Do you enjoy visiting beautiful gardens? Why not include a trip to a stunning garden during a holiday to Scotland.
The mild (and damp!) climate here in the Scottish Highlands was the perfect place for Victorian plant hunters to bring back their specimens from overseas expeditions. And wealthy estate owners wanted to show off the latest finds. Plants like the rhododendron became an exotic status symbol.
You can see them at their best this spring during the Scottish Rhododendron Festival. Glen2Glen Tours recommends heading to the west coast, where the climate is heavily influenced by the Gulf Stream, making it perfect for these blousy blooms.
Glen 2 Glen's top tips for seeing the best rhododendrons in Scotland
The rhododendron collection at Ardkinglas was established a little later than other gardens – in the 1920s. Work continues today, not only to conserve the collection, but to expand it further. The owners recommend visiting in June , when the woodland gardens are filled with the fragrance from the yellow flowered Rhododendron luteum. And the following month you can still see the late flowering 'Polar Bear'.
Set on a rocky promontory jutting out into the Sound of Jura, this garden started in 1898 and is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. There is a real intimate feeling to this garden as you explore the network of cliff side paths that zig-zag across the headland. As well as the rhododendrons, you can enjoy the colourful collection of other "exotic" plants including azaleas and magnolias.
The extensive collection of rhododendrons at Attadale was started by Baron von Schroder in the 1880s. He also had an interest in trees and imported many of the fine redwoods that complement the floral display. The hill paths meander across 20 acres and you should take your time to find the numerous sculptures "hidden" throughout the gardens.
It's such a shame so many visitors make their way to the Isle of Skye to visit the ancestral home of Clan MacLeod at Dunvegan and miss the superb gardens. The estate has created a new rhododendron garden, where you can stroll through a tunnel of flowers. There's a real Himalayan feel to the gardens as you walk around rocky outcrops with cascading waterfalls.
You need to be determined to visit Inverewe Gardens as they are located way up on the West Coast of Scotland. If you venture this far you are rewarded by spectacular mountain scenery en route and remarkable gardens upon arrival. Rhododendrons from China, Nepal and India are on display here. You can find out how the father and daughter team of Osgood Mackenzie and Mairi Sawyer created the gardens by visiting Inverewe House itself.
You can find out more about the Scottish Rhododendron Festival here.