In the afternoon of May 14th, and after visiting Edzell Castle, we traveled the short distance between Edzell (Point B on the map) and Dunninald Castle (Point C).
It was a pleasant drive and was only about 20 miles in length. Along the way, we drove through the town of Brechin, we noticed it also has a castle & gardens and made a note to ourselves to come back one day in the near future. Just before Montrose, we also passed another National Trust Property, House of Dun, and added that one to our list of sights to see as well!
Dunninald sits off by itself just south of Montrose and there isn’t a very big sign on the main road heading south to Arbroath. We missed it the first time we drove by but luckily there was a layby where we could turn around. From the layby, we could barely see the tower of the castle sticking up above the treetops so at least we knew which direction the castle was. We drove all the way around the outer stone walls, but couldn’t find a marked entrance directing us where to go. Finally, we just drove down the most obvious entrance and a few hundred feet later drove up to the front of the castle.
The place was basically deserted, except for the gardener mowing the front lawn. He explained that the castle is privately owned and tours of the castle do not begin until June 30th. He did, however, invited us to visit the walled garden and pointed out the way through the woodland paths. Evidently, the walled garden is one of the main reasons why people come to this place, as well as to walk around its many woodland paths because it has quite an extensive collection of a variety of trees.
Near the front entrance to the castle, we noticed a signboard, with laminated maps one could borrow and return later when ready to leave.
As we started down the path the gardener directed us to, we noticed a bunch of signs stacked up against the barn which had recently received a fresh coat of paint and which hadn’t been placed throughout the acreage to guide visitors. It became quite apparent to Lindsay and I that we were just a tad bit early for the “season” and were probably the first to visit!
The wooded grounds were lovely. We passed two big columns topped with ornate finials at the back of the castle which must have been the original entry gates and flanked a wide avenue lined with Beech trees.
We followed this serene avenue, passing meadows of wood hyacinths.
After a pleasant stroll amongst the trees, we found the next smaller path the gardener had told us to turn onto and soon we spied the walls of the garden ahead.
Just a bit further, we came to the beautiful gate and entered an absolutely gorgeous and well cared for and meticulously manicured garden!
After catching our breath from the awe of what we saw, we began strolling in a clockwise direction…
Right off the bat, I noticed this tall bushy looking plant with the most interesting blossoms that had just opened up. I had never seen this plant before. (Later I inquired about it when I came across a gardener and was told it is a tree peony and that the blossoms don’t last very long once they’ve opened.)
As we walked, there were delightful bits of color and variety everywhere we turned, and it was still very early in the season.
Next to the service gate was this cozy little spot to sit and enjoy the garden from. You could tell by the age of the wrought iron this spot has been enjoyed for eons!
Across from that cozy seat, the greenhouse could be viewed. Next to the greenhouse running the length of it were strawberry beds and what looked to be a vegetable patch beyond. There was also an interesting little experiment being conducted near the doorway of the greenhouse – growing potatoes inside of bales of straw. Looks like a good idea. At home in Oregon, people often plant potatoes inside of a tire filled with straw. Once the potato plants get up past the top of the straw, another tire is stacked on top of the previous one and again filled with straw. This process is continued until the tires are stacked up 5 or 6 high. When it’s time to harvest, the tires are removed and the straw falls apart to reveal the clean ‘tatties’ inside. No digging required!
Beyond the greenhouse was the orchard.
We headed back into the center of the garden on the other side of the greenhouse to continue our exploration of this delightful garden.
There were several lengths of beds spreading all the way back to the west gate we entered, filled with a huge variety of goodies, such as raspberries within an enclosure that could be covered with wire when the fruit begins to ripen to keep the birds out.
More flowers and espaliered fruit trees…
More flowers of every ilk, and beds as far as the eye could see which would soon be blossoming like crazy. There were also arches for roses down the center aisle.
Turning our back on the massive garden and looking along the other side of the greenhouse were more beds. Some filled with a nice supply of rhubarb and a little miniature tree farm with a large selection of many varieties lined up like little soldiers.
Turning our attention back to the beds in the center of the garden we spotted this cute little boot scraper and a beautiful display of forget-me-nots.
We came to the end of the greenhouse and looked at the other end of it.
By the way, have you happened to notice how tidy and meticulous this garden is?
We turned around and discovered another gate with an interesting plaque on the wall over a stone water pond.
As we walked along the south wall, more interesting and colorful specimens revealed themselves.
As we approached the last corner of the garden, we encountered this young lady scraping away at the only remaining weeds. So, she’s responsible for this meticulous garden! We chatted with her for awhile and learned that her name is Roz. We highly complimented her on the garden. I only saw one other younger man dart here or there during our entire tour around. I asked her about the unusual plant I had noticed near the entrance and she told me all about it.
When I asked her name, I also asked her if she lives nearby, thinking perhaps she was a local who came to volunteer, when she said, “Well, yes, I do live nearby. I live in the granny flat next to the kids in the castle. Evidently, she is either the mother of the Lord or the Lady of the house! I was flabbergasted and left speechless.
I have to admit, I would have assumed the Lord or Lady’s mother would have been much more ‘posh’ and certainly wouldn’t be caught out in the garden getting her fingernails dirty under most circumstances. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong and found myself admiring this delightful down-to-earth woman who obviously loves this garden and tenderly takes care of it. She’s my new hero – and a woman after my own heart. I thanked her profusely for the opportunity to see this beautiful place and I could tell she was quite pleased and rightfully so – proud.
After that wonderful encounter, we mosied along toward the last corner of the garden and were pleasantly surprised with this little intimate nook.
And finally, as we left that nook and was headed for the gate to exit, we encountered another nice feature.
We reluctantly left that warm & inviting microcosm following along another path through the surrounding woodland back to the car at the castle.
What a beautiful experience that was. Perhaps someday I’ll be lucky enough to return once again and can also tour the castle. That would be nice.
We leisurely drove back to the entrance and headed back to the highway heading for Montrose. Our next stop was only about 5 miles away – the Montrose Air Station Museum.
Unfortunately, when we arrived, the gates were locked and the sign stated they were closed on Mondays. “Oh well, we can just come back tomorrow! It’s late in the day anyway. I’m getting kind of hungry; what do you say we drive the coast road up to Stonehaven from here and get some of that great fish ‘n chips from the Bay Chipper?” I suggested. Lindsay whole-heartedly agreed!
Attitude of Gratitude ~ Today I am grateful for wonderful surprises like Dunninald Walled Garden and the love and devotion of its delightfully down-to-earth granny gardener!