About the garden
In 1850 the second Duke of Sutherland had Sir Charles Barry extend his Highland Castle into a French-style chateau; Barry then turned his attention to the garden. He designed a smaller version of the vast Italianate garden he had recently completed for the Duke’s Staffordshire Estate at Trentham. At its height, the head gardener’s domain comprised two walled gardens including fruit and vegetables and flower borders inside and out; back-up nursery gardens and greenhouses; and beyond, extensive parkland with walks and coastal views.
Although much of this has now reverted to woodland, the surviving East Walled Garden with its three parterres each surrounding a pool and fountain provides a perfect layout to view from the castle and terrace and a fitting foreground to the panoramic view across the Moray Firth to the distant Cairngorm Mountains. In recent years, overgrown topiary features have been tamed and new ones created. Fine herbaceous borders have been restored and the parterres reinterpreted with formal plantings of perennials. A central grove of overgrown trees has been removed to make way for a formal layout of smaller trees surrounding a grassy glade. A new formal garden features 20 wooden pyramids supporting flowering and fruiting climbers surrounded by a jewel-box of colourful perennials framed by stepover apple trees.
Look out for huge clumps of Gunnera, hardy fuchsias (including F. ‘Dunrobin Bedder’ raised here in 1890) and old climbing roses. In spring, tides of bluebells follow snowdrops through the garden and policies. In early summer, grass slopes host wildflowers attracting birds and bees. After midsummer, tender exotics vie for attention among hardy stalwarts. From late summer, bold dahlias and agapanthus give way to mellow autumn colours.
The owners are currently restoring an 18th century artificial stream winding between trees on the west side of the garden.