Highland and Islands

4 Days

From £645pp

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The Western Seaboard of Scotland is home to some of the finest gardens in Europe. Many types of plant flourish in this gentle and moist climate, enjoying the benefit of the Gulf Stream which is kind to unusual exotic shrubs and trees.

The great gardens were conceived in the Victorian era – when huge estates in the Highlands and Islands were at their peak. Many gardens were laid out to complement grand country homes or castles; whilst others are hidden on some of the most beautiful Hebridean Islands. Flowering rhododendrons and azaleas turn these peaceful locations into a riot of colour and alongside the subtle greens from native birch, oak and pine combine to form a wonderful natural tapestry.

On the Isle of Bute we visit two truly wonderful horticultural sites. Ascog Fernery was recently restored and is the only one of its kind. Mount Stuart is one of the largest, most spectacular High Victorian Gothic houses in Britain and a real treasure trove for the garden enthusiast. We also visit Gigha, a gem of an island, nestling close to the mainland just off the Kintyre peninsula. Here, Sir James Horlick (inventor of the famous bedtime drink) created his marvellous woodland garden at Achamore.

Other highlights include Arduaine at Loch Melfort; the quaint private garden of An Cala on the Isle of Seil, Crarae Gardens with its great Asiatic flowering shrubs, and Benmore Botanic Gardens, near Dunoon, making this a collection of gardens which stand shoulder to shoulder with gardens anywhere in the world. 

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Day 1

We depart from our designated pick-up points and head for Wemyss Bay where we will catch the to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. Our first visit will be to the spectacular house and gardens of Mount Stuart, which is one of the largest, most spectacular High Victorian Gothic houses in Britain and yet one of the least known. Thereafter we will visit Ascog Hall Fernery. In the secluded and long neglected gardens of Ascog Hall a sunken fernery with beautiful rock work and water pools was found.

We travel on to Tarbert, and the Loch Melfort Hotel where dinner will be served this evening.

Day 2

This morning we depart from our hotel in time to catch the late morning ferry to Gigha. This is a small and beautiful island lying just off the Kintyre peninsula.  Here, Sir James Horlick (of bedtime drink fame) came in 1944 and started to make a woodland garden. His new plantings were protected by evergreens and old broad-leaved trees. At Achamore Gardens, rhododendrons reign supreme, constituting one of the best collections in Scotland. We will return to the mainland on the late afternoon ferry and continue to our hotel where dinner is served in the evening.

Day 3

This morning we head north to Loch Melfort to visit the National Trust for Scotland's garden at Arduaine. It is a splendid site, full of the most magnificent plants. The viewpoint which gives an exquisite panorama of the calm waters of Loch Melfort below. Our afternoon visit will be to the small and private garden of An Cala on the Isle of Seil. This is a quaint garden very much on a domestic scale, which relies for its impact on its situation looking out to the sea with the islands of Luing, Scarba, Mull and the Garvellachs in the distance. 

Dinner is served at the hotel in the evening.

Day 4

This morning we check out of the hotel and visit Crarae Gardens, recently rescued by the National Trust for Scotland. Crarae has a marvellous site in a precipitous glen on the north west bank of Loch Fyne. Our last visit is to Benmore Botanic Gardens, the country annexe of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. The garden has a history dating from the 1820s with the first plantings of conifers, and today, superb old specimens of Douglas fir, larch, Scots pine and a magnificent avenue of Wellingtonias make a wonderful background to later collections of rhododendrons, shrubs and trees.  

We continue to Dunoon to catch the ferry to Gourock before returning home.

What's Included

• 3 nights at Loch Melfort Hotel – dinner, bed & breakfast

• Comfortable coaching throughout

• Visits to Benmore Botanic Garden, and the house and gardens of Mount Stuart on Bute; all ferry transfers

• Services of a professional tour manager

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Please note all timings are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately ten days prior to departure.


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Departure points and times

Depart Return
0600 2145
0730 2015
0800 1845
0900 1845
0915 1830
1000 1815
1115 1700