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Worth a visit
Rating 1.1 (173 votes)

Colonsay House

Listed under Gardens in Scotland, United Kingdom.

  • Photo of Colonsay House
  • Photo of Colonsay House
Photo of Colonsay House
Photo by flickr user goforchris
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If you are going to make a special effort to go and see a garden - and the effort involved in getting to somewhere like the isle of Colonsay is not inconsiderable - then it is useful to have other things to see as well. The very charming gardens surrounding Colonsay House have the big advantage of sitting in the middle of one of the most beautiful small islands in the world. Only eight miles long but surrounded by long sandy beaches, sparkling seas, fantastic wildflowers and rolling, sheep speckled hills. True, this is Scotland and the winter weather can turn nasty with 60 mph salty winds whistling across the island but this garden had wise founders who, in the nineteenth century planted a thick barrier of broadleaved woodland around the gardens as a windbreak. This was augmented in the 1930s and, as a result, the gardens are sheltered and capable of supporting many interesting and unusual shrubs. Most of the recent planting was masterminded by Lord Strathcona (the current owner’s father) although the bones of an older, grander garden layout is still visible amongst the woodland - tree ferns, Magnolias and some fantastic species rhododendrons mark the passage of long lost paths while old gates and ponds crop up unexpectedly around corners. Closer to the house the gardens become more domesticated: a well planted and enthusiastic burn (widened and rerouted for the price of a few bottles of whisky), steep and immaculately mown grass terraces and the loggia garden by the house that leads into the more recent Lighthouse garden (centred around the distorting glass of the abandoned lens from the Islay lighthouse - purchased for another couple of bottles a dozen years ago). This is a garden with enough horticulture to satisfy the botanist, relaxed enough to soothe the beginner and exciting enough to thrill the most restless child.

Written by  James Alexander-Sinclair.

Other expert and press reviews

“Hebrides Revisited”

By Sophie Cook for The Guardian. First published Saturday 4th October, 2008. ...Colonsay House Gardens have escaped the secateurs entirely. The woodland is open seven days a week: we wandered in from the lane and found our own way round the overgrown p… Read more...

Written by press. See the full article in The Guardian, 4th October 2008

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Having just returned from a weekend visit to Colonsay where we stayed in am apartment called "The Stables" in Colonsay House I can certainly underline the amazing attraction of the gardens surrounding the mansion sprawling over the estate. It is clear that the micro-climate, (horrible as the weather was over the weekend), contributes to such a lush growth as does the protected site..the Rhoderdendrums in spring must be incredible as the plants are so huge..everywhere wild black finds unique species of wild orchids and a broad range of vegetation including triopical plants that attest to the mild climate and protected site and of course the very damp weather..the ground is very wet with streams running everywhere and moss is feels like one has stepped back in is so peaceful and for the bird-watcher there are all kinds..from eagles and hawks to the smallest colourful singing birds.

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