self catering scotland

Struan Lodge, Beauly, Scotland UK
Struan Lodge Beauly
self catering scotland

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Kintyre’s clustering flotilla of islands

Of all Kintyre’s clustering flotilla of islands, self catering scotland tiny Gigha is the closest to the mainland, only three miles from Tayinloan. The Gulf Stream makes it ideal dairying country, and milk production from the island’s Ayrshire cattle is of the order of 300000 gallons a year. The milk is collected from the modernized farm byres – each with its own cooling tank – by bulk tanker, and transported to the Gigha Creamery where the skilled cheese makers take over. One of Gigha’s great strengths is that its population, although microscopic by urban standards, forms a socially cohesive whole, being happily free of the age imbalance which is the scourge of so many Hebridean islands. All of them take pride in the fact that their self catering scotland island is the home of one of Scotland’s great gardens; a garden brought to full fruition by the late Sir James Horlick in an astonishingly brief span of years.

Sir James became the Laird of Gigha in 1944 and created Achamore Garden from an original mixed woodland planted at the turn of the century to provide cover for game. The woodland now provides shelter for 50 acres of superlative garden.

From the seat on the hill above Achamore, the mainland coast of Kintyre, the dominating Paps of Jura, Islay and the distant hills of Ireland are all within view. Cath Sgeir and Dubh Sgeir, Gigha’s bare inshore reefs, poke spiky fingers out to sea. Inland, there are fertile green meadows, browsing cattle, a scatter of farmhouses and steadings; a common enough pastoral scene. But plunge down the steep, overgrown path through the steamy jungle of the woods, and another world bursts upon the eye. It is a catalogue of colour. The great spread of the Rhododendron Falconeri, over 20 feet wide, bearing immense creamy-yellow trusses. Its cinnamon coloured trunk and branches have a curiously polished, sculpted finish, oddly sensuous.

The pinks, reds and whites of the azaleas on the Farm Road, draping the hillside in sheets of varying hue. Orange light yellow and white azaleas in the North Drive. Flame trees, glowing orange-scarlet, at their dazzling best in May and June. The Hospital Garden, protected by a 15 feet high, wafer thing hedge – thickly clothed to the ground although a mere 18 inches in width, leading on to the magnificence of the Sino Grande Tree Fern with its backing of rhododendrons. The great arch of twin Cyprus – 35 feet high – opens into a flowered glade. The mannered elegance of the Pond Garden is an exotic interloper on a Hebridean island. Above all, those most famous of all rhododendrons, flaunting their blossoms in riotous profusion, are the Horlick hybrids. In 1962, Sir James gave the plant collection of the garden, together with an endowment for its future maintenance, to the National Trust for Scotland. In a very personal sense, Achamore Garden is his living memorial. He was a great gardener, and his garden – open to the public from 1st April to 30th September – must rank as one of the wonders of the West.

Islay, the most southerly of the Inner Hebrides, is only a brief flight from London but light-years removed from the Great Wen in scene and tempo. No island has a more diverse variety of bird habitat; woodland, moor, hill, sea-cliff, machair, sand-dune, agricultural land, river, marsh, freshwater loch and the two great sea-lochs of Indaal and Guinart. The island is one of the world’s major wintering resorts of the banacle goose – over 8000 at a recent count, more than double Islay’s human population – and grey-lags and Greenland whitefronts are regular visitors as well.

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