The Rhododendron, Camellia & Magnolia Group

Three groups of plants – one group of enthusiasts worldwide

Spring Tour 2018

Northern Ireland April 10th – 13th 2018

Booking Information

You are recommended to book up early for the Group Tour as hotel accommodation is limited.

The tour is based at the Clandeboye Lodge Hotel, Bangor, Northern Ireland and the itinerary includes a feast of private and important historic gardens where the group’s genera abound. We have been cordially invited to the gardens of Paddy Mackie, Tracy Hamilton and John Gault and will also visit Mount Stewart and Rowallane Gardens (both National Trust) as well as Seaforde Gardens, now run by Charles Forde, the son of the late Patrick Forde a former member of the Group.

Dinner, bed and full breakfast at the hotel have been negotiated at a daily rate of £165 for a double/twin room (£82.50 per person) and £125 per room for single occupancy. Members and guests MUST BOOK AND PAY FOR THEIR ACCOMMODATION DIRECT WITH THE HOTEL using the code RCMG to identify the rates that apply to the tour. Full details of how to book and pay are on the Booking Form.

The cost of the tour includes
  • Coach travel from Clandeboye Lodge to all venues
  • Entry to all of the gardens (National Trust members must have their membership cards with them)
  • Conducted tours in most of the gardens
  • Packed lunch on one day trip
  • Return coach travel to Belfast International and Belfast City Airports on Friday 13th April

For members of the National Trust the tour cost is £146
For those who are not members of the National Trust the tour cost is £160

Not included in the tour price are
  • Hotel accommodation (to be booked direct with Clandeboye Lodge Hotel)
  • Meals, drinks and refreshments other than the packed lunch on one day and those meals included in the hotel booking
  • Voluntary gratuities

Getting to and from Belfast The tour commences at 1.00pm on Tuesday 10th April and ends at around 3.30pm on Friday April 13th. Please book your flights with these times in mind.
There are flights to Belfast International or Belfast City Airports from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Cardiff, Southampton, Exeter and London (City, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted) and other airports. Early booking is strongly recommended to get the best prices.

You can download the booking form here - PDF download Once downloaded then please complete, scan & save it with your own name in the file name and email to the Tour Organiser Christopher Legrand if you have paid by Bank Transfer or print and post with your cheque.

About the Tour

Clandeboye Lodge Hotel is a highly rated hotel on both Trip Advisor and It has 43 rooms of contemporary design, offers a cosy atmosphere, stylish public rooms and extensive landscaped sculpture grounds with views over the estate. Situated outside Bangor just 8.5 miles from Belfast City Airport and 29 miles from Belfast International Airport. We will enjoy the use of a private function room for meals

Mount Stewart The celebrated gardens at this neo-classical house reflects a rich tapestry of design and great planting artistry that was the hallmark of Edith, Lady Londonderry and include a host of mature species and hybrid rhododendrons. The mild climate of Strangford Lough allows astonishing levels of planting experimentation.  The formal areas exude a strong Mediterranean feel and resemble an Italian villa landscape; the wooded areas support a range of plants from all corners of the world.

Mahee The Woodland Garden at Mahee  is of some 35 acres on a drowned drumlin on the west side of Strangford Lough, near Killyleagh where Sir Hans Sloane spent his childhood. Half a century ago Paddy Mackie moved to the island, then with a single ash tree. His immediate priority was to establish shelter which today protects the garden from winter storms and strong coastal winds. 

Visitors to Mahee little realise that this is the lifework of a single individual. This corner of County Down has a benign climate, one of the mildest on the island of Ireland, and many of the exotic trees planted by Paddy, particularly the Eucalyptus and Eucryphia species look far older than they really are. The mild climate permits the cultivation of a wide range of tender subjects and southern hemisphere plants like echiums, tree ferns and proteas, though it is for its Rhododendron collection that Mahee is best known. Probably the best privately owned collection in Northern Ireland, the collection is centered on choice species and tender hybrids. Many of the species are of wild origin and the collection is fully documented.

Rhododendron sinogrande has reached dimensions similar to those found in western China and there are also fine free flowering specimens of newly introduced species like Rhododendron heatheriae from south-east Tibet and Rhododendron kesangiae, named for the Queen Grandmother of Bhutan.  Camellias  from the Slieve Donard Nursery planted from 1964, complement the rhododendrons as do 60 species of magnolia planted from 1998.

Ringdufferin Garden Ringdufferin is a private garden situated in the most wonderful setting on the  shores of Strangford Lough just north of Killyleagh.  It is owned by Tracy and Martin Hamilton, Tracy is an IDS member. Ringdufferin comprises a parkland/arboretum, a woodland garden and a well maintained walled garden. The garden has a collection of wonderful mature trees including Eucalyptus globulous, Pinus radiata, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Podocarpus andinus, Quercus cerris, and Cupressus  macrocarpa  which was  previously listed as the largest girthed tree in Ireland.

The woodland garden has a mature collection of trees and shrubs including Rhododendron, Camellia, Drimys, Hoheria and  Magnolia and the walled garden has, as its central  axis eight majestic Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’.

Rowallane Garden The Revd John Moore planted over 1500 rhododendrons at Rowallane over 100 years ago. His nephew, Hugh Armytage Moore, who inherited the garden in 1903, was an avid plant collector and with the help of expert plant hunters developed the plant collection until his death in 1955, resulting in the huge range of diverse and unusual species now to be seen at Rowallane.

Seaforde Garden Seaforde Demesne has been the home of the Forde family since the early seventeenth century. (The late Patrick Forde was a member of the RCM Group). The outer garden, known as the Pheasantry, contains conifers and rhododendrons, many well over 100 years old. In season many areas are carpeted with drifts of snowdrops, bluebells, camassias and primulas. There used to be a huge camellia house, sadly no longer standing but the camellias remain.

The garden includes the Mogul Tower, with its spiral staircase that leads to a viewing platform. This is an ideal spot from which to view the walled garden and, particularly, the maze. Other notable plants include  Crinodendron patagua, Olearia x 'Zennorensis', Paulownnia fargesii and Rosa forrestii.

There is also a Tropical Butterfly House.

John Gault’s Garden at Limavady John’s interest in rhododendrons started at a very young age when his father bought two plants at Balmoral Agricultural Show in 1935 and the following spring the three year old John was so intrigued by the large buds coming into flower, that he broke them off and proudly displayed them to his father at the kitchen table, remarking how nice he thought they were; the very painful memory of his father’s reaction remains with him even after eighty years!

John started buying rhododendrons after he left school at the age of sixteen.  At first most of those he planted died but with perseverance and self-teaching from the books he bought he achieved his schoolboy dream of successfully cultivating and propagating these lovely plants, some of which were the start of the display you will see as you tour the garden.

By the late sixties he had so many plants that more space was required for them that he and his late wife Maureen uprooted the apple orchard and used it for planting rhododendrons and it was at this stage the seed was sown to start a nursery, which today many rightly regard as the top rhododendron and azalea nursery in Northern Ireland.