A discrete sign by the side of the road whispering, “Scottish snowdrop festival,” tempts you down the path to this woodland garden. At the bottom of the hill, a louder, multicoloured sign confesses that the snowdrops are struggling but promises early blooming Rhod. nobleanum and Rhod. mucronatum.
You’re hooked and enter the garden. The sheltered hillside is planted with a vast collection of rhodies, camellias, azaleas and other exotics. Even on a bitter February day this creates a fabulous patchwork of textures and shades of green that stop you in your tracks.
Tranquil ponds reflect the sky and sea which you glimpse just beyond the trees.
And everywhere there is a promise of Spring.
The path leads you into denser woodland.
The canopy closes over your head and you marvel at the height of the tree rhodies, their elegant, crenellated leaves and the beautiful contrasts of bronzes and greens.
Are you feeling claustrophobic?
Don’t worry just around the corner a viewpoint opens up a breathtaking seascape.
Back into the wild and woolly wood. The damp climate means many of the older plants are draped with moss and lichen.
Huge plate like leaves capture and hold fallen pine needles.
The incline is so gradual you don’t realise you have climbed half way up the glen until a break in the wall of green shows a tree rhodie just coming into bloom.
A gentle stroll brings you to the top and the garden spreads out beneath you.
A rustling at your feet makes you jump. You look down and see a blackbird rootling industriously through the deep leaf litter. He glances up for a moment to meet your eye but he is used to visitors and returns, unconcerned, to his work. You are conscious, for the first time, that the garden is filled with bird song. Spring is round the corner and they have territories to defend. What a gorgeous habitat.
Now the path meanders down the hill, the rock faces are covered with a living tapestry of greens.
You’re almost back at the car park. You turn to take a last look. It could be a long goodbye.
The future of Arduaine is uncertain. The garden is over 100 years old and houses a unique collection rhodies and azaleas. It was gifted to the public, in the care of the Scottish National Trust, by its owners in 1992. Last year the trust announced it could no longer afford the upkeep and proposed closing the gardens. Protesters won a one year reprieve and are trying to raise funds to support Arduaine.