We had made the decision earlier in the summer that if we got a fine Sunday that would suit us all, we would stravaig south to Inverewe Gardens – Gwen was particularly keen on visiting the restaurant as she loves the pictures they display there. The opportunity came two or three Sundays ago – I had to postpone a loose arrangement I had with Mary, as we discovered that that Sunday in August was the only one we would otherwise all have free until the middle of October – which maybe isn’t the best time of year to go and walk around 54 acres of garden!
So, Gwen “dumped the dog” as she put it – i.e. Storm was left with a sitter for the day – and we met up at the Glac at the rather early hour of 9.30 am considering it was a Sunday, but it takes at least a couple of hours from here to Inverewe and we didn’t want to be too late arriving. There were four of us, Gwen who was driving, Lyn, Pam MacKenzie and Yours Truly. The journey down was uneventful – not much traffic on the road and plenty of time to admire the spectacular scenery as we drove through the mountains – in particular the An Teallach range. As usual I was on the lookout to see if there were any herds of the wild or rather, feral, goats around the place as this is one of their main haunts on the mainland – the other place to see them being the Isle of Skye. But there were none to be seen that day…
We arrived at our destination at about 11.30 and stopped in the spacious car park for a few minutes for a bit of a refresher after the journey – in my case that was a cup of coffee from my flask as usual! We decided that our best plan was to spend an hour or so in the gardens, then to come out to the restaurant for lunch and go in again afterwards. Being a National Trust property nowadays, the entrance takes you through the gift shop which sells all those ubiquitous “Scottish” things such as whisky, tablet (fudge), things involving heather or tartan and CDs of traditional music. Don’t think I have anything against such places – I really haven’t and can enjoy looking around them any time, but today we went straight through to buy our tickets and get out into the gardens.
We thought the best idea was to “do” the walled garden before lunch – we all know the gardens well, as anyone living in the area does. The walled garden looked truly superb with a late summer mix of colourful flowers and roses, with the fruit and vegetables looking full and ripe. I had been disappointed to find out not so long ago that the produce grown in the garden is all thrown away – or at best made into compost! I had thought that, although there was no “big house” anymore to use the fruit and veg, it would at least go to help feed residents of the nearest old folks’ home or maybe be sold to the hotels in the area – but apparently not so and that I feel is rather a waste of some superb provender! However, it makes for a very pleasurable walk, and for me the best bit is towards the end where you come to some of the more exotic species such as palm trees – well exotic for this part of the world anyway!
To say that the going was slow would be no exaggeration! Not only is there much to see, but also Pam is as keen a photographer as I am – well a lot keener really and a lot better at it! She sported a couple of lovely looking cameras which I could only envy. It was hard not to photograph everything we saw and I ended up taking nearly 100 pictures on the day!! We were constantly stopping to admire, smell and/or photograph the plants – but then, that is what you are supposed to do in such a garden, and it is stupid to rush through… Eventually, we got as far as the house and forced ourselves to turn back and walk along the drive back to the entrance. As far as I know the house is still lived in by people who rent it from the Trust, and I hope that that is the case – it would be a real shame if such a pleasant house was either lying empty or had been turned into offices…
Although we were all pretty hungry by this time, it still took us a while to get back as there is still so much to see and admire. The four of us have very similar tastes in such things, and the one thing we stopped to admire more than anything else during this day was the bark on the various rhododendra; the trees both exotic and native; and here down the drive the eucalyptus trees, of which there are several, all very tall. My mother-in-law had one in her garden in Surrey, but eventually it succumbed to frost and had to be cut down – but Inverewe, although hundreds of miles further north, rarely suffers from frost as it is right next to the sea, which is why trees such as eucalyptus thrive there in an area where they really shouldn’t!
Eventually, we got back to the restaurant. I think I have mentioned before that I live on a gluten-free diet, so I was wondering what I could eat as I didn’t want a big meal because Chris was cooking dinner. The salads with various sorts of smoked fish looked appetising but too substantial – but then I noticed that there was a sign by the soup terrene that declared that not only was the soup gluten-free, but a GF roll would be forthcoming by request – so I requested it! I got the impression that the lady serving behind the counter was delighted to have been asked She was so very helpful, coming up with a reasonably good roll, which was warm, to go with a good bowl of soup and a truly delicious piece of GF almond cake for desert – she even made a point of asking me afterwards whether I had enjoyed it, to which I could reply in all honesty that I had. The others all had what they wanted – Lyn loves the quiche they serve there and was not disappointed! The restaurant is a very pleasant place – well-lit with big windows giving a feeling of plenty of space, even though at times it must get very crowded – especially when there are coach-loads of visitors arriving all hungry at once. It is also very reasonably priced!!
After lunch, we returned to the gardens as planned, and went up to my favourite part which is where the tree ferns are – The Bamboozalum. We spent some time up there, and then promptly got lost trying to get to the pond area! Every time I have been to Inverewe I’ve got lost They have done much to improve the signposting and have put in extra paths, but it still seems to be confusing! We walked down towards the quay – a path I had never taken before – but I for one was beginning to get a bit tired, so we turned back and found a path which brought us out in the water garden, but from the other direction! After a spell there, we headed back towards the gate, stopping for a quick look round the nursery where they sell a few plants – I bought a couple of alpines for my garden. Then there was only one more thing to do to complete our day and that was to consume a tub of yummy Mackies ice cream.
As mentioned above, I took an awful lot of pictures in the gardens so I thought I would divide this post into two. This week has been about our Girls’ Day Out and I will leave you with some photos of us enjoying it. Next week, there will be little text and lots of pics. I know that Inverewe Gardens are very famous world-wide and there are probably thousands of pictures out there of the gardens, but these will be my own take on what there is to see. I leave it to you to approve or not…
[Photos by Clarinda]