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Historically, Lothian is the province encompassing most of what is now south-eastern Scotland, stretching from the Firth of Forth to the Borders. This tour includes an array of contrasting gardens of the highest calibre in a highly refined and cultured area. Scotland and the North have a strong tradition of sending forth landscape artists with the greatest integrity and awareness of their time and setting. We include a visit to Little Sparta to see the work of the late Ian Hamilton Finlay and at Jupiter Artland we find an incredible private sculpture collection with work by, among others, Antony Gormley, Andy Goldsworthy and Anish Kapoor. Fundamentally, this is a tour of extremely good gardening: we meet Sir Charles and Lady Fraser in the garden they have jointly woven over their sixty years of married life; we see estate gardens planted to perfection, tremendous herbaceous borders, bountiful walled gardens and fresh new gardens with much to inspire. We are accommodated and dine each night at Greywalls, an elegant Scottish Edwardian Country House, the only commission of Sir Edwin Lutyens north of the border, which won the Scottish Hotel awards for 2016. Greywalls Hotel is uniquely situated on the edge of Muirfield championship golf course with stunning views over East Lothian and the Firth of Forth.

Day 1: Sunday, 10 September

The tour starts in Edinburgh at Waverley Railway Station in Edinburgh at 13:30 or at Edinburgh Airport at 14:00. We travel first the short distance to Jupiter Artland, for a visit that includes a delicious High Tea before discovering the artworks in the estate woodlands that include Charles Jencks's Life Mounds, Andy Goldsworthy's Stone House and Antony Gormley's Firmament, each a masterpiece in its own setting, before travelling on to Greywalls with time to settle in before dining together.


Day 2: Monday, 11 September

We start the day with a walk around the intricate pretty gardens of Greywalls with the head gardener before venturing out to see the garden of Broadwoodside, planted around a farm steading rescued from dereliction. Two courtyards (a 'his' and 'hers') are encircled by old farm buildings around which the garden entwines. There is much detail and skill here but the overall impression is of a rare lightness of touch and a freshness as if the garden had just been painted on canvas. We are invited to lunch before journeying on to Tyninghame. For more than three hundred years the seat to the Earls of Haddington, in 1987 it was sold to Kit Martin, who has very skilfully divided the house into apartments while maintaining the overall unity of the building and its gardens. Today, we can still enjoy Lady Haddington's rose-filled secret garden, her herbaceous borders and a wilderness that leads down to extensive walled gardens, now separately owned with a new dwelling created from the old apple store.

Day 3: Tuesday, 12 September

The estate at Floors Castle is vast, hence limiting our visit to a part of the walled garden to see the richly-woven and vibrant herbaceous borders and the new perennial garden that has been initiated by the Duchess of Roxburghe and her head gardener, Andrew Simmons. Then we accept the invitation to lunch from Mrs Rose Foyle of Carolside. This Georgian house (with Regency wings) overlooks the Leader Water, with gardens running up behind the house and through the oval walled garden. Rose is her name and roses are her passion with more than two hundred varieties grown. Venturing into the Cheviot Hills we find the remote Corbet Tower with its sloping, south-facing walled garden, an abundance of productivity that includes flowers for cutting and - indeed a rare find - twelve different varieties of rhubarb.


Day 4: Wednesday, 13 September

Sir Charles and Lady Fraser have been gardening at Shepherd House for nearly sixty years. Ann Fraser is a botanical illustrator who grows the plants that inspire her work, particularly tulips and snowdrops. Sir Charles has provided the structure to the garden, the 'celebrated' compost heaps and much flamboyancy, including a giant topiary rabbit. This one-acre garden is full of detail and surprises with much to delight. Following lunch we visit the fine gardens of Portmore House. Today, both estate and gardens are managed to the highest standards and are richly rewarding. Onward then to the Pentland Hills and Little Sparta, made by artist/poet Ian Hamilton Finlay and his wife Sue: now a world-famous 'Arcadian' garden housing more than 275 works of art by its creator.

Day 5: Thursday, 14 September

We drive into Edinburgh to the renowned Botanical Gardens for a seasonal walk before lunch at Valvona & Crolla, Scotland's oldest Italian delicatessen and wine merchant, founded in 1934 to serve the city's fledgling immigrant Italian community. Lastly, to Binny Plants at Ecclesmachen, whose owner, former record dealer Billy Carruthers, now indulges a passion for peonies and other desirable perennials. We return to Edinburgh Airport at 16:00 for flights to London and on to Edinburgh Waverley Station at 16:30 for train to London.

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