By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 25th May 2018

Gardens of the NC500

“The gardens scattered along the NC500 are truly memorable in many different ways; in every case they enjoy spectacular positions and provide positive proof that gardens can flourish right up in the very North of Scotland. The rarity of these glorious gardens only serves to emphasise the many challenges gardeners face in this part of the world.

The Gulf Stream benefits the gardens on the West Coast so that when snow and frost comes, it seldom continues for long. Thus plants from much more sheltered, warmer climes can flourish here in the Highlands. Equally on the East and North Coast there are some splendid and equally long-established gardens, which also offer a wonderful chance to enjoy the special atmosphere where a unique garden has been created in a sheltered position.

They are not so numerous so all the more valuable for that.” Joanna, Attadale Gardens

Bursting with flora and fauna, soak up the fresh Highland air with a stroll or picnic in our favourite gardens. We spoke to the businesses owners to find out what makes their gardens so special.

Attadale Gardens – even the prince has visited!

Attadale Gardens were started by the Victorians over 120 years old and still flourish. Nicky Macpherson, a painter, developed the garden further after a series of major storms in the 1980s blew down many old trees. Over 1000 different trees were planted and a water garden with Monet bridges and a waterfall now stretches the length of the drive. Sculpture is scattered throughout providing additional interest and children enjoy finding them all. Paths were recently improved to enable easier access so all visitors can explore the kitchen garden, the fern garden and the Japanese garden. The sunken garden in front of the house provides colour throughout the seasons.

With over 100 different species of rhododendron to enjoy during April and May including the wonderful scent of azaleas round the house. The kitchen garden is wonderful with an ever-changing selection of lettuces and all sorts of vegetables beautifully laid out.

There are plants available for sale there. Afterwards you can head off for a longer walk if you wish. Attadale has its own railway station so you can visit by train if you wish. Enjoy a family day out searching for tadpoles!


Photos: Attadale Gardens, Strathcarron

Scourie Lodge Gardens – a B&B with a difference!

Scourie Lodge was built in 1835 and it is believed that the walled garden was built at the same time  to grow vegetables and fruit for the residents and their servants. We also know that it was also an ornamental garden from an early date, and in 1851, seeds of a New Zealand Cabbage Palm Tree (Cordyline australis) were sent in a letter to one of the Lodge gardeners from a relative who lived in New Zealand. They took more than six months to reach Scotland by boat.

The seeds were planted, and the resulting trees can still be seen in the garden today. These trees, over 150 years old, are amongst the most northerly of their kind in the world.

During the 1970’s the gardens were re-designed into a more formal arrangement, retaining, of course, the famous Cabbage  Trees. Since then, the gardens have been open to the public.


Photos: Scourie Lodge

Dunrobin Castle – the most northerly of Scotland’s great houses!

The gardens were created in 1850 by architect Sir Charles Barry – who designed the houses of Parliament.

Ever been to the gardens at the Palace of Versailles? You might recognise some similarities as that was where the inspiration came from and the gardens have changed very little in the 150 years since they were planted.

However, new plants are constantly being introduced. Dunrobin Castle is located on the east coast, outside the charming village of Golspie, undeterred by its northerly location- the sheltered gardens are able to support a remarkable range of plants, including rhubarb, native to South America with eight foot leaves – the garden boasts a huge clump of Gunnera manicata! A visit to the gardens is of interest to all, especially for the connoisseur of the formal Victorian garden.

Relax on the lawn and enjoy the ancient art of hunting with birds of prey – their professional resident falconer demonstrates a series of fascinating aerobatic displays + flying demonstrations during the months of April, May, June, July, August and September.

Photo: Dunrobin Castle

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