Diarmuid Gavin is an Irish-born garden designer who runs his own business based in London. After winning the Royal Dublin Society gold medal twice for garden desig in the 1990s, he went on to display at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for a number of years. Diarmuid presented the popular TV show Homefront for eight years and has appeared on most major television networks. He has also written a number of bestselling books.
Explore Northern Ireland’s secret gardens with Diarmuid Gavin
Celebrated for its quiet, rural charm, Northern Ireland's gently rolling hills, peaceful fields and vast estates contain some of the UK's finest examples of both established, traditional gardens as well as more modern experimentations.
On our new five-day tour, you'll visit some outstanding grounds, such as the delightful Ballyrobert Cottage Garden and Nursery in County Antrim, where you'll find a lakeside garden and wildlife-filled woodland. You'll also explore County Down's Mount Stewart, where garden design expert Diarmuid Gavin will join you as you tour this beautiful plot. One of Diarmuid's favourite gardens, Mount Stewart is truly unique. The spectacular Italian and Spanish-style gardens benefit from a unique microclimate of low rainfall and humid coastal air, making it a hot spot for interesting plant activity. Diarmuid will also accompany you to the award-winning Henry Garden, which boasts tropical ginger lilies, roses, clematis and more.
Your home for the duration of the stay will be the four-star Dunadry Hotel, set on the banks of the Six Mile Water river. Character oozes from every corner of this stunning property, which is built on the site of an ancient fort and was once used to house paper and linen mills. Alongside its historical allure, there is no shortage of modern facilities at the hotel, including an indoor swimming pool and fitness centre.
Go behind the scenes
Discover private gardens such as the Henry Garden, winner of Belfast Telegraph's Blooming Marvellous competition, as well as a 12-acre plot specialising in South African plants.
Meet Diarmuid Gavin
Explore one of Diarmuid's favourite gardens in Northern Ireland, Mount Stewart. This spectacular National Trust-owned family home is surrounded by some of the most unique gardens in the UK. You'll explore the spectacular plot in the company of Diarmuid, who is thrilled to share why it is one of his top picks.
A former paper mill, the Dunadry Hotel is housed on a medieval fort site, combining timeless decor with an inviting atmosphere, and facilities such as an indoor pool.
Northern Ireland's rural counties are renowned for their idyllic landscapes, evoking a bygone era of country life.
Reasons to book
Meet Diarmuid Gavin
Stay in a period hotel
Your expert guides
- Four nights' dinner, B&B at the four-star Dunadry Hotel
- Return flights from London
- Special appearance, talk and Q&A session with Diarmuid Gavin
- Visits to the gardens of Rowallane, Mount Stewart, Castle Ward, Ballyrobert Cottage Garden and Nursery, Antrim Castle Gardens and three private gardens
- Services of horticulturist, writer and broadcaster Trevor Edwards as tour manager
Day1Ballyrobert Cottage Garden and NurseryBallyclare, United Kingdom
Depart from London on your flight to Belfast, where you will join your coach and transfer to your first visit, Ballyrobert Cottage Garden & Nursery, Ballyclare.
Maurice and Joy Parkinson work this six-acre garden and provide an exquisite display of cottage garden plants. The garden is sub-divided into themes or individual garden areas and includes the lakeside garden, the front cottage garden, the formal cottage border, the sheltered garden, and a woodland and wildlife haven. Despite the heavy clay soil, and being located in a frost pocket, a wide range of plants flourish including phlox, hosta, rudbeckia, rodgersia and ornamental grasses.
After your visit, you continue on to the four-star Dunadry Hotel, where you will stay for four nights with breakfast and dinner included.
Day2Mount Stewart and Henry GardenNewtownards, United Kingdom
Following breakfast, you'll spend the morning at Mount Stewart, the dazzling and idiosyncratic gardens which bask in the micro-climate of low rainfall and humid coastal air that exists here. Diarmuid Gavin will join you at Mount Stewart for a tour, picking out some of his favourite features and explaining why he loves these gardens.
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 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. The banks of the lake are planted with long drifts of arum lily. This is one of the most attractive and stimulating gardens, where traditional features are carried off with exuberance and panache.
This afternoon, enjoy a visit to a small private garden called Henry Garden with Diarmuid. This garden was a winner in the Belfast Telegraph's Blooming Marvellous competition, and in 2015 and 2017 it won the Best Medium Garden Award from Comber and District Horticultural Society. A very colourful garden with tropical ginger lilies, roses, clematis, agapanthus, succulents and more awaits.
Return to the hotel in the evening to relax, before an exclusive private talk and Q&A with Diarmuid, where you'll be able to ask him all about his career in TV and garden design, and pick up tips for your own plot. Afterwards, enjoy another delicious dinner.
Day3Castle Ward and Rowallane GardenStrangford, United Kingdom
This morning after breakfast, travel to the southern tip of Strangford Lough, where Castle Ward sits in a wooded valley with a memorable view towards the lough. Due to the differing tastes of its owners, Lord Bangor and his wife Lady Ann Bligh, the 18th-century mansion is built in two contrasting architectural styles, the Classical façade to the lawn and the Gothic facing Strangford Lough, making this one of the strangest architectural compromises created between two people.
After a 45-minute tour of the mansion there will be free time to explore the garden, which is chiefly Victorian in character. Close to the house is a walled terraced garden filled with exotic planting, Acca sellowiana, Beschorneria yuccoides and large old plants of cabbage palm. Behind a screen of Irish yews a rock garden with dwarf conifers runs along one side of a mid-19th-century pinetum with immense Wellingtonias.
This afternoon you move on to Rowallane Garden. The first impression is one of mystery, as you approach the house through a dark tunnel of conifers and rhododendrons, but this is quickly dispelled by the flower-filled spectacle which opens up before you. The gardens are a mix of formal and informal spaces, with many unusual vistas and unique plants from across the world. The trees, plants and shrubs range in age, size and colour and create a spectacle throughout the year.
Day4Private gardensLarne, United Kingdom
Today you will have an exclusive visit to a 12-acre private garden which surrounds an unusual Portuguese-style house. The garden is centred on a lake and is filled with acers, magnolias, turquoise blue hydrangea and glades of rhododendrons. The garden is spectacular and is filled with unforgettable scents and sights as we walk through each area of the garden with highlights of South African plants as well as a circular garden.
After lunch (not included) you will make your way to another private garden. Situated on the Causeway Coastal route, the gardens have a spectacular view over Larne Lough. The gardens include a series of rooms, including a garden cottage and several meadows, as well as a willow arch and a wildlife pond. The gardens are grown organically and are home to a wide variety of animals including Irish hares, badgers and kestrels.
Day5Antrim Castle GardensAntrim, United Kingdom
This morning you visit Antrim Castle Gardens, an absolute historical gem. These are the most unique and historically intact gardens in the UK and throughout Ireland. The gardens are located close to Antrim town centre and have recently undergone major restorations on many of the key features, which date back to the late 17th-century. The site features a number of notable new, restored and ornamental gardens which retain a strong sense of history and intimacy. A guided tour is included.
After your visit, you'll bid farewell to Northern Ireland and be transferred to the airport for your flight back to London.
Modern riverside hotel housed in a historic linen and paper mill
Set on the banks of the Six Mile Water river, character oozes from every corner of the four-star Dunadry Hotel, which is built on the site of an ancient fort and was once used to house paper and linen mills.
Inside, you'll find well-designed ensuite rooms, a comfortable restaurant, bar and lounge area, and a swimming pool and fitness centre.
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