We sometimes slightly vary our route to and from my Mum’s, often visiting places on the way but just as likely to be for the sake of a change, and on our return journey home today we made one of these variations (essentially to enable The Golfer to add to his collection of golf score cards). There are numerous gardens in Argyll, the Scottish county where Mum lives, benefiting from the relatively high rainfall and for those on the mainland coast the mildness provided by the Gulf Stream. Many of them are woodland based gardens but there are also several attached to castles and other properties. With no garden visits planned, I was just thinking that the next time we came I ought to plan an itinerary that included some of them (several worth revisiting and others we have not been to before) when I saw the easily recognisable brown sign and realised we were close to Crarae Garden and as we were literally due to pass by it seemed rude not call in! The gardens have been administered by the National Trust for Scotland since 2002 and being members of the associated English NT it makes even short visits (and those in the rain!) viable.
The garden is considered the UK’s best recreation of a Himalayan gorge, and has evolved through three generations of the Campbell family, beginning with Grace, Lady Campbell in 1912, and extended by her son and grandson who exchanged plants with friends, neighbours and fellow enthusiasts, and supported by Grace’s nephew Reginald Farrer whose gardening books apparently changed British taste away from Victorian formality towards settings that recreated natural habitats. The Campbells also had strong connections with the plant hunters George Forrest and Ernest Wilson who brought many plants back from remote regions of China, Nepal and Tibet, and contributed to the legacy of the 600 different rhododendrons boasted by Crarae.
The rhododendrons were of course over by now, but my Mum has seen the gardens in May/June when they were stunning and also in autumn when acers are at their best – we have been before too, but still ‘out of season’. We could still enjoy the lush greenness and the wonderful smells of trees and bark and damp ferns, accompanied by the persistent brown roar of the Crarae Burn as it cascaded down the glen. The rhododendrons may have been over but the bark of some of the species was all the more outstanding with this lack of competition, and we could enjoy the simple pleasures of the varied rose hips, the bamboo tunnel and the pure natural beauty of the gorge without the seasonal distractions. A longer walk would have brought with it views out over Loch Fyne which that section of our journey bordered for many miles. Definitely rather more than a convenient toilet stop and no detour needed as we were just passing…..