EXPECT the unexpected is the fitting motto at Inverewe, a little corner of paradise perched on the edge of the West Highlands. Most visitors come to this part of the world ready to bag Munros or set sail on azure waters for the Western Isles. They can also marvel at a garden brimming with rare species from the Himalayas, the United States, China, Nepal and India.

Location, location, location is the secret, with Inverewe Gardens at the same latitude as Moscow and Hudson Bay and benefiting from a unique microclimate thanks to the effects of the Gulf Stream.

The history of the garden itself is every bit as extraordinary as the breath-taking views and stunning plants and flowers.

Planted on bare rock by Osgood McKenzie in the mid-1860s, the garden flourished and then grew in the care of his daughter, Mairi Sawyer, when he passed away in 1922.

Mairi gifted the estate to the National Trust for Scotland in 1952 and since then the charity has invested millions, preserving and protecting the family’s legacy while adding new features which give visitors insight into its past.

The result is a Highland paradise, brimming with wildlife, beauty and seven particular features visitors will not want to miss.

The Garden

Is what draws visitors to Inverewe in their thousands and nowhere in Scotland will you find such plant diversity in what was once a barren wilderness. From that bare rock, a garden grew, featuring rare Wollemi pines, Himalayan blue poppies, Californian redwoods and a fantastic variety of rhododendrons from China, Nepal and India. This is gardening on the edge and you can see exactly why Inverewe has won so many accolades, including BBC Garden of the Year in 2017.

Spotting the Famous Five

Tracking down 'Scotland’s big five' has become something of a pursuit in recent years, as visitors try to track down red squirrel, red deer, otters, seals and golden eagles. Inverewe is an extra special place as you can see all five on one day. The knack of spotting a red squirrel is, according to staff, to "stay quiet and they’ll soon appear". And keep your eyes peeled for a sixth national treasure – Wester Ross is one of the homes of the impressive sea eagle with its huge wingspan.

Inverewe House – swap around with above

The home of Mairi Sawyer is just a five-minute walk from the visitor centre and takes people back to the mid-20th century with its award-winning interactive exhibits. There are no barriers here and Inverewe House stimulates all your senses. You can handle many of the objects on display, listening to the strains of the gramophone playing in the background.

A work of art

At the heart of the garden is the Sawyer Gallery. The creative space exhibits works throughout the year and hosts touring artists in a unique environment. In 2019, exhibitions run between April and October. You’ll find photography, textiles, art and sculpture throughout the year. The current exhibition, Leafpoems by India Flint, runs until Thursday, August 1.

The Peace Plot

Four willow figures stand in a tranquil little garden within the grounds: a warhorse, uniformed soldier, sailor and nurse. Each has been sculpted to mark the end of the First World War. That war claimed the lives of many Highlanders and deeply affected McKenzie, Mairi and her husband, Robert Hanbury. All three volunteered locally and Robert and Mairi travelled to France in 1919 to see for themselves the aftermath. The garden features excerpts from the family’s personal photographs, cards and notes.

The visitor centre and café

Newly refurbished and now open to the public, the Welcome Centre and café has become a popular stop off on the iconic North Coast 500 route. Visitors will find items and designs by local artists, but the real draw is the Plant Sales area where you can buy plants that grow in the garden, including the beautiful Himalayan blue poppy.

Brodick Castle – the jewel in Arran’s crown

Inverewe Gardens are situated just north of Poolewe village in Wester Ross and around 90 minutes’ drive from Inverness. Events run throughout the year and you can also take guided tours of the property led by National Trust for Scotland staff. Don’t hesitate to contact the gardens if you have any questions about your visit. By visiting National Trust for Scotland sites or joining as a member you are actively protecting and preserving Scotland’s heritage. The conservation charity not only invests in its properties across the country but actively works to preserve their histories and uncover forgotten stories, with its archaeology team carrying out digs and investigations throughout the year.

Among the properties the National Trust for Scotland cares for are eight national nature reserves, 38 gardens and landscapes, 46 Munros, 400 islands and inlets, 26 castles and great houses and thousands of precious artefacts.

By visiting or by joining you will also help support a five-year £57million programme improving visitor experience and preserving the heritage in their care. Included in this programme are the recent works at Inverewe.

To plan your big day out or find out more about local events visit: https://www.nts.org.uk/