Castles and Gardens of Wales

June 16-19 2019

Enjoy a 4-day break in the romantic Brecon Beacons on our new tour exploring the beautiful castles, gardens and galleries of Wales.

We’ll be staying at the beautiful Llangoed Hall hotel, once owned by the late designer Laura Ashley's family, which has an outstanding private art collection including works by Whistler and Augustus John. The hotel was recently voted "Country House Hotel Of the Year" by The Sunday Times and its three AA Rosette restaurant has won numerous awards including Condé Nast Johansens' British Restaurant of The Year 2014.

There will be a private visit of Llanvihangel Court led by its owner; a special tour of the gardens at Aberglasney with its head gardener Jo, and a tour of Bowood House en route including a special tour of the Private Walled Gardens. A day in Cardiff will be spent exploring the Castle and Museum with its exceptional collection of paintings and as always our visits will be punctuated with delicious meals and wines.  The price is all-inclusive with the exception of one lunch and dinner.




You will be picked up from Cobham in Surrey* at approximately 9.30 (there may also be a pick-up from Richmond-on-Thames, times TBC, please get in touch for optional pick-ups) and we then drive by executive coach to Castle Combe, one of England’s prettiest villages, nestling on the southern-most edge of the Cotswolds. Taking its name from a 12th-century castle which once stood on a hill overlooking the valley, Castle Combe became an important centre of the wool industry in the Middle Ages – its red and white cloth became famous all over the world and the increased prosperity of the village led to the construction of many of the buildings that we see today. Lined with beautiful houses made of typical Cotswold stone, its picturesque streets are popular with film crews and the village is often used for period dramas.

On arrival there will be some free time to stroll through the village before enjoying a delicious 2-course lunch (included) in the well-known Castle Inn. Originally dating from the 12th century, this magnificent historic building still boasts many of its original features and was famously a former retreat of Oliver Cromwell. We will be served in the restaurant’s elegant private dining room.

We then drive to the magnificent Elizabethan/Jacobean mansion Llanvihangel Court where we enjoy a private opening of the house and specially-arranged tour with its owner, Julia Johnson. The property enjoys a spectacular location, set on the edge of the beautiful Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons looking across the sweeping valley of the Monnow towards the English border. Originally built in the 16th century, visitors are said to have included Queen Elizabeth I and King Charles I, whose troops were stationed at nearby Raglan Castle.

After the tour Julia will arrange a leisurely afternoon tea after which we depart for our hotel.

Llangoed Hall enjoys a tranquil setting in the beautiful Wye Valley, surrounded by 17 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens including a charming kitchen garden which provides produce for the restaurant, as well as rose and herb gardens and a hedge maze. Believed to have been the site of the legendary White Palace, home to the first Welsh parliament in the sixth century AD, Llangoed Hall was built in the Jacobean period and redesigned as a country house in 1912 by Clough Williams-Ellis. Sir Bernard Ashley acquired the property in 1987 and opened it as a hotel not long after, blending its 17th century grandeur with soft furnishings designed by his late wife Laura Ashley as well as family portraits and heirlooms including an outstanding private collection of Whistlers. Llangoed Hall was voted "Best Country House Hotel" by the Sunday TImes.

After some time to relax we enjoy a 3-course dinner with wine (included) in the hotel’s award-winning restaurant whose many accolades include “Best Restaurant in Wales”, an entry in The Good Food Guide’s top 50 UK places to eat, and three AA rosettes.  The chef uses locally sourced and home-grown ingredients such as Welsh lamb, Wye salmon and laverbread to produce delicious dishes.


Today we drive to Aberglasney, one of the finest gardens in Wales. With a unique Elizabethan cloister garden at its heart, Aberglasney will be familiar to viewers of the BBC series A Garden Lost in Time which followed the restoration of the historic house and grounds which were first created by a bishop during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The  gardens have been brought back to life again under their head gardener Joseph Aitken, and Joseph will be giving us a special private tour on arrival. We will see the cloister gardens, woodland areas and a colourful kitchen garden; 300 year-old yew tunnel and Ninfarium full of tender and tropical plants, created at the back of the then-derelict house several years ago.

Refreshments will be served on arrival and a delicious lunch is also included after our tour.

This afternoon we enjoy a guided tour of the National Botanic Garden of Wales, a beautiful garden that also serves as an important centre for botanical research and conservation. Featuring over 8000 different varieties of plants, it boasts the world’s largest single-spanned glasshouse, designed by Norman Foster, as well as a wide range of themed gardens. There will be some free time for tea and a leisurely stroll before we return to our hotel.

Dinner this evening is independent – you may like to dine in the hotel restaurant or just have something lighter from the lounge menu.


The morning is spent visiting the National Museum in Cardiff which has an exceptional collection of paintings, drawings, sculpture and ceramics as well as one of Europe's best collections of Impressionist paintings. These were left to the museum in the mid 20th century by Margaret and Gwendoline Davies, granddaughters of a wealthy industrialist, and include many exceptional works such as examples from Monet’s Rouen Cathedral and Water Lilies series as well as La Parisienne by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (exhibited in the First Impressionist Exhibition) and a version of Rodin's Kiss. Siân Walters will give a guided tour of the Impressionist and Old Masters collections – the latter includes masterpieces by Botticelli, Poussin, Pompeo Batoni and Zoffany, as well as Welsh artists such as Richard Wilson and Thomas Jones.

After lunch at the famous Potted Pig (optional) we walk to Cardiff Castle where we enjoy a specially-arranged guided tour in the company of its curator, Matthew Williams. Matthew is an eminent historian and is widely recognised as a leading authority on the Victorian architect William Burges who famously undertook the reconstruction of Cardiff Castle in the 19th century. Notable features include the ornate banqueting hall, the Octagon Tower with its scenes from the Canterbury Tales and the gilded ceiling of the Arab room.

We then drive to nearby Fonmon Castle, a fortified medieval castle in the Vale of Glamorgan which is still in private hands. We will enjoy a short guided tour followed by afternoon tea (included).

A delicious 3-course dinner with wine is included this evening and served in the hotel’s award-winning restaurant.


After breakfast we head back to England visiting Bowood House and Gardens en route. Set within 100 acres of 'Capability' Brown Grade I park, Bowood House is the magnificent family home of the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne.  The gardens are spectacular and our visit includes a specially-arranged tour of Lord and Lady Lansdowne's Private Walled Garden which is not generally open to the public.  After refreshments on arrival we enjoy a guided private garden tour followed by a two-course lunch in the Stables Restaurant and then a house tour where we will learn about the  family’s rich collection of art and antiques.

We depart in the mid afternoon and return to Surrey by approximately 6.30.

* For those for whom Cobham is not so convenient and wishing to join us en route, optional pick-ups can be discussed – please get in touch. Full details will be confirmed in writing approx 2/3 weeks before travel.

Further Tour Information

Overnight accommodation including breakfast and dinner with wine has been arranged at the 4-star Llangoed Hall Hotel. Each of the 23 rooms has its own unique character but all are decorated with bespoke floral fabrics, antique furnishings and fresh flowers. Welcoming touches include a complimentary decanter of sherry, fresh fruit and selection of waters and while there is no minibar, you can call at any time for complimentary tea, coffee and newspapers to be brought to your room.  Bathrooms have walk-in showers, freestanding tubs and luxurious toiletries. Single rooms are doubles based on single occupancy.  Porterage is included.

Guest areas include an excellent restaurant, great hall, morning room, library, bar and lounge, billiard room and function rooms. There are also 17 acres of beautiful gardens and parkland.

Itinerary and Meals
A detailed, confirmed itinerary including timings will be provided approximately two weeks before travel and all reservations made where necessary. Further information regarding travel will also be provided but our coach will depart from Hollyhedge Road in Cobham and possibly also The Old Deer Park in Richmond if there are enough to make an extra stop feasible.

Two 3-course dinners with wine and coffee are included at the hotel’s exceptional, award-winning restaurant whose team are led by head chef Nick Brodie. The food is sourced from the freshest and finest local ingredients with fruit and vegetables from the hotel’s very own kitchen garden. Three lunches are also included as well as afternoon tea at Llanvihangel Court and Fonmon Castle, and refreshments at Bowood House and Aberglasney.

Please inform us when booking of any food intolerances or allergies so that these can be catered for. Thank you.

How Strenuous?
Please note that there is some walking and standing involved in the trip, although at a gentle pace and not strenuous. It is not necessary to visit the gardens in all the properties if you prefer to just visit the houses and then rest. There are some steps in the properties and lifts are not always available so the trip may not be suitable for those who cannot manage stairs.

The price will be £957 per person for those sharing a double or twin room (please let us know which you prefer when booking) and a single room supplement of £105.

The price includes luxury hotel accommodation for 3 nights including 2 dinners with wine as outlined above; transfers by executive coach; guided tours and specially arranged private visits; 2 lunches; 2 afternoon teas; 2 refreshments at Bowood House and Aberglasney; porterage; reservations and all entrance fees in the itinerary. It does not include insurance or personal spending.

If you would like to join the tour please complete the online booking form. If you would prefer to send a booking form by post please download a copy hereUK tours do not involve flights and so you will not receive an ATOL certificate with your booking receipt, nor do we require any Advanced Passenger Information (passport details). Please leave this section blank on the online booking form, thank you. We recommend taking out travel insurance in case of cancellation or illness, although this is optional.

Once your booking has been accepted, we will notify you by email. If you have not received an email confirmation, please check your ‘deleted items' and 'junk mail' folders. If you have not received a confirmation please do contact us to ensure that we have received your booking.

A full itinerary and practical details will be sent during the week of 3rd June. Art History in Focus tours are limited to smaller groups so there is a maximum number of participants, but friends and relatives are as always very welcome!

Please refer to our Terms and Conditions for booking this event.

What an amazing two days - everywhere we went had something different and interesting, and the gardens were beautiful. The hotel was excellent and dinner was delicious. Everything as always was organised meticulously - you are amazing.Thank you! ”

Mrs Jenni Hammond

Read more testimonials and comments


  • Dinner, bed and breakfast at the luxury country house hotel Llangoed Hall
  • Private tour of Llanvihangel Court with its owners
  • Special tour of the gardens at Aberglasney with its head gardener
  • Curator-led tour of Cardiff Castle
  • Special tour of Private Walled Garden at Bowood House
  • Most meals and refreshments included throughout


  • Tour Price: £957.00
  • Single Supplement: £105.00
  • Room Upgrade: per room per night
  • Deposit: £225.00
  • Lecturer: Siân Walters
  • Guest Speakers: Matthew Williams


Booking is now closed.

If you have any questions regarding the tour or booking please send us an email or
call on +44 (0)1932 267322

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