures, glass and china as well as soaring fan vaulted ceilings and filigree tracery which we discover on our guided tour.
Later we head to Catton Hall, surrounded by formal gardens and 250 acres of parkland in the Derbyshire countryside. Catton has been in the hands of the same family since 1405 and is the home of the Neilson family. The present Hall, designed by James Gibbs, was built in a Baroque style in the 1740s and remains virtually unchanged with fine antique furniture, a fascinating collection of Royal and family portraits and 17th and 18th-century Dutch and Italian paintings. We learn more about the interesting family history, which includes connections with Lord Byron, as well as with Napoleon and the Duke of Cumberland, George III’s brother, on our guided tour, followed by afternoon tea.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Tuesday: Doddington Hall & Renishaw Hall
Begun in 1595 by the great Elizabethan architect Robert Smythson, Doddington Hall was completed in 1600 and has never been sold or cleared out since. Still a much loved and lived-in family home, this fine Elizabethan mansion’s unfussy, symmetrical looking exterior contrasts with an elegant Georgian interior, full of captivating collections of weaponry, textiles, ceramics and family portraits that reflect 400 years of unbroken family occupation. We discover more on our guided tour.
We visit Renishaw Hall, home to the Sitwell family for nearly 400 years, where we enjoy afternoon coffee. Still very much a family home, Renishaw reveals a real sense of the history of the generations who have lived there, with a stunning collection of art and furniture, which we discover on our guided tour. We also enjoy an introduction to the fabulous Italianate gardens, winner of the HHA/Christie’s Garden of the Year Award 2015. The gardens were laid out in the late 19th century by Sir George Sitwell, the brilliantly eccentric great-grandfather of the current owner Alexandra Sitwell. Renishaw Hall is also said to have been the inspiration for D.H. Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
This evening, we enjoy a three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Wednesday: Belvoir Castle & Easton Walled Gardens
This morning we enjoy an exclusive guided tour of Belvoir Castle, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland and an outstanding example of Regency work. Enjoying a hilltop location with splendid views over the Vale of Belvoir, the interior features lavish staterooms and many works of art. Of particular interest is the Guard Room, designed in true Gothic Revival style by architect James Wyatt and the evocative Elizabeth Saloon dedicated to the 5th Duke’s beautiful wife Elizabeth, decorated in the style of Louis XIV. We enjoy a lovely lunch here after our tour.
We continue on to the magical 12 acre Easton Walled Gardens, once described by President Roosevelt as ‘a dream of Nirvana… almost too good to be true’, where we enjoy a guided tour. Nestled in a beautiful, rolling valley and owned by the Cholmeley family for over 400 years, the gardens, whose layout owes much to the Tudor and Jacobean period, have been lovingly restored from an overgrown wilderness to the nationally important gardens they once were.
We return to our hotel for a three-course dinner.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.