Threave Garden and Estate
Castle Douglas

Going Bats in Galloway
For a spooky Halloween atmosphere there’s no better place to be than Threave in the south west, which is the only garden in Scotland to boast its own bat reserve. Eight different species of bats live in the woodlands that surround Threave House, a baronial mansion that sits amidst 65 acres of carefully-planned and beautifully-maintained gardens.
At this time of the year the trees are showing off their best autumn colours, while berries are everywhere, including on the collection of holly trees that help to make this garden also worth visiting in the depths of winter.
It’s at Threave that, for more than 60 years, the National Trust for Scotland has run its School of Heritage Gardening, and the work of students, along with the resident team of gardeners and the volunteers who support them, has resulted in a dynamic mix of traditional and innovative spaces. These include the Garden of Contemplation, which looks outwards towards the Galloway hills, and the intensively-cultivated walled garden, with its glasshouses filled with tender plants and beds of deep soil which in summer are filled with all kinds of delicious produce.
A productive grapevine grows on a protective wall and in the long herbaceous borders that bisect the growing spaces, the last of this year’s perennials are still in flower. Meanwhile, closer to the house, Leucanthemums and Anaphalis, commonly known as “Everlasting”, are still in flower.
Large island beds, planted in layers of bulbs, shrubs, grasses and trees, occupy some of the grassy areas and features at Threave include a wildflower meadow, a rose garden and a rock garden, along with smooth lawns that in spring are covered with more than 360 different varieties of daffodils, which open in succession, providing a display that lasts for many months.
Other spring attractions include a mass of rhododendrons and Himalayan blue poppies and in June there’s an annual garden show, which as well as selling plants raised in the garden, also welcomes some of the best independent nurseries in the south of Scotland.
In front of the visitor centre, gift shop and cafe is a long, sloping border, where advantage has been taken of good drainage and the south-facing position to grow plants that relish the heat, including a mass of Allium sphaerocephalon, which is sometimes known as “Plums on sticks” because of the shape and colour of its flowers.
As a way of providing interest for the visitors who come to Threave all year round, the planting has been designed to provide winter structure and many of the trees and shrubs that grow here also have colourful stems and bark that come into sharp focus as foliage disappears. 
As well as bats, the garden is also home to some of Dumfries and Galloway’s much-cherished resident population of red squirrels, while the range of planting and food sources provide ideal conditions for a huge variety of garden birds to flourish.

Welcoming Winter Visitors
Threave Gardens are part of a 1,500 acre nature reserve that is being managed for biodiversity and climate change. It includes extensive wetlands on the River Dee, which in summer are home to ospreys and where red kites and peregrine falcons can frequently be spotted flying overhead.
Deer live amongst the trees and long grasses around the reserve. 
The ruins of Threave Castle sit on an island in the river and the trails that lead around the marshes give visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the landscape. Otters and kingfishers live here and conditions are ideal for many different kinds of wading birds.
As winter approaches, these waters also begin to fill up with arrivals from the Arctic Circle, including pink-footed geese, Greenland white-footed geese and whooper swans, whose honking cries are a familiar sound amongst the reeds and rushes.

Threave Garden is off the A75, one mile west of Castle Douglas. The garden, shop and cafe are open daily, 10am-4pm. Tickets: £8.50/££7.50
The nature reserve is open daily, dawn to dusk. Entrance is free.
Threave House is closed during the winter months. The garden is accessible for wheelchairs and buggies. Tel: 01566 502 575

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