About the garden
Earl and Countess of Stair
Castle Kennedy Gardens is one of Scotland’s hidden treasures. Described as ‘one of the showpieces of Galloway’, it is one of Scotland’s most important historical landscaped gardens with its collection of rhododendrons, champion trees, and rare species. Romantically situated on an isthmus, with the impressive white and black lochs to either side, the gardens consist of 75 acres of sculptured landscapes and magnificent avenues radiating out from the iconic ruins of Castle Kennedy.
Originally designed in 1730 by the 2nd Earl of Stair, who was ambassador to France and greatly influenced by Versailles, the gardens owe much to his formative design. Since that time, they have been tended, extended and cared for by the same family. The sculptured landscaping, with earthworks, terracing and canal, though created in the 1700s, have an air of the contemporary and certainly may have influenced Charles Jencks with their striking similarities to his work. There is also a beautiful two-acre circular Victorian lily pond leading to the impressive Monkey Puzzle Avenue, and along to views across to Lochinch Castle, built in the 19th century.
The gardens are a plant person’s paradise. Being situated on the Gulf Stream, the gardens benefit from fantastic growing conditions, which have created spectacular rows of rhododendrons including mature examples of large-leafed varieties spanning up to 60cm long, such as Rhododendron falconeri. From May onwards azaleas and magnolias give impressive floral displays ahead of the glorious summer borders in the walled garden.
The gardens also contain many champion trees (tallest or largest of their type), such as the mountain beech Nothofagus solandri var. cliffortioides. Planted in the mid-19th century, there are avenues of single species trees, such as monkey puzzle Araucaria araucana and Thuja plicata. In the autumn, the trees offer spectacular displays of autumnal colour.
Throughout the season there is something for everyone to take part in with a snowdrop festival, Easter egg hunt, summer trails and a pumpkin festival. There are also events that include birds of prey, open-air cinema and theatre, specialist guided walks and garden ranger activities. The tearoom serves lunches, light refreshments, hot and cold drinks, and delicious home baking.
Dogs on leads are welcome in the gardens.