The journey to Aigas.

As soon as our Open Garden weekend was over we went away for a well earned rest and have just returned from a fabulous holiday in the north of Scotland, staying at the Aigas Field Centre,   for a week on their wildflowers and gardens course.


We saw nearly as much wildlife as we did a couple of years ago when we went on their special wildlife holiday. Having sorted through all my photos, I think I will have to split them into 2 posts – one about the journey up there from the south coast of England,which took us 4 days because we were stopping all the time and the other about our time in Scotland. I will warn you though, there will be lots of Meconopsis and Primulas, and you know how I love Meconopsis!! Also  included will be sculptures and wildlife that we saw as we were travelling up through the country.

You may remember me saying in my post about opening for the N.G.S. that we can all get inspiration from garden visiting and I have come back with my head bursting with lots of ideas of how to improve the garden here.


Our first stop was at Stone Cottage Garden and nursery near Kidderminster.

Stone Cottage

The garden was very pretty, I have seen photos of it many times in various magazines , but it seemed a lot smaller in real life. It has an excellent nursery, yes I did succumb to temptation and bought 2 plants, so even while I was away I was having to water a movable garden!

Old Rectory

Our next stop was at The Old Rectory, Sudborough, which was a beautiful, romantic, dreamy garden. This was open for the N.G.S. and was extremely neat and tidy.

Old Rectory

There were masses of roses, paeonies, campanulas and foxgloves, it was delightful.


A very quick stop to photograph a wonderful field of poppies, what an amazing sight, not often seen these days.


Our next stop was at Barnsdale, the garden of the late Geoff Hamilton, who used to be the presenter of the TV programme, Gardeners World. It looked tired and even a bit unloved in places even though there were plenty of people working in the garden.


However there were flashes of brilliance here and there and it was very interesting seeing all the garden areas that were made during the programme.

Harlow Carr

Onwards northwards, our next destination was the stream planting at the R.H.S. garden at Harlow Carr, I have wanted to see this planting for a long time and was not disappointed.

Harlow Carr

The candelabra primulas were magnificent in lots of beautiful shades, must sow lots of seeds in my own garden to try and create the same effect in my boggy area.


The R.H.S. are running a trial of Meconopsis at Harlow Carr to see which are the best varieties to grow in the English weather. We just caught the end of the flowering period so not many flowers left for me to photograph!

Alpine house

The Alpine House was looking very colourful with all the plants in flower, everywhere was so neat and tidy and the plants looked really healthy.


Our next stop was at Kilburn, to go to the workshops of “Mouseman Thompson” so called because he carved a little mouse on everything he made as his trademark. Robert Thompson was born in 1876, he taught himself carpentry and carving and by 1919 was starting to make beautiful furniture, His grandsons are carrying on the tradition.


We were able to watch the young men working and able to see the furniture being made.Was hoping to buy a small piece, but the prices were way beyond me, will just have to carve my own!!

White horse

If you climb up through the garden behind the shop you have a good view of the white horse that has been carved into the hillside. This well known landmark was cut out of the turf in 1857 and is unusual in the north of England, all the other white horses are in the south.


Couldn’t come to the north east without seeing the Angel of the North, a famous sculpture by Antony Gormley which is seen by 90,000 people every day as they zoom up the A1. It took 7 months to make in 1998 and is 65tf tall with a wingspan of 175ft, it is an amazing structure and I am so glad I have had the chance to see it so close .

Angel of the North

When it was first erected it stood on a grassy hillock for all to see when driving past. The area has been landscaped with trees and now as you approach it, the poor angel is just about peeping over the trees which have grown so much. Will the trees be thinned and reduced or is someone trying to hide the sculpture so that you have to leave the busy road to come and see it properly, seems a shame to hide it.


Alnwick Gardens was our next stop, we had visited it years ago when it was very new and we were looking forward to seeing how it had grown over the years. To start with we had a very grumpy young lady selling us our tickets, not a good start!

Water feature

The hedges round the giant cascade had grown a lot and looked a lot better and there were other water features which were new, which was good.

Dove cote

I think the best thing about the walled garden at the top was this new dove cote with its beautiful inhabitants. This is a very expensive garden to visit, £9 for us oldies and £11 for the rest of you, so I’m sorry to say that this is probably the last time we will come. Bought a lovely paeony in their plant centre, fantastic perfume, the car smelled beautiful the whole time!


The whole of the next day was spent visiting the Farne Islands, off the Northumbrian coast.


I have always wanted to see puffins and I was not disappointed, there were hundreds of them, if not thousands, on the first island we visited.


Also , sharing the island with them, were hundreds of shags,  most of  their chicks had hatched and they were as big as their parents, but very fluffy.


We had our packed lunch here and then it was back to the boat and over to another island to see the terns.


As well as the terns, there were hundreds of kittiwakes


and razorbills nesting on the cliffs.


And yet more puffins!

Arctic terns

The Arctic terns were nesting right by the path that we had to walk on and we were attacked repeatedly by them pecking our heads as we walked by

Arctic terns

Couldn’t get over how tiny the Arctic terns feet were.

Sand eel

This one has a sand eel in its beak, a juicy meal for someone. This island is only open to visitors for one and a half hrs so the birds are not disturbed too much, it was such an experience, so glad we went, although the boat trip back was very choppy !

The next day we were in Scotland, at last !! We stopped at a super garden in Pitlochry, by the theatre, The Explorers Garden.A lot of the plant hunters that brought all the wonderful plants back that we have in our gardens, came from Scotland. The garden was laid out in continents with each explorer named who had brought back the plants that were growing in each section.


Of course, when we got to the Himalayan section, there were the most gorgeous Meconopsis that I had been hoping to see. Scottish gardens are about a month behind the south of England because they are so much further north.


There were so many different varieties of Meconopsis, they were all so beautiful.


Lots of different Primulas,


Some such a stunning colour,

alpicola alba

This one, alpicola alba, looked so beautiful, I had to buy it on my way out, super perfume too!


Lots of Marsh Orchids, another one to put on my list of plants to buy. This was a really super garden, and so interesting reading the history of the planthunters.

Loch Garten

Onwards once more and a quick stop at the Osprey Centre at Loch Garten where I spotted this woodcarving. We were able to see the Ospreys on their nest, with young, through the telescope and also with the video link, little did we realise that we would get much better views later when we were out looking at wild flowers.


Not much further on and we reached our destination, Aigas Field Centre. We were shown to our log cabin and later, down at the house, we were given a very welcome cup of tea and cake. Aigas is famous for its cooking as well as its wildlife, we were certainly looking forward to the next 7 days !!






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10 Responses to The journey to Aigas.

  1. Christina says:

    Wow! wow! wow! and thanks you for sharing your marellous trip. Visiting gardens is something I really miss living in Italy – Yes, of course, I can visit, and do, all the amazing Renaisssance villa and gardens but that just isn’t the same seeing wonderful planting. Shame about Barnsdale, I found it very inspiring when I visited at least 12 years ago maybe more. Great images of the wildlife too. christina

    • Pauline says:

      I fondly remember visiting Renaissance gardens when we came to Italy some years ago, also the Vatican garden which had rather municipal planting I’m afraid to say. The garden which blew me away Christina, was Ninfa, I thought it absolutely amazing and would love to visit it again sometime.

  2. Diane says:

    Thank you for the lovely comment on my blog. I’ll have to come back to this post when I’m not rushing off to work and read it properly. I’ve only just had time to view your lovely photos.

    I’ve always been curious about what ‘type’ of poppies Col McCrae spoke of in the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. They would be ones that grow wild in Europe and I wonder if they are the ones in your photograph?

    • Pauline says:

      Yes, Diane, the Flanders poppy is the same poppy as in the photo of a field full of red poppies. We in Britain wear a red poppy on November 11th to remember the fallen in the 2 World Wars & other conflicts, so it is very symbolic for us.Since farmers now use so many chemicals on their fields, we don’t often see such a wonderful sight, used to be very common when I was a child, many years ago !!!

  3. Your time was really packed, and I am glad you shared it with us. Can’t grow meconopsis but I like to look at places that can grow it.

    • Pauline says:

      I’m sure that you are a lot hotter than we are Carolyn, which would make meconopsis growing rather difficult. Here in the south of England I have to grow them in shade. but noticed that in Scotland where it is a lot cooler, they also had them in sunnier borders. Super plants.

  4. Pauline you seem to have had a wonderful holiday getting to your holiday, when I had a car I used take a few days driving back home so I could do detours to different parts of britain, I love the poppy field like you I remember them from when I was younger, I don’t see poppies or white horses here all part of where I grew up, I like the river of candelabras at Harlow Carr my pink ones have seeded a lot though the seedlings are not where I want them and much too close to each other so I am going to replant them in the autumn I can’t now as we are in a dry spell again, the marsh orchid looks very similar to the wild ones I find growing except the leaves look striped where as the ones here have plain or spotted leaves, thanks for sharing, looking forward to your next post, Frances

    • Pauline says:

      What a wonderfully long comment Frances, thank you. As you say the journey itself was a holiday to all the places we can’t normally reach on a day out. I too am waiting for autumn to rearrange my primulas as at Harlow Carr – I have a vision of a drift like a rainbow in my circular garden !

  5. well Pauline what a wonderfully long post and I forgot to mention the birds which I love as much as the plants, thanks, Frances

    • Pauline says:

      I really enjoyed our visit to the Farne Islands, having always wanted to see the puffins and terns, it was wonderful !! Have been a member of the RSPB longer than I have been a gardener so never miss an opportunity to go bird watching, thanks for coming back Frances.

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