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The Scents of the Highlands and Islands

Dotted right across the Highlands and Islands, like floral punctuation marks, are some of the UK’s finest formal gardens.

Often associated with grand country estates, such as Attadale Gardens or Inverewe Gardens, or with even grander castles, such as Cawdor, Dunrobin or the Castle of Mey, these floral and natural treats bring together the best of gardening amidst awesome scenery.

From island delights such as the glorious gardens at Brodick Castle on Arran to the exotic garden of Armadale Castle on Skye, these horticultural attractions usually combine the best of natural history with an insight into the aristocratic families and green-fingered, forward-looking designers that created them. And beyond these larger, often woodland gardens, there are also so many other smaller floral experiences – ranging from the peaceful retreat of the Botanic Gardens in the City of Inverness to the beautiful Boat of Garten Community Garden in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park.

Gordon Castle Walled Garden, Fochabers, Moray

The beautiful and serene Walled Garden at Gordon Castle is one of the Highland’s best kept secrets. Built in 1803, the site is one of Britain’s oldest and largest kitchen gardens growing seasonal produce which you can sample in the café and shop. The garden is a feast for all the senses with flourishing flowers, a fragrant lavender garden, outdoor theatre and play area. The historic estate offers unique accommodation too and a space to relax for every visitor.

The restoration of the gardens began in 2013 to bring this historic site back to its 15th Century glory. Every visitor supports the continuing restoration of this vital piece of Scottish history so take a stroll around the gardens and breathe in the glorious sights, sounds and smells of this hidden gem.

Explore more here.

Fochabers near Gordon Castle, Moray
Image provided by VisitScotland/ Paul Tomkins

Armadale Castle, Skye

The Isle of Skye is full of majesty and mystery making it a popular destination for the adventure seeker. The Armadale Castle estate has acres to explore with an Arboretum, ponds, museum and library and adventure playground.

Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum of the Isles is operated by Clan Donald Lands Trust, a Scottish Registered Charity. The charity owns and manages not only the Castle grounds but also the wider 20,000-acre estate where visitors can explore the rich heritage and culture of this beautiful island.

Boat of Garten Community Garden, Badenoch and Strathspey

The Boat of Garten is a small village in Badenoch and Strathspey with a lot to offer for nature lovers. The community garden was created in 2002 with the help of BBC’s Beechgrove Garden, the nearby Boat Hotel and the Strathspey Steam Railway with many volunteers helping along the way.

The garden is a feast for the eyes with vivid flower patches and walking routes connected to the local area. There are plenty of places to sit and take in the sights and smells of the garden before exploring other projects completed by the community in the area.

Boat of Garten is situated beside the picturesque Cairngorm mountains.
Image provided by VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins

Inverness Botanic Gardens

The Inverness Botanic Gardens is a not so well-kept secret gem in the city. Open 7 days a week, visitors can enjoy wandering through the Tropical House, possibly the hottest spot in the Highlands, with its exotic flowers and fruit trees and then move through to marvel at the giant cacti in many different varieties on show in the Cactus House.

Visitors can enjoy a break at the Botanics Café before exploring the outside gardens complete with art pieces to spot and fun for all the family! The Botanics also hosts events year-round so make sure to check what’s on before your next visit.

Inverness Botanic Gardens
Image provided by Northport

Benmore Botanic Gardens, Dunoon, Cowal Peninsula

At 120-acres, Benmore is a magnificent mountainside garden surrounded by the stunning scenery of Argyllshire. Benmore has a world-famous collection of plants from places all over the world. Visitors will be stunned by the entrance to the garden along Redwood Avenue with trees which are 150 years old.

The more adventurous can embark on a short climb to enjoy views of the Holy Loch and neighbouring mountains, while garden paths full of exotic blooms and wildlife offer a gentler way to explore the park. Local produce is on or visitors can squirrel away to a ‘silent space’, a place of reflection and relaxation.

Benmore Botanic Gardens
Image provided by VisitScotland/ Kenny Lam