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The Gardens of Kent & Sussex with Sarah Raven (Country Living/Good Housekeeping)

New date added due to demand - 21 June 2021

What could be finer than strolling through an English country garden at the height of summer, when the flowers are at their peak and the scent of roses fills the air. This four-day trip features private visits to world-class gardens in Kent and Sussex, plus two exclusive events hosted by the inspirational Sarah Raven.

Anyone with a passion for gardens and gardening will delight in the itinerary. Highlights include the shrubs and perennials of Great Comp Garden; magnificent Lullingstone Castle, home to the World Garden of Plants; the roses and lavender of Pashley Manor, a classic English garden at Great Dixter; the superb nursery at Marchants Hardy Plants (as seen on the BBC's Flying Gardener series) and Nymans Garden, which offers outstanding plants in a theatrical setting.

We have arranged a private after-hours tour and three-course dinner at Sissinghurst, the famous Kent garden created by the writers Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson in the 1930s. Once it has closed to the public, we will enjoy a glass of sparkling English wine on the Tower lawn and listen to a talk about Sissinghurst's family history from one of the grandchildren of Vita and Harold, before Sarah Raven tells the fascinating story of the famous gardens. We then have the chance to explore at our leisure before ending our evening with a three-course dinner that will also feature Sarah's own recipes.

The following morning we visit Sarah's garden at Perch Hill, where, during a private morning event, she will give a special talk, telling the story of Perch Hill's 25-year transformation from a ramshackle former dairy farm into 90 acres dedicated to flowers and inspirational gardens. After morning coffee, we enjoy a flower-arranging demonstration by Sarah, a deliciously fresh vegetable and salad tasting and a tour of the gardens. In the afternoon we visit garden writer Christopher Lloyd's celebrated English country garden at Great Dixter

Further visits include the beautiful seven-acre Great Comp Garden and the historic manor house and garden at Lullingstone Castle, which dates back to the time of the Domesday Book and glorious Scotney Castle.

Our hotel: we stay throughout at the four-star Spa Hotel. Set in 14 acres of picturesque grounds close to the centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells, the spa town from which its name is derived, the hotel first opened its doors to guests in 1880 and has since built a reputation for style, sophistication, relaxation and fine dining.

What's included?

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

Led by...

Trevor Edwards

Trevor Edwards Tour Manager

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.

Keeping you safe on your next tour

  • FREE 'Travel Safe' kits for every traveller
  • Self-drive options
  • Enhanced Health and Safety audits
  • Distanced seating on coaches
  • 'Get me home' service and private airport transfers
  • COVID protocols at our hotels, and aboard our cruise ships
  • Packed lunches and flexible dining options
  • Flexible balance payment date and COVID-friendly refund conditions
  • COVID-testing and medical training for tour staff
  • Constant monitoring and post-tour tracing


Today's Price

Deposit: $150 Single supplement: $225

Tour details

Dates June 21 2021 - June 24 2021
Duration 4 days
Today's Price
Deposit: $150 Single supplement: $225 Balance due by March 29 2021
Activity Level
Tour code BKST210621

Departure Points

Location Depart Return
Tothill St, Westminster
0845 1815
Copthorne Gatwick Hotel
1000 1700

Please note all timings are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately ten days prior to departure.


Call for availability

June 21 2021: Itinerary

We depart from our pick-up points in London and Gatwick and head towards Kent and our first visit, Great Comp Garden – a beautiful seven-acre garden with many beautiful and rare shrubs, perennials and other hardy plants. This Kent garden is a plantsman’s haven. The year starts with Helleborus, followed by magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas, then the remainder of the year follows with rare and exotic shrubs and perennial plants such as the huge collection of Salvias. There are areas of formal and informal plantings linked with meandering grass paths and ruins homing in on an Italian Garden.

From here we continue to the magnificent Lullingstone Castle. A historic family mansion dating back to the time of Domesday, frequented by Henry VIII and Queen Anne, the manor house and garden are set in the beautiful Darent Valley. The garden was designed by horticulturist Tom Hart Dyke, a modern day plant hunter who follows in the traditions of plant hunters who used to risk their lives and limbs in pursuit of fantastic blooms and plants, during his nine month kidnap at the hands of the Columbian Guerrillas in 2000. On his release he created the World Garden of Plants, which he continues to grow and build each year adding rare and important botanical plants to its collection.

We continue to our hotel, the 4-star Spa Hotel, Royal Tunbridge Wells. Dinner will be served in the evening.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: The Spa Hotel, Royal Tunbridge Wells

This morning, after breakfast, we will set off for the gardens at Pashley Manor, an award-winning, quintessential English Garden on the Kent/Sussex border which offers a sumptuous blend of romantic landscaping, imaginative plantings and fine old trees, fountains, springs and large ponds. The roses and lavender should be at their fragrant peak at this time of year.

We continue to the gardens at Scotney Castle, a country house south-east of Lamberhurst in the valley of the River Bewl. The central feature of the gardens is the ruin of a medieval, moated manor house, Scotney Old Castle, which is on an island on a small lake. The lake is surrounded by sloping, wooded gardens with fine collections of rhododendrons, azaleas and kalmia. At the top of the garden stands a house which was built to replace the Old Castle between 1835 and 1843. This is known as Scotney New Castle, or simply Scotney Castle, and was designed by Anthony Salvin. It is an early, and unusually restrained, example of the revived influence of Tudor architecture in 19th century Britain.

This evening we have a treat in store as we transfer to the magnificently manicured gardens of Sissinghurst. This famous garden was created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson from 1930 onwards and became the most admired English Garden of its time. Few great gardens live up to their reputations so effortlessly as this. Sissinghurst is a large connoisseurs’ garden consisting of a series of small romantic areas enclosed by the surviving parts of an Elizabethan mansion. It never disappoints its visitors, it has the power of enchantment, but it is also an unending source of inspiration for all gardeners. Sissinghurst is surely as close to gardening perfection as you can get, and it continues to be one of the most-copied flower gardens in the world.

Exclusive Event: Our visit begins at 6.00pm (after the garden has shut to the public) with a glass of Chapel Down sparkling English wine served on the Tower lawn. Sitting on the Tower steps we will then enjoy a talk on the family history with one of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson’s grandchildren, followed by a talk on the history of the garden and Vita’s garden style from the well-known gardener, cook, writer and broadcaster Sarah Raven. We then have an hour or so to explore the garden at leisure before we make our way to the restaurant and enjoy a three-course dinner with wine, featuring Sarah’s recipes. Our coach will return us to the hotel after dinner.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: The Spa Hotel, Royal Tunbridge Wells

This morning after breakfast we depart for a visit to Sarah Raven’s own garden, Perch Hill. Once a rather ramshackle ex-dairy farm with a lot of concrete, corrugated iron and not much else, the land has been converted to an organic 90 acres of new seed and plant varieties. The constant supply of favourite flowers comes from the large cutting garden where the central four beds are filled with hardy and half-hardy annuals and biennials. There are also two purely ornamental gardens at Perch Hill, not dedicated to harvesting – the Oast garden with an extravagant mix of colour and structure and the front farmhouse garden, which is designed to have a calmer feel.

Exclusive event: On arrival we are welcomed by Sarah Raven who will introduce us to the garden. After tea/coffee and cake Sarah will give us a talk on her 25 years at Perch Hill followed by a practical demonstration on flower arranging, including the cut-and-come-again philosophy with rules for colour combination and conditioning tips to make the garden picked flowers last as long as possible, along with tastings of vegetables and salads from the garden.

In the afternoon we visit another classic English Country Garden – Great Dixter. The distinguished garden writer Christopher Lloyd (who died in January 2006 at the aged of 84) was the genius behind Great Dixter, with its timbered 15th century house. Restored by Edwin Lutyens who also planned the garden, Mr Lloyd has firmly put his lively stamp on it. A recent experiment involved installing a summer tropical garden rich in bold shapes and brilliant colours. No gardener could come to Great Dixter without making discoveries and rekindling a zest for gardening.

Dinner is served back at our hotel in the evening.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: The Spa Hotel, Royal Tunbridge Wells

This morning after breakfast we will leave the hotel and head for Nymans Garden, an outstanding plant collection in an inspirational setting. This theatrical garden design, created by the Messel family, is one of the finest gardens in Sussex and still retains much of the personality of the family who created it. There are many rare and exotic plants combined with a pinetum, walled garden, Italian garden and woodland walks. Lunch is available here (not included).

Our final visit take us to Marchants Hardy Plants at Ripe, near Lewes. The garden is not large but it is well designed and diversely planted and has gained much attention over the years, having appeared in major periodicals and papers as well as on BBC TV's "Flying Gardener" series. The nursery has gained recognition as one of the leading small nurseries in the country with an excellent range of herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses – a chance to pick up a lasting souvenir of your holiday.

We then return to our original departure points.

Meals include: Breakfast

June 21 2021: Additional Info

June 21 2021: Accommodation

Set in 14 acres of picturesque grounds close to the centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells, the spa town from which its name is derived, our hotel first opened its doors to guests in 1880 and has since built a reputation for style, sophistication, relaxation and fine dining.

June 21 2021: Enquiries

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