Benmore Botanic Gardens, Uig, Dunoon, Argyll, PA23 8QU

Height of beauty in Argyll

Visitors who climb to the lookout that is perched 450ft above Benmore in Argyll enjoy spectacular views south towards the Holy Loch and the Renfrewshire Hills. On a clear day in spring it is one of the best views in Scotland and it is the perfect spot to take in not just lungfuls of fresh, clean air but also to appreciate the scale of this magnificent 120-acre garden.

Spread out over Benmore’s steep slopes are trees and plants from some of the most remote spots in the world. Grown over decades from seed collected in the wild, they form a ‘living collection’ of rare and important flora and provide an immersive encounter with the diversity of the natural world.

Here you can find the giants of the South American rainforest, lush foliage from Japan, trees from Tasmania and plants from America’s Pacific coastline. A restored Victorian fernery, set into a rocky cliff, provides a fascinating insight into the complexity of one of the world’s most ancient groups of plants, while Chilean and Bhutanese pavilions, set amongst trees native to their origins, provide a sense of being on a different continent.

At the moment however the focus is on rhododendrons. The first of these have already begun to open their buds and over the coming weeks they will bloom in waves until parts of the garden explode in vivid colours.

The Herald: Benmore pond Benmore pond (Image: free)

These are not the sorts of cultivars that you find in garden centres, but their native cousins and some grow to astonishing heights, their branches curving as they reach for the light while others produce giant leaves that are backed with a velvety indumentum.

Benmore is an outstation of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and it is here that the RBGE grows those plants that need high levels of rainfall in order to flourish. Abundant moisture is one of the conditions that triggers flower bud formation in rhododendrons and according to Benmore Curator, Peter Baxter, 2024 is shaping up to be a spectacular flowering season.

Visitors this spring will also be able to enjoy the fresh foliage of herbaceous plantings emerging around Benmore’s pond. This area of the garden has recently undergone renovation and many new cultivars have been added here in order to extend the flowering season.

At this time of the year there’s the added bonus of increasing volumes of birdsong, while the garden’s resident population of red squirrels is also active and there may even be the chance to catch a glimpse of a Golden Eagle soaring overhead.

The Herald: Benmore rhododendrons Benmore rhododendrons (Image: free)

Rescuing Giants One of the most outstanding features of Benmore is the avenue of Giant Redwood trees that greets visitors to the garden. These were planted more than 150 years ago and even though they are still immature by Redwood standards, they are a soaring presence that define the garden. When, several years ago, it was noticed that they were starting to fail, an intensive rescue plan was drawn up. Geo injection was used to fire air down into the roots, helping to combat compaction caused by damp conditions and visitor footfall, while large amounts of mulch were spread around the surface in order to provide extra nutrients.

The interventions are already starting to work, with fresh, green growth appearing along the branches. Now a new grass path, set upon thick layers of gravel in order to aid drainage, is being relaid so that visitors can once again walk amongst these giants.

Leaflets available from the visitor centre offer the chance to follow lichen and fern trails around the garden and this year a new moss trail has been added. Argyll is home to 4% of the world’s moss species and staff at Benmore are encouraging visitors to look more closely at the soft, green carpet that grows across the woodland floor.


Benmore Garden is open daily, 10am-5pm.

Tickets: £10/£8.50/under 15s free. Universal/Pension Credits and Young Scot Card: £1 Tel: 01369 706261

Despite being a steeply-sloping mountainside garden, there is an easy access route along low level paths.

Benmore is on the A815, six miles north of the ferry terminal at Hunter’s Quay and 11 miles south of Strachur.

In association with Discover Scottish Gardens