Glorious autumn gardens - II
And now for those glorious Scottish gardens - I'm lucky to have friends in Mull, so my wanderings have taken me north on various occasions and the gardens in Scotland are quite spectacular in the autumn. Torosay Castle and Gardens (above) is worth making a special trip to see - you catch the ferry in Oban (make sure you book in the summer months, because Mull is very popular), and arrive 40 minutes later at one of the most glorious gardens in Britain.
The house was built in baronial castle style in 1858 and is surrounded by a magnificent Italianate garden based on a series of terraces, filled with some of the finest Italian statuary - every corner you turn reveals another fine rococo example, complimented by dramatic planting and marvellous views over Duart Bay.
There is an informal water garden, a small rock garden, and a new Japanese garden which has the most stunning views of all. But most importantly, this is a place to walk slowly around and enjoy the magnificent autumn colours, the incredibly fresh (and sometimes bracing) air, and savour the spirit of this wonderful island.
I have not visited in spring, but I am told that the azaleas and rhododendrons are magnificent. But it doesn't matter what time of year you visit, one of the finest features of this garden besides the statuary, is its collection of trees, which include some fine western red cedars. And of course, it's the trees that make this such a spectacular autumn find!
The new Japanese garden at Torosay
Having made the crossing to Mull, you would be crazy not to take the time to explore this magical island - you will see views and vistas that make your heart leap, and then of course, there's Tobermory, made famous by its appearance in the children's television series, "Balamory" - with its brightly coloured houses, clustered around the bay. And if you're really lucky, you'll see a rainbow here (left). But go prepared for heavy showers.
From Mull, you can take another ferry back to the mainland and this allow you to visit another spectacular garden - Ardtornish - home of the Raven family (of Docwra's Garden fame) - and worth making a detour for if you're in the area.
Your first glimpse of Ardtornish is through the trees (below) and you won't be disappointed when you get to this property with its watery views over Loch Aline, another fine collection of trees and a garden that feels "secret" when you climb up towards the house and catch glimpses the turrets above. This is a plantsman's garden built on a sleep slope, which enjoys exceptionally heavy rainfall, so plants including acers, davidias, eucryphias and hydrangeas thrive.
View of Ardtornish as you approach
Ardtornish is a an informal garden - one to explore; to savour the views and seek out the unusual plants that flourish here in the wet. It extends to 28 acres and has been home to the Raven family since 1930. The easiest way to get here from Mull is to take the Fishnish to Lochaline ferry, but if you are already this far north, do make the effort because these two gardens shouldn't be missed.