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Explore Scotland’s enchanting island gardens

April 5th 2023

SCOTLAND is surrounded by islands, each with their own individual character, and scattered amongst them are a collection of astonishing gardens, some basking in the mild climate of the Gulf Stream, others exposed to the full force of the Atlantic.

Despite salt-laden winds and often upon rocky ground with little fertile soil, intrepid gardeners have used native species and plants from as far apart as New Zealand and Chile to create a series of memorable gardens.

A number of these beautiful gardens are located in remote splendour, others can be reached on a day out from Glasgow, but each is worth visiting and this spring, gardens network Discover Scottish Gardens is urging all of us to get out and explore them while the dramatic displays of rhododendrons, for which many of them are famous, are at their very best.

Find out more about all of these gardens, including opening times, travel directions and visitor facilities by visiting


The Isle of Skye doesn’t disappoint when it comes to  romantic castles surrounded by enchanted landscapes and, Dunvegan Castle, set on a rocky outcrop at the head of a deep sea loch, has a restored walled garden, a water garden with pools and waterfalls and a hilltop viewpoint over a round garden and the dramatic outline of the castle.

Armadale Castle on the Sleat peninsula has 40 acres of woodland to explore, with exotic trees, four miles of nature trails and prairie-style plantings around the Clan Donald Centre.


When you live off the beaten track it makes sense to be as self-sufficient as possible and Raasay Walled Garden, which can be reached via a 25-minute ferry journey from Skye, is a community project and provide produce for the community from their Veg Shack, located at the entrance to the garden. The soil is fertilised by seaweed from the nearby beaches.


Set between the Mull of Kintyre and Islay, Gigha is the southernmost island in the Inner Hebrides. Achamore Gardens were established here in the 1940s ago using many plants from the southern Hemisphere, as well as a unique collection of rhododendrons and camellias. These all flourished in the island’s exceptionally mild climate but gradually the gardens became overgrown and neglected. Since 2020, however, the Trust that owns Gigha has appointed a head gardener and now the 54 acres are being restored.


The largest island in the Firth of Clyde boasts pristine beaches and stunning scenery and it’s only town, Rothesay, is home to Ardencraig, where each year gardeners from Argyll and Bute Council create one of the best displays of massed bedding plants to be found anywhere in Scotland.

At the southern end of Bute lies Mount Stuart, an astonishing Victorian mansion surrounded by 200 acres of manicured gardens, mature woodland, extensive rock gardens, a huge walled kitchen garden and a recently-restored ‘Calvary Garden’, with ponds, cascading waterfalls and wildflower plantings.


A tiny bridge over the Atlantic takes visitors from the mainland of Argyll to the small island of Seil, where An Cala, which was designed by renowned garden specialist Thomas Mawson in the 1930s, has been beautifully restored. In spring the ‘Mt Fuji’ white cherries open along the terrace, followed by azaleas and rhododendrons while perennials and Poulson roses fill the garden with a froth of colour all summer-long.


From the grounds of Brodick Castle, trails lead upwards to the top of Goat Fell, Arran’s tallest peak. This is a garden where horticulture at its highest level merges with the wildness of one of Scotland’s most iconic islands. There are 80 planted acres to explore, including many tender plants, and the rhododendron displays are some of the finest in the country.


At just four and a half miles long and one mile wide, Canna is a small island, but it was home to giants of the Gaelic culture, John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw, and their home, Canna House, which they gifted to the National Trust for Scotland, is the only garden where visitors arrive through an Escallonia tunnel. Fruit trees are grown here, along with vegetables for the local community, while the Machair grass, which flowers on the nearby beaches in early summer, is one of the rarest habitats in the world.


Set on a steep hillside, overlooking Ulva and the Treshnish Isles, Lip na Cloiche Garden and Nursery is a treasure-trove of lush and hardy plants that thrive in this exposed position. Set amongst them are driftwood sculptures, with decorative plant labels made from sea shells and the picture-perfect scene is completed by the White-tailed sea eagles that at times can be spotted overhead.


Greens Garden near Kirkwall is a recently-developed garden that is being planted up with bulbs, shrubs and perennials that can cope with exposure to the sea and to the high winds that scour the island. A surprising array of plants now flourish here, with new varieties being added all the time.

Waulkmill is a three-acre garden overlooking the sands of Waulkmill Bay. Created over the last 15 years amidst bog and heathland, the garden sits alongside Hobbister Bird reserve. The native, wild, naturalistic-style planting includes hardy plants for the windy plot and Orkney native shrubs and trees.  A dipping pond, long borders and perennial planting are designed to take in the spectacular views over Scapa Flow. The St Magnus Way cuts through the land and a sculpture garden is currently under development.