Saturday, 15 August 2015

Scottish Castle Gardens II - Cawdor

Castle Cawdor, near Inverness, dates back to the 14th century
Another glorious Scottish castle - this time Cawdor, is within a stone's throw of Inverness. This one is much less imposing than Dunrobin, considerably smaller and has a colourful, well-kept garden and a well-publicised association with Shakespeare's 'Macbeth', in which the principle character is made 'Thane of Cawdor'. It draws visitors from far and wide and is one of the main tourist attractions in this area, so make sure to get there early to avoid the crowds. 
The Flower Garden at Cawdor Castle
The story of the castle is closely connected with the Thanes of Cawdor. 'Thane' is an ancient Scottish title, equivalent to Baron, and was once common across Scotland. It is thought that the third Thane of Cawdor started building the castle here as early as 1370, and it was later added to by successive generations. Records of the gardens date back to the 17th century, when the walled garden is first documented and much of the castle there today was already built. 
There are fine views of the castle from the flower garden at Cawdor
The castle has certainly made headlines in the past, thanks to various family feuds, and only re-opened to the public in 2003 following resolution of a major dispute. The Dowager Countess Cawdor (widow of the sixth Earl of Cawdor) still lives here and was instrumental in planning the gardens as they are today. There are three different gardens for visitors to see Walled, Flower and Wild gardens and, on two days a week, you can also visit the delightful small garden, which forms part of the estate, at neighbouring Auchindoune. 
'The Sun' slate sculpture at Cawdor Castle by James Parker
You can also see large sections of the interior of the castle, with its impressive trappings, but gardeners will want to be outside. The formal gardens are to the side of the property, set behind walls, but with fine views from the Flower Garden to the romantic castle beyond. Exuberant herbaceous borders are planted so there is colour throughout the seasons and are particularly colourful in July and August, but continuing to look good well into September. Immaculately-clipped hedging divides the different sections of the garden, but what will impress most is the density of planting wherever you look. Rose enthusiasts will love the rose tunnel in season.
The Paradise section of the ancient walled garden at Cawdor
The ancient Walled Garden at the castle was remodelled by the incumbent Lord Cawdor in 1981, with the help of his surviving wife Angelika, the current Dowager Countess, and is very different in character to the Flower garden, save for the Paradise section (above), although equally well planned to give colour and interest throughout the seasons. There is a holly maze here too, but it is often closed in August for clipping and maintenance.
The neighbouring gardens at Auchindoune are very different in spirit
If you visit on a Tuesday or Thursday during high season - May to August - you can either walk or drive to neighbouring Auchindoune (above) with its peaceful Tibetan garden and charming kitchen garden (below) which was laid out by Arabella Lennox-Boyd. It is very different in spirit and much less grand than the castle gardens, but well worth visiting. But only open from 10.00 -16.30, two days a week. 
The kitchen garden at Auchindoune was laid out by Arabella Lennox-Boyd
Cawdor Castle is open daily from the beginning of May until early October, from 10.00 to 17.30 (last admission 17.00). Prices are £10.50 for the castle and grounds, and £5.75 for the gardens and grounds (free to Historic Houses Association members). Auchindoune has an honesty box and entry is £3.00 per person.

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