These are set in the depths of rural Perthshire and reached by a dramatic drive along a narrow drive lined with mature beech trees which form a canopy above your heads. The drive takes you past the wall of the outer courtyard to a large car park with good toilets.
A stone archway in the wall leads into the outer courtyard with the 15thC tower house which is no longer used. A gateway with wooden gates and small bell with a long metal bell pull leads to a passage way with the small ticket office and shop selling guide books, postcards, cold drinks and locally made ice cream. (There is no tea room here, you need to go to Crieff.)
This leads into the inner courtyard with the present castle. This was built in 1689 after Cromwell’s troops had twice attacked the tower house, when the 4th Lord Drummond was created Earl of Perth. The Drummonds supported the Jacobite cause and the house and estate was declared forfeit and seized by the state in the 18thC. It was sold to Captain James Drummond who began a number of improvements. The formal gardens and terraces were laid out in the 1830s. The castle was restored and remodelled in 1890. It is not open to the public and is a splendid large stone building with turrets and family crests.
A metal gateway leads from the inner courtyard to the top of the terrace and the gardens. Even though we have visited the gardens many times, the first view of the gardens from the top of the terrace never fails to take our breath away. It is stunning. Photographs are impressive but the actuality is even better.
They are an amazing sight with neatly trimmed low box hedges with roses and bedding plants, ornamental Acers, carefully trimmed trees, urns, statues and peacocks. The central design is a St Andrew’s cross with a tall obelisk at the centre. This is in fact a sundial made by John Milne, master mason to Charles I, in 1630. Beyond, the eyes are drawn across the garden to the wooded hillside beyond with a wide swathe of grassland running up the hillside.
Stone steps run down through a series of stone terraces to the garden below. There is a narrow brightly coloured herbaceous border beside the grassy walk along the first terrace. Steps lined with fuchsia bushes lead down to the second terrace with Yucca and huge blocks of white quartz along the top of the wall.
Gravel paths run through the main garden with carefully trimmed box hedges marking out the design of the parterres. The central path has lavender bushes between the box hedges. The rest of the design is filled with rose bushes or yellow and red antirrhinums. Cross paths have borders with Stachys byzantina, what as children we always called “bunny rabbits ears”.
Large and small ornamental Acers are planted round the gardens. In a few weeks time their leaves will have changed colour and provide a welcome splash of colour in the garden. In the grass areas there is a wide range of coniferous trees, all carefully trimmed. Many are shaped to look like giant mushrooms.
At the end of the garden, gates in the walls lead down to the vegetable gardens and greenhouses. At this time of year there is little to see, so we gave them a miss this visit.
The gardens are described as Scotland’s most important formal gardens and amongst the finest in Scotland. This is no exaggeration. Even though we have visited many times over the years, we never cease to be wowed by the garden.
There are a lot of steps and if you ask in the ticket office it is possible to visit the garden without doing all the steps. It is a garden designed to be seen from above and in fact you don’t really need to drop down to enjoy it.
Entry is £5 or £4 for those described as ‘super adults’ on their website.