People associate Scotland with cold, harsh conditions, but time and time again as we meander down the west coast that preconception is blown out of the window. The mild climate brought about by the North Atlantic Drift allows surprising plants to flourish, as can be seen in a series of exotic gardens on the west coast. Ardmaddy Castle rises up on a conical piece of ground. The original tower house was built in the late 1400s by the McDougals, then in 1648 the castle passed into the hands of the Campbell family, and remained in their ownership until 1933. The castle presides over a formal walled garden with fabulous views of the islands. The plants grown here include rhododendrons, azaleas and climbing plants, interesting vegetables and cane fruits. There is plenty of interest all year round, from the autumn colours to the spring bulbs and bluebell woods, with additional features including water gardens and a "clock garden".
Further down the coast is another spectacular example of the influence of the North Atlantic Drift in the form of Arduaine Garden. The 20-acre garden juts out onto a promontory in Loch Melfort. The day we visited was a wonderful sunny April day, and on our way round we found a bench in a lovely quiet spot with wonderful views over the loch. The garden was started in 1898, and in 1971 it was taken over by a pair of Essex nurserymen, who passed it to the National Trust for Scotland in 1992. As well as rhododendrons, azaleas and such like, the garden offers trees and shrubs, some over 100 years old, towering over the glen where visitors make their way, agog at the beauty around them. Lower down are the ferns, primulas and numerous other plants following the watercourses and fringing the lawns.
Map of the area.
© 2009 Paul Farmer, via Wikimedia Commons