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July 18th 2018

Kilbryde Castle, hosting Discover Scottish Gardens AGM 26 September 2018.

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” Alfred Austin, Author.

Most gardening enthusiasts will relate to this passion shared by our former Poet Laureate. Certainly it is a sentiment shared by Sir James Campbell and his wife Carola who lovingly tend to their gardens at Kilbryde Castle, their home for 22 years where they have raised three children to share their love of the Scottish countryside and gardening.

The Campbell family employed a full-time gardener from 1965 until his recent retirement but they now embrace a much more innovative method of gardening support. Each year, they are joined by a team of volunteers known as WWOOFers to help them tackle the never-ending task of keeping Kilbryde’s acres looking fit for a king. Or a wedding, or a lunch party, or public gardening events and even outdoor plays – Twelfth Night will take place in July this year in the castle grounds.

WWOOF is a worldwide movement linking volunteers with organic farmers and country estates to promote cultural and educational experiences. In return for their time, WWOOFers receive food, board and lodgings and, of course, the chance to meet like-minded people.

Carola loves welcoming these volunteers into her home and has some very fond memories of the characters she has met over the years. Many of whom return year after year. Together they have created some stunning features in the grounds of Kilbryde Castle including rustic steps made from fallen timber and unearthed some hidden treasures, such as Victorian garden features. Carola loves the fact that her garden unveils surprises every day. It’s a big part of her love affair with the garden.

Carola loves springtime for this very same reason. She says “Every day is a floral revelation after the dark, wet winter.” She particularly loves the arrival of her snake’s head fritillary and is currently growing a collection of her favourite birch trees to add to the drama of the gardens.

Over the last few years, Carola has introduced a more informal look to the castle gardens with the assistance of a landscape architect and also invites groups of gardening enthusiasts to share their horticultural inspiration over a spot of lunch. The outcome is that they have simplified the overall look and feel of the grounds by extending the wild flower meadow, reducing the number of formal flower beds and are introducing more native trees to pay homage to the surrounding rural landscape.

The upkeep of Kilbryde is not without its challenges, namely the extreme Scottish weather and the limitations presented by the natural moat which surrounds the castle which inhibits the use of machinery. Plus of course the curious and hungry local deer who like to visit from time to time.

Although Carola finds herself gardening most days, alongside arranging weddings, parties, plays and hosting gardening events, she still finds time to enjoy a spot of hill walking, relaxing with Gardener’s World and skiing with friends. Carola also loves visiting nearby Drummond Castle to appreciate the pristine, manicured gardens which contrast to the natural, mature vista found at Kilbryde.

Now retired from his role at Lycetts, Sir James Campbell will have more time to dedicate to the beloved garden passed on to him by his parents Sir Colin and Lady Campbell who were equally passionate about the magnificent Kilbryde gardens which they regularly opened to the public. Clearly gardening is a shared passion that has been passed from generation to generation. A passion that everyone can savour and enjoy thanks to the hospitality of Sir James and Lady Campbell.

Lycetts is a proud sponsor of Discover Scottish Gardens and we are delighted to be attending Kilbryde Castle this summer.  We would be delighted to meet you as you take in the breath-taking surrounds of this magnificent family home and garden.