WP_20150902_16_19_41_ProSo, we are on Arran in the final ‘leg’ of our Hebridean ‘hop’. We decided to visit Brodick Castle, a Scottish National Trust property that overlooks the town and bay of the island’s main setlement.

Brodick is a commercial centre and its good ferry connections to the mainland result in it being a hive of retail and other activity; quite a contrast to the rest of the island and indeed the other parts of our trip- though I suppose it does have some similarities to Oban.

The Scottish N.T. website captures the essence of the Castle:

‘The quintessential Victorian ‘Highland’ estate… Dramatically set against the backdrop of Goatfell mountain, the grand red sandstone Scottish baronial-style castle has stunning views over Brodick Bay to the Firth of Clyde..the W A Nesfield-influenced landscaped gardens … provide an unrivalled experience, from the formal walled garden to the woodland walks. Brodick holds three national collections of rhododendron that flower in almost every month of the year…’

The house was interesting, and boasts many royal connections throughout it’s (and it’s predecessor castles’) history. Today’s Brodick Castle is largely the result of a large-scale expansion of the earlier castle undertaken in the years after 1844. Until this time, the resident family- the Hamiltons- had focused their attentions on their estates on mainland Scotland and especially on Hamilton Palace. But a number of factors came together which made the conversion of Brodick Castle into a grand stately home a viable and desirable option.

Very Baronial...

Very Baronial…

But it was the gardens I came to see, and they didn’t disappoint. The walled garden dates back to at least 1710 (according to a date in the enclosing wall). Further work was undertaken from 1814, but most of today’s gardens date back to the elevation of the castle to a stately home in 1844. The gardens were subsequently a passion of the Hamiltons and especially of the Duchess of Montrose in the years from 1895. Like the Castle, its gardens offer a glimpse into another world and another time. I especailly loved some of the subtle planting combinations in the walled garden…

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Undiscovered Scotland describes the wider park:

‘In the surrounding country park, visitors can follow waymarked routes that extend for a half mile or a mile, or simply find their own way around. For some it is the plants themselves that will form the highlight of the tour. Others will enjoy the ice house under its heavy turf roof….’  

 

The park  provides an interesting route, gently following the hillside towards the sea. There were some delightful ‘cloth art’ installations en route, and it was noticeable that felling and shrub lopping were underway- I guess many of the specimens planted over a hundred years ago are now getting a little too big and drastic action is needed; but replanting is also underway…

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Towards the bottom of the park, nearest the sea, lies the Bavarian summer house; an amazing concoction of natural materials. As Undiscovered Scotland says:

‘A real oddity is offered by the Bavarian Summer House. This has an outer surface imitating tree roots; and the interior is largely lined with pine cones. The end result is impressive, but in a way that is more spooky than simply pleasant, bringing to mind the story of the gingerbread house, or even the more recent fable of the Blair Witch Project.’

Old School Gardener

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