Welcome to a tartan edition of Dog Friendly Tales. This time we’re reporting from North of the Borders and taking our dogs on an adventure through Scotland’s Gardens. We’re actually in one of our favourite bits of the world: the West Coast of Scotland. This beautiful area is a dog-walker’s paradise, incorporating the region of Argyll & The Isles, it is a magical world of stunning beaches, majestic castles and intriguing islands.
Jura, Islay, Inverary and Iona – the names alone will transport you to a more relaxing and restful place. And when you’re there, you’ll find so much to explore – for example, you’ll be able to choose from seven National Nature Reserves, all full of iconic wildlife such as golden eagles, seals and deer.
Equaling the natural beauty is the hospitality and new experiences on offer. You’ll find world-class cuisine to try and delicious single malts to taste, alongside fascinating museums and historic buildings to explore.
Because there is so much to discover, we’ve decided to focus on one type of destination: Scotland’s dog friendly gardens. There is nothing better than wondering with your dog past herbaceous borders full of beautifully scented plants. It’s also a type of destination that the West Coast of Scotland has in abundance – a beautiful bloom in the region’s button hole. And remember: gardens change with each season, so there’s always something different to see. Without further ado, step into Scotland’s wonderful gardens
Arduane Gardens promises bold colours and fragrant scents and it doesn’t disappoint. Set in a beautiful coastal location, 20 miles south of Oban, Arduane features a spectacular array of colourful plants including rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and giant Himalayan lilies. These exotics can thrive because the garden lies on a rocky promontory overlooking the Sound of Jura. This means it benefits from the warm waters of the North Atlantic Drift.
There are a multitude of walks that you and your dog can explore through the grounds, taking in all the different colours, which change as the season roll round. There’s so much to see that, if you want to walk the whole garden, you’ll have to allow about two and a half hours. When you and your pooch have had your fill of plants, head to the Loch Melfort Hotel. On the doorstep, this is great place to visit for a coffee or bite to eat. It offers floor to ceiling windows and a sunny terrace from which you can take in the terrific views.
At Crarae Gardens dogs allowed if they are on a short leash. Do not let this put you off – the gardens have so much to offer that they are well worth a visit. Lying 10 miles south of Inveraray, just off the A83, Crarae Gardens are also easy to get to.
At the centre of this beautiful botanical haven lie the sparkling waters of the Crarae Burn. Spread out around the burn, you’ll find what is arguably the UK’s finest example of a Himalayan style garden. Set up in 1912 by the aunt of an intrepid plant hunter, it’s a ‘living horticultural museum of Edwardian tastes.’
With five different marked trails criss-crossing the garden, you and your four-legged friend will be spoilt for choice. For example, there’s the Spirit of the Garden path that offers a gentle stroll and, for the more adventurous, there are the steep steps of the Himalayan Gorge to navigate (watch out for Yetis). Among the garden’s treasures is a National Collection of Southern Beech. You’ll also discover an amazing variety of wildlife, including deer, treecreepers and even birds of prey such as peregrine falcon.
Culzean Castle & Country Park
This garden, which is close to Ayr and overlooks the beautiful Firth of Clyde, comes with an amazing castle as an added bonus. It offers hundreds of acres of woods, beaches, park land, formal gardens and cliff-tops to explore with your pooch. There is also one of Scotland’s largest walled gardens to enjoy. Overall, the park has around 17 miles of pathways, so even if you return for another trip, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to retrace your steps as you head out for your ‘walkies’.
The park is a real feast for the senses, planted with an amazing array of beautiful trees and interesting flowers. The estate, which includes a deer park, is also full of fascinating follies to discover. And of course there is the Castle itself. Perched on a cliff-top this historic masterpiece will be the perfect backdrop for any photos.
NB: Dogs are very welcome but should be kept under control at all times and must be on a lead in the Walled Garden. Only assistance dogs are permitted inside the Castle buildings and the adventure playgrounds.
If you are visiting the Isle of Bute, there is one garden that you and your four-legged friend should definitely visit. Mount Stuart is a 19th century country manor house that is surrounded by 300 acres of beautifully designed and manicured gardens and grounds. This is a garden that puts on a great show all through the year – in the spring the rhododendron will bloom, in summer the gardens will be a symphony of colour and later in the year the maple trees will add their own autumn hues to the mix. There are lots of different areas to explore – from the arboretum and pinetum (which feature trees from 13 different countries) to the ‘wee’ garden, kitchen garden and rock garden. This is a whole world of horticultural inspiration for you and your pooch to discover.
Once you’ve explored all that the gardens have to offer, you can then take a look at the stately home, which was the ancestral home of the Marquess of Bute. There’s also a gallery, shop and restaurant.
Ardkinglas Woodland Garden
If you have young kids then they’ll love to take the family dog to Ardkinglas Woodland Garden. That’s because this beautiful estate, which lies next to the small Argyll village of Cairndow, has a Gruffalo and Fairy Trail for everyone to enjoy. The mouse from the story points visitors along the Gruffalo Trail, which features extracts from the Scots version of the popular book. The new fairy trail will introduce you to the fairies and elfs that have decided to make their homes in the woods.
The two trails are only part of what this beautiful place has to offer. With views over Loch Fyne, home of the famous Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, the garden boasts some of the largest conifers in Europe and one of the UK’s tallest tress, a grand fir, which stands over 200 ft. tall.
Overall, the woodland garden is the perfect place for exciting rambles with your four-legged friend. In the Spring you’ll be able to spot bluebells which carpet the woodland floor. In the early summer enjoy the exotic blooms of the rhododendrons and azaleas. And in the Autumn marvel at the colour of the trees. Oh and, whatever the time of year, be sure to look out for both the Gruffalo and the fairies.
Recommend one of Scotland’s Dog Friendly Gardens
Do you have a favourite garden in the West Coast of Scotland you love to explore with your dog? We’d love to hear about it. Why not get in touch and tell us about your favourite garden that we can share on Dog Friendly Tales. We would be delighted to share a photo of you and your dog enjoying a favourite walk.
Explore Dog Friendly Cottages in Scotland
If we have enticed you to the West Coast of Scotland (it is absolutely stunning), take a moment to browse our Dog Friendly Cottages in Scotland and find yourself some great accommodation for your next visit.