Until recent years Northern Ireland has not been seen as popular destination for garden visiting despite having some of the most interesting in the UK. To remedy this two of our enthusiastic Northern Ireland members, Doreen and Ivan Wilson, are organising a study tour of some of the gardens and historic estates in August 2018 when many will be at their best. The tour will be based in the 4 star Dunadry Hotel near Antrim (BT21 4HA), which is conveniently situated for Belfast International Airport.

The study tour will include the Hillsborough Castle and Gardens which is undergoing a £16 million restoration, and Antrim Castle Gardens which has recently completed a £6 million restoration of its 400 year old landscape. We will also go north to the 17th-century Benvarden estate, situated on the banks of the river Bush, and in the ownership of the Montgomery family since 1798 where will have lunch in the unusual diamond-shaped stable yard and, if time permits, a tour of the mansion house.

At Clandeboye, the home of the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, the head gardener will take us on a tour of the grounds which contain many rare and exotic shrubs as well as the newer Bee Garden with its collection of Old Irish Heritage apple trees, and a beautiful wild ower meadow which should be at its peak in August. Over the years the Marchioness has embarked on extensive tree planting to augment the existing woodlands as well as breeding pedigree cattle which supply the milk for her award-winning yoghurt sold in Fortnum & Mason.

The National Trust property of Castleward, on the shores of Strangford Lough, has been one of the settings for ‘The Game of Thrones’, but we will be ‘extras’ visiting the Temple Water, currently also undergoing an ambitious restoration project to reveal the important late 17th-century water garden and walks.

No visit to Northern Ireland would be complete without a visit to Mount Stewart [top], another National Trust Property, where the mild climate enables an astonishing range of unusual plants and trees to ourish. We have allowed a whole afternoon for tours and exploration of the Formal Gardens, the Pleasure Grounds and the House itself, especially interesting for the the fascinating story of Lady Edith Londonderry and her ‘set’.

Our visit to Castlewellan to the Annesley Arboretum will confirm why it was considered one of the top three arboreta of the UK. Established by the 5th Earl Annesley towards the end of the 19th century many of the specimens have reached maturity including over forty varieties of Chamaecyparis. August should see the avenue of late summer flowering Eucryphia a mass of white petals.

Visits to several other private estates will include a plant hunter’s arboretum at Seaforde and a stunning modern garden at the foot of the Mournes, not normally open to the public. On the shores of Strangford Lough we will visit the privately owned Rosemount estate, and the adjoining physic garden of the ancient 12th-century Cistercian Grey Abbey.

Please note you will need to arrive for the night of Sunday 5 August 2018, with a stay of six nights, the study tour commences on Monday morning. As the hotel can only hold reserved rooms until mid-January room bookings must be made by Wednesday 10 January. The tour will be limited to 28 participants and is likely to be very popular, so early expressions of firm interest should be sent by email to Doreen Wilson.

Download our Booking Form Here (pdf)

Cost (not including flights) for Gardens Trust members: £760 sharing twin/double; non- members £790; Single room supplement: £150. Cost includes all meals: six breakfasts and six dinners and coffee & lunch every day.