Day 9 |
May 18, 2010

Loch Ewe, Scotland

By Dr Toby Musgrave, Horticulturist and Botanist

Weather: Sunshine and partial cloud

After a particularly calm and pleasant overnight passage from St Kilda back to the mainland taking the route to the north of the island of Lewis, we arrived at today’s destination of Loch Ewe by mid-morning.

For those not wishing to enjoy the sunny morning and views of the dramatic landscape of the Highlands, there was the option to attend one or the other or both of the two morning lectures. At 09.30 I kicked off the program with a lecture entitled The Story of the British Garden and was followed at 11.00 by Rich Pagen with his presentation of Sea Eagles to Basking Sharks: modern wildlife conservation in an ancient landscape. Both lectures were well attended and a well-deserved lunch followed before we began our afternoon’s activities.

I was part of the party that set off from the ship at 13.15 for the jetty that gives access into Inverewe Gardens. I have visited these delightful and beautiful woodland gardens on several occasions and from past experience I was all geared up with mosquito net and industrial strength insect repellant.

In years past, within seconds of our arrival, the air around the jetty has become black with the miniscule but vicious biting midges, but this year, thank goodness, there was not a winged beasty to be found. It was positively unnatural.

However it did make exploring the gardens a much more pleasant experience. And what an experience it was! The sun was shining, the sky clear and the rhododendrons looking spectacular. The route we took as we explored took us up through the ornamental woodland studded with pools, flowering shrubs and perennials.

Up over the top of the slope and down the other side we came to the gardens adjacent to the house: the rock garden and Japan (planted with many species from that country.) From here along the driveway from the house to the main gate, and there, below, the productive garden.

This must be the most unusual kitchen garden in Scotland. Nestled in at the foot of a 30 foot wall and almost on the adjacent seashore, it commands a spectacular view out over to the head of the loch and the mountains beyond, and was originally created by importing literally thousands of tons of soil brought to the garden by ship.

After a nose around the gift shop I headed back along the maze of paths back to the landing site by a very circuitous route; and around every corner yet another floriferous beauty. The blue of the Himalayan poppy raised in the garden was of a particularly vivid blue and then, the Rhododendron highlight of the trip.

A few years ago I visited Sikkim and saw many Rhododendron species growing in the wild and my favorite is Rhododendron falconeri. Here beside the path was a 20 foot tall specimen in full flower and looking absolutely magnificent with its white trusses of flowers, each bloom with its purple throat, and the trunk and branches covered with the most beautiful cinnamon-colored bark. After taking far too many picture I returned to the ship a happy man!