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.