Britain and Ireland in bloom cruise - BIB20
Number of Days: 11
Destination: Great Britain
During the month of May the shores of Britain and Ireland are alive with colour. This is a spectacularly beautiful time when many of the gardens, estates and national parks are at their most appealing and the countryside will be lush and inviting. The gardens of Britain and Ireland have a unique quality and from the formal and manicured, to the wilder and more natural, our itinerary includes some of the most beautiful and diverse gardens which in spring are a sight to gladden any heart.
Of course our main emphasis will be on gardens and amongst the highlights are visits to the stunning sub-tropical Abbey Gardens on Tresco; the splendid gardens of Gigha, which defy the Atlantic elements so admirably; and some delightful Irish gardens which have a unique quality, the ‘soft’ weather and green mountain backdrops making for lovely views. Each day there will also be the opportunity to experience the sheer diversity of the coastline, see the resident wildlife, enjoy the wonderful views on offer and appreciate the history of the region.
All of this makes for a most appealing sea journey whether you be an avid gardener, birdwatcher or simply enjoy sailing past and visiting some of the most enchanting places in the world.
Day 1 - Portsmouth, England.
Embark this afternoon. A transfer will be provided from Portsmouth Harbour station to the port at a set time. Enjoy a welcome dinner on board this evening as we set sail.
Day 2 - Dartmouth.
Early this morning we will sail along the River Dart to our anchorage off the town of Dartmouth. From here there will be a choice of excursions, and you may decide to visit ‘Greenway’, the wonderful historic house and garden that was once home to Agatha Christie. Visit the gardens, including the Camellia Garden, a wonderful place to sit and ponder on the history of the house and the notable residents and visitors that have included Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake. Alternatively, visit the 1920s country retreat of the D’Oyly Carte family at Coleton Fishacre. Lose yourself in the RHS accredited garden by the sea as we wander the paths through glades and past tranquil ponds. Meanwhile, the house interior is imbued with 1920s elegance and Art Deco features. Return to the ship for lunch and have some time at leisure In Dartmouth which will be taking part in the Mayflower 400 celebrations, commemorating the Pilgrim voyage to the Americas which departed from here in August 1620.
Day 3 - Isles of Scilly.
Spend the morning on traffic-free Tresco, walking its idyllic lanes from the beach to the famous sub-tropical Abbey Gardens. Defying the Atlantic weather, this miracle of a garden is home to more than 20,000 species of plants from over 80 countries. Enjoy time to wander at your own pace along the paths, maybe visit the Valhalla collection of ship figureheads from ships wrecked on the islands or relax in the cafe. After lunch w,e will tender ashore to Bryher, the smallest of the inhabited Isles of Scilly. Our naturalists will lead a number of guided walks along the tracks that cross the island amongst hedgerows and fields bursting with wildflowers. The active may wish to climb Watch Hill, where in the past islanders would keep watch for ships in distress or alternatively take a stroll to one of the beautiful beaches.
Day 4 - Waterford, Ireland.
From our berth in the town of Waterford we, will drive to Mount Congreve, a spectacular woodland garden on the banks of the River Suir. This privately owned seventy acre garden has a collection of over three thousand trees and shrubs and is particularly stunning in spring when the gardens are awash with magnificent sweeps of flowering azaleas, camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons. Enjoy time to walk the numerous paths bordered with wisterias or bluebells and visit the vantage points with views over the landscape and meadows beyond. Return to the MS Serenissima for lunch and enjoy an afternoon at leisure to explore Waterford independently.
Day 5 - Portmeirion & Bodnant Gardens, Wales.
From our berth at Holyhead, we will embark on a full day tour visiting Portmeirion, Sir Clough Williams- Ellis’ extraordinary Mediterranean village in the shadows of Snowdonia. After acquiring the site for Portmeirion in 1925 the village was developed over the next 50 years into a wonderfully eccentric style, while at all times staying in harmony with the natural surroundings. We will have free time to explore before driving through the magnificent landscape of the Snowdonia National Park and enjoying lunch in a local hotel. The afternoon will be spent at Bodnant Garden, situated above the River Conwy, where the gardens have stunning views across Snowdonia. Begun in 1875, Bodnant Garden is the creation of four generations of Aberconways and features huge Italianate terraces and formal lawns on its upper level, with a wooded valley, stream and wild garden below. There are dramatic colours throughout the season, with herbaceous borders, roses, hydrangeas, water lilies, and clematis that delight throughout the summer.
Day 6 - Peel, Isle of Man.
Arrive this morning on the Isle of Man where there will be a choice of excursions. Maybe take the trip to Tynwald Hill, located in the little village of St John’s. This grass-topped, tiered hill is made from the soil and stones from each of the island’s 17 parishes and is the point from which, each 5th July all the laws enacted in the year preceding are promulgated to the gathered government officials and the public at large, both in Manx and English languages. Continue to Castletown and the magnificent Castle Rushen, one of the best examples of a Medieval castle in Europe which was the former seat of the Kings and Lords of Mann. We end our tour at Castletown station and board the vintage steam train for a delightful and traditional journey to Douglas. Dating from 1874, the Isle of Man Steam Railway is the island’s oldest Victorian rail system and this narrow gauge railway still runs with its original locomotives and carriages. Alternatively, join a tour to the 16th century Milntown Estate. It was once the residence of the Christian family, of which the most famous is the HMS Bounty’s Fletcher Christian. Maybe spend some time inside the house before we explore the 15 acres of gardens and woodlands with rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias providing colour during the spring. Return to the MS Serenissima for lunch and enjoy an afternoon at leisure.
Day 7 - Belfast, Northern Ireland.
This morning we will make our way to the famous gardens at Mount Stewart which were planted in the 1920s by Edith, Lady Londonderry and are of international importance. The magnificent series of outdoor ‘rooms’ and vibrant parterres contain many rare plants that thrive in the mild climate of the Ards Peninsula. The formal areas exude a strong Mediterranean feel and resemble an Italian villa landscape; the wooded areas support a range of plants from all corners of the world which are particularly vibrant in spring. There will be time to explore the opulent house which reveals a fascinating heritage and historic world-famous artefacts and artwork. Do not leave without taking in the magnificent views of Strangford Lough from Temple of the Winds. Return to the ship for lunch and the afternoon is free to relax on board, explore the city of Belfast at your own pace or maybe take an independent visit the Titanic Experience. Located by the site of the ship’s construction, this museum tells the story of the Titanic from her conception through her construction and launch in 1911.
Day 8 - Holy Loch & Isle of Bute, Scotland.
Our first call in Scotland is the Cowal Peninsula where we find the magnificent Benmore Botanic Garden situated in a mountainside setting. During springtime, there is a blaze of colour as the 300 species of rhododendrons put on a spectacular display. Take time to walk the paths, see the Victorian Fernery and walk along Redwood Avenue, a line of 50 Sierra redwoods planted in 1862. During lunch we sail the short distance to the Isle of Bute where we will visit one of Britain’s most astounding Victorian Gothic mansions, Mount Stuart House. After the original building was destroyed by fire the mansion was rebuilt between 1880 and 1912 using the finest craftsmen of the time. After viewing the house, we will visit the wonderful grounds made up of over 300 acres of pasture, woodland and gardens combining exotic and native plants. Maybe enjoy one of the trails that pass through the woodland down to the shoreline or visit the Rock Garden and Kitchen Garden situated closer to the house. Alternatively, you may prefer to stay in Rothesay and explore the small town and its impressive 13th-century castle.
Day 9 - Arduaine & Jura, Scotland.
Sail this morning along the Argyll Coast to our anchorage at Ardfern. From here we will visit Arduaine Gardens a 20-acre woodland garden beside the sea. The garden enjoys the benefits from the warming effect of the North Atlantic Drift and is a paradise for plant lovers. Here you will see the magnificent collection of rhododendron species as well as azaleas, magnolias and many other shrubs and trees creating scents and splashes of colour throughout. Take a walk through the woodland to the coastal viewpoint and enjoy superb views of the Sound of Jura or just spend some time relaxing at the water garden. Return to the ship for lunch as we sail the short distance to Jura. Dominating the views of Jura are the three hills called ‘The Paps of Jura’, the highest being Beinn an Oir at 785 metres (2576 feet). We will go ashore at Craighouse and will be welcomed in the cooperage where we will be given an introduction to the Jura Distillery and an opportunity for a dram. Alternatively enjoy some free time to explore Craighouse, join one of the naturalists on a walk or join an island drive.
Day 10 - Gigha & Colonsay.
Gigha is a place apart; heather-covered hills, deserted beaches and a single lane verged with wildflowers that meander for some six miles between cottages and farms. Privately owned by its 120 inhabitants, it is a gem of a place and somewhere not easily forgotten. After landing by Zodiac, we will walk to the gardens of Achamore House where the Horlick family have created a lovely garden with their collection of azaleas, rhododendrons and exotic plants. Lying between Mull and Islay, we will spend the afternoon exploring the island of Colonsay, with her craggy, heather-backed hills and sparse woodland yet impressive array of plant and birdlife. Near Colonsay House, built in 1722 by Malcolm MacNeil and bought by Lord Strathcona in 1904, we will visit the attractively dilapidated wooded gardens which protect the tiny, enigmatic 8th century St Oran’s Cross.
Day 11 - Oban.
Disembark this morning. Transfers will be provided to Glasgow Central Station and airport at a fixed time.
- 10 nights aboard the MS Serenissima on a full board basis
- House wine, beer & soft drinks with lunch and dinner on board
- Noble Caledonia onboard team
- Shore excursions
- Port taxes.
- Travel insurance.
- International flights