Paradise found

by James Alexander-Sinclair

I have spent the last week on the small, but unbelievably beautiful, island of Colonsay off the west coast of Scotland.

Island of ColonsayI have spent the last week on the small, but unbelievably beautiful, island of Colonsay off the west coast of Scotland. I apologise to those of you in the midlands who have been braving flash floods but the weather here has been stunning. Long sunny days, stretches of perfect white sand, bobbing seals, heathery hills, shining blue lobsters and lichened rocks.

But, even though to the casual observer it may have seemed that I was lolling around all week doing very little, I have been diligent in my pursuit of horticultural titbits to amuse readers of this blog. A lot of the island is covered with what is known as Machair - sandy soil, scrubby grass and wild flowers - which, although past its first flush of youth by this time of year, is very lovely. Grazed by flocks of hardy looking sheep, woolly Highland cattle and the occasional feral goat there are great drifts of meadowsweet and loosestrife interspersed with the seed heads of yellow rattle, tufted rushes and sweeps of heather.

The main house on the island has a garden open to the public which has some fantastic trees and rare shrubs (including good collections of Olearias - particularly the exotically named phlogopappa and Rhododendrons). One part of the garden is called the Lighthouse garden because its centrepiece is the old glass lens from the lighthouse on the isle of Islay. It was brought over and reassembled here about a dozen years ago and is a cause of endless enjoyment for children as it works like a fairground hall of distorting mirrors.

There is an organisation called Glorious Gardens of Argyll and Bute which gives all the contact information for this garden and many others in the area - if you're coming, allow lots of time.

And the downside? errr... the sea, though azure blue, is a bit bracing, there can be midges (one of those insects created with no obviously useful purpose) and rainy days are not unknown around here. But, apart from those minor niggles, it is a paradise largely unspoilt by man.

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Gardeners' World Web User 08/08/2007 at 13:22

The walled garden at jura house on jura is often overlooked. It is not mentioned enough in gardens to visit. The advantage of the gulfstream coming this far north are embraced in the garden where many New Zealnd natives are grown. The sea is bracing there too, on your own beach at the bottom of the garden. Another reason to go there besides the deer!

Gardeners' World Web User 30/01/2009 at 22:50

I loved the picture taken off the west coast of Scotland, the natural beauty can't be beaten, I remember comming across the most wonderful expanse of heathers on a holiday some years ago, never tire of the thought of it. Heaven on earth.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:29

Nice to know you had a wonderful time James, but us devotees of your other blog at blackpitts missed you terribly. As Peters and Lee said "Welcome home...."