Six of the best gardens in Scotland

 

DRUMMOND CASTLE

Proving there are more ways to wave a flag than running one up a flagpole, a Saint Andrew's Cross, flag of Scotland, marks the centre of this formal garden. In summer, the box-edged parterres are filled with roses and other flowers in red and yellow, the colours of the Drummond standard. Even when the flowers are gone, golden yew, burgundy beech and gold and ruby Japanese maples proclaim the Drummonds' Scottish loyalty. Those maples are a deft touch, charmingly disrupting the garden's symmetry. There's whimsy, too, in the slightly wonky old clipped yews and hollies, which give the garden an unexpected sense of Alice in Wonderland fun. See drummondcastlegardens.co.uk

JUPITER ARTLAND

Jupiter Artland

Photo: Alamy

Sculpture gardens don't always fulfil their promise: you get sculpture, sure, but it's simply outside, rather than in a serious relationship with its gardened surroundings. Jupiter Artland, which houses the private collection of Nicky and Robert Wilson in the grounds of Bonnington House, just out of Edinburgh, is the real deal. From the arrival through the middle of one of Charles Jenks' domineering landforms, the art and the garden, in varying degrees of wildness, are exhilaratingly in step. There's also a great cafe, so plan to spend most of the day here. See jupiterartland.org

GLEN GRANT

Glen GrantYou can get light-headed just considering the whisky distillery options in Speyside, but there's only one with a garden. Glen Grant founder James Grant was a keen plant collector whose elegant Victorian garden has been recently revitalised. Follow the stream from an orchard of heritage apples and cherries to an enclosed lawn surrounded by cliffs of spring-brilliant rhododendrons, then uphill over rustic bridges and past clear-running waterfalls to the cave where the Major kept a barrel of whisky to share with visiting friends. See glengrant.com

ARDUAINE

Arduaine

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

On a sunny day, the view from the top of the garden over the water to the islands of Mull and Jura is pretty as a picture; on a blustery day it underlines the gritty determination of various generations of garden-makers, starting in 1898 with some-time diamond prospector Arthur Campbell. The garden retains much of Campbell's original layout, and though now in the hands of the National Trust (tip: join the National Trust of Australia before going garden visiting in Britain for big savings on entry fees), retains a sense of the personal. Open vistas alternate with closed intimate spaces, and peaceful woodland walks lead off from more intensively gardened borders, lawns and ponds. It's a beautiful place to lose yourself, so take snacks. See arduainegarden.org

AN CALLA

An Calla

Photo: Robin Powell

Pretty, sunny and snugly sheltered by surrounding cliffs, this garden on the tiny Isle of Seil, off the Argyll coast, makes the most of the Gulf Stream's mild-mannered climate. Originally set out in 1932 in Arts and Crafts style and using copious quantities of the slate for which Seil is famous (it's the most northerly of the slate islands which were said to have "roofed the world" in the 19th and early 20th centuries), the garden is open in spring and summer for Scotland's Gardens Scheme. The top terraces look towards the islands of Easdale and Mull, and in the shelter of a slate wall at the bottom of the garden, blue-toned flower gardens and twin herbaceous borders frame pictures of the blue-trimmed, rose-adorned house. See gardens-of-argyll.co.uk

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LITTLE SPARTA

Little Sparta

Photo: Andrew Lawson

By all accounts, poet Ian Hamilton Finlay was a difficult person, and his garden in Lanarkshire, 45 minutes from Edinburgh, is no easy stroll, either. Calm spaces created by artfully chosen and placed trees and cleverly worked water features are undercut by Finlay's disturbing sculpture-poems. Take a second look at the finials on those brick pillars – they're hand grenades. Finlay was interested in violence and revolution, quoted classical poets and French revolutionaries, and considered the move to disorder that is the underlying nature of a garden to be analogous to a state of revolution. Most garden visits leave you feeling calmer; this one is distinctly unsettling, and unmissable for that. See littlesparta.org.uk

Robin Powell travelled with assistance from Visit Scotland.

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