Appreciating Nature at Ardkinglas
Set against the stunning backdrop of forest and mountain, Ardkinglas House is located on the shores of Loch Fyne in Argyll. The house itself is an historic architectural marvel, with the beautiful Ardkinglass Woodland Gardens offering nature at its best all year round. The house remains as it was a hundred years ago, with the gardens featuring trees much older than that, and including the tallest tree in Britain. The gardens are open from dawn to dusk every day, and a network of trails allows visitors to view the flora and fauna at their leisure.
Towards the end of the 18th century timber plantations at Ardkinglas included beech, elm, lime, larch and silver fir. As the Highlands became more easily accessible to travelers, nature-lovers came to appreciate the woodlands, with the most famous visitor at the time being author and poet Dorothy Wordsworth – sister of William Wordsworth. Many new tree species from other countries were introduced to gardens in Britain in Victorian times, and the Ardkinglas was no exception. Champion trees found in the Pinetum of Ardkinglas include a European Silver Fir with a girth measuring close to ten metres – referred to as ‘the mightiest conifer in Europe’ – as well as a Patagonian Cypress, Hinoki Cypress, Jeffrey’s Hemlock and Western Red Cedar.
The multitude of Rhododendron species in the Ardkinglas Woodland Garden provide colour all year round. The sandy loam soils, combined with shelter from the trees and plentiful rainfall, provide the ideal environment for these breathtakingly beautiful plants to thrive. Wildlife that visitors may spot while exploring the gardens include Red Squirrels, Dippers, Grey Wagtails, Buzzards, Sparrow-Hawks, Tawny Owls, Barn Owls, Greater Spotted Woodpeckers and Goldcrests – Britain’s smallest bird.
The calendar provided by Ardkinglas highlights features of the gardens for each month of the year, with March being of particular interest to birding enthusiasts as the woodland birds begin their breeding rituals and masses of Rhododendrons start blooming. In May, fragrant Bluebells take center stage, with deciduous Azaleas adding their distinctive perfume. In August, Hydrangea paniculata hybrids show off their spectacular white blooms, while Dippers can be seen feeding between the stoned of the nearby River Kinglas. November is a time of activity for Red Squirrels as they build up their winter food stores, and the waters of River Kinglas gush down toward Loch Fyne, fed by heavy rains. Certainly, Ardkinglas offers an opportunity to appreciate nature, no matter what time of year you visit.