Saturday, June 2nd’s forecast for the Highlands called for sunshine in most places, with a lone little blob of clouds looming somewhere south of Elgin. The chances of running into that one blob of clouds were slim if we visited two gardens a bit east of there; one at Kildrummy and the other at Leith Hall so we decided to go for it.
We set off for the day and decided to visit Kildrummy Gardens first and then head about 11 miles further north to Leith Hall & Gardens afterward.
We arrived, parked the car and began walking toward the entrance which is across a very tall bridge which spans a large chasm of what used to be a rock quarry. Kildrummy Gardens sits just below the Kildrummy Castle built in the middle ages. The castle was built from the rock which was quarried from this site.
Although there isn’t any access to the castle from the gardens, as far as I know, you can still catch a glimpse of it up on the top of the hill here and there from the garden below. If you want to visit the castle, it’s entrance is just a bit further up the road from where you turn off the main road to go to the garden. It’s a great castle, very ruinous, and has a rich history including Edward I and Robert the Bruce.
The short stroll from the car park to the garden entrance across the bridge greeted us with a beautiful display of purple and magenta colored Rhododendrons.
Once we were on the bridge we could look over its edges to the garden below – first to the left… it’s so far down there it almost makes you dizzy looking over the edge.
and then to the right… My! That’s very pretty, isn’t it? Could barely wait to get down there and follow all of the paths!
We got to the other side of the bridge where the entrance is just ahead…
and peeked over the left side again…
…only to discover the gate was locked and it wouldn’t be open for another hour or so! Dang!
“That’s alright… let’s just head over to Leith Hall for now,” we agreed, “We can tour the house and its gardens and return to Kildrummy afterward later this afternoon.” So off we went! Best laid plans sometimes go awry, so it’s good to be flexible and be willing to implement Plan B!
It was a nice short drive through the countryside and before we knew it, there we were at Leith Hall!
Lindsay and I have been here a couple of times before during one of my previous trips. We’ve toured the gardens, walked along the paths to the ponds and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, however, every time we visited the house, the tours weren’t being conducted. This time, we made sure we came on the weekend when the tours are open!
We had arrived in plenty of time for the next tour, in fact, we had enough time to enjoy a nice bite of lunch in their cafe while we waited. I savored a Brie and Cranberry sandwich, while Lindsay enjoyed a nice cup of Carrot with Coriander soup.
After our yummy lunch, we went inside the front door to begin the tour.
They had a life-size painted cut-out of a giant of a man (7 foot 2 inch), Andrew Hay of Rannes. He was a loyal Jacobite in 1745 and fought at Culloden alongside Bonnie Prince Charlie. Andrew was the brother of John Leith II’s wife, Mary Hay.
After Culloden, he was one of few Scottish survivors and fled to Leith Hall to hide. Later, during the tour, the guide was showing us a bedroom upstairs and told us that it was the bed he hid in where he disguised himself as an old woman who was on her deathbed and was actually successful at fooling the British. Evidently, his ghost has also been seen occasionally wandering about this and the adjoining room pacing back and forth since his death!
Leith Hall was built in 1650, on the site of the medieval Peill Castle, and was the home of the Leith-Hay family for nearly three centuries. At the end of World War II, the last remaining heir, Henrietta Leith-Hay decided to give the house to the National Trust of Scotland as their first property, under the condition that she could live in it until her own death. She didn’t have any heirs because both her husband and son had passed away in 1939. When she passed, she left the house and all that it contained. So, this house has basically been left the way she left it with some minor adjustments. It’s pretty cool.
The National Trust has done an excellent job of maintaining the integrity of the property and it is quite unique in the respect that everything in the house used to belong to this family and were left in place. It has quite a collection.
Unfortunately, it is one of those National Trust properties that do not allow photography inside the house. It’s a shame because there are a lot of beautiful and unique things to behold. It’s definitely worth a visit to see for yourself and the guides are quite informative and do an excellent job. Just remember that they only do tours on the weekend!
They had this interesting display showing how the house had evolved over the years and expanded.
When we finished the tour we decided to walk into the gardens and have a look around the gardens before heading back to Kildrummy even though we have seen them before. They are absolutely lovely and they have an excellent example of a Moongate!
On the side of the entrance gate, there are some very interesting Pictish stones to admire and the cats atop the gate posts are intriguing.
Upon entering we started just strolling along enjoying the sights and scents along the way. We decided to head to the left toward the rockery first.
We were enjoying the sights when all of a sudden it started to gently rain. We found a bench under some cover to hang out under while we waited for it to stop.
However, it wasn’t letting up at all, in fact, it started raining harder and harder and the cover we were under was no longer doing us any good.
Thankfully we had our raincoats on. We decided to brave it and get back to the car in the nearby car park as soon as possible. Our coats kept our torsos dry but it rained so hard the water rain down our legs and filled our shoes! Oh my, we had such a good laugh when we got back to the car totally drenched! It kept up pouring down as we drove, but soon we were out from underneath that one blob of clouds that day. Elsewhere in the region, there was not a drop of ran; it all fell on us!
(Sorry that we weren’t able to continue our tour of Leith Hall Gardens and show you everything. I have written a whole blog post about them before in my old blog “Globetrekker Grandma” if you’d like to see more. You can click on this link: Leith Hall Gardens)
When we got back to the house we had to set our shoes outside on the porch to dry out while we enjoyed a nice steak dinner with locally grown fresh green beans!
A few days later, we returned to Kildrummy once again and the weather was much better suited! We started our stroll through the garden at the lower end of the garden going around the shallow pond on the north side of the bridge. There were all kinds of floral varieties in full bloom.
On the other side of the bridge, the gorgeous views continued.
We continued along, following the many intimate pathways leading to hidden gems…
The burn (stream) of Back Den runs through the pools and cascades down various waterfalls of rock. They were built about 1902 and were inspired by Japanese designs.
Next, we headed up the hill to the upper section of the garden…
This section of the garden is where the bulk of the rock was cut away from the side of the hill. There is still a lot of exposed rock where they quarried and plants have been placed in and amongst the rubble creating a very beautiful and interesting landscape. Around every corner, in every nook and cranny, you’ll see all sorts of wonderful horticultural gems.
There is also an old wooden building which resembles a log cabin of sorts and it houses the museum which is full of all kinds of archaeological finds discovered on site.
They even had some old pictures of the bridge over the quarry being built and the ruins of the castle above.
The bridge was copied off of a 14th-century bridge – The Brig O’Balgownie on the River Don in Aberdeen. That bridge is very close to the Walled Garden at Seaton Park that we visited a couple of blog posts ago.
We peacefully wandered about the remaining sections of flowers before coming to the tunnel under the bridge which leads back to the entrance. So many pretty flowers and I found a variety of Himalayan Poppies I haven’t seen before. They have a lot of the Blue Himalayan but I didn’t realize there were other colors too! Check out the purple and deep red ones! I like those!
It was a wonderful visit to one of my favorite gardens and I hope you’ve enjoyed your glimpse at its wonders.
They also have a very nice Tea Room where you can sit and enjoy yourself. Just outside on the patio they also offer plants for sale that you can buy for a very reasonable price and take home to plant in your own garden. I couldn’t resist. Just had to buy 2; one Himalayan Blue Poppy and one of the other variety of Poppy that blooms in other colors like purple or deep red. Lindsay and I have started a tradition. Each time we visit a castle or garden that sells plants like this, we buy one and go home to plant it in Lindsay’s yard. That way we have souvenirs of our visits that just keep giving back to us year after year. But, ya know, that’s another story for another time. I’ll write a new post about gardening at Lindsay’s Castle sometime in the near future. For now…
Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am grateful for beautiful sunshiney days for visiting gardens and I am also thankful for the ability to be flexible and adaptable.