Hidden Country Houses & Gardens of Dorset from £1290 pp

Day 1

Independent arrival in Sherborne in the early afternoon to settle into your room at the four-star Eastbury Hotel. Coach to Sandford Orcas Manor, for a private visit to one of the most enchanting and unaltered Tudor manor houses of Dorset. Return to Sherborne for a group dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Day 2

After breakfast we travel by coach to Forde Abbey. Founded by the Cistercians in 1141, the buildings were sumptuously embellished by Abbot Chard in the early Tudor period as a residence for himself. After the Abbey was dissolved in 1539, it became the residence of Cromwell’s attorney-general, Edward Prideaux, who transformed the monastic buildings into one of the most impressive houses of the Commonwealth period. The interior has outstanding woodwork and plasterwork of the period, whilst the beautiful gardens are a special feature of the estate. We enjoy lunch and a private visit to Came House (1754), a Georgian Palladian house with magnificent Rococo plasterwork, and important furniture supplied by the great Georgian cabinet-maker William Vile. Our final visit of the day will be to Kingston Maurward, an estate much loved by Thomas Hardy; there the Old Manor House is the perfect Elizabethan house. In 1717-20 George Pitt, (cousin of William Pitt the Elder), wanting a grander house, built the present impressive Baroque mansion, possibly designed by Thomas Archer. Return to Sherborne.

Day 3

Leaving Sherborne by coach, we stop for coffee and view the dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle on the way to Creech Grange, a romantic house in a secluded valley setting. Built in the Elizabethan period, it was partially remodelled by the important Dorchester architect, Francis Cartwright c.1740, whilst the East Front (1846-7) is a sensitive early example of Elizabethan revival. We have lunch at Minterne, a sophisticated Arts and Crafts house, built 1904-6 for Lord Digby, by Leonard Stokes. The magnificent woodland garden, particularly beautiful in the spring, lies in a valley landscaped in the 18th century with chains of lakes, cascades and streams, and contains a unique collection of Himalayan azaleas and rhododendrons and many fine and rare shrubs and trees. Return to Sherborne.

Day 4

Our morning will be spent at St Giles House, Wimborne, one of Dorset’s most fascinating country houses. The ancestral home of the Ashley-Cooper family (who became the Earls of Shaftesbury) for over 600 years, its architectural development is linked to the personalities and tastes of the family. After a period of decline in the late 20th century, the house and park have been brought back to life by the current 12th Earl, and his restoration of the house has earned a number of national accolades. In the park, an exquisite 18th-century Shell Grotto is not to be missed. After lunch, we visit magical Cranborne Manor (exterior only), rebuilt 1608-20 as a hunting lodge by Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, and surrounded by beautiful gardens, where features of the 17th-century layout by John Tradescant survive. In the late afternoon, we return to our hotel where the tour concludes at c. 6.00pm.

4 days from £1290 per person departing 7th April 2019 . Offers are subject to availability and can be withdrawn without notice

What's Included?

  • 3 nights at 4* Eastbury Hotel

  • Excursions around Dorset by private coach

  • 2 dinners, 2 lunches

  • Lecturer and tour manager with detailed study notes

  • All entrance fees, taxes and gratuities for drivers and waiters

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Micala Hutchison