If a UK Garden Tour is on your 2016 agenda, the extensive coverage of last week’s Chelsea Flower Show presents a great opportunity for you to launch your own customised programme and as a starting point you might consider the three country programme in my top story. Alternatively, you might look at the university city of Oxford and the Oxfordshire Cotswolds as the base for a 3-4 night hub and a bespoke pre or post Chelsea tour.
I can’t resist the opportunity to flag up a pre or post cruise idea for fans of our Royal Family and have added some other pre cruise ideas that are now possible thanks to American Airlines starting daily non-stop flights between JFK and Birmingham in the heart of England.
Chelsea London, Bloom in Dublin
The 2015 Chelsea Flower Show starts this week which means that now might be a good time to pitch the idea of a 2016 garden tour for May 2016. To set your suggestion apart from the rest your itinerary could start with a day at Chelsea and finish with a day at Bloom in Dublin, Ireland’s largest gardening and food event. Bridging the gap between the 2 events your programme should include visits to award winning gardens in the Cotswolds and at Powis Castle and Bodnant Gardens in Wales. Your contacts won’t see this combination in many tour operators’ brochures.
Just Look Over the Wall
The city of Oxford makes a very good hub for garden tours. On its doorstep there are over 80 privately owned properties that open at their peak for colour and fragrance. On some days you’ll find villages where 6-7 Cotswold gardens open on the same day. Preceded by a pub lunch and concluding with tea and cakes on the Manor House lawn, this makes a notable addition to any tour.
Similarly in the city itself, behind the ornate gates and high walls you’ll find hidden green oases like those at St Hugh’s College and Lady Margaret Hall which are surrounded by formal and informal gardens. The beautiful flowering gardens at Rhodes House are repeated gold award winners. Worcester College’s 26 acres include a lake and profuse planting of native and exotic species while Magdalen College’s large grounds contain its own deer park. The surprise is that both of them lie in the centre of Oxford. Trinity College boasts an award-winning lavender garden and a walk-through rose arbour while the University of Oxford Botanic Garden (founded in 1621) contains more species of plants per acre than anywhere else in the world
Celebrating Princess Charlotte of Cambridge
Fans of our Royal Family will be pleased to know that they can now take a short 2 night pre cruise extension which includes a photo op at the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital and a visit to Kensington Palace as part of a full day tour of places associated with William and Kate. En route to Southampton, there’s a visit to Windsor Castle and a pub lunch in the village where Kate grew up. The programme works well in reverse and can be expanded into a longer Royal themed London tour which includes places associated with Princess Diana and other royal residences.
We Have Lift Off
The iconic Cotswolds has just become appreciably more accessible thanks to the NEW American Airlines DAILY non-stop service from JFK to Birmingham Airport in the heart of England. This user friendly route offers airside kerbside in just over 30 minutes and English breakfast in a country house hotel by 9am an appealing alternative to the congestion at Heathrow, the mobile traffic jam heading into London and rooms not ready until 2pm
Use Chipping Campden, Stow on the Wold, Moreton in Marsh or Broadway as your base for a travel less, see more pre cruise tour. Look at the map and you’ll see it makes perfect sense. On the doorstep you’ll find the award winning gardens at Sudeley Castle, Bourton House and the Japanese influenced Batsford Arboretum. Hidcote Manor Garden and Kiftsgate Court Garden make a fragrant and colourful double act. It’s then a 2 hour drive to the Southampton Cruise Terminal with time for a pub lunch or a visit to the magnificent Winchester Cathedral on the way.
Shakespeare Short and Sweet
JFK – BHX – RST. This combination delivers theatre loving clients straight into Shakespeare’s England for a tour which looks at the Bard’s life and times in Elizabethan England at the Shakespeare Houses and finishes with dinner at the Rooftop Restaurant and the best seats in the house for the evening performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Your customers then have two options. They can either head south to take their Southampton Cruise or travel via Blenheim Palace and Oxford to London for a 2-3 night extension before flying home from London Heathrow.
Paull Tickner, UK based member of the Travel Institute is an expert in developing customized special interest travel programs for the United Kingdom and Ireland. Check out his website at www.customgb.co.uk and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.