We depart by coach from our pick-up points and head for our first visit, Felley Priory, often described as one of Nottinghamshire’s best kept secrets. The 19th century garden could be considered ‘new’ when compared to its 12th century house. The tranquil grounds house many rare and unusual plants, and have been carefully planted to dazzle guests throughout the year. The garden’s herbaceous borders are a true sight to behold during summer months; as are the beautiful rose, vine and clematis covered pergolas in the centre of the garden.
We also visit Hardwick Hall, prior to arriving at our hotel. Like a huge glass lantern, Hardwick dominates the surrounding area – a magnificent statement of the wealth and authority of its builder, Bess of Hardwick. Designed by Robert Smythson, the house is remarkable for being almost unchanged since Bess lived here, giving a rare insight into the formality of courtly life of the Elizabethan age. There are outstanding collections of 16th-century embroidery, tapestries, furniture and portraits. Walled courtyards enclose fine gardens, orchards and a herb garden, and the surrounding country park contains rare breeds of cattle and sheep. In the grounds are the remains of Hardwick Old Hall, which Bess continued to use after her new house was built.
We continue to our comfortable accommodation at the Derbyshire Hotel in South Normanton, Derbyshire. Set in charming grounds, the hotel dates back to 1847, and offers a peaceful setting, good food and a convivial atmosphere. All rooms have private facilities, direct dial telephone, TV, and tea/coffee making facilities. Dinner will be served in the hotel in the evening.
Following breakfast, we travel to RHS Harlow Carr. The Royal Horticultural Society’s northern flagship continues to set the highest possible standards in the gardening world. Within this handsome and well-wooded site there are sections devoted to particular groups of plants, a rose garden, a bulb garden and an arboretum, along with three different kinds of rockeries. There are also displays of new cultivars in the trial gardens, which vary according to the season.
Enjoy some free time in Harrogate this afternoon. Attractions in this historic spa town include the Mercer Art Gallery, the Royal Pump Room Museum and of course Betty’s Tearoom, a Harrogate institution, serving delicious afternoon teas.
Dinner will be served back at our hotel in the evening.
Today following breakfast, we enjoy a full day at RHS Chatsworth Show. Set against the classic landscape shaped by Capability Brown and Joseph Paxton, the show aims to present the best in British design and innovation. The themes of Mediterranean, jungle and woodland will be explored and interpreted by garden designers in a striking recreation of Joseph Paxton’s Great Conservatory. In the spacious grounds, there will be a wide range of Show Gardens, including a new category entitled ‘Free Form’, which will allow designers to use the breadth of their imagination and create something previously unseen. The show also brings together a selection of the finest independent companies and specialist nurseries, offering a wide-range of design-led products and quality plants.
Dinner is served in the evening.
After breakfast we check out of our hotel and travel to Haddon Hall, an intensely romantic and hugely historic house set in hilly wooded countryside. The castle was built between the 12th and 17th centuries, with turrets, crenellations and tracery windows and as such has often been used as a film location. The gardens still have some of their 17th Century character, particularly on the upper level where there is a fine knot garden. Descending on a series of terraces that lead down towards the river that loops through the rural landscape below, there is a pond and fountain, an immense collection of roses and fine herbaceous borders, all set against the ancient stone walls of the castle.
Following this, our final visit, we return to our original pick-up points.