Gardens and Mysteries of Devon April 14 - 24, 2024
Kew’s Cherry trees in magnificent bloom; an abbey garden of poisonous plants; a hotel garden with the Royal Stamp of Approval; a Roman Ruin; Sculptures and Michelin Star Dining on the Jurassic Coast; carpets of bluebells; follow Hercule Poirot to Burgh Island…
Join Huron Tours on the stunning English Riviera for a deluxe 11 day tour exploring incredible gardens and our fascination with the crime novelist Agatha Christie.
April sees spring swing into full bloom in Devon and the beautiful coast is home to many grand estates and several smaller private garden gems, some opening just for us. In addition to these stunning horticultural landscapes we’ll visit charming local sites, quaint harbors and rugged coastlines.
We’ll also take a closer look at Agatha Christie's gardening life and examine the horticultural side of the "Queen of Crime," casting new light on her passion for plants and, in particular, how botanicals shaped so many of her most successful stories.
Please review the details below and consider joining us on this memorable garden adventure. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with any questions - the people you speak with on the phone will be on the tour with you.
Happy Travels! - Katie and John Kosta
Sunday, April 14
Heathrow Airport arrival, private transfer to the Petersham Hotel, welcome dinner reception
Arrive at London Heathrow airport where your private airport meet and greet representative and private driver will escort you to the elegant 4 Star Petersham Hotel in London‘s leafy borough of Richmond. This Victorian gem with its picturesque setting overlooking the Thames River was designed by John Giles, the architect behind The Langham. The structure dates back to 1865 and features old-world hotel touches including wrought-iron balconies, gold-tinted flock wallpaper, gilded chandeliers, and a grand piano under a statement spiral staircase. The property’s elegant bedrooms offer classic style, refined comfort and all the modern amenities. You can enjoy Thames river views from every table in the Petersham restaurant and take a lovely stroll around the hotel’s manicured grounds. What a treat!
After settling in, a spectacular explosion of color awaits you at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew where your visit is perfectly timed to celebrate one of the most welcome events in the garden calendar: Japanese cherry blossom season! Kew is 121 hectares of gardens and botanical glasshouses and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Home to the world's largest collection of living plants, Kew is a 'must-see' destination for garden lovers. You will have plenty of time to experience it all including the Alpine Gardens, Japanese gardens, The Great Pagoda and Treetop Walkway and the not to be missed Marianne North gallery.
This evening we’ll kick off our garden adventures with a private dinner reception at the famed Ivy Cafe Richmond. We’ll dine in the opulent, elegant surroundings of the private Isabella Room and experience impeccable service and wonderful cuisine.
(Meals on flight, welcome dinner included)
Monday, April 15
Great Western Railway to Totnes, River Cruise to the Dart Marina, "Welcome to Devon" Dinner
After a hearty English breakfast at our hotel, we'll make our way to Paddington Station (look out for the namesake bear!) to connect with the famed Great Western Railway for our journey to Totnes, Devon. No need to worry about your luggage - Huron will deliver your bags straight to your room at our chic riverfront hotel in Dartmouth while you enjoy the beauty, comfort and ease of travel by train.
Upon arrival, we’ll cruise in typical Huron style by private vessel on the winding River Dart to our hotel for the next 8 nights, The Dart Marina. The property’s prime position in the beautiful South Hams sailing town of Dartmouth has views of the River Dart from each bedroom! Bobbing yachts with tinkling boats’ bells and the cheery tooting of the Dartmouth steam train make for a blissful soundtrack as you take in the stunning views of shimmering waters. It is a short walk to Dartmouth Castle and the charming higgledy-piggledy streets of this historic harbor town. The property includes an excellent restaurant and atmospheric bar plus a spa featuring a fitness suite, small pool, steam room and hot tub.
We’ll enjoy a nice dinner together this evening in the hotel’s stunning ‘River Restaurant’ with amazing views.
(Breakfast and dinner included)
Paddington Bear's favorite Marmalade Sandwich
Two slices of bread
Marmalade (chipped Seville orange marmalade, with chunks of pith in)
Spread the butter onto the two slices of bread.
Add a generous amount of marmalade. Do as Paddington Bear does and use your paw (or hand if you’re human) to put it on.
Place the two slices of bread together.
Serve the marmalade sandwich with tea poured into a saucer rather than a cup, in true Paddington style.
Tuesday, April 16
Coleton Fishacre, Calancombe Estate
After breakfast this morning we’ll visit Coleton Fishacre, a wonderful Art Deco country house set in a beautiful wooded valley near the mouth of the River Dart. Built in 1925 by Rupert D'Oyly Carte and his wife Dorothy, the house is set in outstanding gardens featuring rare trees, water features and moisture-loving plants.
This afternoon we’ll visit Calancombe Estate located in the delightful Witchcombe Valley in South Devon. Blessed by a unique microclimate, south-facing slopes and free draining soil, the estate is ideally suited for wine production. The family has planted 5 vineyards across 23 acres with varieties including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Our private, guided tour will take us through the vineyards, apple orchards and blackcurrant fields, followed by a visit to the winery where we’ll learn about Calancombe’s award-winning wines, cider and Cassis! Lastly, enjoy a wine tasting paired with a delicious platter of English cheeses and charcuterie.
(Breakfast, wine tasting )
Wednesday, April 17
The Garden House, Wildside
One of the most anticipated visits of this magnificent tour is to The Garden House. This gorgeous 10 acre “plantsman’s paradise” garden, set in a stunning valley on the western edge of Dartmoor National Park will immerse you in color, scent and spectacular views at every turn. Head Gardener Nick Haworth will lead us on a guided tour, followed by a nice lunch together.
Later this afternoon we’ll enjoy a private visit to Wildside, a highly acclaimed garden and plant nursery. This innovative and artistic garden was created by Keith Wiley, the former Head Gardener of The Garden House.
Dinner is on your own this evening so be sure to consult our Dartmouth dining recommendations list, or make a reservation in the hotel restaurant.
(Breakfast and lunch included)
Thursday, April 18
Greenway House, The Grand Hotel, Agatha Christie Talk, Torre Abbey Gardens
Today after breakfast we journey by ferry to Greenway House, the residence of Agatha Christie and her second husband the archeologist Max Mallowan. Agatha used the estate as inspiration for several of her novels including ‘Dead Man’s Folly’, ‘Five Little Pigs’ and ‘Ordeal by Innocence.’ The interiors feature wonderful collections of silver, books, china, and Tunbridge ware in addition to a wealth of family mementoes and objects associated with Christie and her writing career. From walled gardens to riverside woodland, the informal gardens at Greenway are peaceful and relaxing. Enjoy hidden garden gems with views down river to take your breath away, and the deck chairs in front in which to relax.
After our visit to Greenway we have a wonderful Huron exclusive planned - a private lunch at The Grand Hotel on the Torquay seafront! The Grand Hotel first opened in 1881 following the influx of visitors resulting from the expansion of the Great Western Railway and Agatha Christie spent the first night of her honeymoon at the hotel on Christmas Eve 1914. We’ll enjoy a fascinating talk on Christie, her life, the use of plants in her books, the Devon settings of her novels and more after lunch. What a fun afternoon!
Next, we’ll visit Torre Abbey Gardens which celebrates Christie’s achievements and her knowledge of pharmacy with a Potent Plants Garden, some poisonous, some a little more benign. Given that over half of Christie’s characters were poisoned we are sure that you will be intrigued and surprised at the range of beautiful but sinister plants on show, including the sources for cyanide, morphine and ricin - to name just a few!
After returning to Dartmouth, dinner this evening is on your own. Ask John about his favorite Dartmouth pub for the freshest seafood.
(Breakfast, lunch included)
Friday, April 19
Exeter Cathedral, Lympstone Manor, Little Ash Bungalow
Our visit this morning isn’t to a garden but to one of the great Cathedrals of England and one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture anywhere. Exeter Cathedral has survived war, political unrest, the Blitz and more. The Cathedral was 'founded' by King Edward the Confessor in 1050 AD and the current building dates back to 1114 AD. The large dial of the Exeter Astronomical Clock, dating from 1484, is reputed to be the source of the nursery rhyme 'Hickory Dickory Dock' which was probably inspired by the round hole in the door. During our private tour we’ll learn about the history and significance of the cathedral.
We next head to the famed Jurassic Coast and the tranquility of the Exe Estuary for a gastronomic feast at Lympstone Manor. This Georgian Manor and surrounding vineyards are the passion project of celebrated Michelin Star Chef, Michael Caines. Chef Caines has appeared on several notable cooking programs including Master Chef, The Great British Bake Off, Royal Recipes and Cooking with the Stars.
The Intimately beautiful Lympstone is home to 53 sculptures created by more than 20 sculptors from around the country. Each sculpture is positioned to provide visitors the unique experience and appreciation of the natural beauty of the grounds, and of these strikingly poignant and beautiful constructions.
Our last visit today is to Little Ash Bungalow, a small private country garden of 1.5 acres, packed with different and unusual herbaceous perennials, trees, shrubs and bamboos with a sprinkling of interesting sculptures throughout. Here owners Helen and Brian Brown take advantage of the glorious views of East Hill and the River Otter. Little Ash was crowned England’s favorite garden of the National Garden Scheme!
(Breakfast and banquet lunch included)
Saturday, April 20
Free day or optional day trip to RHS Rosemoor
A completely free day for you to experience vibrant Dartmouth or take our optional day trip to RHS Rosemoor (please see information box.) Spend the day exploring the town with its museums, art galleries, independent shops and wonderful restaurants right out our front door. Perhaps you'd enjoy a visit to Dartmouth Castle, the most beautifully located fortresses in all of England? You can also see one of the county’s most historic churches, St Saviour’s, dating back to 1372 or partake in a bit of retail therapy at Dartmouth’s Old Market.
Optional Tour: RHS Rosemoor
Saturday, April 20th
For those who prefer an organized activity on your free day, consider joining us for a trip to RHS Rosemoor. Rosemoor is an enchanting 65-acre RHS garden in a gorgeous Devon valley offering formal and informal plantings to magical effect. Rosemoor’s award-winning Garden Kitchen restaurant serves seasonal menus full of quality garden and local produce.
Experience the tranquility and endless planting inspiration during this marvelous day trip.
- Includes Private Motorcoach transportation, Blue Badge Guide Escort and Garden Entry. +$196 per person
Sunday, April 21
Overbecks, Burgh Island Hotel
Nestled into the cliffs high above the Kingsbridge Estuary, we find National Trust Overbecks, a sub-tropical paradise garden. Created across three families since the start of the 20th Century and carved into the local rockface, Overbecks features exotic and tender plants from around the world which thrive in this micro-climate.
After our garden visit, true adventure awaits! We’ll celebrate Christie’s beloved Hercule Poirot during a Private Champagne Tea at the stunning Art Deco Burgh Island Hotel. The hotel was much loved by Christie who made the island property the setting for her novels ‘And Then There Were None’ and the Hercule Poiriot mystery ‘Evil Under the Sun.’
(Breakfast and tea included)
“It is romantic, yes,’ agreed Hercule Poirot.
“It is peaceful. The sun shines. The sea is blue. But you forget, Miss Brewster, there is evil everywhere under the sun."
So begins one of Agatha Christie's best mysteries, set on the charming and private Burgh Island connected by a causeway to the sunny Devon coast.
Monday, April 22
Cotehele House, Endsleigh House
We begin today at the National Trust’s Cotehele House, in Cornwall, which features formally planted terraces and a valley garden leading down to the Tamar river. The Tudor house perched high above has some very fine furniture and other artifacts.
Alan Titchmarsh described our next visit as “paradise” and it is certainly one of the most romantic gardens in England. Endsleigh House was created as a hunting and fishing lodge for the sixth Duke of Bedford at the beginning of the 19th century. Designed by Jeffrey Wyatt in the Cottage Orné style, the surrounding Grade I listed gardens were one of Humphry Repton’s last completed commissions. This picturesque 108-acre garden overlooks the River Tamar on the Devon-Cornwall border and consists of formal gardens around the house, including a 100-meter long herbaceous border filled with flowers. British Magazine Tatler says “the whole thing is completely enchanting, torn straight from the pages of Hans Christian Andersen.” King Charles himself also has a real fondness for Endsleigh, and you’ll see why! After a private tour with Head gardener Ben Ruscombe-King we’ll privately dine in the transformed stable block.
(Breakfast and Dinner included)
Tuesday, April 23
Transfer to London, The Newt
We depart beautiful Devon this morning for one very last very special visit en-route to London. In a storybook corner of England lies the magical Newt in Somerset (sponsor of the Chelsea Flower Show). At the heart of the 800-acre estate surrounding the beautiful red-gold limestone Hadspen House, are 30-acres of formal gardens created by Franco-Italian Patrice Taravella - arguably one of the most exciting horticultural projects to have emerged in the UK in the last decade. The Newt is home to a Gardening Museum, the ruins of a Roman Villa, an observational lakeside apiary (Beezantium), plus a fantastical grotto housing the colony of great crested newts after which the estate is named. We’ll have refreshments on arrival, a private tour of the walled garden, a wonderful lunch in the cafe, plus a private cider tour and tasting.
Once back in London, we will check into the luxurious Five-Star London Heathrow Sofitel conveniently attached to Terminal 5 and within easy transfer to all other terminals. We’ll toast our travels with a canapé reception in the hotel’s private Zen garden.
(Breakfast, lunch, cider tasting, canapé reception included today)
Wednesday, April 24
Departures to home
Departure today is made easy as you are connected to Heathrow Airport. Be sure to enjoy the Sofitel’s wonderful and extensive breakfast buffet before heading for your flight back home. You’ll leave with magical memories of gorgeous gardens, stunning coastline views and some fun tidbits about the ‘Queen of Crime’.
(Breakfast included today.)
A $1,000 per person deposit will hold your space. Please use the link above or below to access our online shopping cart. If you'd like to reserve over the phone, we'd be happy to talk to you and can be reached at either (504) 267-2057 or (800) 734-1192.