Caroline Holmes’ Tours, Cruises,  Lectures and Courses

The diary dates as listed are all open to the public

I divide my work into three categories ACADEMIC BUT NOT DRY, INFORMATIVE AND ENTERTAINING, and PRACTICAL AND ENGAGING – all are experienced on the tours and cruises. My watchwords are learning not teaching and enjoyment – this is equally applicable to my books, lectures, talks, courses or tours. By its nature ‘academic’ anticipates an appetite for a deeper study of a subject whilst ‘informative’ seeks an insight into a body of knowledge, and then there is the more sensory process of practical handling of plants and food.

Tours and Cruises 2017 and 2018


23-29 April Gardens of the Riviera
2-9 May Otium - Villas and Gardens of Florence
13-10 June

Lavender landscapes – summer in Provence
26 June-2 July Brittany – Megaliths to Monet
12-14 October

Sri Lanka – the Pearl of the Indian Ocean
14-21 December

Iconic Cities of the Western Mediterranean


11-17 April Gardens of the Riviera
  See also Français for 2017 and 2018 tours in French for Clio Voyages  

Lectures and courses


University of Cambridge ICE (Institute of Continuing Education)

Sunday 24 January 10.00-16.45
Early eighteenth century taste when the South Sea Bubble burst into song and landscapes.
Who wants to be a millionaire and eradicate national debt? 300 years ago people inflated the South Sea Company into a wondrous bubble. Scene-setters are Alexander Pope and John Gay, before we explore three resulting landscapes. A founder and Chancellor of the Exchequer, John Aislabie, created the sublime Studley Royal. Political winner, Robert Walpole stamped his ego across Houghton, his virtuoso Norfolk neighbour but loser, Thomas Coke, postponed his Palladian and naturalised Holkham.
For full details or call +44(0)1223 746262

8-10 July, Friday evening to Sunday lunchtime
The Renaissance Garden in Britain – nature produces better fruit if cultivated Italian Renaissance design and intricacies arrived in Britain via France and the Low Countries, manifesting a revolutionary attitude to the ‘taming’ of nature. Compare Tudor England with Stuart Scotland. Explore gardens as settings for collections of antique sculpture, courtly dalliance, philosophical discussion, meditation, theatre, allegorical and moral instruction, horticultural encyclopaedias and centres for botanical and medical research.
For full details or call +44(0)1223 746262

1-12 August International Summer School Programme
B32 English houses and gardens I: defining ‘Englishness’ from 1130 to 2016 ‘English’ architecture and gardens from Court to cottage. We examine regal tastes at Hampton Court Palace, the Royal Pavilion, Brighton and Buckingham Palace; the English classical landscape at Stourhead. We compare quintessential Englishness at The Manor Hemingford Grey and Gertrude Jekyll’s Munstead Wood with its eccentricities at Sissinghurst and Chatsworth.

C32 English houses and gardens II:
Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown: transforming England’s great estates

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown – England’s first ‘celebrity’ gardener - made major changes to England’s great estates in the 18th century. Was he a visionary or a vandal? We explore his astonishing achievements as earthmover, engineer, builder and architect, and consider his legacy in the mature sinuous ‘natural’ landscapes that still surround so many English royal and aristocratic houses.
For full details of the ISSP (International Summer School Programme) visit

5-7 August, Friday evening to Sunday lunchtime including field visit
Moving Heaven and Earth – Lancelot Capability Brown – co-tutored by Caroline Holmes and Steffie Shields. 2016 marks the tercentenary of Brown, England’s Shakespeare of Gardening’s birth. The setting of Madingley Hall illustrates just one of his earth-moving projects. His inspirations as well as engineering, hydraulic, architectural and artistic skills will be analysed through his major works. And still capable? We will explore his ongoing relevance to landscape and water management.
For full details or call +44(0)1223 746262

6 November 10.00-16.45
Gardens with a Gainsborough perspective. Gainsborough House gardens are dominated by its magnificent gnarled mulberry tree which sets the scene in fruit and silk. Contemporary with ‘Capability’ Brown, Gainsborough was an originator of the English landscape painting school. We examine his Bath connections not least Bampfylde-Warre, taking us to Hestercombe and Stourhead, contrasting socially and morally with the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and Hogarth engravings.
For full details or call +44(0)1223 746262



Friday 9th October at 11am Gainsborough House, Sudbury, Suffolk
A Palladian mansion, ‘Englished’ and naturalised: Thomas Coke and Holkham Hall William Kent had acted as cicerone to Thomas Coke during his Grand Tour before the latter returned to marry in 1718. Then Coke lost £38,000 in 1720 when the South Sea Bubble burst. Nine years later they started to design including the marble hall and grand enfilade of rooms at Holkham Hall, whose Palladian grandeur acted as centrepiece to the natural landscaping of its Norfolk setting. Stand-alone lecture, final in a series of four
For more information: call 01787 372958 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tuesday 20th October from 10.00 to 16.00
The Royal Gardens of Newmarket
Caroline Holmes with John Sutton. Morning lectures at Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds. Afternoon field visit to Newmarket where Caroline Holmes and John Sutton will lead a field trip tracking down three of the town’s hidden royal corners.
Please book at Bury Record Office reception or Tel: 01284 741202

Saturday 7th November, 10.00-12.00 at the Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds
Water Lilies and Bory Latour Marliac, the genius behind Monet's Water Lilies. Colour and exuberance in tropical water lilies inspired Bory Latour-Marliac to create such beauty for temperate pools in France and beyond. His most-celebrated customer, Monet, memorialised them in Nymphéas to the First World War. Suffolk grandee, James de Saumarez of Shrublands is to be thanked for their popularisation by Robinson and Jekyll.
Please book at Bury Record Office reception or Tel: 01284 741202


January, Tuesdays 10-12.00, 12, 19, 26 and February 2 and 9 at the Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds
Capability Brown, intelligent landscaping for England and East Anglia Lancelot Brown saw capabilities when he surveyed England, but was he a visionary or a vandal? In five sessions I will explore with you his commissions as earthmover extraordinaire, engineer and builder and the outcomes in his mature sinuous English landscapes including sites within our region.

  1. Lancelot Brown - the man who saw capabilities
  2. The Brounian scene - moving earth and planting trees
  3. Sinuous and serpentine – Brown, the water engineer
  4. Capability Brown – architect and builder
  5. The Brounian legacy, le jardin anglais and intelligent landscaping

Please book at Bury Record Office reception or Tel: 01284 741202

Tuesday 23rd February from 10.30am at The Linnean Society, Piccadilly
Painting the Modern Garden – Monet to Matisse
Inspired by the RA’s ‘Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse’ Caroline Holmes explores four surviving gardens and their artistic associations that can be viewed in the exhibition. Two lectures: Paris and Argenteuil – Monet and Renoir: Childe Hassam and Celia Thaxter – an American Impressionist and his muse; and Joaquin Sorolla, his family and their Madrid garden: Monet’s water lilies from source to Giverny to Les Nymphéas. Timed entrance to RA exhibition.
For full details Ciceroni Travel or telephone +44(0)1869 811167 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Friday 18 March, 10:30 – 3pm
Essential Herbs at RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Rettendon, Chelmsford Essex CM3 8ET An interactive day showing colourful images and inspirational uses of herbs in gardens, the down-to-earth practicalities of getting them to thrive in a variety of settings and finally handling a dozen key herbs. We will concentrate on edible herbs but also ways of using them to formalise or naturalise your gardens and pots with scent and shape. In all there is more to herbs than green leaves. Fee: RHS Members £55, Non-RHS Members £65 Maximum 20 places
Booking essential on 020 3176 5830 from mid November 2015

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©Caroline Holmes 2017