We check in to the East Sussex National Hotel in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Tuesday: Stansted Park & West Dean Gardens
We journey to Stansted Park, an Edwardian country house set on a 1,750 acre estate within the South Downs National Park. We enjoy a private guided tour, with a complimentary guide book, of this stunning house with its splendid state rooms which provide an extraordinary contrast to the extensive servants’ quarters below stairs.
We continue on to West Dean Gardens, one of the greatest restored gardens in England nestled at the foot of the South Downs. After the storms of 1987, a redevelopment programme brought the 19th-century gardens into the 21st century. Features include an impressive collection of working Victorian Glasshouses housing a large variety of horticultural delights including exotic plants, orchids, figs and melons, a stunning 300 foot long Edwardian pergola, a Spring Garden, Victorian Walled Garden, Sunken Garden and an Arboretum, all providing year-round interest.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Wednesday: Arundel Castle & St Mary’s House and Gardens
Arundel Castle is one of the longest inhabited country houses in England, having been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors since 1067. Although restored and remodelled in the 19th century, many of the original features remain such as the Norman keep and gatehouse. The finely preserved interiors are home to priceless works of art from the likes of Van Dyck, Reynolds and Gainsborough.
Next, we visit St Mary’s House and Gardens, an enchanting 15th-century, timber-framed house with magnificent gardens. Still a lived-in home, this former monastic inn features fine panelled rooms including the unique Elizabethan trompe l'oeil Painted Room. After our guided tour, we enjoy a ‘Country House Tea’ with scones and cake.
This evening, we enjoy an inclusive three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Thursday: Great Dixter & Michelham Priory
We start the day with an out-of-hours visit to Great Dixter, home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd. The famous gardens feature topiary, mixed borders, an orchard and wild flower meadow while the house, although largely medieval, has several later additions by Edwin Lutyens. We enjoy a guided tour of the house where highlights include the Great Hall, one of the largest surviving timber-framed halls in the country.
Michelham Priory’s history can be traced back over 800 years. Founded as an Augustinian priory in 1229, it was later transformed into a Tudor mansion after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The priory is set on a picturesque island surrounded by England’s longest water-filled moat with an impressive 14th-century gatehouse and seven acres of beautiful grounds including a kitchen garden, medieval herb garden, working watermill and forge. We enjoy a guided tour of the priory including the original medieval vaulted undercroft and discover furniture, tapestries and artefacts which trace the property’s religious origins and its development over the centuries.
We then return to our hotel for an inclusive three-course dinner.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel.