Drummond Castle, Muthill, Crieff, PH7 4HN

Perthshire’s Great Parterre

From the terrace of Drummond Castle the view across the great parterre never fails to astonish visitors. Here, amongst the splendour of Perthshire countryside, is a huge formal garden that would not look out of place at a chateau on the Loire.

With 11 miles of box hedging, carefully-clipped yews, topiary holly trees and an abundance of statues, it is one of Scotland’s greatest horticultural treasures and it is also one of its most glamorous, hosting the Dior Cruise collection fashion show earlier this week.

The parterre where the models strode covers nine acres with the central section taking the form of a St Andrews Cross. Other sections are shaped like giant thistles with the spaces between the hedges filled with lavender, stachys and roses.

This simple planting scheme offsets the complexity of the design, which is maintained in immaculate condition by a small team of dedicated gardeners whose most significant role is the Herculean job of keeping the hedges and topiary perfectly trimmed, with most of the box being pruned during the summer months, while the castle is open. The high beech hedges are tackled in winter, when each one of the statues is given a Gortex covering to protect it from the elements.

Drummond Castle itself was built around 1490 and part of the original keep still stands, although the castle itself was remodelled in 1890.The garden dates back to 1630 but it fell into decline when the Drummond family found themselves on the losing side during the Jacobite uprising. It was revived during the 19th century and it survived the period following the First and Second World Wards, when many great gardens vanished.

The Herald: Drummond Castle and gardensDrummond Castle and gardens (Image: free)

The garden lies on the south side of the castle, hidden from view on the mile-long approach down a tree-lined avenue and it is only once visitors have passed through the archway that leads to the courtyard that the garden reveals itself in the valley below.

There is low-gradient access, but the most dramatic way to approach the garden is down the long flight of stairs that cuts through terraces that were carved from the rock on which the castle stands.

Studded throughout the smooth lawns are many fine trees, including acers, sequoias and a copper beech, one of two that was planted by Queen Victoria.

To one side of the formal gardens there is a huge pond and at the far end, hidden behind a tall hedge, is a productive vegetable garden and greenhouses with beds of bright annuals, soft fruit and strawberries.

Part of the glory of Drummond Castle is its setting, surrounded by the hills of Perthshire, and the eye is drawn to these by the broad, grassy ride that leads through Daggan Wood which rises beyond the gardens.

Marking the Passing Hours in Stone

The centrepiece of the Drummond Castle parterre is an obelisk sundial, which was carved in 1630 by John Mylne III. It has 61 dials and 131 ways to tell the time. It is the earliest example of the 17th century multifaceted designs for which Scotland is famous.

Today Scotland is home to a unique collection of sundials, both old and new, and the approaching solstice is the perfect time of year to seek out some of these beautifully-designed works of art that look to the heavens to mark time.

The Herald: Drummond Castle sundialDrummond Castle sundial (Image: free)

At Little Sparta, the garden created by poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay at Stonypath in the Pentland Hills, there is a Sundial Bench bearing the motto ‘Dividing The Light I Disclose The Hours’.

On the west side of Attadale House, overlooking Loch Carron in Wester Ross, is a giant sundial that measures almost 11 metres across. Created by sculptor Graciela Ainsworth, it features a gnomon supported by a wildcat rampant, the heraldic sign of the Clan Macpherson.

A striking contemporary sundial, made by modern sundial maker, Alistair Hunter, sits within the grounds of Greenbank Garden on the outskirts of Glasgow. It shares the space with a multi-faceted stone dial that was erected when the Georgian mansion was first built, the 17th century obelisk sundial that stands at the centre of Mount Stuart’s two-acre ‘Wee Garden’, predates the magnificent Gothic mansion by 200 years.

Details: The gardens are open daily, 11am - 5pm.

Tickets: £10/£4/ under 4s free Tel 01764 681433 www.drummondcastlegardens.co.uk Drummond Castle is on the A822, three miles south of Crieff.

In association with Discover Scottish Gardens www.discoverscottishgardens.org