We have recently returned from a study tour led by expert lecturer Barbara Peacock to the pristine county of Dorset, visiting privately owned country houses and picturesque gardens. This tour explored a largely untouched part of the country. Tour manager Marion Van Hoecke has given us a view into what the group got up to on the tour…
Day 1 started with the group meeting at The Eastbury Hotel in the charming market town of Sherborne, situated on the Dorset and Somerset border. The first call of the tour bought us to the enchanting Sandford Orcas Manor, a small Tudor manor house built from local ham stone. A private tour allowed the group to explore the manor house and take in its rich interior. We then returned to the hotel for a luscious afternoon cream tea, followed by evensong at the magnificent Sherborne Abbey.
Following breakfast on day 2 we set off to Forde Abbey. Tucked away in the Dorset countryside, this unique house was founded by Cistercian monks over 800 years ago and is now one of the UK’s oldest inhabited stately homes. We were able to view the home as well as its impressive 30-acre garden. After leaving Forde Abbey we journeyed towards Came House, an elegant Palladian style house built by Frances Cartwright, where we enjoyed a delicious group lunch in the company of the owner of this beautiful house. Moving on to Kingston Maurward, a 750-acre estate much loved by Thomas Hardy, we strolled around the peaceful gardens and impressive Baroque Mansion before we enjoyed another delightful cream tea (when in Dorset!).
To kick off day 3 the group departed Sherborne by coach towards Creech Grange, but first stopping off to enjoy a morning cup of coffee in the powerful view of Corfe Castle. Easily one of the highlights of this tour was taking in the stunning architecture at Creech Grange, both inside the house and the surrounding exterior. Next, we headed on to Minterne Estate for a sandwich lunch before a private guided tour of this unique house and gardens, a real treat. A delicious dinner was served that evening at the hotel.
The 4th and final day of the tour saw the group spend the morning at St Giles House, a visit which started with tea, coffee and biscuits before going on to a tour of the house and gardens, including the magnificent 18th century shell grotto. We then set off by coach to the village of Cranborne where we had a tasty pub lunch and then walked on to Cranborne Manor. Here we strolled around the gardens and admired the manor house and the beautiful flowers in their spring time bloom, a truly excellent way to round off a wonderful tour.