Garden of the Season – Castle Kennedy GardensJune 30th 2023
If you have lots of land at your disposal, then you might as well take a grand approach to garden making. That’s what the 2nd Earl of Stair did in the 1730s when he commissioned the men and horses of the Royal Scots Greys and the Inniskilling Fusiliers to shape the landscape around Castle Kennedy into his vision of perfection. The Earl had been an ambassador at the French Court at Versailles, so he knew about scale and he also had the natural advantage of a spectacular setting.
The gardens that he created cover the 75 acres of a narrow isthmus of land between the White Loch and Loch Crindl, which themselves are just a stone’s throw from Loch Ryan near Stranraer. At one end of the gardens are the decorative ruins of Castle Kennedy, while at the other stands Lochinch Castle, which is home today to the current Earl of Stair and his family.
That new castle gave its name in the 1940s to Buddleia ‘Lochinch’, which emerged as a chance seedling in the gardens and which has gone on to be one of the best plants of its kind, awarded a Royal Horticultural Society award of merit and sold extensively by nurseries and garden centres.
Castle Kennedy is renowned for its trees, which include 20 Champions - amongst them the largest Rhododendron arboretum in the UK and a magnificent Southern Beech.
Eight single-species avenues stride across the landscape, including avenues of monkey puzzle trees and the Monterey cyprus.
Everything here grows to huge proportions, thanks to the mild climate of Scotland’s south west and there are spectacular stands of towering rhododendrons and fully-grown camellias.
In June the tubular scarlet flowers of a gigantic Embothrium coccineum from Chile make an arresting sight, as does the two-acre circular lily pond where the water lilies are now in flower.
The walled garden has been given over to flowers and in summer its beds and borders are filled with the colour and scent of thousands of blooms, while a striking feature of the gardens are the huge landforms, constructed at the behest of the 2nd Earl and, almost three hundred years after they were first created, still surprisingly contemporary in appearance.
This is a garden that you can lose yourself in for hours, and with a tea room and plant centre it has enough to keep visitors busy for a full day.
Castle Kennedy will be holding a series of garden walks throughout the summer, giving visitors a more detailed view of its landforms and borders. On 13 July Back Door Open Theatre will stage David Walliam’s ‘Bad Dad’ in the garden, while on Sunday 23 July KG Hawks will be on site with birds of prey.
The south west of Scotland is home to some of the best gardens in the country and many of these will be holding events over the holiday season. In Alloway near Ayr on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 July there will be a celebration of 200 years of the Burns Monument, with songs and poetry in the garden, birds of prey, garden tours and seed planting with head gardener Luke Sargent.
Meanwhile, Logan Botanic Garden near Port Logan will be holding regular guided walks and children’s activities and on Thursday, 13 July, Drum for Fun - Stranraer’s African drumming group - will be making a big noise in the garden.
The gardens, tea room and plant centre are open daily, 10am - 5pm.
Tickets: £7/£6.50/£2.50. There is free entry for disabled visitors and under-3s.
The entrance to the gardens is on the A75, five miles east of Stranraer.
Tel: 01776 702024
Courtesy of The Herald.