18 days
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Gardens of Britain map

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British Gardens | Small Group Tour

A 19-day small group tour of British gardens. This tour includes a day at the Royal Horticultural Society show in Chatsworth, or RHS Chatsworth.

For the last few years, Odyssey has offered a tour to the Chelsea flower show and surrounding areas. Thanks to the high level of interest in gardens and garden design, Odyssey is now offering this small group tour of British gardens, including RHS Chatsworth, for you to enjoy with like-minded people.

The itinerary for the British Gardens small group tour

The small group tour of British gardens visits sites in Scotland and England. At each location, we meet with some of the best horticultural and garden design guides in Britain. During our visit, they will share their stories of the history of gardens from Capability Brown, Britain's most famous landscape designer to contemporary garden design today.

As with many of Odyssey’s tours, the small group tour of British Gardens has an educational focus. By the tour's conclusion, we return with a greater understanding of three centuries of garden design in Britain. In addition, an even greater appreciation for this enduring form of expression.

The small group tour of British gardens commences with three nights in amazing Edinburgh. We make our way south-east to Alnwick, then on to Buxton - our base for four nights and the location of RHS Chatsworth. From Buxton, we travel to Chester, and then Stratford Upon Avon. Three nights in Oxford will follow, before our group arrives in London. We will spend four nights in London before the conclusion of our tour.

On the small group tour of British gardens we have chosen the best gardens across the UK. The majority of those visited are today under the stewardship of the National Trust. If you would like to read more about Britain's National Trust, this article may be of special interest. The gardens selected have received critical acclaim and are recognised as among the world's best. During our tour, we learn about the work of key historical figures including Capability Brown, Humpry Repton and Gertrude Jekyll. Our garden tour moves from grand landscape designs to the finesse of planting achieved by the Nicholson's at Sissinghurst.

The History of Britain's Gardens

Britain is famous all over the world for its gardens and many of them have strong and proud historical backgrounds. This small group tour has been designed for garden lovers. We will visit gardens both great and small, and enjoy the expertise of our local guides, as well as special talks from the gardeners themselves. The diversity of gardens in Britain is striking. From classical to contemporary, boldly baroque or Italian-style, each garden has a unique history. Our British Gardens small group tour will bring these histories to life.

The small group tour of British gardens is just one of a number of garden tours offered each year by Odyssey Travellers. This small group tour is designed especially for senior or mature travellers, and we welcome both couples and solo travellers.

If you'd like to learn more about Britain, England or Scotland, visit Odyssey's country profiles where all other tour departures are listed as well. For more details on this tour, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of this page.

Frequently Asked Questions about British Gardens

British gardens have so much to offer for every kind of  traveller. For the lover of wildlife, many gardens will offer detailed guides to the range of flower and fauna that you pass on your walk of the garden.

Many wonderful gardens also have a rich historical story behind the beauty on show. The landscapes, vistas and plants are all carefully selected and crafted. As such, gardens reflect the coming and going of cultural trends. Gardens in Britain have undergone various transitions, from French trends to Italian Renaissance styles. Our article on Capability Brown, the Shakespeare of the botanical world, is a great entry point into understanding the past of Britain’s gardens. Click here to find out more.


Although botanical gardens is a frequently used term, you would be forgiven for not knowing exactly what it means. A botanical garden is one where the collection and cultivation of plants is done with the purpose of increasing our understanding about plants. The underlying focus is as much, if not more, about horticultural knowledge as aesthetic beauty. In practice this central idea can manifest itself in many ways. From the preservation of rare plants to the cultivation of sustainable micro-climates, botanical gardens have a lot to offer!

We might be a bit biased, but we definitely believe many of the best gardens in the world can be found in Britain. It is too hard to single out just one great garden, but one of our favourites is the Sissinghurst Castle Garden. Inspired by British horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll, poet Vita Sackville West and her diplomat husband Harold Nicolson, the garden is a brilliant example of the many traditions of British horticulture. It is said the architectural garden rooms and colourful plantings are so evocative that they reflect the romance and intimacy of Sackville West’s poems.


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Overview: We arrive in Edinburgh and make our way individually to our hotel. We meet in the evening for orientation and a welcome dinner.

Accommodation: Overnight Haymarket Hotel or similar

Overview: We commence our tour of Britain’s gardens with sites in and around Edinburgh. We visit the Royal Botanic Garden, which was founded in 1670 as a physics garden and maintains its scientific roots in the conservation of plants. We explore the medieval ruins of Dirleton Castle, which is renowned for its freshly rejuvenated gardens. The design boasts the world’s longest herbaceous border. We marvel at the lochs, glens and cliffs of Holyrood Park as we make our way to Arthur’s Seat. This rocky summit offers picturesque views of Edinburgh. It was described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design”.

Accommodation: Overnight Haymarket Hotel or similar

Overview: We continue our tour of Edinburgh’s historic gardens with visits to Scone Palace, Glamis Castle and Edinburgh Royal Castle.

The Edinburgh Castle is an historic fortress atop Castle Rock. The rock was settled as far back as the Iron Age. It is now in the care of Historic Scotland, an arm of the government, and is one of Scotland’s premier tourist attractions. Glamis Castle is called Scotland’s most beautiful. The extensive gardens change throughout the seasons, and include a walled garden, an Italian garden, a grass maze, and Monet-style fountains. The open grounds of Scone Palace boast the David Douglas pavilion, named for the palace’s head gardener from 1799 to 1806.

Today with a specialist local guide with the tour  for the day we visit and learn about  3 unique gardens in and around Edinburgh including  Edinburgh Royal Castle, Scone Palace and Glamis Castle

Accommodation: Overnight  Haymarket Hotel or similar

Overview: Today, we make our way to Alnwick, England. Along the way, we visit Cragside House and gardens. This Victorian country house at the heart of Northumberland is a very popular spot. It was home to William Armstrong, a scientist and philanthropist who became known as the “Modern Magician”. Among his talents was an eye for landscape design, and he experimented with trees, plants and water to produce stunning gardens.

One arrival in Alnwick, we enjoy a short lecture on the work of Capability Brown at Alnwick Castle. We also visit the acclaimed contemporary Poison Garden in the grounds of the castle.

Dinner will be provided this evening.

Accommodation: Overnight  White Swan Hotel or similar

Overview: We depart Alnwick for Buxton today. We pause at Northumberliandia, a huge land sculpture in the form of a reclining female figure – cheekily called “the Lady of the North”. Our local guide will provide insights into the design and approach to this significant piece of artwork. It was completed in 2012.

In the afternoon, we visit Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden.

Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. Founded in 1132, the abbey operated for over 400 years. Up until 1539, when Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

We enjoy a group dinner this evening.

Accommodation: Overnight  White Swan Hotel or similar

Overview: We spend today at the Chatsworth Royal Horticultural Society show: a flower show that blends tradition with the unexpected and innovative.

Accommodation: Overnight  White Swan Hotel or similar

Overview: Today we visit Blakewell Gardens and Haddon Manor. Haddon Manor has been described as “the most complete and most interesting medieval house of its period in England”. Our specialist guide will share more of this story with you during your visit.

In the late afternoon, we join the gardener of Shugborough for a talk and walking tour through the estate of this acclaimed and wonderful garden.

Accommodation: Overnight White Swan Hotel or similar

Overview: The Yorkshire Sculptural Park is foremost on today’s itinerary. This open-air gallery shows work by British and international artists, including Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, set in attractive grounds. It is regarded as a leading international centre for modern and contemporary art.

This afternoon, we visit Renishaw Hall for a guided tour. Renishaw Hall’s gardens are Italian in design, and were laid out over 100 years ago by Sir George Sitwell. The garden is divided into ‘rooms’ with yew hedges, flanked with classical statues. These ‘rooms’ have been filled with an impressive collection of plants. The garden is set in acres of parkland with lakeside and nature walks alongside English herbaceous borders and ornamental ponds, a delight for garden enthusiasts.

Accommodation: Overnight  White Swan Hotel or similar

Overview: Today, we begin our sightseeing with a visit to visit Ness Botanical Gardens, overlooking the River Dee. Then we check out Bodnant Gardens, these stunning Gardens are famous for its Laburnum arch, but the Rhodendron collection and four national collections are just as impressive.

We enjoy dinner as a group this evening.

Accommodation: Overnight  BW Hallmark Hotel Chester Westminster or similar

Overview: Today, we make our way to Stratford Upon Avon. We visit Powis Castle and Gardens, followed by Hidcote Manor and its lovely garden.

The 18th century saw a concerted reaction against the formality of garden design. Thankfully, Powis Castle has preserved a true Baroque garden so that enthusiasts can appreciate this particular style.

Hidcote Manor boasts a famous Arts and Crafts garden, established around 1905. Its founder, Lawrence Johnston, was a keen garden designer, with a strong sense of artistic composition. He was influenced by the work of Alfred Parsons and Gertrude Jekyll, who created outdoor ‘rooms’. Accordingly, yew, holly and beech hedges are used to define a series of garden rooms. One room is occupied only by a circular raised pool. The character of others is derived from the inspired planting itself.

A group dinner will be provided this evening.

Overview: Upon our arrival in Oxford today, we visit the Oxford University Botanic Garden, followed by Blenheim Palace.

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden is Britain’s oldest, founded in 1612. It was initially used to cultivate plants for medicinal research. Today, it holds one of the most diverse collections of plants in the world, with some 8,000 species representing over 90% of higher plant families. The collection is spread over 1.8 hectares (4.5 acres) of scenic grounds.

Blenheim Palace is the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough. It is the only non-royal, non-Episcopal house in England to hold the title of palace. In 1987, UNESCO granted it World Heritage status. The palace preserves the short-lived English-baroque style, and is also notable as the birthplace and childhood home of Sir Winston Churchill. The gardens and grounds were designed by Capability Brown. During his ten-year tenure, he created the Great Lake, and successfully engineered a landscape that appears entirely natural.

Dinner will be provided this evening.

Accommodation: Overnight  Royal Oxford Hotel or similar

Overview: Today, we visit Ascott House and its elegant gardens. It was originally built as a farm house during the reign of James I. It was acquired by Baron Mayer de Rothschild in 1873, and then given to his nephew Leopold de Rothschild. It was under the junior Rothschild’s patronage that the buildings and grounds were transformed. The gardens were designed by Sir Harry Veitch as a birthday present from Leopold to his wife.

Nearby is Waddesdon Manor. This property was also owned by the Rothschild family. It was built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild as a weekend house, in the neo-Renaissance style of a French chateau. The garden was designed to entertain weekend party guests. Beautiful garden sculptures and an aviary feature in these elaborate grounds.

Accommodation: Overnight  Royal Oxford Hotel or similar

Overview: Today the tour commences with a tour of  Stowe.

The Landscape Garden at Stowe was created in three main phases, showing the development of garden design in 18th-century England (this is the only garden where all three designers worked):
From 1711 to c.1735 Charles Bridgeman was the garden designer[29] and John Vanbrugh the architect.
In 1731 William Kent. Kent’s architectural work was in the newly fashionable Palladian style.
In 1741, Capability Brown was appointed head gardener[33]. He worked with Gibbs until 1749 and with Kent until the latter’s death in 1748. Brown departed in the autumn of 1751 to start his independent career as a garden designer[34].

Stowe are today a significant example of the English garden style.

At Stowe gardens we can pause for tea and a bite to eat and admire the view before returning to our accommodation.

Afternoon at your leisure.

Accommodation: Overnight  Royal Oxford Hotel or similar

Overview: Today, we visit Wrest Park for a talk on English houses and Capability Brown. The remainder of the day will be spent at leisure, before we meet again in the evening for a group dinner.

Accommodation: Overnight  London Lodge Hotel or similar

Overview: This morning, we enjoy a Wisley (Royal Horticultural Society) RHS garden tour.. Wisley is a large and diverse garden. Among its varied features is a series of small scale “model gardens”, designed to inspire and teach visitors what they might achieve in their own gardens. Additionally, new cultivars of species are assessed here in the trial fields.

The afternoon is set aside for your leisure.

Accommodation: Overnight  London Lodge Hotel or similar

Overview: Today, we visit Edenbridge, Kent. We meet leading garden designer Roger Platts at his very own private garden ‘Leydens’. Platts has established an international reputation for his garden consultancy work. At the time of writing, he holds 8 RHS gold medals, and is working on a second book to follow his first publication, Traditional Gardens.

In the afternoon, we visit nearby Hever Castle, which is set in 124 acres of stunning, award-winning grounds. The English Rose Garden boasts 4000 fragrant rose bushes. Enjoy the plantings along the beloved Pompeiian Wall, marvel at the giant topiary chess set, and stroll through the Tudor Garden. The attractions are too many to name at the Hever Castle garden. You will simply have to see for yourself on our walking tour.

Accommodation: Overnight  London Lodge Hotel or similar

Overview: We make our way to Sissinghurst Castle, the gardens of which are a monument to love. Poet Vita Sackville West and Harold Nicolson fell for crumbling Sissinghurst Castle in 1930. At that stage, the grounds were mostly used by resident farm workers for growing vegetables and crops. Inspired by Gertrude Jekyll, the couple undertook a decade-long labour of love, planting to outdoor ‘rooms’ that each have a distinct character. Sackville-West and Nicolson were the last private owners of Sissinghurst Castle, before it passed to the care of the National Trust in 1967.

In the afternoon we pay a quick visit to Bayham Old Abbey, on the Kent-Sussex border. The sandstone ruins tell of the 13th to 15th centuries. They now sit within a landscape designed by Humphry Repton, the prolific successor to Capability Brown.

We enjoy a farewell dinner in a local restaurant tonight.

Accommodation: Overnight  London Lodge Hotel or similar

Overview: Our tour concludes after breakfast.

Visit more than 30 gardens and parks with specialist local guides on this tour
Spend a day at Wisley RHS gardens
Experience the sights and delights of the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show
Take in the remarkable baroque garden at Powis Castle, the last word in formal horticultural style.
Visit gardens and landscapes by Humpry Repton, Capability Brown & Gertrude Jekyll

What’s included in our Tour

  • 17 nights accommodation.
  • Meals as indicated on the itinerary.
  • All field trips and associated entry fees as per the itinerary.
  • All travel is in modern, air-conditioned coaches.
  • Services of a tour leader for the duration of tour.
  • Gratuities and necessary tips.

What’s not included in our Tour

  • International airfares.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.
Small Group Tour of British Gardens
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