Crarae Gardens, Inveraray, PA32 8YN

With its deep gorge, carved from solid rock by the powerful actions of a tumbling burn, Crarae is one of Scotland’s most dramatic gardens. Buzzards and peregrine falcons nest on the hillside above it and below there are glimpses of the dark waters of Loch Fyne.

It is a place where horticulture merges with the wildness of Argyll and since it was established in the 1920s by Lady Grace Campbell, aunt of the renowned plant hunter Reginald Farrer, it has been a place where Himalayan and Chilean plants have flourished.

Here on this south-facing slope, rhododendrons grow to enormous proportions. There are dozens of magnolias, many fine conifers and a National Collection of Southern Beech.

At the moment azaleas are filling the air with their heavy perfume and ferns, primulas, blue poppies and other moisture-loving plants cover the ground beneath the shrubs.

Yet until last month all this beauty was off-limits to the public following catastrophic damage to the garden caused by one of last year’s most devastating storms. On 7 October an entire month’s worth of rain fell on Crarae in 24 hours, causing the Crarae Burn to overflow and sending giant boulders crashing down the hillside.

The Herald: Crarae GardensCrarae Gardens (Image: free)

Once the storm had abated, it was discovered that trees had been toppled, whole shrubs ripped from the ground and much of the network of paths through the garden had been washed away.

It has taken six months for the National Trust for Scotland to sort out the devastation and relay new paths.

This wasn’t the first time that Crarae had been damaged by winter storms and the effects of climate change mean that the NTS are now looking at new ways of managing this and other gardens so that they will be more resilient to weather events However thanks to Argyll’s damp and mild climate, many of the plants that were damaged by the storm have quickly recovered and have put on an abundance of lush, fresh growth so that Crarae is once again looking at its best.

The steep climb to the top of the garden is definitely worth the effort. At various points, bridges cross the gorge and it's from these that visitors get the best views of the garden. They may also spot red squirrels, woodpeckers and watch dippers skim across the surface of the water.

The flatter area at the bottom of the garden contains the remains of a Neolithic chambered cairn and the adjacent mediaeval burial site add to the sense of calm.

At the moment the plants at Crarae are at their flowering peak and although these will fade to green during the summer, there is another period of vivid colour in the autumn when the Beech and Acers start to flame and there is an abundance of berries on the Sorbus and Cotoneaster.

May is the perfect time to get new plants into the soil and gardeners in search of flowers and inspiration can find both at the Scone Palace Garden Fair, which takes place on Friday, 31 May and Saturday, 1 June.

The Herald: Crarae GardensCrarae Gardens (Image: free)

A large number of nurseries, garden centres and specialist societies will be in attendance offering plants suitable for Scottish gardens. There will be demonstrations of garden-related crafts as well as a number of outdoor furniture retailers and presenters from BBC 2’s The Beechgrove Garden will be in attendance on both days to answer visitors’ queries.

Visitors to the Fair will also be able to explore Scone’s kitchen garden, pinetum, Murray Star maze and its recently-opened walled garden.

Tickets are available from:

Details Crarae Gardens are open daily, 10am - 5pm Tickets: £8.50/£6.50/£1(Young Scot) Tel: 01546 886614 Crarae Gardens are 10 miles south of Inveraray on the A83.

In association with Discover Scottish Gardens