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The Scottish Spring Flower Festival: a blooming lovely way to embrace spring!

A stunning rhododendron display at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

A stunning rhododendron display at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh © Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

It’s one of the most vivid signs that spring is here. Swathes of bright yellows, purples, pinks and reds, accompanied by a symphony of bird song and buzzing bees, spread their way across Scotland’s many gardens, brightening up the dullest of days. That’s right folks, it’s time for the Scottish Spring Flower Festival!

In 2021, the Festival will take place at a number of gardens, venues and properties across Scotland as allium, bluebells, hyacinths, rhododendrons and more, burst into bloom.

Organised by Discover Scottish Gardens, the inaugural Scottish Spring Flower Festival runs from 1 April – 31 May and will feature a range of virtual and in-person events as Covid restrictions start to ease. Some events are free, or you can make a donation, and some attract a small admission fee.

See all the Scottish Spring Flower Festival events here. Below you’ll find just a few highlights:

1. Kirklands, Saline, Fife

9, 16 and 30 May

When Peter and Gill Hart arrived at Kirklands in West Fife over 40 years ago, the gardens around the imposing Kirklands House were run down and overgrown. Since then, and ably supported by family and friends, they have worked hard to create a tranquil haven that bursts with colour each spring.

From long-established larger rhododenrons in the woodland and dwarf rhododendrons in the rockery, to bluebells, Meconopsis, Trillums and Hellebores blooming in May, the gardens here offer vivid colour throughout spring and summer from February onwards.

Don’t miss spring at Kirklands. The gardens are open each Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 2 – 5pm, between April and September. Entrance to the gardens is by donation.

2. Gordon Castle Walled Garden, Fochabers

1 April – 31 May

Lovely spring flowers at Gordon Castle Walled Garden, Moray-Speyside

Lovely spring flowers at Gordon Castle Walled Garden, Moray-Speyside © Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Dating back to the 17th century, this stunning and historic walled garden, located near the Moray coast, is a must-visit if you’re in Moray-Speyside. Visit during the Scottish Spring Flower Festival to enjoy a celebration of bulbs and blossom. See wonderful displays of tulips in the cut flower borders and pots, and fruit blossom on over 500 apple, pear and plum trees.

Keep the kids entertained along the Gordon Castle spring trail, and buy some cut flowers and plants to brighten up your home and garden. Or if you want to take a taste of Gordon Castle home with you, their gins feature botanicals from the garden itself. The walled garden is open daily all year round from 10am until 4pm.

3. Abbotsford, Melrose, Scottish Borders

31 May – 11am – 12noon

Abbotsford House near Melrose, Scottish Borders

Abbotsford House near Melrose, Scottish Borders © The Abbotsford Trust

If you’re not already aware, Abbotsford was the home of one of Scotland’s most influential writers – Sir Walter Scott. His most prized possession, the house reflects his imagination and inventiveness and is a place that should feature on any literary pilgrimage.

Scott’s imagination and creativity also extended beyond the house into his remarkable and beloved Regency Gardens. As part of the Scottish Spring Flower Festival, you can join Ranger Anna Inman on an in-person, ticketed and guided tour through Abbotsford’s estate and Regency Walled Gardens and enjoy the abundance of colour here.

4. Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum, Isle of Skye

1 – 31 May 

A stunning display of rhododendron at Armadale Castle, Museum & Gardens, Isle of Skye

A stunning display of rhododendron at Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum, Isle of Skye © Simon Larson/Armadale Castle

Once an imposing Victorian mansion of the Clan Donald, the romantic ruins of Armadale Castle lie at the heart of 40 stunning acres of woodland gardens, which are warmed by the Gulf Stream. This milder airstream provides ideal conditions for the many outstanding trees and shrubs to be found here. There’s also lots to see during the Scottish Spring Flower Festival.

If you’re in the area between 1 – 31 May, why not follow the spring flower trail and hunt for flowers and seasonal shrubs across the gardens and woodlands? It’s ideal for getting the kids out exploring and afterwards, they can run wild in the adventure playground. Free with normal entrance fee.

On 18 May, between 2 -3 pm, meet one of the gardeners for an in-person tour and learn about the joys and challenges of gardening at Armadale. Free with normal entrance fee, no booking is required, though numbers are limited – please check the website for details.

And finally, if you’re not able to travel to the Isle of Skye, you can still see the gardens in all their glory on a virtual walk, being broadcast live on Facebook from 5pm on 25 May. Enjoy the vivid colours of rhododendrons, bluebells and other spring flowers as they come into bloom, and discover the exotic plants that thrive in these sheltered gardens.

5. Cluny House Gardens, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

1 – 30 April  the richness of a woodland garden, 1 – 31 May – magical May in a woodland garden

A display of Trillums at Cluny House Gardens, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

A display of Trillium cuneatum (American wood lily) at Cluny House Gardens, Aberfeldy, Perthshire © Wendy Mattingley

Cluny House Gardens are a secluded, unique woodland garden situated in Highland Perthshire, overlooking the scenic Strathtay Valley. This 2.4-hectare Himalayan and North American-themed woodland garden was planted and developed from 1950 and you’ll find many woodland plants regenerating and expanding freely beneath a canopy of rhododendrons, acers, rowans and birches.

Giant Himalayan lilies, blue poppies, exotic arisaemas and candelabra primulas grow in profusion in the marvellous leaf litter and acidic soil. Look out for the extensive collection of Asiatic primulas, the Wellingtonia, which has the widest girth of a conifer in the UK, and the playful red squirrels.

If you stay locally, April is a wonderful time to wander peacefully around Cluny to see swathes of woodland spring bulbs including Trilliums and Erythroniums, early Primulas and the occasional red squirrel. Or visit in May (when restrictions permit) to see Himalayan blue poppies, colourful candelabra Primulas, fascinating Arisaemas and carpets of bluebells.

6. New Hopetoun Garden Centre, South Queensferry 

2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 April

New Hopetoun Gardens are much more than just another garden centre. Established over 40 years ago near South Queensferry, there are 18 individually themed gardens to explore, and friendly staff are always on hand to offer advice and information. You might also recognise New Hopetoun Gardens co-founder Lesley Watson, as a regular presenter of BBC TV’s The Beechgrove Garden.

Each Friday in April from 10am, tune in to Facebook for their virtual Talk’n No Tea live broadcasts and celebrate spring at New Hopetoun. Alternatively, head along to the garden centre for first-hand gardening inspiration from their outstanding display gardens.

10% Discount Day is every Wednesday during the Scottish Spring Flower Festival. The garden centre opens on 5 April and the Orangery Tearoom opens on 26 April (restrictions permitting).

7. Attadale Gardens, Strathcarron, Highlands

2 April – 31 May

Vibrant colour along the Old Rhododendron Walk at Attadale Gardens, Strathcarron, Highlands

Vibrant colour along the Old Rhododendron Walk at Attadale Gardens, Strathcarron, Highlands © J Macpherson

Located opposite the pretty Highland village of Lochcarron and re-opening on 2 April (from 10am – 5pm daily), Attadale is a long-established privately owned garden that stretches over 20 acres, set amidst stunning Wester Ross scenery on the banks of Loch Carron.

Take a self-guided tour of spring flowers and explore Attadale Gardens to enjoy the thousands of blooms as they appear.

A stroll along the Old Rhododendron Walk is particularly recommended for its outstanding colour and it leads to The Viewpoint, which offers lovely views over the house, the gardens and on to the hills of Skye beyond – simply stunning.

Don’t miss the many, lovingly tended colourful flower beds and wonderful woodlands throughout the gardens. Entrance charge applies, please pay by contactless card where possible.

How are you planning to celebrate the joys of springtime? Share all your pictures with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and visit Discover Scottish Gardens for more information about where to see Scotland’s stunning spring displays this season.