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Enjoy the best of Guernsey and Sark’s private gardens
Sun-drenched Guernsey and Sark, just 20 miles off the coast of
France, are wonderful destinations for garden-lovers. The extended
growing season means plants flourish and flowers bloom for longer -
lilies and freesias are abundant and Guernsey produces the largest
number of clematis in the world.
On this exclusive five-day holiday with specialists Brightwater, you'll visit wonderful private gardens, see colourful wildflowers sprinkled on clifftop paths and in meadows and admire some of the incredible birds and insects they attract as well as sea life including puffins, Atlantic grey seals and dolphins.
Guernsey, with its broad beaches and sheltered coves is the second largest Channel Island, and you'll stay there for three nights before crossing by boat to Sark, just three miles long, for one night. On both islands the woodlands, valleys and even windblown cliffs are full of flowers and we've timed these two trips for spring and early autumn when they're at their best. Readers will also enjoy staying in rural hotels and benefitting from an expert local guide.
Gardens of Guernsey
You'll visit a fascinating mix of both public and private gardens on this horticultural haven. Public ones include the Candie Gardens, which have panoramic views over St Peter Port and are a rare example of a late 19th-century Public Flower Garden as well as the oldest surviving heated glasshouses in Britain. You'll also visit the inspiring and unusual garden at Guernsey Prison where the inmates grow onions, peppers, pumpkins and chillies in greenhouses and attend horticulture classes. Plus, you'll see some beautiful private gardens where the owner's passion for plants is clearly evident - there's a mature three-acre garden at La Petite Vallée, which boasts both exotic and traditional planting on the terraces and slopes leading down towards the sea as well as a stream, ponds and folly.
Step back in time on Sark
After a 50-minute boat ride from Guernsey you'll arrive on tranquil and traffic-free Sark where the best way to get around is on a horse-drawn carriage. Sark has turned its back on the 21st century - as well as the lack of cars there's no street lighting and planes aren't allowed to fly overhead. Here you'll visit the RHS recommended garden of La Seigneurie, set within the grounds of a stunning 17th-century manor house - one of the best on the Channel Islands. High walls give protection from the wind and, together with the mild micro-climate, allow many tender and half-hardy plants to thrive. You'll stay overnight and get an opportunity to enjoy the wonderful night skies that this unspoilt island is famous for.
An expert guide
As the previous manager of Guernsey's Parks and Gardens, Malcolm Cleal has a vast horticultural and historical knowledge of these two Channel Islands. He will join you throughout the five days and explore Guernsey's natural history, heritage and social history as well as Sark's most iconic viewpoints, historic areas and beautiful bridleways.
On Guernsey you will be based for three-nights at La Barbarie Hotel in St Martin, which has an award-winning restaurant where you'll enjoy breakfast and dinner. On Sark you'll stay at the luxurious Stocks Hotel, which has 23 bedrooms and is the oldest on the island.
Reasons to book
Guernsey Prison gardens
Beautiful private gardens
Step back in time on Sark
Overnight stay at La Seigneurie
Your expert guide
Lovely rural hotels
- Return flights from London Gatwick to Guernsey
- Three nights' dinner, bed and breakfast at La Barbarie Hotel, St Martin, Guernsey and one night at Stocks Hotel, Sark
- Return ferry crossings from Guernsey to Sark
- Transport on Guernsey
- Visits to selected private gardens on Guernsey and Sark along with visits to the Millennium Tapestry, Candie Gardens, Bruce Russell & Son, Saumarez Park, the Folk and Costume Museum, Fresia Nursery, Oatlands Village and La Seigneurie
- Services of a Brightwater Holidays tour manager
Day1Candie Gardens and Grange PortSaint Peter Port, Guernsey
Depart from London Gatwick for a direct flight to Guernsey. On arrival you'll board a coach and transfer to a private town garden. You'll then continue to St James to view the Guernsey Millennium Tapestry, a community project which illustrates 1000 years of local history in ten panels of embroidered canvas work and enoucrages people to look more deeply into the island's history.
Afterwards you visit Candie Gardens, left to the people of Guernsey in 1887. Enjoy panoramic views over St Peter Port and neighbouring islands from the sloping upper lawn; the Lower Gardens provide a rare example of an original late 19th-century Public Flower Garden layout. The heated glasshouses date back to the late 18th century, making them the oldest in the British Isles.
You'll visit Grange Court this afternoon, an expansive town garden in St Peter Port with a charming rose garden, folly, cactus vinery and mixed borders set around rolling lawns, all immaculately maintained. This garden won the 2008 Island Garden Competition for the best perennial garden.
Finish the day at your comfortable three-star accommodation, La Barbarie Hotel in St Peter Port. The lovely rural location and award-winning restaurant make this one of Guernsey's best hotels for relaxing short breaks. Enjoy dinner in the award-winning restuarant at your hotel this evening.
Day2Guernsey Prison and the Folk and Costume MuseumSt Martin, Guernsey
After breakfast, travel to the large private garden of La Vallon in St Martin. Continue on to Bruce Russell & Son, a workshop and showroom where wonderful silverware, gold, and platinum jewellery is traditionally crafted. These craftsmen have been commissioned to design and craft spectacular jewellery for royalty and heads of state.
This afternoon, make your way to a very different garden. The prisoners and Horticulture team and Guernsey Prison run a formal garden in the prison grounds. You'll be invited in to visit the greenhouses where prisoners grow their own crops, which are prepped daily in the prison kitchen.
Conclude the day at the Victorian walled garden at Saumarez Park. Garden restorations are ongoing, although already guests can see well-yielding Victorian-era crops. This garden has won many firsts in the Northern Agricultural & Horticultural Society's annual show held in the park. Also within the park is the National Trust of Guernsey-owned Folk and Costume Museum, which you'll receive a guided tour of this afternoon. The museum illustrates the history of the people of Guernsey over the last 250 years through their costumes.
Enjoy dinner at the hotel again this evening.
Day3La Petite Vallée and Forest LodgeLes Gigands, Guernsey
Visit the private garden of La Petite Vallée this morning following breakfast at the hotel. This mature three-acre garden has a wide range of exotic and traditional plants on its terraced slopes which lead towards the coast. This garden additionally features a stream, ponds and folly.
Next, you'll visit Forest Lodge, a medium-sized garden containing a wide variety of more unusual and tender plants and shrubs.
In the afternoon you'll take tour of a Fresia Nursery, where you'll see the various stages of growing these exotic blooms, which are one of Guernsey's principal exports. On to nearby Oatlands Village next, home to a variety of unique attractions, such as historic brick kilns, thatched barns, craft and embroidery shops, a jewellers and a chocolatier. Dinner will be served in the hotel once again this evening.
Day4La Seigneurie, SarkSark, United Kingdom
After breakfast, transfer to the harbour at St Peter's Port and depart by boat for the neighbouring island of Sark. Only two square miles in area, Sark prohibits motor vehicles. You'll be taken from the port to the centre by horse and cart.
From here you'll continue on to the gardens of La Seigneurie, which were created on the land bought by Seigneur Le Pelley in 1835. The Walled Garden is aligned with the Church Le Pelley built in 1820 and the central arches frame a view of the tower, a scene now obscured by the new Island Hall. You'll find tender and half-hardy plants thrive in this garden, as it's protected from the wind by high walls and experiences a mild micro-climate.
You'll be able to discern the more unusual specimens by their labelling. Spot the Australian Bottlebrush, for example, and the New Zealand Tea Tree. Probably the oldest surviving feature of the original layout is the formal rose garden edged with box hedging. Other features include a Victorian glasshouse on the northern wall which shelters some long-established vines, a vegetable garden which supplies the café with produce, and adjacent sensory and wildflower gardens.
You'll have dinner and spend the night at the luxurious Stocks Hotel and if weather permits, you'll be able to enjoy the clear and starry night skies for which Sark is renowned.
Day5St Peter PortSaint Peter Port, Guernsey
After breakfast this morning, return by ferry to St Peter Port.
You'll enjoy some free time for shopping here in Guernsey's busy port capital, which has welcomed wealthy ship-builders, privateers and merchant adventurers to its harbour since Roman times. You'll find an excellent range of shops here. Make sure to wander around the Old Quarter, the best place to find antiques. The Georgian and Regency styles of this part of town were enriched by an influx of French emigrés including Victor Hugo. Today you'll see a blend of styles framed by tiered gardens, worn steps and hidden alleyways.
You'll enjoy one last private garden visit before transferring to the airport for check in.