Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute PA20 9LR

Why Should We Visit?

With its sandy beaches, unspoilt countryside and gentle climate, Bute seems a world away from the bustle of the mainland, but it takes just 35 minutes by ferry to reach this island on the Clyde, which is home to one of the most impressive stately homes in Scotland.

Mount Stuart is an architectural wonder, set in more than 300 acres of gardens and estates that include horticultural collections of global significance. From rhododendrons and magnolias in spring to golden birch and maple trees in autumn, there are high points to every season while exotic plants add a tropical touch and paths that wind through unspoilt woodlands emerge at the shoreline from where there are outstanding views.

Story of the Garden

The first house at Mount Stuart was built in 1719 and the detailed plant database held at the estate indicates that the original gardens were laid out at the same time.

Over the centuries these have grown to include formal gardens, great avenues of trees and extensive woodlands which in spring are carpeted with wild flowers.

During the Victoria era many exotic conifers were introduced and these thrived in the maritime climate while a newer collection was planted in the 1980s by the 6th marquess of Bute, in partnership with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. With over 800 conifers this is one of Britain’s richest collections.


The gardens at Mount Stuart are spread out across the estate, separated by woodlands and wide lawns. At around five acres, the Wee Garden that lies beyond the house isn’t actually that wee. It’s a celebration of diverse flora and is filled with plants from the southern hemisphere while the giant Rock Garden, designed by renowned landscape architect, Thomas Mawson, tumbles across two acres of ground in front of the house. Here alpine plants grow in crevices between giant boulders and a stream flows through a series of ponds.

Don’t Miss

The Kitchen Garden is filled with colour and flowers as well as fruit and vegetables which supply the estate cafe. The glass pavilion at its centre originally featured in the Glasgow Garden Festival and contains tender plants .

Around the pavilion are a series of deep borders filled with grasses and perennials that continue to perform well into autumn.

Anything Else To Look Out For

Trees at Mount Stuart grow to giant proportions and the estate is home to 13 British and Irish Champion trees, each one the tallest of its kind. These include a Corsican pine (Pinus nigra ssp laricio) that stands at over 46m high, with a poker straight trunk and fine conical crown, and the tallest Nootka Cypress (Xanthocyparis nootkatensis) which is over 34m.

In addition, 76 Scottish and county champions include a Stewartia pseudocamellia - a genus which was named in honour of the 3rd Earl of Bute. The Stewartia briefly held the position of British and Irish champion for height in 2016, and it remains the tallest and largest girthed specimen in Scotland .

A Bhutan pine (Pinus Bhutanica), a species only identified by botanists as recently as 1980, grows at the top of the Rock Garden.

Best Time To Visit

The extent of the gardens at Mount Stuart is a guarantee that there will always be something remarkable to see at any time of the year but in September the Kitchen Garden, with its ripe produce and waving grasses, is unmissable and as the season progresses the trees provide a spectacular show of colour.

Any Recommendations in the Area

The West Island Way is a waymarked footpath that stretches for 30 miles from Kitchattan Bay in the south of the island to Port Bannatyne in the north. It is an easy walk that passes through seashore, moorland, farmland and forest and it can be completed in two lengthy walking days or over four days at a more gentle pace.


Take the ferry from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay and then travel four miles south on the A844.


Open daily until 30 September. (October openings are under review).

Tel: 01700 503877

Ardencraig Gardens, Ardencraig Lane, High Craigmore, Rothesay, Isle of Bute PA20 9EZ.

For colour and cheerfulness, Ardencraig Gardens in Rothesay are unmatched. Once part of a larger garden, this walled garden is owned by Argyll and Bute Council who use the extensively-restored greenhouses to cultivate and trial bedding plants.

The flower beds, packed with fuchsias, begonias and dahlias, are some of the best laid-out of their kind anywhere in Scotland and provide plenty of inspiration for the many visitors who come along to have their spirits lifted by the displays.

There’s still plenty of colour to be enjoyed in September, which is the last chance to see the gardens before they close at the end of the month.

Most of the plants used at Ardencraig are tropical or tender and have to be lifted and taken into the glasshouses before the first frosts.

When they were part of Ardencraig House, the gardens were modelled by Percy Cane, who was one of the most renowned garden designers of the 1940s and 50s. Examples of his work can be seen in a few places in Scotland, including Mellerstain in the Borders and Falkland Palace in Fife.

In association with Discover Scottish Gardens. See