“Scotland’s gardens lure tourists,” stated the headline in a recent edition of The Scotsman above a story in the financial section rather than in the main news pages.
The reason for this placement became obvious when the reader learned that, according to the tourism authority VisitBritain, 46% of all tourists coming north of the Border visit parks or gardens, generating millions of pounds for the local economy. The agency might also have added that these visits also create and maintain a great many jobs here in Scotland; and that parks … especially public parks … enhance the environment for the locals, offering pleasant spaces of tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Kate Mavor, chief executive of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), is quoted in the article as having said: “Scotland’s gardens are glorious. We welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors to our 70 gardens and designed landscapes every year, of whom we know that a large proportion come from overseas, making a real and lasting contribution to the economy.” And a part of that last sentence makes me rather sad, for if “a large proportion” of the visitors to Scottish gardens are from overseas, it follows that none-too-many locals are included among the visitors; and that is a real shame.
Looking at the National Trust for Scotland’s Members’ Guide, it has to be said that the area immediately around Falkirk is distinctly short of NTS attractions, Alloa Tower and Bannockburn being the only two, neither of them featuring anything worth calling a garden or designed landscape. But look at nearby areas and we find, in Fife, for example, Falkland Palace and Garden, Hill of Tarvit Mansionhouse and Garden and Kellie Castle and Garden. Look towards Perth to find Branklyn Garden; the Argyll, Bute and Loch Lomond area, benefiting, as it does, from the warming Gulf Stream, offers Arduaine Garden, Geilston Gardens and Crarae Garden; Edinburgh & Lothians, not very far away, has Inveresk Lodge Garden; and Greater Glasgow has Greenbank Garden. And these are only the none-too-distant gardens managed by the National Trust for Scotland; unsurprisingly, Scotland’s Gardens offers a great many more, including some much more local attractions for Falkirk Bairns, including the garden at The Tors in Slamannan Road, which Dr. and Mrs. D. M. Ramsay will be opening to visitors at the end of this month, on Sunday 28 July.
I have actually visited most of the gardens which I have mentioned; I have been to quite a number which open as part of Scotland’s Gardens; and I have been to the odd one maintained by Historic Scotland. But I have left one of Scotland’s finest gardens to the last … the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, with its satellite gardens at Dawyck near Peebles, Benmore near Dunoon and Logan in the south-west, at Port Logan. Admission to all these magnificent gardens is absolutely free; they are open virtually every day of the year, allowing visitors to see how they change with the changing seasons; and there are many special events, for some of which you do, admittedly, pay a charge. With the school holidays now underway, bored younger children from the age of five and upward might well enjoy Talking Trees Storytelling on Sunday 21 July between 2.00 o’clock and 2.45 in the Patrick Geddes Room upstairs in the John Hope Gateway; that one’s free, by the way.
www.historic-scotland.gov.uk, www.scotlandsgardens.org and www.rbge.org.uk are the websites where all the information can be found. Let’s make sure that the very welcome visitors from overseas hear plenty of good Scots voices in our great gardens. Go, gardens, go!
Sandy Simpson, Polmont Horticultural Society