Ballindalloch Castle

Ballindalloch, Banffshire, AB37 9AX

Why Should We Visit

The grandeur of Strathspey is magnificent in summer and even in years such as this, when thousands of tourists are heading north to find space to stretch out and breathe fresh air, the hills and moors that sweep down from the Cairngorms extend so far in all directions that no amount of visitors can over-run them. Ballindalloch Castle has presided over this part of rural Banffshire for more than 500 years and has been in the Macpherson-Grant family for its entire existence.It is a fine example of a Highland estate surrounded by formal gardens and woodland, close to where the River Avon joins the Spey.

Story of the Garden

The original castle was formed in a ‘Z’ plan, with the rivers forming a natural moat to the north and west.

The addition of two wings in the 18th century allowed for the creation of the original Rose Garden and further modifications in the 19th century resulted in the Baronial castle that survives today.

In the 1980s and 90s, ‘lady laird’ Clare Macpherson-Grant oversaw many improvements and additions to the garden, refining the palette to concentrate on tough and reliable plants that could withstand the harsh winter conditions that are experienced in this part of the country. Early in the year, two miles of daffodils form rivers of yellow through the grounds and in summer the pond is surrounded by a fringe of iris and other bog plants while the large walled garden is filled with shrubs and climbing roses.

An 18th century doo’cot sits close to the main entrance and a large rockery climbs the lower slopes of the valley, from where there are fine views of the castle. The courtyard garden, which is enclosed on three sides, is both formal and romantic in style.


Every year a meadow close to the castle is transformed by the simple measure of mowing a maze. This grassy space, which is filled with insects and small creatures, is a favourite with children and with dogs, both of which are welcomed and encouraged to explore the gardens. There is also a children’s playground as well as a picnic area, tearoom and gift shop.

Don’t Miss

In June the curved laburnum arch is in bloom, dangling scented yellow racemes that add a splash of vivid colour. Pass this and follow the tree-lined avenue that leads to the walled garden, where clematis clamber up the pollarded cherry trees.

Anything Else To Look Out For

Wildlife abounds at Ballindalloch and visitors can spot both roe deer and red squirrels. The Speyside Way also runs through the estate, following the course of the old Great North of Scotland Railway line, once a vital artery connecting Speyside to the wider world. A mile west of the Castle is Ballindalloch Station and a little further on, Cragganmore Distillery.

Best Time To Visit

Ballindalloch is magnificent throughout the year, from the cold days of winter when the peaks that surround it are covered in snow; through the fresh growth that appears in spring and into the rose-scented air of summer. But it is at its finest from August onwards when the heather that covers the surrounding moorland begins to turn purple, reminding visitors that the heart of Scotland’s whisky industry is set within one of the last, great wild spaces in Europe.

Any Recommendations in the Area?

Knockando Woolmill has been carding, spinning and weaving with local wool since 1784. It is the oldest surviving district weaving mill in the UK and today it creates small batch yarns and luxury fabrics as well as woollen scarves, blankets and accessories.Visitors can take a tour to find out the fascinating history of the mill, which is run by a trust after the £3.5m refurbishment that secured its future. It sits seven miles up river from Ballindalloch Castle.

Directions: The castle is situated just off the A95 one hour from Inverness. It sits halfway between Grantown-on-Spey and Aberlour.

Details: The gardens are open 10am- 5pm, Sunday - Thursday.

Entry is £6/£3/children under 5’s go free. Tel: 01807 500205.


There’s Much Ado About Something as Scotland’s Summer Garden Festival gets underway.

From now until 15 August gardens across the country will be celebrating the season with activities for all the family.

From Shakespeare amongst the flower beds to walks, talks and guided tours, there will be plenty for visitors to enjoy while they explore some of Scotland’s finest landscapes.

The Festival is organised by Discover Scottish Gardens, which is made up of more than 400 gardens and outdoor spaces and amongst those taking part is Gordon Castle Walled Garden near Forres, where as well as outdoor theatre productions of The Great Gatsby, Mr Stink and A Midsummer’s NIght’s Dream, there will be a Flower Farmer’s Big Weekend from 13 until 18 August, when the cut flower beds will be at their absolute best.

The walled garden here is worth visiting, even without the added summer attractions because over the last decade it has been transformed from a sad and neglected space into one of Scotland’s most exciting gardens, with a bold contemporary design by Arne Maynard, an award-winning cafe and a shop. The highly productive flower and produce beds are tended by a small, but dedicated team of gardeners and the eight acres are currently among the finalists in the Historic Houses ‘Garden of the Year’ awards.

Another historic house, Abbotsford near Galashiels, is also taking part in Scotland’s Summer Garden Festival and it will be staging productions of both The Merry Wives of Windsor and Robin Hood, as well as running walks along the new paths that have been opened up through the woodlands that Sir Walter Scott planted on the banks of the River Tweed.

Geilston Garden near Cardross is a fine example of the small estates that once occupied the banks of the River Clyde and on 14 and 15 August it will be hosting a Teddy Bear’s Picnic, while outdoor theatre productions at The University of Dundee Botanic Garden will include Dr Doolittle and HMS Pinafore, as well as Much Ado About Nothing.

Meanwhile visitors to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh will have the chance to discover The Hidden Beauty of Seeds and Fruit through an exhibition that will run all summer and at New Hopetoun Garden Centre near South Queensferry a festival of Art in the Garden will celebrate outdoor sculpture and suggest ways to use it.

Dawyck Botanic Garden in Stobo is famous for its towering trees and 24 giant puzzle pieces hanging from some of these will form a self-guided art trail.

On 27 June there’s a chance to follow another trail, this time around the Hidden Gardens of St Andrews while artist Peter Lamb’s work will be on show at Logan Botanic Garden on the Mull of Galloway until 15 August.

If it is practical advice that you are after, then Cambo estate in Fife is running workshops on ‘no-dig’ and ‘straw bale’ gardening, but you can also pull up a chair for a lamma’s tea party or, on 14 August, make your own flower crown.

And if you want to discover an exciting garden that has only just started opening its gates to the public, then head to Teasses Estate near Cupar on 27 June, when the annual Summer Open Day will give visitors the chance to explore sunken herbaceous borders and a walled garden filled with produce..

Flowers, sculpture and outstanding views over Loch Carron towards Raasay await visitors to Attadale Gardens in Strathcarron while family activities in the laundry room are amongst the events that will be taking place at Armadale Castle on Skye.

And at Blair Castle in Perthshire there’s a Craft Fair to enjoy on 26 and 27 June, as well as a drive-in cinema, outdoor theatre, deer feeding, nature walks with the ranger and a piper playing in the courtyard of one of Scotland’s most iconic locations.

Catherine Erskine, Chair, Discover Scottish Gardens, says: “With more holidaymakers than ever expected to spend time in Scotland this summer, the Festival offers a chance to discover more of our beautiful gardens and enjoy them in new and exciting ways.”

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