IT has been the ancestral home of the chiefs of the Clan MacLeod for more than 800 years and despite its remote location, attracts nearly 200,000 visitors every year.

Now Dunvegan Castle has been voted Scotland’s Garden of the year by the Royal Horticultural Society.

RHS describes the gardens as “a hidden oasis filled with flowers, exotic plants, shrubs and specimen trees framed by shimmering pools fed from waterfalls and streams that flow down to the sea”.

The dedicated team of gardeners at Dunvegan have worked tirelessly over four decades to restore the gardens to their former glory and improve the visitor experience for visitors, while providing habitats for wildlife.

New planting schemes and new design features include a gazebo, a Victorian-style glasshouse, a garden museum, a children’s wild wood play area featuring The Bugvegan Insect Hotel, and a 2.7-ton rotating marble sculpture christened The Dunvegan Pebble.

Clan MacLeod chief and estate director Hugh MacLeod said: “When I took over the management of Dunvegan Castle & Gardens in 2008, I didn’t know much about plants or flowers, but I did have a love of gardens.

“It has been exciting to work with our fantastic team of gardeners and external contractors on all these major projects to produce the ‘wow’ factor, and to continue building on my late father’s legacy.

“Forty-four years of investment, effort and care have made Dunvegan Castle’s gardens what they are today.

“Our future plans include improved accessibility, new paths and planting schemes, an annual sculpture exhibition, more interactive educational experiences for children, a wildflower meadow and enhanced visitor interpretation.”

Dunvegan Castle & Gardens is at the heart of the 41,000-acre MacLeod Estate on the Isle of Skye.

The estate also comprises the MacLeod Tables Cafe, four retail outlets, five holiday cottages, seal trips, amenity woodlands, Dunvegan Pier, Glenbrittle Campsite, and Cuillin Coffee Co.

Dunvegan was awarded a £1 million grant from the Scottish Government and EU for a native woodland creation scheme in 2020.


The native woodland creation scheme is the first phase of the MacLeod Estate’s evolving rewilding strategy, which Mr MacLeod has been working on in recent years.

The first phase focused on transforming the marginal land of Dunvegan’s former home farm, Totachocaire, into a 240-hectare native woodland area that trebled the size of the existing contiguous woodlands around the castle and gardens.

A total of 372,000 trees will be planted with different species mixtures to suit the land’s terrain and ecology. The carbon offset is estimated to exceed 40,000 tons over a 65-year period.

This was in addition to the 60,000 native trees planted by the estate in 2010, to replace a monoculture coniferous plantation dating back to the post-war years, with further rewilding and peatbog restoration plans in development.

As one of the largest native woodland projects on the Isle of Skye, it will bring the total number of native trees planted on the MacLeod Estate since 2010 to 432,000.

Visitors to the garden, voting in the RHS competition, made comments including: “So much variety and such a delight, a haven in the rugged landscape... with something round every corner.”

“Simply beautiful with talented and loving horticulturists. Their passion radiates through their work.”

Head gardener at Dunvegan Castle & Gardens, Úna Craven, said: “I am so pleased that our gardens have been recognised by the RHS.

“It is a testament to the hard work of the dedicated garden team. Gardening at Dunvegan Castle & Gardens brings an interesting and satisfying combination of challenges, be it the unpredictable Highland climate with its high rainfall and wind, or the shallow soil.

“Yet the team manage to maintain and enhance this beautiful garden oasis by combining bulbs, herbaceous perennials, shrubs and trees in a very special heritage setting.

“It is an honour to receive this RHS award.”