Hillsborough Castle
Hillsborough Castle

Garden Tours

Historic Houses of Northern Ireland

Hillsborough Castle, HM The Queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland, is undergoing a £16m restoration programme which has breathed new life into this historic building. We will be among the first to see the extensively redecorated interior spaces, including the elegant State Rooms, still used by the Royal Family, and spend time here discovering tales of celebration and diplomacy. We will also see the Walled Garden, which is enjoying a major makeover.

Our tour begins at Carrickfergus Castle, one of the most important Anglo-Norman castles in Ireland, dating back to 1180. Following our visit to Hillsborough we move on to Montalto Estate, nestled beautifully in the heart of the Co. Down countryside, a privately-owned demesne which dates back to the early 1600s and has only recently opened to the public.

A trio of historic properties follows as we visit Grey Abbey House, which is considered to be one of the finest Georgian country houses in Ireland and has remained in the possession of the Montgomery family since 1607; Mount Stewart, perhaps better known for its dazzling garden but also a treasure trove of a house; and Ballywalter Park, a classic example of an early Victorian Country House built in the Italianate Palazzo style.

We round of our tour with a specially arranged visit to the historic estate of Benvarden, one of the finest in Northern Ireland and home to the Montgomery family since 1798.

Our tour manager is popular garden designer, writer & broadcaster (and native of Carrickfergus) Trevor Edwards.

What's included?

  •  Flights
  •  Accommodation
  •  Services of a professional tour manager
  •  Comfortable coach travel throughout
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary

Led by...

Trevor Edwards

Trevor Edwards

Award Winning Garden Designer, Writer and Broadcaster Trevor Edwards in one of our busiest and most popular garden Tour Managers, and has led many garden tours around the world.

Today's Price
$1,195

Deposit: $300 Single supplement: $160

Tour highlights:

  • 1000 years of history at Carrickfergus Castle
  • Tour of the newly refurbished Hillsborough Castle
  • Special access tours at Grey Abbey and Benvarden
  • The dazzling garden and extensive collection of items from around the world at Mount Stewart

Tour details

Dates October 10 2019 - October 13 2019
Duration 4 days
Cost
Today's Price
$1,195
Deposit: $300 Single supplement: $160 Balance due by July 18 2019
Tour code BWHHN19A

Book Now or call 1-800-782-0295 if you have any questions

October 10 2019: Itinerary

We depart from London Gatwick airport on our flight to Belfast (flights from other regional airports may also be available at a supplement – please contact us for details). Upon arrival we will join our coach and tour manager and transfer to our first visit, Carrickfergus Castle. This is one of the most important Anglo-Norman castles in Ireland, dating back to 1180 when building was begun by John de Courcy, the Norman conqueror of east Ulster. Besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French and garrisoned until 1928, the Castle saw action right up to World War II, due to its strategic location at the mouth of Belfast Lough.

Following our visit, we continue to our hotel, the comfortable Dunadry Hotel, County Antrim, where we will enjoy dinner in the evening. The hotel also has full leisure facilities, including a heated indoor swimming pool, spa pool and steam room.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Dunadry Hotel & Country Club

Today, following our full Irish breakfast, we will travel to Hillsborough Castle, Her Majesty The Queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland. It is not strictly speaking a castle but a Georgian country house, built in the 18th century for the Hill family, Marquesses of Downshire, who owned it until 1922. The 6th Marquess sold the mansion to the British government and it became the official residence of the Governor of the newly created province of Northern Ireland and later the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Since 2014 it has been managed by Historic Royal Palaces who commissioned a £16m restoration programme which has breathed new life into this historic building. We will be among the first to see the extensively redecorated interior spaces, including the elegant State Rooms, still used by the Royal Family for investitures and receptions and we spend time here discovering tales of celebration and diplomacy. We will also see the Walled Garden, which is enjoying a major makeover.

In the afternoon we travel to Montalto Estate, a privately-owned demesne nestled in the heart of the picturesque Co. Down countryside which dates back to the early 1600s and has only recently opened its gates to the public. In pre-plantation times the estate was originally owned by Patrick McCartan. However, due to his involvement in the 1641 Rebellion, his Ballynahinch lands were confiscated, and in 1657 the townland was purchased by Sir George Rawdon. Circa 1765, his descendant Sir John Rawdon – First Earl of Moira – built a mansion property on the estate: this is the house that we now know as Montalto House. Sir John’s ancestor, Sir Arthur Rawdon – The Father of Irish Gardening – had earlier amassed a large collection of exotic foreign plants at Moira Castle. Many of Sir Arthur’s plants were transferred to Montalto when his grandson Sir John moved onto the estate.

We return to our hotel where dinner is served in the evening.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Dunadry Hotel & Country Club

After breakfast we depart for Grey Abbey House, which is considered to be one of the finest Georgian country houses in Ireland and has remained in the possession of the Montgomery family since 1607. The central portion of the house was built in 1762 by William Montgomery, whose portrait hangs in the dining room, depicting a solemn-looking man holding what is believed to be the architect’s invoice! The house retains many interesting architectural features and fine 18th century plasterwork. In the grounds there are mature woods, borders and a southern hemisphere collection along with parkland meadows and fields. The Walled Garden has been restored over the years, with a vegetable garden, late summer border and shrub rose border. The curved wall has been restocked with fan-trained fruit trees. The two orchards contain a collection of Victorian fruit trees, and a recently-planted collection of Irish apple trees.

We continue to Mount Stewart, for a tour of the opulent house that reveal its fascinating heritage and historic world-famous artefacts and artwork. When the creative and imaginative Edith, Lady Londonderry, made Mount Stewart her home in 1921, she created something truly unique. So delighted with her new home, she wrote to her husband Charles, ‘this is the most divine house, why do we live anywhere else!’ Mount Stewart is home to a collection of over 15,000 objects, including many items of family memorabilia including paintings, ceramics, furniture and porcelain brought back from the family's travels. There are also dazzling and idiosyncratic gardens which bask in the micro-climate of low rainfall and humid coastal air that exists here, where traditional features are carried off with exuberance and panache.

We conclude today at Ballywalter Park, a classic example of an early Victorian Country House built in the Italianate Palazzo style by the eminent architect Sir Charles Lanyon and afforded Grade A* listing as being of exceptional architectural importance. Tours are usually conducted in person by Lord and Lady Dunleath, giving us an exclusive insight into the life and times of this grand country house, which has been in their family for 170 years.

Following our visit, we transfer to our hotel in Dublin, where dinner will be served in the evening.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Dunadry Hotel & Country Club

This morning after breakfast we will travel to the historic estate of Benvarden, one of the finest in Northern Ireland and home to the Montgomery family since 1798. We are privileged to have a personally guided tour of the house and special access to the garden, which boasts a fine walled garden along with a rose garden, a box and lavender parterre, a vinery, melon house and espalier-trained apple trees.

Following this, our final visit, we transfer to Belfast Airport in time to check in for our return flight to London Gatwick. 

Meals include: Breakfast

October 10 2019: Additional Info

October 10 2019: Accommodation

This hotel's great location is only a few minutes from Belfast International Airport and the M2 motorway, convenient to Junction One, Antrim and only a short drive away from Belfast and Ballymena, Makes it a very popular choice for visitors for both business and pleasure.

Guests are offered complimentary use of leisure facilities - swimming pool, spa pool, steam room and fitness conditioning suite.

The hotel's Bistro is very popular locally and guests can enjoy a wide variety of dishes to suit all appetites and budgets.

October 10 2019: Enquiries

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