Garden of the Season – Raasay Walled GardenAugust 3rd 2022
Why Should We Visit?
The walled garden on Raasay is a triumph of community action. Neglected for years, it has been brought back to life by the tireless work of a group of locals who have turned it into a thriving hub for Raasay’s 180 residents. With help from the Climate Challenge Fund they have installed three polytunnels and now raise fruit and vegetables, using these for weekly veg boxes and selling the surplus on a stall at the gate.
A dedicated team of volunteers assist a part-time gardener to keep the gardens productive and the flowers are foraged by bees for local honey.
Some of the produce from the garden ends up in the restaurant of the Grade A listed Raasay House Hotel, which is also the base for an outdoor activity centre.
Story of the Garden
The first mention of Raasay Walled Garden appeared in 1549 and in 1695 it was reported that there was an “orchard with several sorts of berries, pot herbs etc.”
When Boswell visited in 1773 he described a garden that was “well stocked with kitchen stuff, gooseberries, raspberries, currants, strawberries, apple-trees”' with “a tolerable southern wall on which fruit trees have been tried, but have been neglected”.
At some time in the late 1800s a run of Mackenzie and Moncur hothouses was added to the north wall, but these have fallen into disrepair and the community is waiting on Listed Building Consent to allow the remains of these to be removed and new greenhouses to be built. They are also hoping that a grapevine, which still survives, can be saved and returned to production.
The highly-productive polytunnels are filled with ripening fruit and vegetables ready to be picked for weekly veg boxes that are distributed across the island. The tunnels allow cultivation to continue almost year-round, protecting crops and gardeners from high winds.
Outdoors, artichokes, asparagus and echiums grow in the protected environment of the 1.4 acre garden
Alongside the polytunnels there are a number of community plots. During its early years, a metre of Irish topsoil was imported for the walled garden, so it has deep and productive soil. However most of the rest of the island is covered in just a thin layer of soil over rock, so space for individual growing has been created within the walled garden. There is also an orchard of fruit trees, many of which have been sponsored by people with connections to the island.
Anything Else to Look Out For
Look upwards from the walled garden and you might spot a golden eagle or a white-tailed sea eagle. Raasay is home to more than 60 species of birds, including pied flycatchers, tawny oils and redstarts, while seals and otters can be seen in the waters around the island
Best Time to Visit:
Summer is a special time on Raasay, when daylight hours stretch long into the evening and wild flowers grow along the roadsides. Part of the island is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and its geology is remarkable, with both the oldest and the youngest rocks in Scotland.
Any Recommendations in the Area
Raasay House Hotel’s activity centre offers a full programme of outdoor events, including archery, sailing, rock climbing and kayaking. It can also organise boat trips to explore the seas around the island and it hires out bikes so that visitors can see the landscape under their own steam.
Raasay is a 15-minute ferry journey from Sconser on the east coast of Skye.
The garden is open daily.
Courtesy of The Herald