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Stately Homes and Gardens of Southern England

United Kingdom
2-Centre Tour to Kent and London
Along with the football match, the pub and a ‘nice cuppa’, few British institutions are as important as the garden, and now more than ever gardening has become one of Britain’s beloved pastimes. On this tour we will visit various styles of gardens, including those created by Britain’s most famous landscape architects, such as Vita Sackville-West, Christopher Lloyd and Capability Brown. We will also discover some of Britain’s grandiose estates and learn of their turbulent and romantic past.

We begin with a 7-night stay in the county of Kent, known as the ‘Garden of England’. One of Britain’s oldest counties, Kent is not only known for its enchanting gardens, but it is also home to more castles and historic houses than any other region of England. It has been the playground to royals and aristocrats for centuries. 

We spend the next 6 nights in London - “Everybody’s Favourite City”. Our centrally located hotel is the perfect base for both touring and exploring on our own.

*Those participating in any of our tours to Europe must be able to walk fairly long distances and climb stairs easily.

Tour Highlights:
   • Sissinghurst Castle, Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicholson’s world famous garden
   • Canterbury - historic English cathedral city and UNESCO World Heritage Site
   • Leeds Castle, “the Loveliest Castle in the world”
   • Penshurst Place and Gardens
   • Chatham`s Historic Dockyard
   • Hever Castle & Gardens - childhood home of Anne Boleyn 
   • Hampton Court Palace - the country retreat of King Henry VIII, and Capability Brown Gardens
   • Award-winning tour of Wimbledon
   • Royal Botanical Gardens (Kew)
   • Savill Gardens with Thames River cruise
   • Great Dixter House - once home to gardener Christopher Lloyd

Itinerary / Excursions

We depart for London.
We arrive and transfer to our 4-star hotel located on the edge of Canterbury, our home for the next 7 nights.
We visit the jewel of Kent - Canterbury, where we embark on a historic river “punt” - a unique vantage point to see Canterbury’s stunning architecture. On our city tour we will visit England’s oldest cathedral (seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury) and see the beautiful cloisters, side alleys and chapels which have evolved over the ages.
We begin with a visit to ‘The World’s Loveliest Castle’. Set in 500 acres of beautiful parkland, Leeds Castle was the private property of 6 medieval English monarchs and is now one of Britain’s most visited historic buildings. Later we visit Sissinghurst Castle, created by Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West in the 1930’s and is one of the world’s most celebrated 20th century gardens.
Once an island off the English coast, the Isle of Thanet was where the Romans landed when they invaded Britain. Today it is home to a string of lovely Victorian seaside towns. We enjoy a walking tour of picturesque St. Peter’s, where the past is brought to life by costumed characters! Then we stop in Margate - an old English seaside town that now has a modern flavour. We will stop at the Spitfire Museum, home to famous WW2 fighter planes. Dinner will be at a lovely 15th century coaching inn.
Our hotel is a 10 minute walk from the centre of Canterbury, with its many boutiques, pubs, cafes and pedestrian streets. Tonight we enjoy some local entertainment.
Great Dixter was the family home of the famous gardener Christopher Lloyd, and since this historic house and garden was the focus of his work for over 40 years, it has become a centre of education and a place of pilgrimage for horticulturists from all over the world. We then visit medieval Rye - an important harbour since Roman times, where we will learn about its smuggled secrets and timeless tales, and discover many of its ancient nooks and crannies. Our day ends with dinner in a pub full of character!
Today we visit two historic estates located just a few miles apart and brought together by Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. We start with Penshurst Place, once the hunting lodge of Henry VIII. It is now considered 'the grandest and most perfectly preserved example of a fortified manor house in all England'. The Head Gardener will show us around one of the finest examples of Elizabethan design gardens. Then we visit Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn (2nd wife of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I). This castle was the unlikely backdrop to a series of tumultuous events that changed the course of Britain’s history, monarchy and religion. Included today is a delicious ‘proper’ cream tea.
En route to London we visit Chatham’s Historic Dockyard. For 400 years the Royal Dockyard at Chatham made ships for the Royal Navy, including the nation’s most loved – HMS Victory. We enjoy a tour and lunch, then proceed to London for a 6-night stay.
On our city tour we will see sites such as Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London and much more. Just a short walk from our hotel we visit the Royal Albert Hall - one of London’s most iconic buildings. Experience the excitement inside one of the world’s most famous venues as it prepares for the next performance. The afternoon is at leisure.
In the heart of historic Windsor Great Park lies Savill Gardens. With plants collected from around the world this is one of England’s finest woodland gardens. Today we also enjoy a narrated cruise along the River Thames which will provide some of the best distant views of Windsor Castle.
We visit the world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kew Gardens - a beautiful botanical gardens as well as the most biodiverse place on Earth, with over 50,000 living plants. From Victorian glasshouses to an Alpine rock garden, there is something to see in every corner. For dinner we will dine in a modern pub, overlooking the gardens.
A day at leisure for you to explore on your own.
 This morning we visit the magnificent Hampton Court Palace, grown from humble beginnings in the 11th century to one of the finest palaces in the world. You can explore the Tudor kitchen, see the Queen and King’s apartments and admire the sumptuous tapestries in England’s greatest Great Hall. Outside, try not to get lost in the world’s most famous maze and the Privy Garden, restored to its 1702 glory. Our next stop is Wimbledon, where we can experience the history of ‘The Fortnight’ in the museum, get up close to the Championship Trophies and, feel the fabrics of tennis fashions from the Victorian era with clothing and equipment donated by tennis’ top stars. Dinner tonight is in a 19th-century cottage on the edge of Wimbledon Common. Our Farewell Dinner will be in an elegant English pub!
Air Canada takes us home.
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