The gardens at Mount Stuart were begun in 1718 by the second earl of Bute who moved from his family home, the old Mansion House in Rothesay, to Mount Stuart. He chose a spot five miles out of the town on the east side of the Isle of Bute.
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The 300 acres of gardens and grounds include an 18th century woodland, several formal gardens, designer wilderness, a kitchen garden, glass pavilion plant collection, a pinetum, a rock garden, and a lake.
There are four circular walks waymarked in the grounds. The pinetum walk is one mile and 45 minutes. It leads towards the shore through specimen conifer trees. The trees date from the 1800s when it was the British custom to bring specimen plants from all over the world to the UK. A new pinetum of 100 acres was planted, containing specimens from 13 different countries. Types of trees are mostly from north-west America and include giant sequoia, western hemlock, Douglas fir, noble fir, and western red cedar.
The garden walk is three miles and two hours and divided into several sections. The walk goes across the original main drive to the beehive well. The well was a source of fresh water for the farming and fishing community once located on the shore. The path then heads to Lime Tree avenue, where bees congregate to gather honey from the blossoms. In the mid 1700s the third earl added what is known as the Upper Policies. These wooded avenues give views across the firth. There is a column with a figure on top in the centre of this area.
An avenue leads past the house, and an iron gate then leads into what is known as the Wee garden. It was designed in 1823 and has a collection of southern hemisphere plants. In the late 1800s there were wallabies in the garden. The calvary walk is a landscape of pools and waterfalls and a pond, designed by Thomas Mawson at the end of the 19th century, for the third marquess. The rock garden, located on the way back to the house, was also created by Mawson. Some of the plants are Asiatic and include the Japanese flowering apple.
The shore walk is two miles and 1.5 hours. It is the same route as the garden walk until Lime Tree avenue is reached, after which it heads toward the firth. The red sandstone cliffs visible on this walk were under water 10,000 years ago. Between the shore and the cliff are mossy woods that contain peat and a woodland of beech, alder, ash, willow, and Scots pine. Ferns, dog's mercury, and wild garlic grow beneath the trees. Birds, insects, and mammals like this habitat. Bats and owls as well as buzzards frequent the area. There is a bird hide at the bottom of Lime Tree walk. A beech walk and a folly are found along this walk. Evergreen woods are dotted along the shore.
The Kerry trail is 3.5 miles and 2.5 hours and covers parts of the same areas as the other walks. There is a grade A listed 17th century chapel on the walk. A graveyard is in the grounds (closed to the public). Rhododendrons line the drive to Mount Stuart house.
The kitchen garden, dating from Victorian times, occupies the site of the original flower and vegetable gardens. It was remodelled in 1990 by Rosemary Verey in a contemporary design. In the garden are plums and damsons, organic vegetables, fruit cages, a pleached hornbeam walk, herb and medicinal herb beds, cut flower beds (dahlias, chrysanthemums), and an orchard with 13 varieties of apples, two types of cherries, and three types of pears. The glass pavilion houses plants from serveral mountain ranges—New Guinea, Malaysia, New Zealand and others.
Mount Stuart House and Gardens
Isle of Bute, Scotland
Tel. 01700 503877
Open: daily, 3rd week March, April, Oct, daily by guided tour (times on website); May-Sep, daily, free flow and guided tours, 11am-5pm; for full details see website
Children’s adventure play area; picnic area; tea-room; shop
Web: Mount Stuart
Mt Stuart porch by Barbara Ballard
Other photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Rock garden and Mt Stuart woods by Simon Leatherdale;
Mt Stuart chapel by Don Cload;
Mt Stuart house and Mt Stuart monument by John Firth;
Mt Stuart estate gates by Barbara Carr.