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Galloway and Northern Ireland share a mild, benign climate which provides the background to a host of dazzling gardens.

Galloway and Northern Ireland are separated by a short sea crossing yet both are blessed with stunning scenery and some outstanding gardens. With the help of Scotland’s Gardens we have prepared a unique holiday combining the two regions.

Galloway’s mild, moist climate allows for a wide range of rare and exotic plants to flourish in its gardens, as demonstrated to great effect at places such as Glenwhan, Logan Botanic Gardens and Castle Kennedy, all of which are filled with stunning plants and provide endless fascination and discovery – and we are delighted to be able to visit the unique Gardens of Cosmic Speculation at Portrack House.




We then sail across the North Channel to the lush green hills of Co Antrim and Co Down, where a similar climate prevails, and at the dazzling Mount Stewart and selected private gardens there are further horticultural delights to be found.

The tour will be escorted throughout by Trevor Edwards professional horticulturalist, garden writer and Irish broadcaster. Trevor’s knowledge and good company makes him the ideal person to host this short holiday.

Available departure dates and prices


Galloway and Northern Ireland share a mild, benign climate which provides the background to a host of dazzling gardens.

Saturday 28 May 2016

We depart from our local pick-up points and head for our first visit, the Garden of Cosmic Speculation at Portrack House, Holywood, near Dumfries. The head gardener will give an introduction to this fascinating space, which encompasses 40 areas of gardens, landforms and architecture. Created by Charles Jencks and inspired by science and mathematics, themes such as fractals and black holes inform the sculpture and landscaping. Natural features, artificial symmetry and curves combine elegantly to form a truly unique garden with undulating landforms and terraces; lakes and woodland walks with James Stirling’s “Nonsense Building”; a new greenhouse in the geometric Kitchen Garden of the Six Senses; the Universe Cascade and Rail Garden of the Scottish Worthies.

Following lunch in Dumfries (not included) we will continue to the gardenof Corsock House, where a large variety of acid-loving trees and shrubs enhance the natural glades which run down from the loch to the ornamental water garden. Here pools, statues, temples and other adornments have appeared over the years and now it presents an Arcadian scene, all the more remarkable for being situated on the edge of wild moorland.

After our visit we will travel to our comfortable accommodation at the 4-star North West Castle Hotel, Stranraer. The hotel dates from 1820 when it was built for Sir John Ross, the Arctic explorer, and enjoys superb views over Loch Ryan. All bedrooms are en-suite, decorated to a high standard and are equipped with TV and hospitality tray.  The hotel also has full leisure facilities.

Dinner is served in the evening.

Sunday 29 May 2016

Today after breakfast we visit the spectacular garden at Castle Kennedy. This is a vast and historic piece of landscaping with the garden lying between two castles - the 15th century Castle Kennedy and the 19th century Lochinch Castle, which make splendid eye-catchers to vistas through woods and up hills. North of the old castle are the remains of the early 18th century formal gardens, while the woodland is embellished with an immense collection of distinguished trees and shrubs, large conifers and exceptional rhododendrons. The walled garden has excellent borders, and an avenue of eucryphias and embothriums.

For lunch (not included) we will call in at Glenwhan Garden, spread out over a windy hilltop with marvellous views ofLuceBay and the Mull of Galloway. Since 1979 the Knotts have made a very large, interesting and individual garden that is filled with good plants.

 We shall then visit the world famous Logan Botanic Garden at Port Logan, which lies in the Mull of Galloway, jutting out into the sea in the extreme south-west of Scotland. The garden was started by the McDougall family who lived here for 800 years, and since 1969 it has been in the care of theRoyalBotanic Garden atEdinburgh.LoganBotanic Garden is beautifully laid out, particularly in the walled garden with its fine terraces and well planned borders under an avenue of cabbage palms. The climate here is exceptionally mild and several different habitats provide conditions for a huge range of tender and exotic plants.

We return to our hotel in time for dinner.

Monday 30 May 2016

This morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we check out of our hotel and drive the short distance to the ferry terminal in time to board the mid-morning ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast.

We then travel to our first garden, which is one of the most unique gardens in Ireland, if only because of the extensive collection of plant varieties it contains; over 400 at the last count. The Ballyrobert Cottage Garden and Nursery is one of only 15 Royal Horticultural Society ofIreland Partner Gardens and is very much a family affair. Run by Maurice and Joy Parkinson the style of the garden is intended to be subtle, blending in with the surrounding countryside. The garden area extends to approximately 6 acres - about 3 or 4 football pitches - and there is a wonderful plant nursery stuffed like a good plumb pudding with tempting plants to take home to your own garden.

Our second private garden is located conveniently just down the road from our hotel in Dunadry. Home to John and Marsha McKendry, their five-acre rural garden is divided into three separate areas. The area adjacent to the house is a mix of hard and soft landscaping with fine mixed shrub and herbaceous planted borders enhanced by large lawns. From the numerous patios there are tempting views towards the well planted Lake and Lake Walk leading to the Badger Wood on the north side of the house. On the south side of the house is a fine circumnavigating woodland walk with many different and well positioned trees throughout. The garden includes numerous interesting and eye catching garden features and out-buildings.

We then transfer to our hotel, the comfortable Dunadry Hotel & Country Club, inCountyAntrim. All rooms are en-suite with hairdryer and tea/coffee making facilities. The hotel has an indoor swimming pool, spa pool, steam room, gymnasium and beauty salon.

Dinner is served in the evening.

Tuesday 31 May 2016

After our full Irish breakfast, we will spend the day touring a selection of gardens in Co Antrim. We travel to the scenic Antrim coast, where we visit the gardens at Glenarm Castle, the 400 year-old home of the Earls of Antrim. Originally created to supply the Castle with its fruit and vegetables, and one of the oldest inIreland, theWalledGarden is now filled with exciting flowers and specimen plants with rich displays of herbaceous plants. There is also a wonderfully scented herb garden, surrounded by a circular yew hedge, which features four stone capitols which came from the Earl-Bishop’s palace at Downhill in Co Derry.

We continue along the beautiful Antrim coast, to visit the famous Giant’s Causeway via the picturesquevillage ofCushendall. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986 and is one of the greatest natural wonders in theUnited Kingdom. A myriad of huge basalt columns jut out into the sea. Here there is now a super new National Trust Visitor Centre where we will stop for lunch.

In the afternoon we head inland for the gardens at Benvarden in Ballymoney. Like Glenarm, this garden has been in the same family for centuries and it too boasts a fine walled garden. There is also a rose garden, a box and lavender parterre, a well-stocked kitchen garden with hot houses; a vinery, melon house and espalier-trained apple trees against the high curved brick walls.

A last exciting feature today will be to the famous Dark Hedges, a beautiful avenue of beech trees planted in the eighteenth century which has now become one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland.

We return to our hotel, where dinner will be served in the evening.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

After our full Irish breakfast we travel to the gardens of Mount Stewart, which benefit from a benign micro-climate of their own here on the shores of Strangford Lough in County Down. The Italian Garden south of the house is in the form of a giant parterre, edged in startling golden thuja or smouldering purple berberis and filled with plantings of carmine, yellow and scarlet on one side, with cooler blue, lavender and grey on the other. Elsewhere, there is a Spanish garden flanked by colonnades of clippedLeyland cypress, with huge eucalyptuses looming in the woods behind, and an exuberant and formal sunken garden surrounded by a fine pergola planted with clematis, honeysuckle and roses. The entrance façade of the house overlooks an entirely different landscape, a scene of serenity with noble trees leading gently uphill to a lake. East of the lake are blood-red and orange rhododendrons and the banks of the lake are planted with long drifts of arum lily. This is one of the most attractive and stimulating gardens in the care of the National Trust, where traditional features are carried off with exuberance and panache. It is hoped that the main house will have reopened in time for our visit after a major refurbishment programme. Lunch will be available here (not included).

Thereafter we will visit the private garden of Rosemount House in Greyabbey. The garden, which has featured in the BBC TV programmeSecretGardens, was made in a quarry site surrounded by woodland, where several paths lead across streams and by ponds to vista points. The lawns in front of the house are surrounded by colourful shrubs and trees; herbaceous plants abound by the conservatory and there is also a kitchen garden.

Returning to our hotel we will drive through Stormont Estate, home to the spectacular Parliament Buildings, the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Dinner will be served in the evening.

Thursday 2 June 2016

Following a full Irish breakfast we check out of the hotel and return to Belfast in time to check in for the mid-morning ferry to Cairnryan. We will break our homeward journey with a visit to one last private garden in Crocketford.  Brooklands, the home of Mr and Mrs Herries, is a mature woodland garden full of rhododendrons and woodland flowers. It features a large walled garden, richly planted with a wide variety of perennials, including many unusual species, soft fruit and vegetables.

Following our visit we return to our original departure points.

Included in price

  • Two nights’ dinner, bed and breakfast at the North West Castle Hotel, Stranraer and three nights’ dinner, bed and breakfast at the Dunadry Hotel, Co Antrim. All rooms have private facilities
  • Comfortable coaching throughout
  • Visits to all gardens and attractions as per itinerary
  • Return ferry crossings Cairnryan/Belfast/Cairnryan
  • Services of horticulturalist Trevor Edwards as tour manager


Not Included (per person)

  • Single supplement      £125.00
  • Insurance                   £18.50 (under 65); £37.00 (65-74); £55.50 (75 and over)
  • Rail/air travel and overnight accommodation inGlasgow,PerthorEdinburghbefore or after the tour available on request.


Departure points and times:


Depart Return
Perth  (Bus stop in Canal Street) 0645 2115
Kinross   (Moto Services, M90) 0700 2100
Dunfermline (Bus-stop outside Fife College) 0715 2045
Edinburgh (Outside front entrance Marriott Hotel, Glasgow Rd) 0745 2015
Glasgow (Outside Millenium Hotel, George Square) 0900 1900
Hamilton (Bothwell Services, M74) 0930 1830


Please note pick-up points are subject to minimum numbers and all timings are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately ten days prior to departure.

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The staff at our hotel on Islay were young and keen, very pleasant and helpful indeed.

Mr and Mrs Turner

Jimmy the driver was impeccable and fun - his driving skills gave us great confidence on the narrow roads through Royal Deeside.

Bob Guthrie, Broughty Ferry

Pauline our Tour Manager was a wee star, her personality and knowledge make the Highlands come alive.

Mrs Wilson
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