By Rachel Bosworth
From Sag Harbor to the United Kingdom, Katharine Battle and Emily Goldstein are sharing their passion for gardens, historic houses, and private art collections and galleries reflective of British culture with small and carefully curated itineraries in the United Kingdom. Caplan Rose, Battle and Goldstein’s boutique travel company, recently celebrated its first anniversary. With the next tour exploring gardens and art in the West of England this spring, the longtime friends and Sag Harbor residents are sharing how they’re bringing their passion across the pond.
“England was almost a foreign country to me when I first started living and working in London,” says Scotland born Battle, who was educated in England and lived abroad many years working as a travel writer in Mexico. “I loved to explore and travelled widely in the country looking for the quirky and unknown aspects of England. I have a keen eye for things which are culturally interesting and off the beaten tourist track.”
With frequent visits to the United Kingdom and having lived in the United States for 20 years, Battle feels she has a gained a good understanding of what appeals to an American audience. She hopes those that join the tour come away with a sense of the country’s national identity, and deeply embedded sense of history and place. Britain is also now at the forefront of locavore cuisine, Battle says, explaining there has been a renaissance in the kitchen garden and the food is delicious, much different than it was 20 years ago.
“The British are among the leaders in garden design and whether taste is for traditional or contemporary landscape, we hope that people will experience this national passion for horticulture in all its forms,” Battle explains. “The sense of history, spanning thousands of years, is hard to re-create in the United States and fun to get to know first-hand.”
Because the Caplan Rose tour guides hand pick the various destinations to ensure a unique experience, Goldstein says the selecting of sites to visit is an involved and exciting process. Privately owned gardens that are rarely, if ever, open to group visits are prioritized, and widely known gardens are sometimes chosen due to their historical importance and are visited outside of public hours for a more intimate experience.
“Each garden reveals how the inherent features of a site, the history of ownership, and the vision of various individuals have shaped the evolution of its design,” Goldstein says, adding they seek out head gardeners who offer a lens on the latest in sustainable horticultural practices in the United Kingdom. “For garden and architecture enthusiasts from the States, the intersection of contemporary design and medieval or later period architecture makes a particularly strong impression.”
Goldstein, who has a background in the art world and is the co-founder of The Drawing Room art gallery in East Hampton with Victoria Munroe, says she is impressed by the United Kingdom’s institutional and private support for visual arts. Caplan Rose aims to single out exhibitions and collections that strike a fresh cord. How the history of garden design has evolved throughout history in the United Kingdom is a centuries-long story.
Citing the emergence of Roman villas in the first century AD and early monuments from Neolithic settlements, Goldstein says these traditions continue to inspire contemporary designers, who also introduce new aesthetic trends and developments in horticultural practices. “As Katharine mentioned, one thing about the culture of gardening in the United Kingdom is that it seems to cut across the entire population,” she explains. “We choose our routes so that travelers see varied evidence of this along the way, whether in window boxes that dot village streets and market towns, carefully tended vegetable and flower beds in public allotments, or vast country estates.”
Given Goldstein’s background in art, and Battle’s heritage and background in travel, Caplan Rose tours are also unique in that each explores different places and sites. They have also designed some trips for those that have never been to Britain, as well as others who are returning and looking to explore further.
“I love the hotels that we have chosen, which we return to because they are so perfect for our clientele, combining traditional manor houses which have been renovated to keep character with the addition of very comfortable modern amenities,” Battle shares. “We specialized in the rolling green hills of the West Country in 2017. This area of Britain is romantic and magical to me – with its history of Camelot, King Arthur and ancient medieval kingdoms. I’m also excited about our plans to share my beloved Scotland and Cornwall next year.”
Tours are for six days, five nights, and accommodate eight to 12 guests. Enrollment is currently open for the April 29 tour – caplanrose.com.