Raasay Walled Garden: A Fruitful Triumph of Community Action
Why should we visit?
Raasay Walled Garden is a triumph of community action. Neglected for years, it has been brought back to life thanks to the tireless work of a group of locals who have made it a thriving center for Raasay’s 180 residents. With help from the Climate Challenge Fund, they have set up three polytunnels and are now growing fruit and vegetables, using them for the weekly vegetable boxes and selling the surplus at a stall at the door.
A dedicated team of volunteers help a part-time gardener keep the gardens productive and the flowers are pollinated by bees for local honey.
Some of the produce from the garden ends up in the restaurant at the Grade A listed Raasay House hotel, which is also the base of an outdoor activity centre.
History of the garden
The first mention of Raasay Walled Garden appeared in 1549 and in 1695 it was reported that there was an “orchard with several sorts of berries, potted herbs, etc.”
When James Boswell visited in 1773, he described a garden which was “well stocked with kitchen utensils, currants, raspberries, currants, strawberries, apple trees” with “a tolerable south wall on which fruit trees were tried, but have been overlooked.”
At some point in the late 1800s a series of Mackenzie and Moncur greenhouses were added to the north wall, but these have fallen into disrepair and the community is awaiting consent from the listed buildings to allow the remains to be removed of these and the creation of new greenhouses. built. They also hope that a vine, which still survives, can be saved and put back into production.
The highly productive polytunnels are filled with ripening fruits and vegetables ready to be picked for the weekly vegetable boxes that are distributed across the island. The tunnels allow cultivation to continue almost year-round, protecting crops and gardeners from high winds.
Outdoors, artichokes, asparagus and echium grow in the protected environment of the 1.4 acre garden
Alongside the polytunnels, there are a number of community plots. In its early years a yard of Irish topsoil was imported for the walled garden, so it has deep, productive soil. However, most of the rest of the island is only covered with a thin layer of soil on the rock, so space for individual cultivation has been created in the walled garden. There is also an orchard of fruit trees, many of which have been sponsored by people with connections to the island.
Anything else to watch out for?
Look up from the walled garden and you might spot a golden eagle or a white-tailed sea eagle. Raasay is home to over 60 species of birds, including Pied Flycatchers, Tawny Oils and Redstarts, while seals and otters can be seen in the waters around the island.
Best time to visit
Summer is a special time in Raasay, when daylight extends into the evening and wildflowers grow along the roads. Part of the island is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and its geology is remarkable, with both the oldest and youngest rocks in Scotland.
Any recommendations in the area?
Raasay House Hotel’s activity center offers a full program of outdoor events, including archery, sailing, rock climbing and kayaking. He can also arrange boat trips to explore the seas around the island, and he rents out bicycles so visitors can see the scenery on their own.
Raasay is a 15 minute ferry ride from Sconser on the east coast of Skye.
Details: The garden is open daily, www.raasay.com
A castle cracker
The gardens of ruined Armadale Castle in Skye cover 40 acres of woodland, with herbaceous borders, a terraced walk, rock gardens, a lily pond and a fine collection of exotic trees. Four miles of nature trails crisscross the estate and there are lovely views towards Mallaig and Knoydart.
As well as all of its natural attractions, Armadale Castle offers a program of activities as part of the Scottish Summer Garden Festival, including a craft market on the first Saturday of each month, floristry workshops and family activities , including games, crafts and swimming in ponds. every Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, new plantings help regenerate forests, and land is cultivated to encourage wildflowers, including orchids. Visitors can also explore the Clan Donald Centre, which tells the story of what was once the most powerful clan in the Highlands.
Saddle, Skye IV45 8RS
In association with Discover Scottish Gardens. See www.discoverscottishgardens.org.