We check in to the Dunston 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: Kentwell Hall & Gainsborough’s House
Our first visit takes us to Kentwell Hall, a romantic, moated, mellow red brick Tudor mansion in a tranquil parkland setting. Once neglected, the Hall has been lovingly restored by the current owner, Patrick Phillips, slowly returning it to its former glory. We enjoy a guided tour given by the owners of this much-loved family home which presents an interesting mix of periods within what is still essentially a Tudor layout. After our tour we have free time to explore the beautiful gardens including a Walled Garden and a traditional potager.
We continue on to Gainsborough’s House, the charming Georgian townhouse in Sudbury that was artist Thomas Gainsborough’s childhood home, and now a museum and gallery dedicated to his life. On our guided tour we are lead through the galleries and beautiful historic garden, learning more about the details of the museum’s extraordinary collection and gaining further insight into the famous artist and his home.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Tuesday: Somerleyton Hall & Hoveton Hall Gardens
We spend the morning at Somerleyton Hall, one of the finest Victorian stately homes in the country. The original Jacobean manor house was lavishly rebuilt in the Italianate style by Sir Morton Peto and architect John Thomas. Now home to Lord and Lady Somerleyton, the inside of the house is a pastiche of styles from high Victorian splendour in the chintz ballroom to the dark Jacobean Oak Parlour and contains many fine portraits of the Crossley family, tapestries and two stuffed Polar bears – souvenirs of Lord Somerleyton's 1897 excursion to the Arctic. Our guided tour brings this fabulous house to life while outside are 12 acres of magnificent formal gardens and one of the finest yew hedge mazes in Britain.
Afterwards we visit Hoveton Hall Gardens, part of the beautiful Hoveton Hall Estate. The delightful 15 acres of gardens are made up of several areas, all with their own unique characteristics including the walled ‘Spider Garden’, the ‘Old Kitchen Garden’ with lawns and herbaceous borders, a 19th-century glass house and 18th-century ice well, a ‘Woodland Walk’, ‘Magnolia Garden’ plus two lakes and an arboretum.
This evening, we enjoy a three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Wednesday: Glemham Hall & Helmingham Hall Gardens
Glemham Hall is a charming manor house, built around 1560 by the de Glemham family. In the early 1700s the house was sold to Baron Guildford of the North family, whose uncle had earlier purchased the lordship of the manor of Little Glemham. The Baron began major structural work to bring the house up to date in the height of Georgian fashion, which is the house we visit today. On our guided tour we can see the majority of the Hall, from the depths of the cellars up to the servants quarters in the attic, an area largely untouched by restoration where we can get a real sense of life ‘below stairs’. Our tour will be conducted by one of the Cobbold family, who have owned the house since 1923, providing a fascinating insight into growing up on a country estate. We also tour the gardens, which have been linked to Humphrey Repton, which feature an avenue of Irish Yew, a stunning rose garden and herbaceous borders. We also enjoy tea and biscuits during our visit.
Next, we head to Helmingham Hall Gardens where we enjoy lunch before exploring the beautiful gardens, set within a 400 acre deer park surrounding the spectacular Tudor moated Hall. Named ‘Garden of the Year 2017’ by Historic Houses and extensively redesigned by the current Lady Tollemache, a well-known garden designer and Chelsea Gold Medallist, the gardens include a classic parterre flanked by hybrid musk roses, a stunning walled kitchen garden with exquisite herbaceous borders and beds of vegetables, a herb and knot garden as well as a beautiful rose garden.
We return to our hotel for a three-course dinner.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.