Crathes Castle
AB31 5QJ


Modern Rose Garden for Historic Castle
Crathes Castle is home to one of Scotland’s most outstanding gardens. This space, set between high walls, has been extensively cultivated for centuries and its colourful borders, separated by ancient yew hedges, contain an astonishing range of flowers and shrubs.
There’s a white border that at this time of the year is filled with phlox and hydrangea; a section devoted to plants with yellow foliage; double borders exploding with late-summer perennials and a tranquil pool garden.
The garden buildings include an historic doocot and restored Mackenzie and Moncur greenhouses from the Edwardian era.
Yet far from being stuck in the past, Crathes has a long history of reinventing itself and the garden that exists now is just the latest in a succession of layouts and designs that have occupied this space over the centuries, including a major makeover in the 1920s that put the garden on the map.
Now, however, Crathes has changed again by completely redesigning its traditional rose garden, which still retained its Victorian credentials. The process has taken over a decade of planting and construction but now the new rose garden has just been revealed to the public.
It draws on the area’s Neolithic past, the history of the castle and the impact that the Arts and Crafts movement had on the gardens at Crathes and it has combined these with measures to meet the 21st-century challenges of climate change and sustainability.
The castle was home to the Burnett family for 350 years and the new layout of the eight flower beds replicates a stylised Burnett rose, while the use of lavender in the outer borders references the historical lavender industry around Banchory. Materials used in the construction, such as Caithness stone, have been sourced locally and the centrepiece of the garden is a carved granite reproduction of a Neolithic stone ball, or petrosphere. Predominantly found in the north-east of Scotland and dating back to over 4,500 years ago, these balls are thought to have been status or ceremonial items.
The entire garden is set within a smooth, green lawn and one of the best places to see it is from the top of the castle tower, when the entire design can be enjoyed as a whole.
Funding for the redesign was provided by the late Professor Ian Young and his wife, Sylvia, who shared a love of gardens and roses and members of their family were present when the garden was officially opened to the public last month.
Over the next few years the plants will become increasingly large and exuberant and Crathes may soon set the style for other modern rose gardens.


Elegant stems
The sheer diversity of planting at Crathes is one reason why this garden is so popular with visitors. Outside the walled garden there is a designed landscape of parkland studded with mature trees, while the woodland that surrounds this is home to otters, red squirrels and many other kinds of wildlife.
One of the most intriguing plant collections in the garden can be found inside one of the greenhouses. Malmaison carnations are tricky plants to cultivate, which is why they are seldom grown, but Crathes holds a Plant Heritage National Collection of these highly-decorative flowers. 
This is the bloom that adorned the buttonhole of Oscar Wilde and his contemporaries, but its short-lived nature and difficulties in growing healthy plants meant that it eventually fell from favour.
At Crathes however they have the secret of keeping these beautiful and historic blooms in good vigour and their collection is an important part of this country’s plant heritage.
For young visitors, the Wild Wood Adventure Play area is an opportunity to immerse themselves in nature, exploring the tree tops on high-level walkways and flying through the forest on zip lines.

Crathes Castle is open daily 10 am-5pm. Tickets: castle and gardens – £15.50/£12/£1(Young Scot)
Gardens only – £6.50
Wild Wood Adventure Play – £4 (under-4s free). Tel: 01330 844525
There is accessible parking and toilets and there is buggy access to the garden and cafe and to the ground floor of the castle.
Crathes is three miles east of Banchory on the A93.

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