Inveraray Castle, Argyll. Image © Robert Pogson, all rights reserved.
Whatever the season, you’ll find something beautiful to enjoy in Scotland’s gardens. Fresh spring buds, summer blooms, autumnal leaves and wintry scenes are all waiting to delight. See what some of the best gardens in Scotland have to offer, including grand castle estates, tranquil city oases and country havens.
- 1. Inveraray Castle, Inveraray
- 2. Dunninald Castle and Gardens, Montrose
- 3. Johnston Gardens, Aberdeen
- 4. Gordon Castle Walled Garden, Fochabers
- 5. The Hidden Gardens, Glasgow
- 6. Dawyck Botanic Garden, Scottish Borders
1. Inveraray Castle, Inveraray
Home to the Dukes of Argyll, and the seat of Clan Campbell, Inveraray Castle is a turreted, fairytale castle with a fittingly grand garden. The 16 acre garden encompasses formal lawns, flowerbeds and woodlands.
Horticultural highlights: daffodils, rhododendrons, azaleas, heathers and roses.
Gardener’s tip: when you’re on the central path, stop and take a look around – the borders on either side are laid out like the Saltire, Scotland’s national flag.
Nearby gardens: Ardkinglas House & Gardens, Crarae Garden, Benmore Botanic Garden.
2. Dunninald Castle and Gardens, Montrose
Grab the chance to see one of Scotland’s lesser known gardens! Open on specific days in spring and summer, Dunninald Castle and Gardens is one of hundreds of locations which open for a limited time to raise money for charity as part of Scotland’s Gardens Scheme.
Horticultural highlights: roses, daffodils, bluebells, snowdrops.
Gardener’s tip: take a walk in the woods and you might spot a red squirrel!
Nearby gardens: Langley Park Gardens, Pitmuies Gardens, Brechin Castle Gardens.
3. Johnston Gardens, Aberdeen
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Scotland’s cities are home to stunning gardens too. Get away from it all at the Japanese-inspired Johnston Gardens in Aberdeen, where you can relax and unwind by trickling streams and flowing waterfalls.
Horticultural Highlights: rhododendrons, spring bulbs, heathers and alpines.
Gardener’s tip: the garden is a popular spot for wedding photos – smile!
Nearby gardens: David Welch Winter Gardens, Cruickshank Botanic Garden, Pitmedden Garden.
4. Gordon Castle Walled Garden, Fochabers
New life has been breathed into one of Britain’s largest and oldest walled gardens. Lovingly re-designed, Gordon Castle Walled Garden features a wealth of vegetables and herbs which are used in the café and products in the shop – including the botanical gin! There are also floral displays, a maze and a natural play area for children.
Horticultural highlights: perfume garden, nectar garden, lavender garden.
Gardener’s tip: The garden hosts events and workshops throughout the year, including theatrical performances in the purpose-build sunken performance area.
Nearby gardens: Haugh Gardens, Blackhills Garden, Ballindalloch Castle and Gardens.
5. The Hidden Gardens, Glasgow
This garden is on a mission to bring people together in Pollokshields, one of Scotland’s most diverse communities. Located in a former tram works, the Hidden Gardens have transformed the area into a peaceful haven that features both native and exotic plants, and intriguing artworks.
Horticultural Highlights: bamboos, rowans, magnolias, hazels.
Gardener’s tip: Join a Voluntour (a volunteer-led tour) to get the most out of your visit.
Nearby Gardens: Glasgow Botanic Gardens, People’s Palace & Winter Gardens, Pollok House.
6. Dawyck Botanic Garden, Scottish Borders
Open from February to the end of November, Dawyck Botanic Garden is a treat in any season. Garden terraces and woodland paths feature both native and exotic plants, with the Azalea Terrace, Dutch Bridge and Beech Walk being the garden’s most popular photo spots.
Horticultural highlights: snowdrops, daffodils, azaleas, rhododendrons, beech trees, Douglas firs.
Gardener’s tip: Did you know that Dawyck is a sister garden to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Logan Botanic Garden and Benmore Botanic Garden?
Nearby gardens: Kailzie Gardens, Traquair House, Priorwood Garden.
Discover more gardens to visit in Scotland.
From historic estates to botanic 19th century havens, Scotland has plenty of peaceful and beautiful gardens to explore
Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
The redwood avenure of Benmore Botanic Gardens
Princes Street Gardens has been photographed more times than anyone can count, with the foreboding Edinburgh Castle looming over it.
The gardens as we know it emerged in the 1820s after the loch that occupied the site was drained.
Originally a private garden, it was only open to the public at Christmas, New Year and one other day at the residents’ choosing. When the land was passed to the council in 1876, the gardens were open as a public park – much to the horror of Princes Street residents.
In 1846, after a long court battle, a railway line was placed through the park, under the condition that it not mar the area’s beauty.
The floral archway at Kailzie Gardens
Princes Street Gardens is notable for several monuments, including the Scott Monument, a prominent Gothic spire built in 1844 to honour Sir Walter Scott.
Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Glasgow
Though Glasgow isn’t short of green space – it’s not called the Dear Green Place for nothing – Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens remain one of the city’s most treasured spaces.
Originally open to the public at weekends, the gardens were opened in 1842 at their current site by the River Kelvin. (Sandyford was its initial home.) The park was originally intended to supply the nearby University of Glasgow.
Princes Street Gardens. Picture: Gordon Fraser
Now, they’re a peaceful place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, with wonderful riverside walks and a colourful array of exotic plants to admire. With its impressive greenhouses recently restored, it’s never looked better.
READ MORE: Following snowdrop trailer in Fife’s historic gardens
Benmore Botanic Garden, Benmore
Tucked between Dunoon and Lock Eck in Argyll, the gardens were originally a part of James Duncan’s in the late 19th century.
Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Picture: Robert Perry
Some of the trees in the park are over 150 years old; the parks themselves feature a waterfall, ponds, and walks which take you up the hillsides, offering stunning views of the Holy Loch.
The high rainfall and mild winters mean that more of the more unusual species of rhododendrons, magnolias and nothofagus are able to grow.
Many of the garden’s original plants were grown from seed collected by famous plantsmen such as Ernest Wilson and David Douglas from their travels to Asia and Pacific North America.
Kailzie Gardens, Peebles
The Walled Garden is part of the Kailzie Estate and dates back to the early 19th century. Surrounded by 18ft walls, the original gardens were grassed over during WWII, leaving way for a new design.
The semi-formal layout includes herbaceous borders, a rose garden and a wonderful display of plants in the Victorian greenhouses situated on the estate. A large sundial, designed by A. Adie in 1811, acts as the garden’s centrepiece.
The larch planted in the gardens is one of the oldest trees on the estate, dating back to 1725.
There are also several pairs of Ospreys nesting in the area, offering a good birdwatching opportunity.
READ MORE: Brodick Castle’s garden helps landmark dazzle whatever the weather
Drummond Castle Gardens
The original castle gardens were laid out in 1630 by John Drummond, second Earl of Perth. In 1830, the parterre – a formal surface levelled garden – was created in an Italian style. There is a multi-faceted sundial, designed by John Mylne, who was the Master Mason to Charles I.
While much of the garden was replanted in the 1950s, the remaining beech tree planted by Queen Victoria, commemorating her visit in 1842, still remains on the estate.
The garden’s have also been featured in the film “Rob Roy,” starring Liam Neeson, John Hurt and Tim Roth.
Attadale Gardens, Wester Ross
Attadale Gardens was built by Baron Schroder in the late 19th century, with hilly paths which wander through 20 acres of land.
In 1980, after bad storms damaged Attadale Gardens, owner Nicky Macpherson transformed it to frame the views of Skye and the surrounding hills. The garden now features waterfalls, Monet bridges, and sculptures lurking in unexpected locations.
A kitchen garden, a sunken fern garden and a Japanese garden can also be found in this tranquil setting, whose nooks and crannies young visitors often play hide-and-seek in.
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The layout and colours of Drummond Castle Gardens blaze with Scottish loyalty. Photo:
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Proving there are more ways to wave a flag than running one up a flagpole, a Saint Andrew’s Cross, flag of Scotland, marks the centre of this formal garden. In summer, the box-edged parterres are filled with roses and other flowers in red and yellow, the colours of the Drummond standard. Even when the flowers are gone, golden yew, burgundy beech and gold and ruby Japanese maples proclaim the Drummonds’ Scottish loyalty. Those maples are a deft touch, charmingly disrupting the garden’s symmetry. There’s whimsy, too, in the slightly wonky old clipped yews and hollies, which give the garden an unexpected sense of Alice in Wonderland fun. See drummondcastlegardens.co.uk
Sculpture gardens don’t always fulfil their promise: you get sculpture, sure, but it’s simply outside, rather than in a serious relationship with its gardened surroundings. Jupiter Artland, which houses the private collection of Nicky and Robert Wilson in the grounds of Bonnington House, just out of Edinburgh, is the real deal. From the arrival through the middle of one of Charles Jenks’ domineering landforms, the art and the garden, in varying degrees of wildness, are exhilaratingly in step. There’s also a great cafe, so plan to spend most of the day here. See jupiterartland.org
You can get light-headed just considering the whisky distillery options in Speyside, but there’s only one with a garden. Glen Grant founder James Grant was a keen plant collector whose elegant Victorian garden has been recently revitalised. Follow the stream from an orchard of heritage apples and cherries to an enclosed lawn surrounded by cliffs of spring-brilliant rhododendrons, then uphill over rustic bridges and past clear-running waterfalls to the cave where the Major kept a barrel of whisky to share with visiting friends. See glengrant.com
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On a sunny day, the view from the top of the garden over the water to the islands of Mull and Jura is pretty as a picture; on a blustery day it underlines the gritty determination of various generations of garden-makers, starting in 1898 with some-time diamond prospector Arthur Campbell. The garden retains much of Campbell’s original layout, and though now in the hands of the National Trust (tip: join the National Trust of Australia before going garden visiting in Britain for big savings on entry fees), retains a sense of the personal. Open vistas alternate with closed intimate spaces, and peaceful woodland walks lead off from more intensively gardened borders, lawns and ponds. It’s a beautiful place to lose yourself, so take snacks. See arduainegarden.org
Photo: Robin Powell
Pretty, sunny and snugly sheltered by surrounding cliffs, this garden on the tiny Isle of Seil, off the Argyll coast, makes the most of the Gulf Stream’s mild-mannered climate. Originally set out in 1932 in Arts and Crafts style and using copious quantities of the slate for which Seil is famous (it’s the most northerly of the slate islands which were said to have “roofed the world” in the 19th and early 20th centuries), the garden is open in spring and summer for Scotland’s Gardens Scheme. The top terraces look towards the islands of Easdale and Mull, and in the shelter of a slate wall at the bottom of the garden, blue-toned flower gardens and twin herbaceous borders frame pictures of the blue-trimmed, rose-adorned house. See gardens-of-argyll.co.uk
Photo: Andrew Lawson
By all accounts, poet Ian Hamilton Finlay was a difficult person, and his garden in Lanarkshire, 45 minutes from Edinburgh, is no easy stroll, either. Calm spaces created by artfully chosen and placed trees and cleverly worked water features are undercut by Finlay’s disturbing sculpture-poems. Take a second look at the finials on those brick pillars – they’re hand grenades. Finlay was interested in violence and revolution, quoted classical poets and French revolutionaries, and considered the move to disorder that is the underlying nature of a garden to be analogous to a state of revolution. Most garden visits leave you feeling calmer; this one is distinctly unsettling, and unmissable for that. See littlesparta.org.uk
Robin Powell travelled with assistance from Visit Scotland.
May 14 2019