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Set in one of the world's most iconic botanical landscapes and housing the largest collections of living, painted, and dried plants, the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens are a sensory embodiment of the global reach and passion for discovery that defined the British empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. On this Kew Gardens Tour, we'll discuss the force behind the development of these gardens as well as the present and future of Kew, as a center of research into plant genetics and participation in international conservation efforts.
Meet your guide at 9:30am in Trafalgar Square. First port of call is the delightful rose garden at the Artists Church, designed by Inigo Jones. Experience the Church itself as well, built in the Italian classical style. Due to its location in the West End, many artists. actors, singers and entertainers worshipped here. Hence its name.
Afterwards, walk through Covent Garden past the Opera House and over to nearby Lincoln's Inn Fields, possibly the largest square in all of London. Here we visit the fascinating John Soane Museum, home to the great Victorian architect. Much to see inside, notably his interior designs, ancient antiquities and Hogarth prints. Depart for the Inns of Court and their lovely hidden gardens within the Courts.
A taxi takes you over to the London Garden Museum, near Lambeth Palace. Lovely knot garden here as well as an opportunity to take a much-deserved tea/coffee break (own expense), sampling some of the home-made pastries on offer in the cafe. After the break, head for one of the highlights of the entire tour, the Chelsea Physic Garden. Take a local in-house tour of the Garden as you learn more about the medicinal uses of plants and flowers. After a leisurely visit here, head over to Kensington Palace and the Orangerie there, for a traditional English High Tea. Afterwards, we take time to visit the beautiful sunken garden. The tour normally completes here, with tour guests free to linger in the gift shop.
Your 3-day Kent tour highlights the cultural heritage and natural beauty that give the region its nickname, 'Garden of England.' You can relax with provided transport, and you have your choice of hotel or guesthouse accommodation in Canterbury. Entrance fees and meals are at your own expense.
Following a 9am pickup at your centrally located London hotel, take a seat in your traditional black cab and spin onward to Bowood House — a beautiful 18th-century manor nestled in the Wiltshire countryside.
On arrival, explore the house (own expense), and admire the Georgian architecture and plush furnishings you find. Discover historical artefacts and heirlooms including Queen Victoria’s wedding chair and Napoleon's death mask, and learn of the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne — the ancestral owners.
Delve into the gardens, widely considered among the finest in England, and stroll across the sweeping lawns to the peaceful lake at the bottom. Discover hedgerows and flowerbeds laid out by Capability Brown — a famous British landscape gardener — and capture the pretty views on camera.
Continue on to the second stately home of your tour, either Blenheim Palace, Buscot Park and Gardens, Greys Court, Hidcote Manor Garden, Kelscott Manor, or Sulgrave Manor. As before, explore the house and gardens at your leisure (own expense) and gain insight into their place in British history.
When your second visit comes to an end, relax on route to Covent Garden or your London hotel to conclude your tour.
Head inside Kew Gardens and then spend as little or as much time as you like exploring London’s finest botanical gardens. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kew Gardens consists of acres of tranquil grounds with one of the world’s largest collections of plants. Either walk around at leisure or join one of the free guided walking tours that take place daily in the gardens.
Stroll around admiring highlights like the Azalea Garden, Minka House and Bamboo Garden in the center of the park. Check out the 17th century-style Queen’s Garden near Kew Palace (also known as the Dutch House), and see several of Kew’s oldest sculptures that were donated by the British Royal Family.
Perhaps take a walk along the Rhizotron and Xstrara Treetop Walkway, and stroll through the crowns of oak trees at a height of 59 feet (18m), seeing birdlife, fungi and lichen up close. Watch out for the 10-storey Pagoda in the southwest corner of the gardens, and wander along the Holly Walk, seeing trees that have grown there for over 130 years.
Bask in balmy tropical temperatures inside Temperate House – the world’s largest surviving Victorian glasshouse – and see a spectacular array of African plants and sub-tropical trees and palms. In the center of the beautiful building is a Chilean Wine Palm, which is said to be one of the world’s tallest indoor plants.
With plenty of leafy picnic areas, as well as four cafés on site, you can eat lunch inside the gardens (own expense), or simply sit down and relax in between seeing all the rich flora and fauna.
In that paragon of travel documentaries, National Lampoon's European Vacation, there is a scene in which Ellen Griswold (Beverly D'Angelo) forgets to lock the door on the shared bathroom in their London hotel. A man comes in to brush his teeth and is pleasantly surprised when Ellen—washcloth over face and believing the man to be her hubby, Clark—calls to him from the bathtub to join her. Shock and hilarity ensue. The accidental intruder was played by none of ther than Robbie Coltrane, 16 years before he embodied Hagrid in the Harry Potter films.