Broughton House Garden, 12 High Street, Kirkcudbright, DG6 4JX

The Art of the Garden Hidden behind high walls in the historic centre of Kirkcudbright lies a garden created by one of Scotland’s most celebrated artists. E A Hornel, a leading member of the ‘Glasgow Boys’, who at the start of the 20th century set the foundations for Scottish modernist painting, was as devoted to his garden as he was to his art and thanks to his trained eye and the proceeds from his successful career, he made a space where his love of nature, form and colour could be celebrated.

The garden covers half an acre and it stretches westwards from the pink-washed walls of Broughton House to the estuary of the River Dee. Originally it was one narrow ‘rig’, the traditional Scottish strip system of dividing lang that developed in the middle ages, but when Hornel arrived at Broughton House he bought the strip next door as well and laid out the entire garden in the arts and crafts style with lawns, narrow paths and flower-filled borders as well as a glasshouse of his own design.

Hornel worked in the garden alongside his sister, Tizzy, who was equally as passionate about plants and the hardy orchid ‘Tizzy Hornel’ that grows in Broughton is just one of several plants that were named after her.

The Herald: Broughton House delphiniumsBroughton House delphiniums (Image: free)

Amongst Hornel’s favourite plants was wisteria and the gnarled, and twisted vines that he planted in the garden still flower today, filling the garden with scent in early summer.

Wisteria is a symbol of the East and it was the visits that he made to Japan that most influenced Hornel’s designs for the garden. He planted cherry trees and maples, filled corners with moss and ferns, laid winding paths and channelled water from his studio roof into a network of pools and streams, and then he built a summerhouse in which to enjoy the results of his work.

The most famous feature at Broughton House is the stepping stone pond, which is tricky to navigate in spring when the stones and water are covered in apple blossom and there are tales of Hornel’s maid falling into the pond while carrying a tea tray.

At the centre of the garden there are lawns lined with clipped golden yew and further on, in a productive vegetable patch, early rhubarb of the season is ripening in clay forcing pots.


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From the very far end of the path there are picturesque views over Kirkcudbright harbour and the River Dee. The garden sits on a raised beach, so the soil is free-draining and warms up quickly in spring and, as the year progresses, peonies flourish, ancient apple trees become smothered in blossom and the heritage pelargoniums in the glasshouse erupt into vivid colour white the tulips, which are followed by alliums and then Irises add further evidence of Hornel’s obsession with the East.

The area closest to the house is in shade for part of the day and it is here that toad lilies (Tricyrtis), and Kirengeshoma palmata (another Japanese native) grow under the canopy of a double white pear tree, which was already here when Hornel arrived.

Blossom from apples, cherries and pears features prominently in the work of Hornel, some of which can be seen in the gallery when the house is open to the public.

Aside from plants, Hornell also indulged his love of artefacts and the garden at Broughton House is filled with all kinds of stoneware, from querns and troughs to millstones and curling stones. Five sundials occupy spaces around the garden and there are Japanese stone lanterns too as well as the Dalshangan Cross, a 12th century way marker which once guided pilgrims through the Galloway Hills to the early Christian site at Whithorn.

The Herald: Broughton House alpine wallBroughton House alpine wall (Image: free)


The house and garden are open Thursday-Monday, 10am-4.30pm. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays the garden can be accessed by the side gate, where there is an honesty box.

Tickets: £8/£7/£1 (YoungScot) Tel: 01557 330437 An accessible route around the garden avoids the stepping-stone pond.

Broughton House sits on Kirkcudbright High Street, 27 miles west of Dumfries.

In association with Discover Scottish Gardens