Crarae in Autumn

I hadn’t seen the sea or the hills for too long. I had a daughter at home, so we took a short road trip to my favourite part of Scotland, and to my favourite garden. We also aimed to eat a lot of seafood.

On a good day, such as today, Argyll looks like this.On bad days, such as yesterday, it looks very different. I didn’t take any pictures yesterday, because all you would see would be rain, and grey, wind-tossed seas.

Argyll is a maze of sea-lochs and peninsulas, and it is all washed by the Gulf Stream, so is virtually frost free. This, the acid soil, and the extremely high rainfall mean that anywhere there is shelter, you can grow Himalayan and Chilean plants and trees – rhododendrons in particular – which flourish more readily than virtually anywhere else outside their own environments.

There are six wonderful gardens regularly open to the public in this area. I’ve marked them on a map here. But my favourite by far is Crarae.Not for nothing is it called the closest thing to a Himalayan gorge in Scotland. Both sides of the glen through which this burn tumbles are clad in rhododendron, magnolia and acer species, while exotic confers grow like weeds behind them. What wouldn’t I give to garden here!  Of course, at this time of year there’s no flower colour. But this draws the eyes to leaves, barks and shapes:Crarae dates back to 1912. Lady Campbell, who originally planted it up, was the aunt of Reginald Farrer, the plant collector. So she was well plugged into to the network of people who were growing stuff brought back from China and even further afield. Crarae went through some tough financial times about ten years ago, but luckily was saved, and is now run by the National Trust for Scotland. Details here.

13 thoughts on “Crarae in Autumn

  1. Crarae.looks like a very special place to visit, your photos are stunning on such a great day. Very little frost in this part of the world, always reminds me of the Yorkshire gardener Geoffrey Smith who often said he envied gardeners in the West coast of Scotland for the growing conditions which they had. Thank you for adding my site to your list of favourite garden blogs.

  2. The stone bridge is spectacular, more so for the barren hills beyond. Amazing how the ocean current warms this beautiful area. I do wonder how rivers came to be called burns, seems a contradiction.

    • Yes, it would be under deep snow at this latitude in most places! That bridge is probably photographed a hundred times a day, yet I’m (just about) old enough to remember it when it carried the main and only road to Kintyre. As for burn – Mr Wiki tells me ” The word originally came from the Northumbrian (i.e. Ynglis) dialect of Old English into the Scots language, Scottish English and Geordie. A cognate in German is “Born” (contemp. “Brunnen”), meaning ‘well’, ‘spring’ or ‘source’.” So I guess that explains it.

    • It wasn’t quite as good as I’d been hoping – mostly because they had obviously had wind, so most of the acer leaves were down. But the rhododendron bark really shows up well.

  3. I spent some long minutes watching the maps you marked… Scotland is beautiful and I should pay it a visit asap. You took some very good pics, especially the eucalyptus little forest.

  4. We lived on the isles to the west for years (Coll say and is lay) then decanted to ardkinglss woodland for two, before moving to Edinburgh. The children sploshed around every argyll garden withou much moaning. Giant rhoddys make great playgrounds. I love argylll but the wet affected by daughters Heath, so miss it though x

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