2009 – Aberdeenshire & Angus


Scenic garden tour
Max group size 12
 Country House Hotel
 Excellent food
13 gardens including:
 Balmoral Castle
 Crathes Castle
Outstanding scenic countryside
Medieval castles
Private garden tours
Victoria & Albert Museum, Dundee
 Fully escorted

Welcome to this ancient corner of Scotland, of massive mountains and dramatic coastlines, and of ancient castles and their warring clans...

This ancient corner of Scotland has always had a strategic importance across centuries of turbulent history – invasions and war, rebellion and uprising, independence and occupation were all played out here, and the evidence is all around. Iron Age hill-forts, great tower houses, medieval fortresses and Scottish baronial castles witnessed fierce battles, cruel ridings and bloody risings.

The history of this corner of Scotland is as fascinating as it is complex. There were tribal Celts and ancient, face-painted Picts, then Roman conquerors, they came this far north, and audacious red-headed Vikings, fallen monarchs and powerful warrior-royals, noble clansmen, great explorers, pensive philosophers, bright inventors, and all that came with them and the remnants they left behind including astonishing signs of their presence and sophistication. Think ancient and mysterious standing stones, fine castles and lavish stately homes, striking architecture, derelict fortresses, world-famous feats of engineering and more!

The tour
This is a new tour and, whilst we have ventured into Angus before, as part of a Perthshire & Angus tour, to our shame, and despite the range of superb gardens, we have not before set foot in Aberdeenshire. However, we will take you to a selection of the very best gardens in the area, and there are a lot to chose from, and the best of the many castles we will encounter – some of which are very old indeed, and others which are less so – but where there is a castle or house attached to the garden, and it is also open, we too will take the opportunity to explore inside.

There are the Cairngorms, the highest, coldest and snowiest plateaux in the British Isles and home to five of the six highest mountains in Scotland, and a stunning coast, and we will get to see something of both. We may visit a distillery, but only if we all want to, and we may, if the weather is particular kind, take a short sea safari from one of the fishing towns.

The gardens
Aberdeenshire & Angus is considerably drier and sunnier than on the west coast of Scotland and their gardens reflect this, both in the range of garden styles and the range of plants. The topography, geology and the history of gardening in Aberdeenshire & Angus is different too, and this last element, its history, is perhaps most important. Several of the castles we visit underwent 17th-century 'modernisations' and were slowly transformed into residences, complete with 'pleasure' gardens – like at Pitmedden, Edzell and Crathes. Several more of the gardens, especially those from the 19th century onwards, were created from the wealth of industry, especially money made in Victorian Dundee, with its world-important Jute manufactories, and Aberdeen, with shipbuilding and, more recently, its wealth from North Sea oil.

As ever, when we plan tours in Scotland, I am indebted to Kenneth Cox and his wonderful book Scotland for Gardeners, without which, the pickings would be very thin.

Royal Deeside
It is a matter of record that Queen Victoria fell deeply in love with what would become known as Royal Deeside, and it thought to be the place where Queen Elizabeth II is at her happiest. It’s a sentiment that echoes through the years and still rings true today. Balmoral Castle, the summer residence of the Royal Family, is where the family can be together, entertain their guests and relax, away from the public gaze.

Sleeping & Eating
We spend the week in Banchory, the 'Gateway to Royal Deeside', at Tor na Coille, a country house hotel surrounded by lovely rural countryside and attractive hills. We shortlisted Tor na Coille and two other hotels, and, because of the distance involved, asked a trusted friend to check-out the hotel, which they did, to our satisfaction.

We 'dine-in' on four evenings and 'dine-out' on the other three, at The Cowshed, a local and highly-acclaimed eatery, in Banchory, at The Silver Darling, in a stunning location at the entrance to Aberdeen Harbour, and at The Tolbooth Seafood Restaurant, in the picturesque fishing town of Stonehaven.

Local produce
In common with the west coast of Scotland and, in truth, many coastal parts of England & Wales also, the fish and seafood caught around this part of Scotland is superb, and we will take every opportunity to avail ourselves of it. That said, we are in Aberdeen & Angus and they are extremely proud of their beef production in these parts – and rightly so!

Whatever your preference, we will enjoy some excellent, freshly-produced, locally-sourced produce.

Please let us know if any of the website links become dysfunctional. Thank you.

13 – 20 July 2020 | 8 days

Please read our Information & FAQs and Terms & Conditions, before booking. Thank you.

Tour Itinerary



Tim will collect you from the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Edinburgh Airport, from where we drive north, crossing the River Forth on the Queensferry Crossing, the world's longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge, through the ancient Kingdom of Fife and across the River Tay, to Dundee, where we make our first stop, for lunch and to visit the brand new Victoria & Albert Museum, the first design museum in Scotland and the first Victoria and Albert museum outside London.

From Dundee, we continue east to the House of Dun, the Erskine and, later, the Kennedy-Erskine family estate from 1375 until 1980, and of whom, John Erskine was a key figure in the Scottish Reformation. The current house, William Adam, house and was finished in 1743, replacing the original 14th century Tower House. The last Laird of Dun was Millicent Lovett, who moved out of the house in 1948, bequeathing it to the National Trust for Scotland on her death in 1980. There are formal terraces to the front of the house, and a charming walled garden to one side.

It's then just a 30-minute drive, along the Old Military Road, over the hills into Glen Dye to Tor-na-Coille, our hotel, where we plan to be in good time to check-in and relax, before drinks and dinner at our hotel.

Today's driving is about 120 miles/190 km



We start the day with a morning visit to Pitmedden Garden, one of the best-loved National Trust for Scotland (NTS) gardens in north-east Scotland. An elaborate formal garden of terraces, pavilions and parterres, not unlike Drummond Castle, Pitmedden sits on the site of an ancient formal garden, whose original layout is lost in the mists of time, and whose current design dates to the 1950s, when the NTS made the brave decision to 'invent' a new layout, based upon an amalgam of authentic 17th century designs, especially those of the 1647 engraving of the gardens at Palace of Holyroodhouse. It is a labour of love, with some 6 miles/10 km of box hedging and 30,000 to 40,000 annual bedding plants!

After lunch, at Pitmedden's award-winning tearoom, we venture south, for the afternoon at Castle Fraser, one of the most elaborate Z-plan castles and largest 'tower houses' in Scotland. Begun in 1575 by Michael Fraser, the 6th Laird, on the site of an earlier tower, and sitting in a 300 acre Capability Brown-style parkland, the castle is famous for the 'Laird's Lug', a secret room designed to facilitate eavesdropping on the Fraser's guests. The completely redesigned walled garden is planted with a huge range of plants, including some thought not hardy enough for inland Aberdeenshire.

We return to Banchory for dinner at the Cowshed.

Today's driving is about 80 miles/130 km



We spend most of the day along the River Dee, starting with a visit to Balmoral Castle, the Scottish home of the Royal Family since Prince Albert bought it for Queen Victoria in 1852, ten years after her first visit to Scotland. The existing house was considered too small, so a new castle was designed, and Queen Victoria laid its foundation stone in 1853. The gardens, which were started under the supervision of Prince Albert, have been expanded and improved by successive members of the Royal Family and, between 1923 and 1925, Queen Mary devised the charming garden, with a semi circular wall of rocks surrounding a fountain. The formal gardens also contain a range of Victorian glasshouses and the conservatory, which displays flowering pot plants throughout the year.

We will have access to Balmoral's grounds, its gardens, the stables and the Ballroom, the only room in the house open to the public, before lunch at Balmoral, in their cafe. We will then take a scenic drive, west, along the River Dee, stopping in the charming Grampian village of Braemar, famous for its annual Highland Games, and south, following Glen Clunie to the Spittal of Glenshee, through some spectacular mountain scenery, typical of this part of the Cairngorms.

We will stop to stretch our legs and take photographs, and, undoubtedly, we will stop for tea along the way, before dinner, en route home to our hotel.

Today's driving is about 120 miles/190 km



Our day starts at Drum Castle, one of Scotland's oldest and largest tower houses, it was given to the Irvine family by Robert the Bruce in 1323. A large wing was added in 1619, by the 9th Laird, and further alterations were made by the Victorian family. Sited in the old walled garden, Drum Castle's Garden of Historic Roses is considered to be one of the best rose gardens in Britain. Designed by Eric Robson and opened in 1991, the garden paints of a picture of roses across four centuries, from the 17th century to today, with species roses, shrub roses, climbers and ramblers, all planted in four quadrants, their designs representing the development of gardens, from the strict symmetry of formal knot gardens and box parterres, to less formal, flower-rich planting schemes of today.

After lunch, we venture into Aberdeen for the rest of the day. Known throughout Scotland as the granite city, Aberdeen offers an array of afternoon attractions, including the Cruickshank Botanical Garden, an 11-acre botanic garden, founded in 1898, and now in partnership with the University of Aberdeen, it has shrub borders, a rock and water garden, sunken garden, rose garden, herbaceous border and an arboretum, and houses a nationally important collection of over 2500 labelled plants. The medieval St Machar's Cathedral and the award-winning Maritime Museum offer additional interest, before dinner at the Silver Darling, in the historic Footdee or 'Fittie' quarter of historic Aberdeen.

Today's driving is about 50 miles/80 km 



We start our day at neighbouring Crathes Castle, the acknowledged star of the National Trust for Scotland collection. Built by the Burnett family, on lands given to them by Robert the Bruce in 1323, this 16th-century tower house replaced an earlier timber crannog, and contains a significant collection of portraits and original, Jacobean painted ceilings. Gertrude Jekyll visited Crathes' internationally renowned 4-acre walled garden in the 1890s, thirty years before Sir James & Sybil Burnett took inspiration from Hidcote and redesigned their garden, creating a series of eight rooms, divided-up by the existing yew hedges, some of which was planted as early as 1702.

After lunch, at Crathes, we visit Arbuthnott House, for a private guided tour of these historic gardens, laid out between 1685 and 1690. The gardens extend to about 5-acres, descending a steep, south-facing slope divided by three main walks, running across the slope. The whole creation owes its origin and design to 17th-century pattern and practice.

We pay a brief visit to Dunnottar Castle, a ruined medieval castle on a rocky headland, surrounded by steep sea cliffs, Dunnottar is best known as the place where the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish crown jewels, were hidden from Oliver Cromwell's invading army, before dinner at the Tolbooth Seafood Restaurant in the nearby picturesque fishing harbour of Stonehaven.

Today's driving is about 80 miles/130 km




We return to Angus, to visit three gardens – or two-and-a-half gardens, the half being Edzell Castle, our first stop. The Lindsays acquired Edzell in 1358, building today's now ruined castle in the 1500s, and adding the beautiful, jewel-like garden in 1604. Enclosed by massive sandstone walls, today's garden, like that of Pitmedden, is a representation of early 17th-century gardens, save only that this particular design seems to cause greater argument among garden historians!

Our next stop, Gallery (read press article, here), is a private garden created by John Simson and his late wife when they came to Angus in 1995, and involved the wholesale redesign and replanting of this historic garden. A grassed central alley, embellished with circles, links themed gardens, including the recently replanted Gold Garden and Hot Border, with the fine collection of old roses and the fountain and pond of the formal White Garden.

We drive onto the coast for a picnic lunch, before our third garden at Dunninald Castle, built in 1824, by the well-known architect James Gillespie Graham in the Gothic Revival style, Dunninald's south facing walled garden creates its own microclimate, and is planted with traditional mixed borders, vegetables, soft fruits and fruit trees.

We return to Banchory for dinner.

Today's driving is about 80 miles/130 km



Our final full day starts with a visit to Kildrummy Castle, built in the mid-1200s and known as ‘the noblest of northern castles’, it was the historical seat of the once mighty Earls of Mar and, as such, was seldom far from the political spotlight. Edward I – ‘Hammer of the Scots’ – visited Kildrummy twice, the second time, in 1303, with Master James of St George, builder of Harlech, his great castle in north Wales. In 1435 the Earls of Mar forfeited the earldom for almost two hundred years, only regaining it in 1626 and, remaining loyal to the Catholic King, James VII and II, they were central to the support of James VII’s son, Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, ‘the Old Pretender’. When that rising failed, the earl went into exile, and Kildrummy’s days as a noble residence came to an end.

Next door to the castle, and dominated by it, is Kildrummy Castle Gardens. Laid out in the early 20th century by Colonel Ogston, an Aberdeen soap manufacturer, by a firm of Japanese landscape architects, the garden occupies the quarry from whence the castle's stone came and is, according to many, one of Scotland's finest water gardens with a superb range of plants, especially alpines growing amongst the rocks. The steep sloping sides are planted with a range of unusual trees and shrubs, many of the more tender varieties growing in the warm shelter provided by the quarry face and, extraordinarily, Ogston had a replica of the Brig O' Balgownie, one of Aberdeen's most famous bridges, built which spans the garden, providing a vantage point to see both sides of this stunning garden.

After a late lunch, we will spend the afternoon visiting one or more of Scotland's Gardens, private gardens open for charity, and although I have no doubts that, on a sunny July Sunday afternoon, there will be a few to chose from, we won't know where, precisely, until they publish their openings early in 2020.

Wherever we end up, we will return to our hotel for a relaxed evening and an end of tour dinner.

Today's driving is about 80 miles/130 km



Some will say that we have saved the best until last and, whilst some may disagree, there can be no doubt that our final garden of the tour, Pitmuies, is one of Scotland's finest private gardens, and at its best in June and July. The home of Ruaraidh and Jeanette Ogilvie, Pitmuies is a 17th and 18th century house, surrounded by a 40 acre park, at the heart of which is the garden. Highlights of the garden include a series of three rose terraces, and the long delphinium borders, stretching the length of the terraces, pink and white herbaceous borders, climbing roses and a massive yew hedge that protects the whole garden from the prevailing south-west wind.

We leave Pitmuies for Edinburgh Airport, where we plan to be by 14.00/2pm, in time for late-afternoon and evening flights, but please tell us if you need to be at the airport significantly earlier than this, and we will happily arrange transport to the airport, from Pitmuies, at your expense. If you are staying on, in Britain, and don't wish to return to Edinburgh, but would rather be dropped off elsewhere, then please let us know, so that we may assist you in getting to your next destination.

Today's driving is about 120 miles/190 km


We endeavour to be as faithful as possible to our published itineraries, but changes do occur occasionally, either necessarily or unavoidably.

Please read our Information & FAQs and Terms & Conditions, before booking. Thank you.

Contact us

| Adderley Travel Limited

+44 1953 606706
[email protected]

49 Chapel Lane | Wymondham
Norfolk | NR18 0DJ | United Kingdom