Benmore Botanic Garden

Dunoon, Argyll PA23 8QU

IN ITS magnificent mountainside setting, Benmore, which is one of the four gardens of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), is steeped in history and surrounded by dramatic scenery. The garden’s 120 acres are home to a world-famous collection of plants from regions ranging from the Orient and the Himalaya to North and South America.

With more than 3,000 plants of around 300 species, arranged by botanical grouping or geographic region, the garden has been described as a “living textbook of the genus Rhododendron’’. One of the favourites at Benmore is a mighty R. sinogrande discovered by plant collectors George Forrest in China in 1912.

Visitors enter Benmore through an avenue of 150-year-old giant redwoods, which has been described as the best entrance to any botanic garden in the world. Other trees of interest include Douglas fir, beeches from Chile and New Zealand, monkey puzzles, western hemlock and Scots pine.

A microcosm of the Bhutanese mountains has been created on a south-facing slope at Benmore, where visitors can rest in the pavilion and look out over the magnificent landscape. A Chilean area is also rapidly developing, and when mature, visitors will be able to imagine they are walking through a Chilean rainforest with spiky green parasols of tall monkey puzzle trees.


Phone: 01369 706261

Opening times: 10am to 6pm April to September; 10am to 5pm March and October

Admission costs: Adult: £7, concession: £6, child: free if under 16

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Attadale Gardens

South side of Loch Carron on A890, opposite village of Lochcarron IV54 8YX

Attadale Gardens was developed by artist Nicky Macpherson after serious storms brought down its huge old trees at the end of 1980s. Using the mountains as a backdrop and with the pond already present, over 30 years she has created a wonderful garden designed to be enjoyed by locals and visitors from further afield.

It was a chance for a new beginning with over 1000 new trees planted, and a wonderful water garden created along the entrance drive. It is richly planted with water-loving plants from around the world; huge gunnera; pretty, colourful primula; irises; and many more reflected in black pools with little Monet-style bridges to wander over.

There is a tremendous selection of very old rhododendrons and sweet-smelling azaleas at this time of year; many of these were planted before the First World War and continue to flourish. Two Wollemi pines flourish above the upper path amongst the rhododendrons.

Attadale also boasts a Japanese garden, which was created to solve problems of regular flooding and showcases many traditional Japanese garden features. An impressive kitchen garden provides a contrast with rows of beautifully kept vegetables.


Telephone: 01520 722603

Opening times: 10.00am - 5.30pm

Admission costs: £8.00 Adults, £6.00 Seniors and £1 Child

Branklyn Garden, National Trust for Scotland

116, Dundee Road, Perth PH2 7BB

Branklyn Garden was created by John and Dorothy Renton in the 1920s in the grounds of their home. Forty years later, in a labour of love, they had created what one expert described as “the finest two acres of private garden in the country”. Over 3500 species from all over the world now flourish here, nearly half of them are direct descendants of the Renton’s own plants.

Today, Branklyn is owned and maintained by the National Trust for Scotland, having been passed on in 1968, but still retains the feel of an intimate, personal garden. The responsibility of the current team of gardeners is to maintain the legacy of the Rentons, whilst ensuring the garden and its extensive collection of rare plants remains current in the 21st century.

Visitors can be treated to a feast of varied plant species from February through to October, beginning with colourful displays of erythroniums, rhododendrons and trilliums in spring, whilst the giant lily, Cardiocrinum giganteum, entrances visitors during the summer.

Dorothy Renton built up a great relationship with Himalayan plant collectors, and as a result, the garden contains many of their seed introductions, from trees and shrubs, to the famous Meconopsis. Some of the original introductions share the same bed as modern cultivars and Branklyn currently holds a Plant Heritage, National Collection of these plants.


Telephone: 01738 625535

Opening times: Daily 10am - 5pm (April to October 31st). Tea Room open 11am to 4pm

Admission costs: NTS members free of charge, Adults £6.50, Concessions £5.00, Family ticket £16.50

READ MORE: Six Scottish summer walks

Logan Botanic Garden

Port Logan, Dumfries & Galloway DG9 9ND

Logan Botanic Garden, located on the southwest tip of Scotland, is one of the four gardens of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and is home to plant treasures from South and Central America, Southern Africa and Australasia, all rarely seen in the United Kingdom.

The warming influence of the Gulf Stream helps to create ‘Scotland’s most exotic garden’. Visitors can walk through groves of eucalyptus and palm trees or stand in the shade of the awesome rhubarb-like gunnera.

At this time of year, carpets of trilliums, exotic rhododendrons and many other species are in all their glory, with many providing colour well into autumn. Hardy perennials such as Argyranthemum, Diascia and Penstemon provide a painter’s palette of colour around the walled garden.

The elegant Logan conservatory, the first carbon-free glasshouse of its kind in the UK, provides a succession of colours from a large collection of Pelargoniums, stunning Proteas and Cape Primroses, which have a mass of lavender, trumpet-like flowers.

The conservatory frontage is ablaze with fiery red Cannas that create a sub-tropical feel all summer long with its banana-like foliage. It is incredible that this lives outdoors all year round at Logan.


Telephone: 01309 611222

Opening times: 10am – 5pm daily

Admission costs: Adult: £7, concession: £6, child: free if under 16

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Cambo Gardens

The Stables Visitor Centre, Cambo, Kingsbarns, Fife KY16 8QD

Cambo boasts a large, 2.5-acre walled garden, and its varied topography allows visitors to enjoy vistas throughout the garden of the significant collection of perennials and shrubs, nestled within the ancient fruit trees, old roses and tender coastal loving species.

A key feature at Cambo is the canalised burn. It meanders through the gardens, allowing visitors to enjoy the tumbling water as it cascades through the planting, with views to pools and waterfalls from a series of bridges that span its length.

Cambo’s summer perennial plantings are breathtakingly beautiful. Teaming with tremendous colour, the garden is at one of its peaks in the summer, when the plantings come alive and are joined by a significant collection of trees. Showstoppers include the double herbaceous borders, with their perennials and grasses peaking perfectly together.

The Cambo North American Prairie is unique in Scotland, a substantial planting of bold and beautiful North American Prairie species. Planted in 2009 and grown from seed, this enchanting bed of Echinaceas, mingling with Prairie Bergamot, an array of asters, vivid yellow daisies and sweeping grasses, mesmerise visitors as they walk through the winding paths filled with butterflies and become immersed in its exquisiteness.


Telephone: 01333 451040

Admission costs: £5.50 for adults, children and carers are free. RHS free entry on Wednesdays. Coach parties welcome.

Opening Hours: Everyday 10am-5pm

READ MORE: Six Scottish summer walks

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

20a Inverleith Row, Edinburgh EH3 5LR

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), which will celebrate its 350th anniversary in 2020, is one of the world’s leading Botanic Gardens. Established in 1760 as a medicinal plant or physic garden at Holyrood, the garden moved several times within Edinburgh until in 1820 it arrived at its present site in Inverleith.

Today, within the 70 acres of the garden and Living Collection, visitors can see over 13,500 plant species and over 128,000 plants from more than 150 countries, including one of the largest collections of Chinese plants outside China. Garden highlights include the world-famous Rock Garden, Chinese Hillside, Woodland Garden, Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden and Herbaceous Border.

Just a mile from the centre of Edinburgh, the garden is a delight throughout the seasons. At this time of year, spectacular rhododendrons are in bloom amongst other spring flowering plants. On colder days, visitors can discover ten different climatic zones within the glasshouses, from steamy tropics to arid desert. The glasshouses are home to 3,000 exotic plants from across the globe including the largest cultivated collection of Vireya rhododendrons in the world.


Telephone: 0131 248 2909

Opening times: Open daily from 10am to 6pm March to September. See website for winter hours

Admission costs: Admission to the garden is free but charges to glasshouses apply - £7 adult, £6 concessions, under 16s free.

Scotland's 10 greatest drives revealed

The Quoy of Houton & Orkney Garden Festival

Orphir, Kirkwall KW17 2RD

Neolithic wonders of the world, the sunken fleets of Scapa Flow and some of the most amazing sea scapes in the world come to mind when the Orkney islands are mentioned in conversation, yet it is also home to the UK’s most northerly garden festival.

From 4th to 14th July, gardeners from across the UK will arrive on the islands to enjoy 28 open gardens and illustrated talks by Beechgrove presenters Carole Baxter and Lesley Watson. Chelsea judge Dougal Philip will be joining in the fun along with world renowned plantsmen and authors Ken Cox and Jackie Bennett.

It all started at The Quoy of Houton six years ago after Kevin Critchlow, a local dry stone waller, underwent a 22-hour operation to remove a massive brain tumour. The garden opened to raise funds for the charity Friends of Neuro ward ARI, which his wife Caroline founded. Friendly islander gardeners joined in and now Orkney is well and truly on the horticultural map.

Several of the gardens have featured on BBC Beechgrove Garden and The Quoy of Houton is listed in the UK’s top 10 coastal gardens. This walled gem is a panoramic garden, which is designed to lead the eye to the amazing sea views. It is also home to an ever-expanding collection of perennial geraniums including Alan Bremnars Orkney geraniums.


Telephone: 01856 811237

Opening times & admission: Open by arrangement outside of festival by donation

Dawyck Botanic Garden

Stobo, Scottish Borders EH45 9JU

Nestled in the Scottish Borders, the five-star Dawyck Botanic Garden enjoys a continental climate in which an abundance of plant species can thrive. The 65-acre landscape is one of the four gardens of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and is renowned for its seasonal displays, including treasures from Nepal, China, Chile and more.

At this time of year, daffodils, bluebells, rhododendrons, azaleas and meconopsis (Himalayan blue poppies) carpet the banks of Dawyck’s Scrape Burn.

Dawyck is also home to one of Scotland’s finest tree collections including some of Britain’s oldest and tallest trees. It is this impressive tree collection that attracts many visitors to the garden throughout the year. Its oldest tree is a European silver fir (Abies alba) planted in 1680 during the reign of Charles II. Other species of note are the Douglas fir, named after the intrepid plant collector David Douglas, Lawson cypress and giant Sierra redwood.

Here, visitors can enjoy themed trails and discover the Heron Wood Reserve and Cryptogamic Sanctuary, the world’s first reserve for mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi.


Tel: 01721 760254

Opening times: Open daily 10am to 6pm in April to September. See website for winter hours

Admission costs: £7 adult, £6 concession, under 16s free.

Inverewe Garden, National Trust for Scotland

Poolewe, Achnasheen, Ross-shire IV22 2LG

National Trust for Scotland’s most northerly property, Inverewe Garden, is well-famed for its range of rhododendrons, with flowers to be found somewhere in the garden every month of the year. Meandering through the garden on this remote stretch of coastline is a paradise of unusual and wonderful plants, where the unexpected greets you at every corner.

Head Gardener Kevin Ball’s three favourite rhododendrons are: Rhododendron lindleyi with its glorious large, trumpet-shaped flowers of the purest white and which emit a strong, sweet-spicy fragrance, Rhododendron ‘Loderi King George’ with its scented, white, lily-like flowers that open in tall trusses from bright pink buds, and lastly, the honeysuckle-scented Rhododendron luteum, which makes an excellent garden plant because of its long flowering season and ease of cultivation.

Lucky visitors to Inverewe may have a chance to spot Scotland’s Big 5 in wildlife: red squirrel, red deer, otter, seal and golden eagle. A newly revamped visitor centre and café add to the destination experience – and coming up next season is a wonderful new observation tower to view the garden from a completely new perspective.

Inverewe also has busy events programme, including the Highlands and Islands Plant Festival (22-28 July), the Scottish Rock Garden Festival (4-9 September), and a wide range of art exhibitions in its new Sawyer Gallery. For more information on events, visit the garden’s website.


Telephone: 01445 781229

Opening times: 09.30–17.00 until 31 May, then 09.30–18.00 1 Jun–31 Aug. See website for autumn hours, house, café and shop opening hours

Admission costs: Adult- £12.50, family- £30.00, single adult family - £23.00, concession - £11.50

The Japanese Garden at Cowden

Upper Hillfoot Road, Dollar, Clackmannanshire FK14 7PL

The Japanese Garden was established by Ella Christie of Cowden Castle. At the turn of the last century, she returned from an expedition to the Orient inspired by her tours of the magnificent gardens.

As might be expected from one of the first western women to visit Khiva and Samarkand and to meet the Dalai Lama, Ella’s approach to developing the garden was trailblazing. She chose a female designer – the gifted Taki Handa – to create the seven-acre site, 30 miles north-west of Edinburgh. It is the first and only one of such scale to be accredited to a woman and it remains a unique, authentic bridge between Scottish and Japanese culture.

In 1925, it was described by Professor Jijo Suzuki, 18th hereditary head of the Soami School as ‘The most important Japanese Garden in the Western World’.

Vandalised in the 60s, it has now been brought back to life by Professor Masao Fukuhara, best known for winning the Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show and for the restoration of the Japanese gardens at Kew and Tatton.

Cowden has been managed by a charity since 2014 and there is plenty to see, including two new bridges, the dry garden, original and new planting and the antique stone lanterns. There is also a new 30-minute woodland walk to the site of the old weir.



Telephone: 07570614763

Opening times: 10.30am – 5.00pm (last entry 4.15pm). Wednesday - Sunday

Admission costs: Adult: £6, Youth (16-24) and Senior Citizens (over 65): £5.50, Children (5-15), £4. Disabled and primary carer: free.

About Discover Scottish Gardens

Discover Scottish Gardens is the country’s national garden tourism group, which aims to put Scottish gardens, nurseries and related businesses on the tourist map. From the Highlands to the Borders, there are over 400 gardens, woodlands, plant nurseries and accommodation with gardens that are a delight to visit at any time of the year.

Be inspired by Scotland’s breathtaking scenery and learn more about the country’s diverse climate and plant collections that thrive here through a superb programme of horticultural festivals and events taking place throughout the year, including family-friendly activities, practical workshops and open days. The Scottish Rhododendron Festival is taking place throughout the country until 31st May. Visit the Discover Scottish Garden’s website to find out more: