We check in to the Mercure Hotel, Tunbridge Wells, in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Monday: Michelham Priory & Hole Park
Today we visit Michelham Priory with a history that can be traced back over 800 years. Founded as an Augustinian priory in 1229, it was later transformed into a Tudor mansion after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The priory is set on a picturesque island surrounded by England’s longest water-filled moat with an impressive 14th-century gatehouse and seven acres of beautiful grounds including a kitchen garden, medieval herb garden, working watermill and forge. We enjoy lunch as part of our visit.
Afterwards we continue on to Hole Park – a delightful private home situated in a picturesque parkland setting, boasting an impressive garden that we will explore today. For the past four generations, Hole Park has been owned by the Barham family. Admire the garden’s array of colour and the far-reaching views over the hills and woodland.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Tuesday: Firle Place & Borde Hill Garden
Our day begins at Firle Place, seat of the Gage family for over 500 years and 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, styled to resemble a French château. A number of interesting architectural features of the original Tudor house are exposed to view. We learn more about the property on our guided tour followed by lunch.
Borde Hill Garden is our next stop, a location that combines both impressive views with stunning outdoor garden rooms and we learn more on our guided tour. Enjoy beautiful woodland walks, strolls alongside the lake or perhaps visit the scenic Italian Garden and Rose Garden for a chance to take in the tranquil atmosphere.
This evening, we enjoy a three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Wednesday: Great Dixter & Pashley Manor Gardens
We start the day with an exclusive out-of-hours guided garden tour of Great Dixter, home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd. The famous gardens feature topiary, mixed borders, an orchard and wild flower meadow. In addition the house, although largely medieval, has several later additions by Edwin Lutyens, more of which we discover on our guided tour. Highlights of the house include the Great Hall, one of the largest surviving timber-framed halls in the country.
Our final point of call takes us to Pashley Manor Gardens where we will enjoy a talk by the head gardener as well as afternoon tea. Set against the beautiful backdrop of Pashley Manor House, home to the Sellick family, admire the elegant rose and historic walled gardens and explore the productive kitchen garden here.
We return to our hotel for a three-course dinner.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.