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Gardens of Southern Scotland & Northern Ireland

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Amazing scenery, varied garden styles and lovely local people on both sides of the Straits of Moyle 

10 Touring Days, beginning Edinburgh and finishing Dublin

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Great for garden clubs/horticultural societies

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This is a suggested tour itinerary for private departures, adjustable to best suit your specific wishes. Price based on how many travelers, your chosen package inclusions and your chosen level of accommodation.

 

10 Touring Days, beginning Edinburgh and finishing Dublin

 

 

TENTATIVE ITINERARY

Day 1

Day 1 Sunday Edinburgh

 

Arrival day and full day around Edinburgh; guided walk around The Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace including Dunbar’s Close ‘secret’ garden. Afternoon is free to explore as you choose, perhaps relax and enjoy the views from Dr Neil’s Garden around Arthur’s Seat?

 

Old Edinburgh is full of literary monuments, museums and inspirations. Harry Potter fans may find a particular café of interest. General highlights of the city include Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, the Royal Mile and Prince Street shopping. There’s a vibrant nightlife full of theatres, pubs and literary walks. The evening is opened for individuals to recover from your international journey or perhaps enjoy an optional evening walking tour or Scottish Show. The choice is yours!

 

Stay: Edinburgh

Day 2

Day 2 Monday Outlander, Mary Stuart & Stirling       

 

Linlithgow Palace was built and added to over two centuries by the Stewart/Stuart kings. This impressive retreat, surrounded by peaceful gardens, was an ideal place for royals to break the journey between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. High towers look out over lush greenery and a loch brimming with wildfowl, which is today a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Several monarchs were born in this royal ‘pleasure palace’ including Mary Queen of Scots. Linlithgow Palace was used to stand in as the entrance and corridors of Wentworth Prison in several intense scenes in Outlander, where Jamie suffers great torture at the hands of Black Jack Randall.

 

Scotland's best-preserved example of a 17th-century town is Culross, where at least 20 of the lovely local buildings are owned by the National Trust of Scotland. This charming place has become more well-known recently as it is used as the fictional town of ‘Cranesmuir’ in Outlander.

 

See Stirling Castle, an imposing fortress connected to Mary Queen of Scots, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. This is one of the most important sites in Scottish history. There is a nineteenth century garden within the castle but the historically interesting feature is the renaissance King's Knot, set on the grounds, which can be seen from the ramparts. Today it is largely unplanted but the mound remains. John Harvey comments that the parterres 'though repeatedly reformed, do occupy the site of a great garden which was probably laid out by James I soon after 1424, in imitation of the King's Garden below Windsor Castle where he had first seen his queen' (quote from page 142 Medieval Gardens.)

 

Stay: Trossachs/Scottish Lake District

 

Day 3

Day 3 Tuesday Trossachs & Inveraray

 

Geilston is compact but a most compelling and diverse garden packed with a full range of horticultural delights in its 10 acres. The centrepiece of the walled garden is a giant Wellingtonia, which overlooks brilliant spring displays of azaleas.

 

Iconic visitor attraction Inveraray Castle is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell. A structure has been standing here on the shores of Loch Fyne since the 1400s, the current building was inspired by a drawing by the architect who designed both Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. The garden covers sixteen acres, of which, around two acres are formal lawns and flowerbeds, the remainder being park and woodland. Extending to 180 hectares, they form one of the most important designed landscapes in Scotland.

 

The rest of our day will be spent exploring the lovely countryside of the Trossachs, the ‘Scottish Lake District.’ If we fancy more garden time, we can call into either Benmore Botanical or Linn Botanical Gardens.

 

Stay: Trossachs/Scottish Lake District

Day 4

Day 4 Wednesday Mount Stuart & Bute

 

Today meander the glorious stately home of Mount Stuart and the mysterious Isle of Bute. Visitors to Bute will be thrilled to observe Scottish gardening at its most diverse and finest on one island.

 

Mount Stuart is Britain’s most astounding Victorian gothic mansion, home to the Stuarts of Bute, descendants of the Royal House of Stuart. This magnificent house sits proudly on the Isle of Bute, the ancient stronghold of Scottish kings. The flamboyant house and its 300 acres of gardens reflect the artistic, religious and astrological interests of the 3rd Marquess of Bute. Mount Stuart has an exotically planted 5 acre wee garden, an elaborate rock garden designed by Thomas Mawson, a Pinetum, a Kitchen Garden containing culinary and medicinal delights and an elegant glass house pavilion, a contemporary garden surrounding the award winning visitor centre. Designed upon an exquisite natural canvas provided by the island’s lush habitat and picturesque shoreline, today, they are amongst Europe’s finest vibrant gardens.

 

Another option on Bute is the lovely grounds of Ardencraig Gardens. Recently described as having the “best display of summer bedding anywhere in Scotland,” these beautiful walled gardens and glasshouses are at their finest in July & August. Also here are a number of aviaries housing a range of exotic bird species.

 

Stay: Trossachs/Scottish Lake District

Day 5

Day 5 Thursday Culzean Castle

 

Today we make our way south to the ferry port across to Northern Ireland. En-route, spend time in Ayrshire at another treasure house estate. Culzean Castle is set amongst 600 acres of beautiful countryside with woodland walks, colourful terraced gardens, charming follies and inviting sandy bays. You cannot imagine a more spectacular setting! The Victorian Walled Garden includes the Pleasure Garden with extensive herbaceous borders, the restored Victorian Vinery and Peach House. There is also the Fountain Court Garden including the Orangery, the Herb Garden and the Wildlife Garden.

 

FERRY: either Stena 15:30 Cairnryan/17:45 Belfast OR P&O 16:30 Cairnryan/18:30 Larne (subject to availability/subject to current schedules)

 

Stay: Belfast

Day 6

Day 6 Friday ND Belfast

 

A full day in Belfast, a city of fine Victorian architecture, restored docklands and the famed murals. On a literary theme, Belfast inspired "Chronicles of Narnia" and "Gulliver's Travels." There will be a morning orientation walk with your guide but the entire day is yours to do as you choose independently. Perhaps you’ll choose some shopping at Victoria Square, exploring the world class art galleries or possibly a visit to Titanic Belfast Experience, a stellar 6-floor interactive museum.

 

Belfast is home to lovely botanical gardens, a popular meeting place for the locals. First established in 1828, these botanic gardens have been enjoyed since 1895. The gardens feature an extensive rose garden and long herbaceous borders, the Palm House was designed by Charles Lanyon, and is one of the earliest examples of a curvilinear cast iron glasshouse.

 

Stay: Belfast

Day 7

Day 7 Saturday Gardens and Icons of Northern Ireland

 

Today is a day of natural wonders, icons and more wonderful outdoors spaces! Tour via the scenic coastline and explore the Giant’s Causeway. Formed over 60 million years ago, the bizarre regularity of its 37,000 basalt columns has made it the subject of numerous legends such as ‘Finn McCool.’ Should we have time and an interest, perhaps a short stop at Old Bushmills Distillery, where they've been producing whiskey since 1608.

 

Benveden Gardens is a small beautiful walled garden which dates back to the 18th century. The space includes a woodland pond and a small stream with a waterfall.

 

Glenarm Castle is one of Ireland’s oldest walled gardens dating back to the 18th century. The ancestral home of the McDonnells, Earls of Antrim, Glenarm Castle is a real hidden gem known for imaginative herbaceous borders, water features, fruit and vergetable gardens.

 

Stay: Belfast

Day 8

Day 8 Sunday Gardens of County Antrim

 

Today another gorgeous property called Mount Stewart! This garden reflects a rich tapestry of design and great planting artistry that was the hallmark of Edith, Lady Londonderry. The mild climate of Strangford Lough allows astonishing levels of planting experimentation. The formal areas exude a strong Mediterranean feel and resemble an Italian villa landscape; the wooded areas support a range of plants from all corners of the world.

 

Antrim Castle occupied its imposing setting on the banks of the Sixmilewater River since 1610. The family began laying out the gardens in the 17th century. These gardens feature a network of formal and informal visitor experiences, building on the existing historic parkland with a number of notable restored, new and ornamental gardens.

 

Ballyrobert Cottage Garden is a 6 acre picturesque cottage garden. Developed by Maurice and Joy Parkinson, the garden is 20 years old, a beautiful naturalistic garden in the mould of William Robinson, the famous Irish gardening guru. These gardens were recently hailed as one of the Guardian’s Top 10 Secret Gardens in the UK!

 

Stay: Belfast

Day 9

Day 9 Monday Gardens of County Down, Dublin

 

We’ve even more beautiful estates and scenic countryside for our final touring day together! National Trust property Rowallane Garden is seemingly carved from the County Down landscape. The garden has grown from the 19th century vision of the Reverend John Moore and his nephew Hugh Armytage Moore, a mix of formal and informal spaces with many unusual vistas and unique plants from across the world. The trees, plants and shrubs range in ages, size and colour to create a unique space.

 

Later today, towards the coast around the town of Strangford, explore Castle Ward. Once home to Jane Austen's grand-niece Norah, this 18th century treasure house eccentrically features classical and Gothic architecture. The 820-acre gardens offer stunning vistas, a picturesque farmyard, an exotic sunken garden and paths that wind their way through woodland and suddenly open onto the quiet shores of the Lough

 

This evening, enjoy a night out in Dublin at a traditional Irish Show.

 

Stay: Dublin

Day 10

Day 10 Tuesday Powerscourt & Glendalough

 

Passing through the Wicklow Gap, enter into the secluded and seductive valley of Glendalough and the beautiful Glendalough National Park. Remains of an 11th century cathedral, several churches and a 110ft (33m) round tower are all that’s left of the monastic settlement that called this area home. Given Ireland’s bounty of natural beauty, Glendalough must surely be one of its loveliest retreats.

 

Our finale garden is the world renowned Powerscourt Gardens, recently voted No.3 in the World’s Top Ten Gardens by National Geographic! The Gardens stretch over 47 acres and offer a sublime blend of formal gardens, sweeping terraces, statues and ornamental lakes, secret hollows and rambling walks. Powerscourt Gardens were designed from 1731 onwards, with the desire to create a garden which was part of the wider surrounding landscape; highlights include the Walled Gardens, Italian Garden, Dolphin Pond, Japanese Gardens, Pets Cemetery and Pepperpot Tower.

 

Tonight is another evening to enjoy the vibrant nightlife of Dublin Fair City.

 

Stay: Dublin

Day 11

Day 11 Wednesday

 

Fly home from Dublin or extend your stay independently

 

Dublin is a great city, small enough to be easily walked. Discover this city of writers, of talkers, of churches, pubs, music and of Georgian architecture. See Dublin Castle, The Book of Kells, Writers Museum, Guinness Factory, stroll the alleyways of Tollbar, the banks of The Liffey and enjoy magnificent shopping on Grafton Street.

 

 

 

 

Please note: All attraction opening times are correct at time of printing this website. While we will do our utmost to include all of the properties mentioned as central visits, we reserve the right to change an attraction should it become impossible to deliver a planned visit due to changes in opening days or times beyond our control.

 

Please note that your final day to day itinerary may fluctuate to accommodate variable opening times/days for listed attractions, special events and places of interest. Please discuss your needs with us for an individual itinerary with rate quote.

 

Oft imitated, never duplicated! This is an original SGT itinerary, property of Special Group Tours and to be used only with express permission/in conjunction with SGT.

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What Your Tour Package Includes

This is a suggested tour itinerary and can be modified to best you your individual wishes.

 

Suggested tour package includes: # of touring days with vehicle & exclusive services of your driver/guide/companion, your accommodation for # nights while on the tour including full breakfasts, all taxes and tips other than those you may wish to give your guide. Your price also can include dinners and/or entrance fees to attractions or these items can be left out of the up front package/to be paid directly for maximum flexibility. Airport transfers, accommodation pre and post tour, scheduled city day tours/attraction passes/transport passes or theatre/event tickets can be added to your package as you wish, subject to availability.

 

SGT is at your service!

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The Special Group Tours Advantage is our unique and intimate understanding of what you expect traveling in the UK and Europe. We have not only visited but have spent many years living in and loving the cultures you will experience down the ‘B’ Roads and off the beaten track. We have worked with local suppliers and our guide/companion team for over a decade, creating unique special interest itineraries. Special Group Tours offers our “insider” knowledge to you.

 

The SGT Small Group Touring Concept is traveling with just 4 - 14 guests per departure. It is our aim to introduce you to the 'real' country and its people, not just ticking the boxes of a standardized route and treating you as an individual and not a number. Our concept allows for a leisurely touring pace and flexibility to get off the beaten track to discover hidden gems. Of course you'll see the major sites but so much more too!

 

At Special Group Tours, it is our priority that you have the most enjoyable holiday possible. You deserve it!