Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Highland Garden

Each morning during late August of 2005, as I devoured poached eggs on toast and British bacon in the dining room of the Old Manse Guest House, I gazed across Loch Carron.  On the opposite side of the water, to the southeast of where I sat, lies Attadale Estate. The hues of its landscape changed often as clouds broke apart to allow the sunshine through or as mist transformed into steady rain.
The view across Loch Carron to Attadale Estate
While doing pre-trip research I had come upon the Attadale Estate website and, as a result, I knew the property included gardens open to the public and I knew of the fairly recent acquisition of a large fern collection.

If I could have walked straight across the loch from the B&B, I might have had enough stamina to get to Attadale by foot, but I had just completed six and a half weeks of radiation therapy and wasn’t fit enough to hike the more than seven miles, one way, around the sea loch.

In those days the village of Lochcarron still had a local taxi service. From the phone box in front of the village hall, I called the driver. The phone kept disconnecting and each time I reached her, I spoke at rapid speed, hoping to get across enough information to enable her to find me. When she arrived, I continued in revved up mode, but she remained tranquil and told me you can always tell when people are from town: they’re in a hurry. “On Lewis where I grew up, we say, ‘It’ll get done tomorrow – if it has to.’”
The exterior of the Estate owners' home was used
 as Major Maclean's residence  in the television series Hamish Macbeth
In 2005 I hadn’t yet converted to digital photography. My film supply was limited and I was stingy with each available 35 mm frame. As I look back through my small group of Attadale photographs, I am disappointed in the quality of the photos, but I’m even more disappointed in the omissions – the photographs I did not attempt. I clearly recall sitting in the Japanese garden, writing in my journal, and watching a white haired woman wearing tartan trousers trim a sculpted shrub. And according to my journal, “On the edge of the kitchen garden a yellow-beaked blackbird perched in a fuchsia bush and ate the fruit of the flower.” I remember walking through rows of vegetable beds.  Yet I have no photographic evidence of the Japanese and kitchen gardens.

My notes indicate a rhododendron dell and also a scenic overlook with a view of the house and the loch and the hills beyond and I recall that the grounds included a DIY/honor system tearoom as well as an area where garden visitors could purchase plants.

When a sudden rain shower erupted, I took shelter in a small geodesic dome that housed part of the fern collection, but mostly I hurried through the gardens far too quickly that afternoon. Having scheduled a time for the taxi to return, I didn’t want to keep the driver waiting. 

Seven years later, I much regret my haste.  In April of this year I spent parts of four days in Plockton, at the other end of the loch, doing volunteer work for the National Trust for Scotland, yet during my trip I had neither time nor opportunity to visit Attadale Gardens, even though the A890 road had just reopened after being closed for four months due to a rockslide.

By the way, Attadale Estate has its own train stop on the scenic Inverness to Kyle line. If you visit by train, just be sure to request a stop. And, of course, come back here and share your experience.

The Attadale house shows up in episodes of the television series Hamish MacBeth. The series DVDs can often be found in bookshops and libraries.

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