Our Best of Ayrshire Gardens holiday by coach demonstrates there are a host of fine gardens to be discovered in this green and fertile county.
We visit grand properties such as Culzean Castle and Dumfries House, complemented by smaller, privately owned gardens. These include Burnside, with its wide range of plants; Carnell, where a traditional walled garden is backed by a 100-yard-long herbaceous border, and Barnweil, where a splendid garden has been created despite the challenges of soil and aspect. Further highlights include Blair House, a lovingly restored ‘sleeping beauty’; masses of colour at Auchlochan Walled Garden and Holmes Farm Nursery for a souvenir of our visit to Ayrshire.
We also offer the opportunity to visit the wonderful island of Arran, with visits to the private garden of Dougarie as well as to Brodick Castle with its woodland and walled gardens.
Best of Ayrshire Gardens Holiday Highlights:
- Architectural splendours and picturesque landscapes at Culzean Castle
- Special access to private gardens
- Traditional walled garden at Carnell
- Guided tours of house and garden at magnificent Dumfries House
- Optional excursion across the Firth of Clyde to Arran
- Return coach travel available from Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, Kinross, Dunfermline, Edinburgh and Glasgow
- 3 nights’ hotel accommodation with dinner, bed and breakfast – staying at the The Carlton Hotel, Prestwick
- Services of a professional tour manager
Single supplements apply. Offer is subject to availability.
Best of Ayrshire Gardens Itinerary
We depart by coach this morning from our designated pickup points and travel down the Ayrshire coast to our first visit, Culzean Castle, which stands on the brink of 150ft cliffs that drop sheer into the Firth of Clyde. Regarded by many as one of the finest examples of the architect’s art in Scotland. Today the castle forms the focal point of Culzean Country Park, Culzean Castle and Country Park together comprise one of the most popular visitor destinations in Scotland, and one of the most rewarding and varied. The origins of Culzean Castle (which is pronounced cull-ane) probably date back to the late 1300s with the building here of a stone tower house. This was referred to in the 1400s as the House of Cove or Coif Castle, both thought to be references to the caves in the cliffs below the castle. Culzean was designated as Scotland’s first country park in 1969. Their aim for the surrounding landscape was to create a picturesque and dramatic setting for the castle: and without a shadow of a doubt, they succeeded.
Later in the afternoon, we will make our way to our next garden visit Burnside at Drongan. This six and a half acre garden was started in 2006. There is a wide range of plants from trees to alpines. Features include a 200-yard woodland border along the burn, herbaceous beds, screes, an ericaceous garden, three alpine houses, a collection of alpine troughs and a pond. The informal arboretum is underplanted with groups of daffodils, camassia and fritillaries. There is also an extensive collection of pelargoniums and streptocarpus.
We continue to our comfortable accommodation.
After breakfast, we will depart for our first visit of the day, Carnell Garden. This lovely ten-acre garden has featured in Beechgrove Garden, Country Life, The Good Gardens Guide and in Suki Urquhart’s book The Scottish Gardener. This well- known traditional walled garden is backed by a 100-yard long herbaceous border, facing a rock and water garden with gazebo and Burmese statues. Lawns, mature hedges, specimen trees and the Lime Avenue planted to commemorate the Battle of Dettingen in 1743, enhance the setting overlooked by the Peel Tower.
We move on to Barnweil Garden. Begun in 1972 this garden has evolved and developed ever since. With pure clay soil and being on the north side of the hill are two of the challenges and wind has also been a problem, but solved by planting beech hedging and shelter belts. The lawn on the south side of the early 19th Century house is enclosed by herbaceous borders, giving way to shrub roses and then the woodland garden where the golden borders and a planting of meconopsis and Primula japonica ‘postford white’ are two of the sights amongst azaleas and species and hybrid rhododendrons (seen at their best on the May departure). The north side has formal borders framing the view from the house to Craigie Castle and (on a clear day) Ben Lomond, with modern shrub rose borders on each side being a recent addition.
We travel a short distance to Blair House, a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ of a garden which is being lovingly restored. There is an atmosphere of a grand 19th century park with masses of changes in mood: sweeping vistas, magnificent trees, shady promenades, and secret groves – everything that is typical of the period. Walks on the estate will include access to the private gardens.
Our final visit of the afternoon is Holmes Farm Nursery, a true plantsman’s garden created by a confirmed plantaholic. An ever-evolving selection of perennials, bulbs, alpines and shrubs. Meandering paths guide the eye through plantings predominantly herbaceous, with small trees and shrubs. There is a plant nursery with a wide selection of plant treasures from the garden and a gift shop and gallery, so plenty of options for a souvenir of your holiday.
We will then return to the hotel.
oday is free to relax in the hotel or explore the surrounding area. Alternatively, join our optional excursion to the Isle of Arran, part of the administrative region of North Ayrshire. From Ardrossan we take the ferry to Brodick and cross to the west side of the island where we visit the private garden at Dougarie. This attractive terraced garden is set around a castellated folly, with shrubs, herbaceous borders and a traditional kitchen garden.
Returning to the east coast we visit Brodick Castle and Gardens. The Castle occupies a splendid position, well protected from westerly winds and looking east across the Firth of Clyde. The present garden dates from 1932 when the Duchess of Montrose started an ambitious woodland garden with a collection of rhododendrons. From the castle, paths wind downhill towards the seashore, and in a shady place there is a fernery and a delightful Bavarian summer house embellished with rustic work and lovely inlaid panels of pinecones. A walled garden, dating from 1710, has been restored and mixed borders on three sides retain the gardener’s interest throughout the year.
We will then take the ferry back to Ardrossan and return to our hotel.
After breakfast, we depart for a visit at Dumfries House, near Cumnock in Ayrshire. Its stunning interiors are home to a world-class collection of furniture by Thomas Chippendale and many late 18th century cabinet makers, which recently featured on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. We are able to make the most of those interiors on our grand tour of the house, followed by tea and shortbread. We will then tour the grounds, including the Queen Elizabeth Walled Garden, which is one of the best examples of its kind in Scotland and in many ways the flagship of the restoration project. You may also wish to venture into the intriguing yew hedge maze and see if you can reach the Japanese pagoda at its centre – and then find your way out again!
Our final visit is to Auchlochan Walled Garden, near Lesmahagow. Created at the turn of the century as a kitchen garden to service Auchlochan House, the garden, which is located within 50 acres of landscaped parkland and small lochan, has evolved over the years and now has interesting mixed planting, within a traditional framework. Around every corner is a mass of colour with lots of lovely shaded seating areas from which to appreciate the wide variety of plants on offer. Adjacent to the garden is a large lily pond offering picturesque views of the terraces beyond.
Following our visit we return to our original departure points.