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Normandy Gardens & D-Day Beaches

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Enjoy the lovely region of Normandy in north-west France. Two days will be spent discovering some of the beautiful and little-known gardens of Normandy, guided by the garden owners themselves. The particular fascination of these Normandy gardens is that the climate and the range of plants are similar to Britain, yet the French create quite different and truly exceptional gardens. There are some real treats which will intrigue and inspire you.

Normandy is a horticultural heaven and boasts an extraordinary number of parks and gardens open to the public. A wide range of garden styles are displayed, from simple cottage gardens to grand, formal schemes via walled kitchen gardens, botanical collections, subtropical plantations and landscaped ‘English-style’ gardens. A range which owes its diversity to passionate owners, but also to the region itself, where endless summers, autumn glories, spring freshness and winter wonders showcase the seasons spectacularly.

Refresh your spirit amid the beautiful parks and gardens… let your imagination take you back three hundred years when linden trees were first planted at the Château de Bosmelet or two hundred years when a cedar sapling was planted at the Château de Miromesnil. There are gardens that house national collections, and there are gardens where the focus is on regional plants and trees, and others where plants from overseas have been successfully replanted in Norman soil.

Then head to the Normandy Beaches for two more nights. Explore more this lovely coastal region of France, including a day of touring a number of the D-Day landing sites, and a visit to Bayeux, famed for the tapestry.

Highlights of Normandy

  • Guided tours of six wonderful gardens, all very unique and different
  • Lunch at a beautiful chateau
  • Tour the D-Day landing beaches including Omaha and Sword Beaches
  • Learn about WWII’s Operation Overlord
  • Visit Pegasus Bridge
  • See the ancient Bayeux Tapestry
  • Explore the wonderful coastal towns of Honfleur and Deauville
  • Sample some Calvados liqueurs and Normandy cheeses



Route map
Price: Tour Book: £180 incl UK P&P
Suggested hotel costs from €1,120 per person, sharing. Prices vary depending on time of year and room category.
Duration: 5 nights
Mileage: 372 miles


May be subject to change.

Day 1: 20 miles

Cross by ferry to France from Dover to Calais then drive south along the coast to Normandy. Enjoy the afternoon relaxing and wandering around Dieppe or along the coast. Maybe visit the gardens and house, designed by Lutyens, at Le Bois des Moutiers, or see the Shamrock Collection, a fabulous garden of hydrangeas. Stay for three nights in a beautifully restored, 17th-century, half-timbered hotel.

Day 2: 57 miles

Drive along the coast visit Le Vasterival at St Marguerite sur Mer in the morning. The late Norwegian Princess Sturdza, came to these cliff tops over fifty years ago, as an experienced gardener, already in her forties, and began to plant what has become known as one of the best gardens in the country. Protected by the lie of the land, the garden benefits from a micro-climate which has allowed one of the finest plant collections in France to be put together. We shall find woodland walks, long valleys, streams, bogs and hillside borders of glorious foliage plants. There is a marvellous contrast between secret paths leading to dense, jungle-like plantings and long, serene vistas across open glades. The Princess’s planting style dramatised the changing seasons, and the atmosphere of her garden develops and transforms itself throughout the year. Those who have visited at other times of year will see the genius of a garden perennially in bloom. The Gardeners will welcome and guide you, introduce you to some of the thousands of different species, share some of their gardening secrets and explain what inspired the Princess. Penelope Hobhouse and Patrick Taylor in their book, The Gardens of Europe, say: “Few gardens elicit superlatives as easily as Le Vasterival. It sets standards that all gardeners should aim at but few will attain”.

Have lunch at the wonderful Chateau de Miromesnil, which will also include tours of both the garden and chateau. Monsieur and Madame Romatet inherited this magnificent late 17th-century Chateau from her grandmother who came here before the Second World War. In 1850 Guy de Maupassant, the famed French writer, was born here and the Chateau contains much of his memorabilia. The park is sheltered by a splendid beech grove to the north and a line of lime trees to the south. The view behind the Chateau is dominated by a 200-year-old cedar. More than eighty varieties of clematis decorate the walls, trees and shrubs giving colour from spring through until autumn. The large walled kitchen garden beside the house is laid out in square beds where vegetables alternate with flowers for cutting. The borders contain bulbs and perennials and rely much on annuals for shape and colour – the emphasis is on pastels to harmonise with the pink garden walls. The whole effect is of a joyful abundance.

In the afternoon visit the rose gardens and park of the Chateau of Mesnil Geoffroy, which has over 2,500 rose bushes (1,100 different varieties) surrounding the elegant 18th-century chateau. There are two rose gardens: one dedicated to colours and the other to scent and perfumes. A maze and aviaries with exotic birds enhance the charm of this classic park. A real delight of colours and scents. Return to the hotel for dinner.

Day 3: 55 miles

It is a scenic drive to Jardin de Valerianes. Michel and Marilyn Tissait are a most remarkable couple: They have not only planted and looked after this astonishing garden with no outside help since 1982 but have also built their house and barns entirely themselves. They aim for self-sufficiency and low maintenance – by clearing, removing invasive plants, pruning and mulching during the winter and early spring, and they allow the garden to ‘look after itself’ over the summer. They plan for no staking or dead-heading. Their design is more formal around the house with a pond (collecting rainwater for irrigation) and wide herbaceous and shrub borders linked by a pergola, steps and paths. Again, all the hard landscaping is their own. Roughly every ten years, they extend their planting to a further area of the garden and in 2002 they began to plant another garden with a specialist tree and shrub collection around a lake – excitingly and unexpectedly, this one offered different soil conditions to accommodate a different range of plants. You will hugely impressed by their energy, talent and knowledge. Michel is a professional gardener at Rouen Hospital. They were one of the first winners of the highly coveted Soci Nationale d’Horticulture de France – Prix Bompland in 1996.

Visit two more gardens, starting at Les Jardins Agapanthe. Monsieur Alexandre Thomas trained as a landscape designer and has created this unusual garden in just over an acre. The visitor is drawn immediately into a lush and green labyrinth and moves from dark tunnels through light enclosures to open terraces and back again. Topiary is everywhere. There are constant views and surprises with plenty of benches and chairs placed to enjoy the sights and scents. He eschews lawns and uses hellebores for greenery at low level. From a flat field, he created rises and hollows, introduced flowing and still water and fountains; he sited balustrades, bridges, gates, antique sculpture and urns; and put in ‘as many plants as possible’. It is easy to get lost in this paradise. Huge trees, sourced from Belgium, Italy and Germany, are grown in pots and are moved around the garden for different effects. White, violet, blue and green are his preferred colours. He adores agapanthus – hence the garden’s name. Madame Joselyne Thomas, Alexandre’s mother, works with him in the garden and will help to guide you around. In the adjoining Nursery you will find many of his plants for sale.

Stop for a light lunch at a nearby cafe to Jardins Agapanthe before heading to the final garden, the Potager at Chateau de Bosmelet for a tour of the garden and the chateau. Generations of the family of the Comte and Comtesse de Bosmelet have contributed to the marvellous gardens and parkland which surround this attractive 17th-century Chateau. Baroness Laurence de Bosmelet was the force behind the wonderful potager which was the inspiration for their Chelsea 2000 Gold Medal winning garden. Within the ancient walled garden flourish hundreds of vegetable varieties planted to colour themes alongside rose arbours and mixed borders all anchored by a central stone pool. You will see amazing shapes and colours of cabbages, courgettes, celeriac, lettuce, marrows, tomatoes and more. A superb avenue of three-hundred-year-old lime trees leads you there. Return to the hotel for dinner.

Day 4: 127 miles

Meander your way through the Normandy countryside, across the Parc Nutel Regional to the pretty harbour town of Honfleur – a great place for a wander and lunch. This is now the Calvados region. Calvados liqueur is made from apples and is produced by many farms in the area and it is possible to visit a number of places to see production and taste and buy the finished product. Enjoy a scenic tour of the area and then travel west to Bayeux and stay for two nights in a stunning, luxury, five-star chateau hotel nearby.

Day 5: 90 miles

Enjoy a battlefields tour of the Normandy beaches, starting at Pointe du Hoc where the US Rangers mounted an assault up the cliffs to capture the German coastal guns. There are excellent museums with informative guides for a day of discovery and interest.

Then progress to Omaha Beach, which was the famous ‘dog’ beach scene of the film ‘Saving Private Ryan’. Then visit a US war cemetery followed by the Hillman/Perriers Ridge, to visit the German defences that held up the British breakout from Sword Beach.

Finally, visit the famed Pegasus Bridge, where there was a glider assault to seize the key crossing sites. There is also a good museum here.

Day 6: 23 miles

Spend the morning in Bayeux to see the eponymous tapestry. Or perhaps visit one of the newest gardens in Normandy, the Jardins Albizia, to the south of Bayeux. These gardens offer a superb variety of botanical wealth, including France’s largest collection of clematis. Take the afternoon ferry, departing at 14.00 from Caen to Portsmouth, UK, arriving at 19.15. Depart for home.


The tour will be based at two wonderful hotels, with three nights at first and two nights at the second. The first is a beautiful small boutique country hotel located in a 17th-century vernacular building. There is an outdoor pool, spa and lovely gardens. The second hotel is a beautiful, five-star, luxury chateau, part of the Relais & Chateaux collection, close to Bayeux. Both hotels are well placed to visit a variety of gardens and the D-Day landing beaches.


  • Each person must have a passport (and any necessary visas for non-EU passport holders) valid for France.
  • All passports must be valid for six months after the end of the tour. You will also need your vehicle registration documents, driving licence (a photo-card licence or international permit is best), and an international insurance green card.
  • Please check with your travel and motor insurers that you are covered for travel in the required countries.
  • You are also required to carry a warning triangle, first-aid kit, two fluorescent jackets, set of replacement bulbs and a national identification sticker.
  • However, the most important requirement is that you take pleasure in motoring through fabulous scenery, relish individual, character hotels and enjoy beautiful gardens.