Spend four summer days exploring fine gardens in Sussex and Kent from a delightful hotel in Royal Tunbridge Wells

In June 2023, enjoy visits to seven beautiful English gardens in Kent and Sussex, plus a special talk hosted by the inspirational garden designer Sarah Raven at her garden at Perch Hill.

Highlights of the trip include visits to Great Comp Garden, Scotney Castle, and the magnificent Lullingstone Castle. Spend time among the scented roses and lavender of Pashley Manor, admiring the classic styling of Great Dixter, and a special early bird visit to Sissinghurst, where you'll explore these exquisite gardens before they open to the public.

On a visit to Sarah Raven's garden at Perch Hill in East Sussex, you'll listen to an exclusive talk about the 25-year transformation from a dairy farm into 90 acres dedicated to flowers and colourful gardens. You'll join the gardeners on a private tour before a two-course lunch using fresh produce from the garden.

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Your expert guide

Sarah Raven
Garden designer, writer, broadcaster

Sarah Raven is an inspirational and passionate teacher, and has been running cooking, flower arranging, growing and gardening courses at her farm in Perch Hill, East Sussex, for two decades. Since the publication of her first book The Cutting Garden, Sarah has led the way in introducing a new kind of productive gardening. She is a teacher, a broadcaster, and hosts a popular gardening podcast: Grow Cook Eat Arrange, and runs sarahraven.com.

Price includes

  • Three nights' bed and breakfast at the four-star The Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells
  • Three dinners at the hotel
  • An early bird visit to Sissinghurst
  • A special talk by Sarah Raven, and a two-course lunch at Perch Hill
  • Comfortable coach travel throughout
  • Visits to the gardens of Lullingstone Castle, Great Comp, Pashley Manor, Great Dixter and Scotney Castle
  • Services of a Brightwater Holidays tour manager


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  1. Day
    Great Comp and Lullingstone
    Lullingstone Castle, United Kingdom

    We depart from our pick-up points in London and Gatwick and head towards Kent and our first visit, to the magnificent Lullingstone Castle. A historic family mansion dating back to the time of Domesday, frequented by Henry VIII and Queen Anne, the manor house and garden are set in the beautiful Darent Valley. The garden was designed by horticulturist Tom Hart Dyke, a modern day plant hunter who follows in the traditions of plant hunters who used to risk their lives and limbs in pursuit of fantastic blooms and plants, during his nine month kidnap at the hands of the Colombian Guerrillas in 2000. On his release he created the World Garden of Plants, which he continues to grow and build each year adding rare and important botanical plants to its collection.

    From here we continue to Greeat Comp Garden - a beautiful seven-acre garden with many beautiful and rare shrubs, perennials and other hardy plants. This Kent garden is a plantsman's haven. The year starts with Helleborus, followed by magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas, then the remainder of the year follows with rare and exotic shrubs and perennial plants such as the huge collection of Salvias. There are areas of formal and informal plantings linked with meandering grass paths and ruins homing in on an Italian Garden.

    We continue to our hotel, the 4-star Spa Hotel, Royal Tunbridge Wells. Dinner will be served in the evening.

    Meals - Dinner
  2. Day
    Pashley Manor and Scotney Castle
    Ticehurst, United Kingdom

    This morning, after breakfast, we will set off for the gardens at Pashley Manor, an award-winning, quintessential English Garden on the Kent/Sussex border which offers a sumptuous blend of romantic landscaping, imaginative plantings and fine old trees, fountains, springs and large ponds. The roses and lavender should be at their fragrant peak at this time of year.

    We continue to the gardens at Scotney Castle, a country house south-east of Lamberhurst in the valley of the River Bewl. The central feature of the gardens is the ruin of a medieval, moated manor house, Scotney Old Castle, which is on an island on a small lake. The lake is surrounded by sloping, wooded gardens with fine collections of rhododendrons, azaleas and kalmia. At the top of the garden stands a house which was built to replace the Old Castle between 1835 and 1843. This is known as Scotney New Castle, or simply Scotney Castle, and was designed by Anthony Salvin. It is an early example of the revived influence of Tudor architecture in 19th century Britain.

    Meals - Breakfast, Dinner
  3. Day
    Perch Hill and Great Dixter
    Perch Hill, United Kingdom

    This morning after breakfast we depart for a visit to Sarah Raven's own garden, Perch Hill. Once a rather ramshackle ex-dairy farm with a lot of concrete, corrugated iron and not much else, the land has been converted to an organic 90 acres of new seed and plant varieties. The constant supply of favourite flowers comes from the large cutting garden where the central four beds are filled with hardy and half-hardy annuals and biennials. There are also two purely ornamental gardens at Perch Hill, not dedicated to harvesting - the Oast garden with an extravagant mix of colour and structure and the front farmhouse garden, which is designed to have a calmer feel.

    Exclusive event: On arrival we are welcomed by Sarah Raven who will give us and hour-long talk on her experiences at Perch Hill. We will then have a guided tour of the garden with the gardeners, who will point out plants and features of interest and answer any questions you may have. We will then sit down to a two-course lunch featuring fresh produce from the garden.

    In the afternoon we visit another classic English Country Garden - Great Dixter. The distinguished garden writer Christopher Lloyd (who died in January 2006 at the aged of 84) was the genius behind Great Dixter, with its timbered 15th century house. Restored by Edwin Lutyens who also planned the garden, Mr Lloyd has firmly put his lively stamp on it. A recent experiment involved installing a summer tropical garden rich in bold shapes and brilliant colours. No gardener could come to Great Dixter without making discoveries and rekindling a zest for gardening.

    Dinner is served back at our hotel in the evening.

    Meals - Breakfast, Lunch
  4. Day
    Sissinghurst, United Kingdom

    This morning after breakfast we are privileged to have an 'early bird visit' (before they open to the public) to the magnificently manicured gardens of Sissinghurst. This famous garden was created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson from 1930 onwards and became the most admired English Garden of its time. Few great gardens live up to their reputations so effortlessly as this. Sissinghurst is a large connoisseurs' garden consisting of a series of small romantic areas enclosed by the surviving parts of an Elizabethan mansion. It never disappoints its visitors, it has the power of enchantment, but it is also an unending source of inspiration for all gardeners. Sissinghurst is surely as close to gardening perfection as you can get, and much-copied as a result.

    We then return to our original departure points.

    Meals - Breakfast


The Spa Hotel, Royal Tunbridge Wells

Royal Tunbridge Wells, United Kingdom

Set in 14 picturesque acres in the centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells, The Spa Hotel opened in 1880 and has built a reputation for style, sophistication and fine dining.

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Call now to book 02039932958