A journey through manor houses and rose gardens, set against the inspiring landscapes of West Dorset and Somerset.

Friday 20th June - Thursday 26th June 2025

The lush greens of Spring give way to the bold colours of peonies and roses on this late June tour of some of the West Country’s most magical gardens and estates. We are delighted to bring you several exclusive visits, including the 16th-century home and garden of Julian and Isabel Bannerman, and the intimate, secret garden at Chilcombe. 

The price of the tour includes your 6 night stay at Symondsbury Manor, an eclectic and comfortable private manor house with a distinguished history, as well as delicious teas and dinners prepared by Caroline and Clare, with help from Dorset’s best cake baker, Haley. As usual we will be lunching at a variety of our favourite restaurants in this beautiful corner of south-west England. It’s all included.  

Friday June 20th

Arrive at Symondsbury Manor for tea. We have time to unwind and enjoy the garden over drinks, before dinner is served.

Simon Tiffin and Jason Goodwin will set the scene with an introductory talk on the history and gardens of west Dorset.

Saturday June 21st

Home to the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, Mapperton has been described as
the nation’s finest manor house and its grounds are equally remarkable. The gardens feature stunning topiary, a magnificent orangery and a recently restored eighteenth century swimming pool. The planting in the borders is varied and elegant and the arboretum features a stunning collection of trees and shrubs. The Countess of Sandwich will talk to us about the history of Mapperton gardens.

Lunch is at the award-winng Brassica restaurant in Beaminster.

Set nearby in a beautiful valley, close to the village of Netherbury, Slape is the perfect example of mellow-stone, seventeenth-century English manor house. The wonderful gardens were laid out in the nineteenth century, just when Thomas Hardy, young architect and later novelist, was working on the design for the manor’s library and coach house.

Slape’s owners have been extensively restoring the gardens and rewilding some of the grounds (including the reintroduction of beavers). Slape Manor is also home to the River Cottage made famous by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

After dinner there will be a talk and demonstration by celebrated florist Kate Reeves. After many years working in London, Kate opened the wonderful Rambling Rose florist in Beaminster to bring her flair and creativity to West Dorset.

Sunday June 22nd

The morning is dedicated to exploring the magnificent grounds of Forde Abbey.
Founded in the 12th century by Cistercian monks there has been a garden at Forde Abbey for over 900 years. The formal layout was begun by Sir Francis Gwyn in the early 18th century and the following century saw the addition of walled gardens and formal Victorian borders. For the last three generations, the gardens have been in the careful stewardship of the Roper family and during his lifetime, Geoffrey Roper planted more than 350,000 trees on the estate. The vast walled kitchen garden is an absolute delight.

After lunch at the Barrington Boar, a Somerset pub featured in the Michelin Guide 2023, we head to the handsome village of Martock. Here we visit Fergus
and Louise Dowding’s secret garden at Yews Farm, described in Gardens Illustrated as ‘a theatrical paradise’. This is a playful garden packed with a menagerie of topiary beasts, swathes of self-sown umbellifers and a layout that entices you to explore what Frederic magazine called ‘its flow of quirkily shaped box topiary nestling under verdurous bay, quince, and hawthorn trees, its towering licorice root and delicate Mexican daisies, and its scattered softness epitomizing cottage planting.’

“I’ll point the baton here and there, but the way that everything grows and pulls together is up to the plants and not me,’ Louise has said, with typical modesty. ‘It is often so much better than I could have possibly imagined, like a kind of magic.”

Monday June 23rd

This morning we head to a garden located in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the West Country, Devon’s Blackdown Hills.

The stunning garden surrounding medieval South Wood Farm was first conceived by Professor Clive Potter, with the designer Arne Maynard helping him bring the garden together into a cohesive design. The result, in its owner’s words, is ‘a garden that slowly melts into the landscape’, in perfect harmony with its surrounding landscape and the medieval building at its centre.

We will enjoy a splendid picnic lunch, prepared for us by our cooks Caroline and Claire, in the grounds at South Wood.

In the afternoon you are free to explore further this wonderful corner of west Dorset. A walk along the nearby hollow way of Hell Lane – memorably described by nature writer Robert Macfarlane as “the view down a rifled barrel; an eye to the keyhole; a glimpse into the shade world” – or a trip to Lyme Regis
are excellent options. 

We end the day back in Symondsbury, at the specialist plant nursery of Charles Chesshire. As well as curating this spectacular nursery, Charles has designed gardens at Burford House, consulted at Sudeley Castle gardens and is restoring
the park and gardens at Lydney Park. The nursery is also home to Charles’s extensive collection of herbaceous and itoh peonies.

Tuesday June 24th

This morning we visit Farrs, the Beaminster home of the furniture maker John Makepeace and his wife Jenny, to explore two strikingly different but equally
enchanting gardens.

John has created a landscape of order and precision, featuring clipped monumental topiary and precisely planted grass borders. Yet pass through a door into the internal walled garden and you enter Jenny’s world of carefully curated colourful chaos; a true plants woman’s paradise.

Lunch is overlooking the cliffs and Chesil Beach at the Seaside Boarding House.

In the afternoon, we go up the valley to Chilcombe. Created by the artist John Hubbard and his wife Caryl, and justly compared to Sissinghurst and Hidcote, the garden at Chilcombe is a paradise in every sense, composed of linked enclosures all hidden away in the hills behind Chesil Beach. The main walled garden is divided into a series of rooms by pleached apple trees and sculpted yew hedges.  Each of these intimate spaces invites you to stop and admire the plantsmanship and love that went in to its creation.

Wednesday June 25th

After breakfast we leave for Ashington, the 16th-century home of Julian and
Isabel Bannerman, garden designers by appointment to the Prince of Wales. In his introduction to their book Landscape of Dreams, the King described the pair as “worthy heirs of William Kent, one of the greatest and most creative of early eighteenth century designers”. As well as the King’s gardens at Highgrove, the dynamic duo have created the famous gardens at Trematon Castle and Houghton Hall. With towering yews echoing the old church, Ashington’s inspiring gardens are in fact brand new, created from rough turf during lockdown as ‘a joyous cross between a Kate Greenaway illustration and a medieval Book of Hours, with a nod to Alice in Wonderland’.

After lunch at The Green, an award wining restaurant close to Sherborne Abbey, we travel to  the home of fabled designer Jasper Conran.  One of England’s loveliest smaller houses, Bettiscombe Manor has a garden to match, with orchards, mellow brick enclosures, and broad beds flanking an unforgettable view of the Vale, looking down to the sea. We have an exclusive invitation to visit in the afternoon, to hear about Jasper’s design principles and the work that has gone into creating this magical English garden.

We return to Symondsbury Manor for a valedictory dinner.

Thursday June 26th

Depart Symondsbury Manor after breakfast.