Why We Should Visit
The far north west of Scotland is a long way from anywhere, but reaching it is worth the journey because the scenery is breathtaking. The further north you venture, the wilder the landscape becomes until its feels as if the world has been reduced to the basic elements of water and stone.
The beacon at the end of this road is The Torridon, a five-star resort that offers luxury and comfort amongst the grandeur of a landscape where the mountains are formed from some of the oldest rocks in the world.
This Victorian grand design, which sits on the edge of Upper Loch Torridon, has turrets on the outside and interior styling that blends original features with contemporary styling.
Story of the Garden
The garden at The Torridon sits a little way off from the hotel itself and it has been a productive space since the magnificent mansion was completed in 1887 as a hunting lodge for William King-Noel, the first Earl of Lovelace and husband of Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, who is now recognised as the world’s first computer scientist.
Creating a garden in this extreme landscape involved bold measures and so the Earl of Lovelace had the soil brought in by boat from Ireland however even today the rocky subsoil still causes challenges for head gardener Bryony Doig, who took over the garden in February.
Prior to that she had been running a kitchen garden in Edinburgh that supplied produce to three high-end restaurants and under her care the garden has increased the amount of fresh food it is now supplying to the hotel’s renowned restaurant.
The garden covers two acres and includes two polytunnels where fruit and vegetables are grown all year round.
There is an orchard and a large area devoted to soft fruit, as well as a damp garden which Bryony has plans to develop.
Alongside the rows of fresh vegetables and the apples, cherries and quinces that are currently ripening in the orchard, one of the most decorative parts of this productive space is the Gin Garden, which showcases the botanical ingredients, foraged from the hillsides around the Torridon Resort, that go in to making the hotel’s own label Arcturus Gin.
The gin is named after a giant, red star that is visible from Earth with the naked eye. It is at its brightest urging the annual rutting of the stags and it is said that hinds can only conceive at the rising of Arcturus.
In the Arcturus garden, with its star-shaped pond, guests can pick their own cocktail herbs.
The tomatoes in the polytunnel. They grow to an extravagant size thanks to the long daylight hours in Wester Ross. Here, at the height of summer, it never gets properly dark and the result is that plants acts as if they are on steroids, developing bigger and faster than they would further south.
And it’s not just the veg that goes into overdrive, the flowers that are grown as cut flowers for the hotel pump out a non-stop succession of blooms.
Anything Else To Look Out For
The gardens are part of the wider estate that includes Torridon Farm, which also produces food for the resort. The herd of Highland Cattle eat fruit and vegetable peelings from the kitchen and produce a supply of manure that helps to fertilise the gardens. The farm is also home to Tamworth pigs, a rare breed that is prised for its flavour.
Meanwhile trails that start in the garden lead along the shoreline and up into the surrounding hills.
Best Time To Visit
In summer, when the days are long and the North West is frequently bathed in sunshine, the garden is at its most beautiful and productive. This is a time of plenty, with raspberries and currants ripening in the sun and fruits starting to swell in the orchard.
Any Recommendations In The Area
Follow the narrow road that winds westwards along the crenelated shores of Loch Torridon until you reach the Atlantic coast and Sand Beach at Applecross. This glorious stretch of golden sand isn’t just a perfect spot for a picnic or for taking a plunge, it is also an important archaeological site and evidence of human habitation suggests that the local population was collecting shellfish on this beach more than 7,500 years ago.
The beach is also a monitoring post for the Royal Navy and as well as the seals, porpoises and, occasionally, whales that may be spotted in these waters, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of a submarine passing stealthily through the channel that lies between the mainland and the island of Raasay.
From Inverness cross the Kessock bridge and then head west for 60 miles, past Conon Bridge and Achnasheen, until you reach Upper Loch Torridon.
The gardens are open daily and are free to visit.
Tel: 01445 791242
In Association with Discover Scottish Gardens. See www.discoverscottishgardens.org.
Despite Atlantic storms and rocky terrain, the North West of Scotland is home to a unique collection of remarkable gardens and the most famous of these is Inverewe, which sits on a rocky promontory overlooking Loch Ewe.
Famous for its lush planting and curving walled garden, Inverewe was the vision of one man, Osgood MacKenzie, who 150 years ago began important soil and planting trees.
Today those trees form the vital shelter belt that protects the garden from the almost incessant wind, allowing all kinds of rare and tender plants to flourish.
Tree ferns, palms and a huge collection of South African natives thrive in the mild climate and clean air and the woodlands are filled with damp-loving species such as Astilbe and Ligularia.
From one of the densest parts of the garden visitors emerge onto a viewpoint overlooking the loch and from here it is possible to gain an insight into the 15-year effort it took to establish a huge garden on what was a treeless outcrop. Soil was transported by boat to provide the foundations on which plants would grow and throughout his life Osgood MacKenzie continued to refine his vision, with his legacy carried on by his daughter Mairi Sawyer, who added her own stamp to the garden before eventually passing it into the care of the National Trust for Scotland.
With water lapping at its edge and mountains as its backdrop, Inverewe enjoys one of the most spectacular settings of any garden in Scotland.
Look out for red squirrels in the trees and sea eagles in the skies above and take time to visit the Sawyer Gallery, adjacent to Inverewe House, with its fine collection of contemporary art. There’s a cafe and a visitor centre too that can provide up-to-the-minute information on events in the garden and guided walk with the gardeners.
Poolewe, Wester Ross IV22 2LG
Tel: 01445 781200