Seven years ago, I suggested to my mother I would take her on a trip to England to visit some of the famous gardens. With one thing and another, we never got round to it. Until recently, when my father reminded us of it (partly because he wants to go on a bird-watching trip to Southern Spain with my brother and had a slightly bad conscience towards my mother). I went to the travel agent’s yesterday and came home with information about three different trips we might take. Each is a bus tour, and would take us to quite different parts of the country. I have already been to several of the places scheduled in each case, albeit not with the garden focus, and I definitely don’t mind going back!
The cheapest trip (6 nights) would take us to Canterbury, Tunbridge Wells, Hastings, Brighton, Arundel, Winchester, Salisbury, Stonehenge and Windsor. The gardens we’d visit would be Leeds Castle, Sissinghurst and Stourhead.
The one priced in the middle (8 nights) would take us to the South-West: Stonehenge, Salisbury, Bournemouth, Falmouth, Land’s End, St. Ives, Glastonbury, Bristol and Bath. The gardens on the list are Trebah, Heligan and Pencarrow.
Either of these trips is a standard bus trip with only some focus on gardens and an equal focus on other sights, which of course in these cases are quite marvellous.
The most expensive trip (7 days) is what is called a study trip here (literal translation), a trip with a guide who is a specialist and with great focus on in-depth information. This one would take us to Oxford, Stratford, Chester, Lincoln and Cambridge. The list of gardens is much longer here: Hampton Court, Blenheim, Hidcote Manor, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Kenilworth, Shugborough, Biddulph Grange, Chirk Castle, Llangollen, Chatsworth, Renishaw Hall and Burghley House. I must admit that I haven’t heard of several of these before, but then I am not a garden specialist.
What do you think? Which one sounds best to you? My mother loves gardens and old houses; on the other hand she’s almost 71 and has never been to either Bath nor Stonehenge. Have you been to any of these gardens and can recommend one especially?