Gardens, lochs and castles

Steph and I have been members of the National Trust since 2011, and so we took advantage of reciprocal membership to visit several National Trust for Scotland properties during our recent Highlands and Islands holiday.

Gardens always feature high on our list of National Trust “to do’s”. Steph’s the gardener at home however. I’m just the admirer and mow the grass. But when we found that we’d be quite close to one of Scotland’s most important gardens, Inverewe in Wester Ross, we made plans to visit before crossing to the Outer Hebrides. We came across the other big garden, Arduaine in Argyll & Bute, quite by chance. It was just a few miles from our accommodation on the penultimate night of the holiday. The third garden was attached to Brodie castle just east of Inverness that we visited on Day 3. We turned up at Brodie only to find that the castle was not open to the public on a Friday, so we spent an hour wandering around the small garden and learning more about daffodils! More of that later on.

Inverewe Garden
This is an oasis of almost tropical splendour on the banks of Loch Ewe in northwest Scotland, about 50 miles southwest of Ullapool.

We spent the night of Day 5 of our holiday at Braemore about 12 miles south of Ullapool at the southern end of Loch Broom.

Loch Broom from the south.

Loch Broom from the south.

Having booked passage on the 17:30 ferry to cross over to Stornaway on the Isle of Lewis from Ullapool, we had the whole day to visit Inverewe. The weather was not promising when we started out for Inverewe, with low cloud and spitting rain. Typical Scottish weather you might think. However, within just a few miles, the clouds lifted and we were treated to a bright sunny day for the rest of our journey and the two to three hours we spent walking around the garden before heading back to Ullapool for the ferry. Given that a major storm was expected later that evening, and as ferry crossings had been disrupted in previous days we did try to change our booking to the morning crossing at 10:30. No such luck as it was already fully booked. So we just went ahead with the plan we’d already made—and thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Inverewe Garden.

Scotland 373Opened in 1862, the garden was the brainchild of one Osgood Mackenzie who, having planted 100 acres of woodland to protect the garden, set about creating a sub-tropical paradise at almost 58°N, and nurtured by the warm waters of the North Atlantic Drift, full of exotic plant species.

Inverewe map

It was taken into ownership by the National Trust for Scotland in 1952. Inverewe is famous for its rhododendrons and azaleas (some of which were damaged in gales in early 2015, especially some very old and large specimens), and is laid out in informal blocks representing different parts of the world, such as China, Tibet, Japan, New Zealand and the like. There are even tree ferns and several specimens of the very rare Wollemi pine from Australia.

Arduaine Garden
Just 20 miles south of Oban beside the A816 (and 12 miles short of the village of Ford where we had a room booked) Arduaine Garden was a complete surprise. We originally passed it at about 17:30. It was already overcast, windy and drizzly, but we pulled in anyway to get our bearings and see when the garden was open. 09:00 to sunset! So we decide that if the weather was fine the following morning we would retrace our steps and spend a couple of hours there before re-retracing our steps to Ford, Loch Awe and on to Loch Lomond.

Scotland 877Established in 1898 by James Arthur Campbell on a peninsula jutting out into Loch Melfort (and with views from the headland all the way to the mountains on the Isle of Mull to the northwest), Arduaine lies at 56°N. It is full of rhododendrons and azaleas that were still in full bloom compared to what we had encountered at Inverewe. The garden was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1992.

Arduaine has a more intimate feel about it than Inverewe, and perhaps for that reason I enjoyed my visit here more than to Inverewe.

Scotland 869

Or was it because there were far fewer visitors at Arduaine? Afterall, we did arrive just a short while after garden opened and we had it almost to ourselves for the duration of our visit.

Brodie Castle
Lying just to the west of Forres on the north coast of Scotland, Brodie Castle has been home to generations of the Clan Brodie, and the last clan chief lived there until 2003.

Scotland 065

The castle was built in the 16th century. Major Ian Brodie, the 24th Brodie of Brodie, began assembling a collection and breeding daffodils in 1899, and eventually there were more than 400 different varieties grown. Some have been lost, but the National Trust for Scotland is attempting to re-establish this important collection. I never knew there was so much to daffodils.

Fàilte gu Alba – expansive landscapes and big skies

During our recent tour of Scotland’s Highlands and Islands we traveled from Fife (where we had stopped the first night after traveling up from the English Midlands) up through Perthshire and Aberdeenshire, Speyside and the north coast and over to Inverness. From there we worked our way up the northeast coast to John o’ Groats and across the top of Scotland and down through Sutherland. We crossed over to the Outer Hebrides (Lewis, Harris, North and South Uist, Benbecula, and Eriskay) from Ullapool, then came back to the mainland via Skye. From there, via the Kyle of Lochalsh, we traveled down the west coast to Argyll & Bute, and over to Loch Lomond on our last day.

I took over 1000 photos on my Nikon D5000. On many occasions I felt I could only do justice to the landscapes we saw by taking a panorama of individual shots and combining them into stitches. The result for some is more than acceptable. For others, the blending between the individual frames is not even, but they nevertheless allow you to appreciate the beauty of these outstanding Scottish landscapes. Click on each of the photo below to open a full size version. I hope you enjoy these photos as much I did taking and editing them.

A939 towards Ladder Hills

Taken from the A920 between Huntly and Dufftown, looking southwest.

1746 Culloden battlefield, east of Inverness.

The last battle fought on British soil was fought at Culloden (just east of Inverness) 0n 16 April 1746, when the Jacobite forces of Bonnie Prince Charlie were defeated by the Hanoverian ‘Butcher Cumberland’.

This bridge, west of Inverness, carries the A( across the Moray Firth into Ross and Cromarty

This bridge, west of Inverness, carries the A9 across the Moray Firth on to the Black Isle of Ross and Cromarty. Taken from North Kessock on the north shore, looking east.

Dunnett Head looking eastwards Thurso

From Dunnet Head – the most northerly point in mainland Britain – looking east towards Thurso and John o’ Groats.

On A836 westwards

On the A836 westwards from Thurso.


At Coldbackie, near the Kyle of Tongue, on the A836.

Kyle of Tongue

Crossing the causeway at the Kyle of Tongue on the A838, west of Thurso.

Loch Eriboll

Loch Eriboll, on the A838, looking southwest from near the mouth of this sea loch on the north coast of Scotland just east of Durness.

Nr Rhiconich

Looking westwards along Loch Inchard, near Rhiconich on the A838 in northwest Sutherland.

Above Laxford Bridge

Loch Laxford, on the A838 in northwest Sutherland.

Laxford Bridge

Approaching Laxford Bridge, looking southwest , on the A838.

Above Loch a' Chairn Bhain

Loch a’ Chairn Bhain, on the B869 heading west after Unapool.

Towards Drumbeg

Near Drumbeg, on the B869, heading west.

Drumbeg Viewpoint

Drumbeg viewpoint, on the B869.

South on A837 Lochinver to Loch Assynt

Heading east on the A837 between Lochinver and the junction with the A894.


At Strathcanaird on the A835, looking west towards Ben More Coigach, Stac Pollaidh and Cul Mor.

Towards Inverewe

Little Loch Broom on the A832 towards Inverewe (from Ullapool).

Gruinard Bay

Gruinard Bay along the A832 towards Inverewe Garden.

Near Inverewe

Looking north across Gruinard Bay (on the A832) to the mountains of the Coigach beyond Ullapool.

Inverewe foreshore

The foreshore at Inverewe Garden, looking south at the southern end of Loch Ewe.

Inverewe walled garden

The walled garden at Inverewe and the southern end of Loch Ewe.

Lewis landscape north of Stornaway

The landscape of Lewis north of Stornaway.

Butt of Lewis

The Butt of Lewis, almost 59°N. Next stop: North America. Cliffs covered with fulmars, shags, and kittiwakes. And sea pinks, of course.

South Harris

The mountains of South Harris.

Sound of Harris

Crossing the Sound of Harris (with Harris on the horizon) to Berneray and North Uist.

Road to Lochmaddy North Uist

On the A865 heading east towards Lochmaddy from Bayhead in North Uist.

North Uist towards Lochmaddy

Looking southeast over North Uist with the mountain Eaval near Lochmaddy on the left, and the mountains on the right in the distance on South Uist.

Mtns of South Uist

The mountains of South Uist (looking east) with Ben Mhor on the right.

Machair and mountains at Garrynamonie South Uist

Machair and mountains at Garrynamonie, South Uist (looking east).

Machair at Mhalacleit

Machair at Mhalacleit, South Uist.

Ben Mhor - South Uist

Ben Mhor on South Uist, looking west from Loch Eyenort.


Houses on Eriskay, looking southwest towards Barra.


The hills of north Skye looking south towards Staffin.

The Cuillins from the west

The Cuillins of Skye, looking southeast along the A863 near Drynoch.

Eilean Donan Castle

Looking southwest along Loch Long at Conchra (near Dornie on the A87) towards Eilean Donan castle.

Loch Awe

Looking northeast from the southern end of Loch Awe in Argyll & Bute towards the mountains of Glencoe.

Loch Lomond

Looking north along Loch Lomond at Inverbeg.

In due course, I’ll be adding more photos to individual posts I am drafting about particular places we visited on our 2,260 mile trip.