Dorset Gardens Tour
Dorset has a wonderful collection of stately homes surrounded by long-established gardens. Dorset’s southerly location allows subtropical plants to thrive at Abbotsbury – a garden noted for its Camellia groves and magnolias. The design of Minterne House gardens was inspired by Capability Brown while the Victorian gardens as Larmer Tree were laid out by General Pitt Rivers. From the gardens of 15th century Athelhampton House to the large formal gardens of Kingston Lacy, there’s something for everyone.
- Attractive formal gardens and extensive parkland at Kingston Lacy
- Magnificent garden at Athelhampton surrounding the 15th century house
- Compton Acres – the south’s finest historical gardens
- The subtropical gardens at Abbotsbury are famous in Dorset of their Rhodeodendrons, Hydrangea collections and a charming Victorian garden.
- High quality Full Board en-suite accommodation and excellent food in our Country House
- The guidance and services of our knowledgeable HF Holidays’ leader, ensuring you get the most from your holiday
- All transport to and from gardens on a comfortable, good-quality mini-coach with PA system
- All garden admissions costs. For Garden Tours, National Trust, English Heritage and RHS admissions are not included.
- Heritage gardens(please note this does not include entrance to stately homes/houses, for which there is a separate admission fee)
Check-in starts from 2.30pm (Best and Better rooms from 1pm). All guests are invited to join us for afternoon tea where we’ll introduce your leader.
We begin at Upton Country Park near Poole, once a private residence now a public park with a collection of mature trees and fine walled gardens. We move on to Compton Acres, an exuberant showpiece featuring seven individual gardens in various styles, set amongst pine trees and heathers on an elevated site.
Larmer Tree is a perfect example of a High Victorian pleasure garden laid out by General Pitt Rivers, the archaeologist, still retaining many original features. In contrast, the gardens of Cranborne Manor date back to the 17th century, though with later additions. Mainly in formal style there are several ‘rooms’ set in mature hedges or walls, connected by avenues of trees.
A free day for you to explore the local area or to relax in the Country House.
Athelhampton House is a Tudor mansion with beautiful formal gardens. The gardens include water features, perennial and rose beds, and a topiary garden. Guests may choose to visit the house (admission not included). Later we visit Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens. Enjoying a very mild microclimate the gardens have a wide range of mature trees, shrubs and perennials laid out in informal style.
Knoll Gardens is a plantsman’s garden, created from the 1970s. Informal in style the garden has many rare trees, shrubs and perennials, and collections of ornamental grasses. In the afternoon we visit Kingston Lacy. The house was built in the 18th century by Ralph Bankes in the Italianate style. The grounds include formal gardens and extensive, informal parklands that feature a Japanese Garden, a fernery and woodland walks. Guests may also wish to visit the house (admission not included).
The valley around Minterne Gardens was first landscaped in the 18th century, with ideas from Capability Brown. The upper gardens include a fine collection of trees and shrubs, especially those from the Himalayas. The lower gardens, a chain of pools and streams, have many azaleas, ferns and waterside plants. Later we visit Mapperton, a formal garden in the Italianate style and set in a valley, alongside a beautiful Jacobean manor house surrounded by mature trees and with superb views.
Depart after a leisurely breakfast.
West Lulworth House
Set just 200 yards from the sea, West Lulworth House has a highly coveted location just above the lake-still expanse of Lulworth Cove on Dorset’s iconic Jurassic Coast. Built in 1881 by the then Mayor of Weymouth, it has been perennially popular with walkers, twitchers and fossil hunters. As well as 22 delightful bedrooms, there’s a south facing garden and elevated terrace with cracking views, an outdoor heated pool and a pair of lovely lounges, perfect for a relaxing walking holiday exploring the Jurassic Coast. Step out the front door and on to the coast path. To the west lies Middle Beach and the picture perfect Durdle Door, with its massive rock arch and gently sloping beach. East lie the beaches of Mupe Bay and Arish Mell. But you’re here for the walking and what adventure you’ll have on the coast path or exploring the interior. Then there’s Lulworth Castle and the famous ruins of Corfe Castle standing guard over the Purbeck Hills to explore.
Tea & coffee-making facilities, TV, Hairdryer, Toiletries, Wi-Fi
Stay in one of the main building’s bright, beautifully presented rooms or in the adjoining cottage. With 22 bedrooms, West Lulworth House has plenty of space and there’s a range of Good, Better and Best Rooms to choose from: each room has an airy feel and the same cosy style. Opt though for Room 3 on the first floor of the main house for its weathered, pastel-painted wood panels and the lovely view looking over the cove, or squirrel yourself away in Room 22 in the cottage to the side of the main house for a large room with more sumptuous views to soak up.
All ‘Good’ rooms are ensuite and furnished to a high standard. There are also several ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ Rooms that are either larger or have a desirable view, a more luxurious mattress, larger television, enhanced toiletries and a fluffy bathrobe & slippers – upgrade your stay for just an extra £15-20 per person per night. You can choose a specific room for an extra £30 per room, subject to availability. Upgrade supplements still apply.
Free Wi-Fi, boot room and drying room, attractive garden, outdoor swimming pool, multi-purpose activity room, lounge, library and board games to borrow
After a day walking on the Dorset Coast or hunting for fossils, come back to the house and its specially tailored walkers’ facilities. Relax by sitting in the sunny south facing gardens or take a table on the terrace with matchless views of the cove below. Slip in to the heated outdoor pool then surface in time to retire to the cosy lounge and its squishy sofas and seafaring decorations to read up on the area or the attractive bar with its pretty tiled insets for a sundowner.
Food & Drink
As at all our country houses, holidays are full board, from afternoon tea served as a welcome treat through that evening’s meal to a hearty breakfast on the day of departure. Lunch is a chance to stock up on our famous picnic snacks. Food at West Lulworth House is hearty and has a strong emphasis on ingredients from the area and seasonal produce. Once a week the dining room hosts a Local Food Night, when, over a sociable evening, you might tuck in to flavours such as Dorset blue Vinney, pork fillet with Purbeck Cider and apple sauce and New Forest wild mushroom tagliatelle. Settle in under the large roof lantern or beside the panoramic double doors to dine in style – if the sun’s out they’ll even throw the doors open to let the outside in.
For accessibility and assistance information, please contact our expert team on 020 3974 8865
What to Bring
As you'll be walking around the gardens please bring stout, comfortable footwear for rough, wet or uneven terrain in gardens, and clothes for the great British weather!
Nigel Cox is currently head of RHS horticulture at Bridgwater & Taunton College where he was until recently Curriculum Manager for land based courses both full and part time in horticulture, arboriculture and countryside management. He has been teaching at Cannington for some 15 years. He is a qualified garden designer and acts as a consultant to the growing media industry. In addition he is a professional associate with the RHS where he is an examiner, centre auditor, quality assurer as well as teaching science and plant health to the RHS students at RHS Rosemoor. Nigel is also involved on several expert panels on horticulture and education, gives regular talks to local garden clubs and judges at local flower shows.
7 nights from £1,029pp £1,004pp
...or call 020 3974 8865