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Historic Gardens and Plantations of Charleston

9 Nightsfrom £4695.00 pp

Charleston is as historic as it gets in the USA, with a southern charm that will capture your heart.

Tour Overview


The historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, is a wonderful place to be in the spring, with the azaleas in full bloom and the fragrance of wisteria wafting through the warm air. With the help of a local horticultural expert who will act as our guide, we have arranged a holiday that takes us to some of the key places in Charleston including many private houses, gardens and plantations which are not normally open to the public.

A guided walking tour of Old Charleston will give us an introduction to the city that was founded in 1670 and named in honour of Charles II, touching on architecture, gardens and history, while a boat trip of the harbour affords a view of the city from a different perspective. The city is also famous for its mannerly citizens and generous hospitality and we can expect the warmest of welcomes as we visit the private gardens of local residents.

In addition to exclusive visits to carefully selected plantations and private gardens, we visit larger properties such as Middleton Place, reflecting classical European style, and Magnolia, the oldest unrestored gardens in America. Here we enjoy a further boat trip through old flooded ricefields along the Ashley River, where egrets stalk fish and frogs among cattail-fringed canals. We also visit the unique Charleston Tea Plantation, the only tea producer outside Asia, Africa or South America.

Tour highlights:
  • Welcome dinner and cocktails at a private residence
  • Exclusive access to plantations and gardens not normally open to the public
  • Guided walking tour of the old and historic quarters of Charleston
  • The large Romantic-style Magnolia Gardens
  • A day in the plantations of the ACE Basin
  • Farewell dinner featuring local specialities
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Tour Itinerary Back to top of page

Sunday 2 April 2017
We depart on scheduled flight from London to Charleston International Airport. Please note that regional flight connections, flight upgrades and/or overnight accommodation before or after the tour are available on request. On arrival in Charleston in the morning we transfer by coach to our hotel, the 5-star Belmond Charleston Place. All rooms are en-suite with television, hairdryer, mini fridge and wireless internet.  The hotel boasts three restaurants and has spa facilities.  

In the evening we will enjoy a specially arranged welcome dinner and cocktails at a private residence in Charleston.

Monday 3 April 2017
Following breakfast we depart by coach for an introductory tour of Charleston, which was founded in 1670 and named in honour of Charles II. It moved to its present location on Oyster Point in 1680 from a location on the west bank of the Ashley River known as Albemarle Point. We will see many examples of the well-preserved architecture of this historic city, which is the oldest in South Carolina.

We will also be privileged to visit some private gardens in Charleston and discover some of the pleasures and challenges of gardening in this part of America, which has a humid, sub-tropical climate.

After an opportunity for lunch (not included), we follow the Gateway Walk, opened in 1930 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of Charleston. The walk connects the area between Archdale Street and Philadelphia Alley and was designed by landscape architect Loutrel Brigg. The walk features the Lehnardt Garden, a classically designed garden with contemporary touches.

Evening at leisure.

Tuesday 4 April 2017
Following breakfast, we depart for a visit to the landscape gardens at Drayton Hall, a fine Palladian mansion dating from 1742. The landscape of John Drayton (1715-1779) is an expression of an 18th-century gentleman’s country seat, conceived along with the construction of Drayton Hall, which is centrally embedded within an early-English, picturesque landscape. The sighting of the house in relation to the lush riverside garden and the great lawn, as illustrated above, is one example. John was credited with utilizing many existing trees and native plants in his garden. The landscape was further embellished with exotic plants by John’s son, Charles Drayton (1743-1820), who kept detailed records of his everyday life for over 30 years.

We continue to the gardens at the Magnolia Plantation, where lunch will be served on arrival. Thomas Drayton and his wife Ann arrived from Barbados to the new English colony of Charles Towne and established Magnolia Plantation along the Ashley River in 1676. The establishment of the early gardens at Magnolia Plantation in the late 17th century would see an explosion of beauty and expansion throughout the 18th century, but it was not until the early 19th century did the gardens at Magnolia truly begin to expand on a grand scale. Today there is a wide variety of plants from camellias and daffodils to azaleas and countless other species, which are particularly attractive in the spring.

Following our visit to the gardens we then enjoy a boat trip through Magnolia’s old flooded ricefield along the Ashley River, an opportunity to see something of the local wildlife.

Evening at leisure.

Wednesday 5 April 2017
Today we venture south of Charleston for a day in the ACE Basin, one of the largest undeveloped estuaries along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. It takes its name for the three rivers, Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto, which flow through the heart of 217,000 acres of South Carolina’s Coastal Plain. The area was one of the richest agricultural areas in the state during the 18th and 19th centuries when the tidal swamps bordering these rivers were cleared and dyked for rice cultivation. After the rice culture declined in the late 1800s, wealthy sportsmen purchased many of the plantations as hunting retreats, successfully managing and former rice fields and upland areas for a wide range of wildlife. This tradition of land stewardship continues to this day and the area has become a model for land conservation throughout the country. We will visit a number of private plantations, with lunch served at one of them.

Evening at leisure.

Thursday 6 April 2017
After breakfast today we visit some of the many gardens in Charleston designed by Loutrel Briggs (1893 1977). Briggs graduated from Cornell University in 1917 with a degree in landscape architecture and chaired the department of landscape architecture at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art. In the 1920s he began a seasonal landscape architecture practice in Charleston catering to wealthy New Yorkers who wintered in the area and went on to design, in his distinctive style, more than one hundred gardens in or near Charleston's historic district.

Later we will visit a couple of the gardens which the Charleston Parks Conservancy has installed and maintains.

We conclude this afternoon with a boat trip round Charleston Harbour, during which we will see some of the historic sites such as Fort Sumter National Monument.

Evening at leisure.

Friday 7 April 2017
Enjoy your breakfast. This morning we cross the Cooper River and travel to the suburban town of Mount Pleasant and visit some private gardens in the ‘Old Village’, the historic centre of Mount Pleasant whose oldest house dates to 1755.

In the afternoon we continue to Sullivan’s Island, to the south of Mount Pleasant, which was the entry point for thousands of the African slaves brought to British North America and was also the site of a major battle in 1776 during the American war of Independence. However, we will have an altogether more peaceful experience as we visit a private garden here and meet the owner.

Evening at leisure.

Saturday 8 April 2017
This morning, after breakfast, we depart for the historic site at McLeod Plantation. Established in 1851, the McLeod Plantation has borne witness to some of the most significant periods of Charleston’s history. Today it is an important heritage site that has been carefully preserved in recognition of its cultural and historical significance. The grounds include a riverside outdoor pavilion, a sweeping oak allée, and the McLeod Oak, which is thought to be more than 600 years old. The plantation was built on the riches of Sea Island cotton - and on the backs of enslaved people whose work and culture are embedded in South Carolina’s Lowcountry foundation. It is a living tribute to the men and women and their descendants that persevered in their efforts to achieve freedom, equality, and justice.

In the afternoon we continue to the unique Charleston Tea Plantation, the only tea producer outside Asia, Africa or South America. In the late 1700s, tea bushes (Camellia sinensis), first arrived in the United States from China. Several attempts were made in South Carolina over the next 150 years to propagate and produce tea for consumption, but none were successful.  Not until 1888, when Dr. Charles Shepard founded the Pinehurst Tea Plantation in Summerville, South Carolina did American grown tea become a reality.  After his passing, the Pinehurst Tea Plantation closed and was eventually relocated to a former potato farm located on Wadmalaw Island, whose sandy soil and sub-tropical climate proved to be ideally suited to growing tea. For the next 24 years research was conducted on this experimental farm before being purchased by William Barclay Hall, a tea taster who received his formal training during a four-year apprenticeship in London. Thanks to Hall's vision the Charleston Tea Plantation was founded and during his tenure, his original "American Classic" tea became the first tea ever to be made with 100% tea grown in America. The plant is currently used to produce both black and green teas and exists in over 320 varieties.

Sunday 9 April 2017
After breakfast, we have most of the day free to relax in the hotel and shop or sightsee at leisure in Charleston. At an agreed time, we will transfer to Middleton Place, a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s oldest landscaped gardens. Here we will enjoy a farewell dinner, in the form of an ‘Oyster Roast and Lowcountry Boil’, featuring delicious local specialities. There will also be a contribution from a guest speaker which will sum up the distinctive qualities of the gardens and plantations we have seen here in the warmth of a South Carolinian spring.

Monday 10 April 2017
Sadly, we check out of our hotel today and transfer by coach to Charleston International Airport for our flight home.

What's Included Back to top of page

  • Nine nights’ bed and breakfast at the 5-star Belmond Charleston Place Hotel, Charleston (or similar)
  • Welcome reception and dinner, two lunches and a farewell dinner 
  • Return flights from London to Charleston (regional flight connections and flight upgrades available on request)
  • Comfortable coaching throughout 
  • Visits to the Gateway Walk and Lenhardt Garden, Drayton Hall gardens, Magnolia Plantation, McLeod Plantation, Charleston Tea Plantation and selected private gardens; harbour boat trip and ricefield boat trip
  • Services of a professional tour manager

Supplements Per Person Back to top of page

  • Single room supplement     £1000.00
  • Insurance                             prices on request

Departure Points Back to top of page

Click here to print a brochure
Click here to make an online reservation

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