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Mount Stuart

Listed under Gardens in Scotland, United Kingdom.

Photo of Mount Stuart
Photo by flickr user Jeffrey Pang
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Mount Stuart House sits in gothic splendor on the Isle of Bute. Warmed by the Gulf Stream and nourished by lots of good healthy Scottish rain the 300 acres of gardens and policies (a Scots word meaning “pleasure grounds around a mansion”) have been in a state of change and development for nearly three centuries. The gardens were begun in 1717 and consolidated by the 3rd Earl of Bute - a notable botanist and gardener (he helped found Kew Gardens) as well as being, briefly, Prime minister.

The gardens are divided into distinct areas. The oldest and largest being the Policies which are large areas of woodland intercut with walks and rides. The Lower policies also encompasses sandy beaches with great views of the Firth of Clyde (including the occasional nuclear submarine). The Wee Garden - which belies its name by occupying a good five acres - was laid out in 1823 and is given over to plants from the Southern Hemisphere (including many that are unable to grow elsewhere in Scotland).

The Rock Garden - which occupies the most prominent position right by the house - was designed by Thomas Mawson in the 1890s. It is based around two snaking streams that were piped through stone conduits for over a mile and houses an enviable collection of plants from Asia. Further out the kitchen garden was originally laid out by Rosemary Verey around a heated glass pavilion and was enthusiastically replanted in 2000 by me.

The newest garden is around the brand new visitor centre where long lines of plants are laid out in a pattern inspired by an unfurled paper clip (also by me, sorry). For many generations the Bute family have been unafraid of innovation. This is obvious in the architecture and decoration of the house and equally apparent in the gardens. Mount Stuart is lucky enough to have gardens which, while reflecting many different periods in history, are not at all tied to any particular era.

It is constantly evolving and totally unafraid of change. Long may it thrive.

Written by  James Alexander-Sinclair.

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