We check in to the Tudor Park Marriott Hotel and Country Club in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager.
Monday: Hever Castle & Penshurst Place
We head first to Hever Castle, the childhood home of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, where we enjoy a private guided tour of the house and gardens. Dating back to the late 13th century, this double-moated castle is home to various historic artefacts including Tudor portraits and furniture, as well as two prayer books inscribed by Anne Boleyn. Outside is nothing short of a landscaped Arcadia; the grounds boast stunning Italian, Rose and Tudor gardens and relaxing walks along meandering streams.
Our next stop is Penshurst Place, a medieval manor house surrounded by stunning formal walled gardens and ancient parkland. Previously used as a hunting lodge by Henry VIII, it has been owned by the Sidney family since 1552 and is still a much-loved family home. The house displays many of its original medieval and Tudor features, a magnificent Great Hall and State Rooms. We enjoy lunch here and a guided tour of the stunning Grade I listed gardens.
After dinner this evening, we enjoy an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Tuesday: Leeds Castle & Doddington Place Gardens
Our day starts with a guided tour of the magnificent Leeds Castle, a quintessential moated castle set in 500 acres of glorious parkland. Dating back to the 12th century, it was once home to Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. The castle’s last private owner was Lady Baillie, an Anglo-American heiress who lovingly restored the castle to its former glory. After taking in the spectacular gardens we enjoy lunch.
Afterwards, we head to Doddington Place Gardens, where we enjoy a guided tour around the beautiful landscaped gardens set in the grounds of an impressive Victorian mansion. The glorious woodland garden is spectacular in May and includes many different varieties of rhododendrons and azaleas. There is also a formal sunken garden with herbaceous borders and extensive lawns and avenues framed by clipped yew hedges.
Wednesday: Goodnestone Park Gardens & Canterbury Cathedral
We start the morning with a visit to Goodnestone Park Gardens. This exquisite, privately-owned stately home was built in 1704 by ancestors of Julian, 22nd Lord FitzWalter and has been lived in by the family ever since. The house was frequently visited by Jane Austen after her brother married into the family and is known for inspiring the iconic novel Pride and Prejudice. We discover the glorious 15 acres of formal grounds, famed for their classically English planting and filled with secret walled gardens nestled under blankets of wisteria, an alpine garden and the ornamental greenhouse overflowing with exotic tender plants.
In the afternoon we visit Canterbury Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in England. In 1170, Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the cathedral and ever since, it has been a site of Christian pilgrimage. Here we enjoy an exclusive guided tour of the gardens. We discover the Kent Memorial Garden which honours the sons and daughters of Kent who died in the Great War of 1914-1918. We also visit the tranquil Herb Garden, based on the original monastic 12th-century herb garden, and take in the Water Tower Garden and the picturesque monastic ruins.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.
Please note: the itinerary order is subject to change.