Making a welcome return to our collection of Scottish garden tours, the Highland and Island Gardens tour is for lovers of the great Asiatic shrubs – rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias – which thrive so well in the gentle climate of Scotland’s western seaboard. In May and June these flowering shrubs turn peaceful gardens into a riot of colour, and alongside the subtle greens from native birch, oak and pine combine to form a wonderful natural tapestry.
On the Isle of Bute we visit two wonderful horticultural sites – one small, one enormous! Ascog Fernery was recently restored and is the only one of its type. Mount Stuart is one of the largest, most spectacular High Victorian Gothic houses in Britain and a real treasure trove for the garden enthusiast. We also visit Gigha, a gem of an island, where Sir James Horlick (of bedtime drink fame) created his marvellous woodland garden at Achamore.
Other grand gardens include Arduaine at Loch Melfort, the quaint private garden of An Cala on the Isle of Seil, Crarae Gardens with its great collection of Asiatic shrubs, and Benmore Botanic Gardens, near Dunoon.
Highland and Island Gardens Highlights
- The sumptuous interiors of Mount Stuart
- Unique Victorian fernery at Ascog
- Peace and tranquility on the island of Gigha
- Exotic plants and stunning views at Arduaine
- Rhododendrons of every size, shape and colour
- Return coach travel from Iverurie, Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, Kinross, Dunfermline, Edinburgh or Glasgow
- 3 nights’ hotel accommodation with dinner, bed & breakfast – staying at the Best Western Inveraray Inn, Loch Fyne
- Enjoy a visit to the house and gardens of Mount Stuart, Achmore Gardens on the small island of Gigha, the National Trust for Scotland’s garden at Arduaine and finally, the Benmore Botanic Gardens
- Comfortable coach travel and all ferry crossings
- Services of a professional tour manager
Single room supplement, if rooms available. Offer is subject to availability.
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We depart from our designated pick-up points and head for Wemyss Bay where we will catch the lunchtime ferry to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. Our first visit will be to the spectacular house and gardens of Mount Stuart, which is one of the largest, most spectacular High Victorian Gothic houses in Britain and yet one of the least known. The gardens were only opened to the general public for the first time in June 1995. These 300 acres of stunning woodlands and gardens are a real treasure trove for the garden enthusiast. The temperate effect of the Gulf Stream on Bute ensures that there are always many exotic plants, palm trees and Mediterranean blooms to be seen here. There is a pavilion glasshouse in the grounds which nurtures rare species from the tropical rain forests of south-east Asia while native British plants thrive in the fertile soils and mild climate.
Thereafter we will visit Ascog Hall Fernery. In the secluded and long neglected gardens of Ascog Hall a sunken fernery with beautiful rock work and water pools was found. Even in its dilapidated state the potential was spotted and it has now been carefully refurbished with an impressive collection of ferns researched by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Open to the public only recently after a change of ownership this unique fern house is a joy to behold. It offers a rare opportunity to glimpse a bygone era and is a tribute to the imagination and ingenuity of Alexander Bannatyne Stuart, a former owner of Ascog Hall in Victorian times, whose passion for collecting exotic ferns inspired him in his endeavour to replicate a tiny fragment of sub-tropical jungle on a small Scottish island.
Later we catch the ferry from Rhubodach to Colintraive and continue to our accommodation at the Best Western Inveraray Inn on the shores of upper Loch Fyne. Dinner is served in the evening.
This morning following our full Scottish breakfast we will depart from our hotel in time to catch the late morning ferry to Gigha. Gigha is a small and beautiful island lying just off the Kintyre peninsula. Here, Sir James Horlick (of bedtime drink fame) came in 1944 and started to make a woodland garden. His new plantings were protected by evergreens and old broad-leaved trees. At Achamore Gardens rhododendrons reign supreme, constituting one of the best collections in Scotland. Although there is an element of faded glory here, efforts are being made to restore the garden to prime condition. Please proceed to the comfortable Gigha Hotel immediately after leaving the ferry in Gigha where lunch facilities will be available (not included). We will return to the mainland on the late afternoon ferry and continue to our hotel, where dinner is served in the evening.
This morning we will visit the National Trust for Scotland’s garden at Arduaine. The garden here was started in 1897 by James Arthur Campbell, a tea planter, and a friend of Osgood MacKenzie, the maker of Inverewe. It is a splendid site, full of the most magnificent plants. It is most rewarding to keep going to the viewpoint which gives an exquisite panorama of the calm waters of Loch Melfort below.
Our afternoon visit will be to the small and private garden of An Cala on the Isle of Seil. This is a quaint garden very much on a domestic scale, which relies for its impact on its situation looking out to the sea with the islands of Luing, Scarba, Mull and the Garvellachs in the distance.
Dinner is served back at our hotel in the evening.
This morning we will check out of the hotel and visit Crarae Gardens, recently rescued by the National Trust for Scotland. Crarae has a marvellous site in a precipitous glen on the north west bank of Loch Fyne. At the very centre of it lies the glen, a romantic wooded ravine, stuffed like a good plum pudding with plenty of rich fruit; the great Asiatic flowering shrubs – azaleas, camellias and magnolias.
Our last visit is to Benmore Botanic Gardens, the country annexe of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. You are free to explore this splendid garden, with its magnificent mountain backdrop. The garden has a history dating from the 1820s with the first plantings of conifers, and today, superb old specimens of Douglas fir, larch, Scots pine and a magnificent avenue of Wellingtonias make a wonderful background to later collections of rhododendrons, shrubs and trees.
We continue to Dunoon to catch the ferry to Gourock before continuing to our original pick-up point where we will arrive in the evening.