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A relaxed two-centre tour bringing together the colourful gardens of Argyll and Ayrshire

The gentle climate of Argyll allows gardeners here in the ancient kingdom of Dalriada to grow rare and unusual plants, while the acid soil is perfect for rhododendrons, azaleas, and magnolias, creating a riot of colour in the early summer.




We begin at the fine woodland garden of Glenarn and continue with the gardens of Ardkinglas, Crarae and Arduaine, where rhododendrons reign supreme. Travelling down the Mull of Kintyre we visit the decorative garden of An Ceardach at Peninver before taking the ferry from Campbeltown to Ardrossan on the Ayrshire coast. Here we visit the stunning gardens of Carnell, Dumfries House and Culzean Castle.

Our hotels: we are based first at the Loch Fyne Hotel and Spa, which has fine views over the loch in the pretty little town of Inveraray and leisure facilities including an indoor heated swimming pool and spa. In Ayrshire we stay at the comfortable Carlton Hotel ideally situated in Prestwick.

Available departure dates and prices


A relaxed two-centre tour bringing together the colourful gardens of Argyll and Ayrshire


Friday 3 June 2016

We depart by coach from our local pick-up points and travel to our first visit, the gardens of Glenarn, reputedly one of the best woodland gardens in Scotland. Glenarn was originally planted by the Gibson brothers, and filled with rhododendrons and other plants collected by Kingdom-Ward, Ludlow and Sheriff on their expeditions to Tibet and China. The garden had been neglected for many years when Mike and Sue Thornley acquired it in 1983 and they have spent the last ten years or so gradually restoring it. The mild, damp location supports old plants of Rhododendron tanastyllum, arboreum var. nigagiricum and Magnolia rostrata to mention but a few, and all should be at their best at this time of year.

We continue to Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens at Cairndow at the head of Loch FyneHere huge conifers planted in the nineteenth century provide a high canopy for rhododendrons and other shrubs. Highlights include five of Britain’s tallest or largest conifers, an extensive sorbus glade and some stunning Rhododendron ‘Loderi’.

From here we have a short transfer to Inveraray and our comfortable accommodation at the Loch Fyne Hotel, with leisure facilities including an indoor heated swimming pool and spa. Dinner is served in the evening.

Saturday 4 June 2016

After breakfast we drive south along the shores of Loch Fyne to Crarae Gardens, which was rescued from closure by the National Trust for Scotland. Crarae has a marvellous site in a precipitous glen on the loch side. At the very centre of it lies a romantic wooded ravine, stuffed like a good plum pudding with plenty of rich fruit; the great Asiatic flowering shrubs - azaleas, camellias and magnolias.

In the afternoon we head for Loch Melfort on the coast of Argyll to visit the National Trust for Scotland's garden at Arduaine. This magnificent and varied treasure trove of plants was established from 1903 onwards by James Arthur Campbell. The woodland garden paths are lined with Magnolia and giant tree rhododendrons, including the largest specimen of Rh. Arboreum ssp. zeylenicum. It is most rewarding to keep going to the viewpoint which gives an exquisite panorama of the calm waters of Loch Melfort below.

Dinner is served at the hotel in the evening.

Sunday 5 June 2016

After breakfast we check out of the hotel and head south, travelling down the length of the Kintyre peninsula. After an opportunity for lunch (not included) in Campbeltown, we visit the private garden of An Ceardach at Peninver. The garden has been developed from a wilderness of bracken, bramble and scrub into a three-acre decorative garden with year-round interest. There are several hundred rhododendron varieties plus a huge variety of interesting trees, shrubs and unusual plants. There are wild flower meadows, ponds, streams, herbaceous borders and a vegetable garden.

Following our visit here we take the late afternoon ferry from Campbeltown to Ardrossan, sailing round the southern end of the Isle of Arran. On arrival at Ardrossan we transfer to our hotel in Prestwick, where dinner is served in the evening.

Monday 6 June 2016

Following breakfast today we depart for a visit to the gardens at Carnell House, a 16th centuryPeelTower with alterations by William Burn in 1843. There are five acres of gardens and landscaped grounds including a 100 metre-long phlox and shrub border. Extensive and spectacular herbaceous borders surround the house providing much interest and colour.

We continue to Dumfries House, near Cumnock. Its stunning interiors are home to a world-class collection of furniture by Thomas Chippendale and many late 18th Century cabinet makers, which recently featured on BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. In the extensive grounds there is a classic walled garden along with features such as the Adam Bridge, the Old Water-Powered Saw Mill and the Temple Gate House.

We return to our hotel in Prestwick, where dinner is served in the evening.

Tuesday 7 June 2016

After breakfast we check out of the hotel and travel down the Ayrshire coast to Culzean Castle and Country Park, an extensive and significant historic designed landscape of around 285 hectares. The castle was converted by the architect Robert Adam and the gardens stretch from its dramatic cliff-top setting to the Swan Pond at the southern edge. There are formal areas around the castle - the Fountain Court and terraces where the plant collection reflects the mild climate influenced by the Gulf Stream. The key feature of the North Walled Garden is the magnificent double herbaceous border complemented by traditional fruit and vegetables. The South Walled Garden is laid out to a contemporary design within which sits a newly restored Victorian Vinery and grotto. Informal woodland walks link the main areas of interest and the garden buildings include the Orangery and Camellia House.

Following our visit we will return to our original departure points.

Included in the price

  • 4 nights’ hotel accommodation on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis: 2 nights at the Loch Fyne Hotel, Inveraray and 2 nights at the Carlton Hotel, Prestwick. All rooms have private facilities
  • Comfortable coaching throughout
  • Visits to the gardens of Glenarn, Ardkinglas, Crarae, Arduaine, An Ceardach, Carnell, Dumfries House and Culzean Castle
  • Service of a Brightwater Holidays representative


Not included (per person)

  • Single room supplement         £80.00
  • Insurance                              £18.50 (under 65); £37.00 (65-74); £55.50 (75-90)

Departure points and times:  Depart  Return
Dundee (Discovery Point) 0630 1845
Perth (bus-stop in Canal St) 0700 1815
Kinross (Moto Services, M90) 0800 1800
Dunfermline (bus-stop outside Fife College) 0815 1745
Edinburgh (outside Marriott Hotel, Glasgow Road) 0845 1715
Glasgow (outside Millennium Hotel, George Square) 1000 1600


Please note all timings are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately ten days prior to departure.


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Pauline our Tour Manager was a wee star, her personality and knowledge make the Highlands come alive.

Mrs Wilson

We thoroughly enjoyed the archaeological tour to the Outer Hebrides, the driver and guide made the holiday a great success

Mr and Mrs Sutherland, Dundee

The staff at our hotel on Islay were young and keen, very pleasant and helpful indeed.

Mr and Mrs Turner
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