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Fabulous Geilston Gardens

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Geilston Gardens, National Trust for Scotland

Geilston Gardens are by the village of Cardross which is, on the road which runs along the northern shore of the River Clyde, about half way between Dumbarton and Helensburgh.

It was a beautiful day and took us only a short journey (around 35 minutes) from Appletree Luxury Self Catering Cottage to get to Cardross. A signposted road leads up from the main road to the car park. There was free parking at the gardens and a warm welcome from the National Trust for Scotland staff at their wooden hut at the entrance. As we are members we gained free entry, however the fee for non-members around £7.50 for an adult with family tickets and other concessions available.

We collected our laminated plan and set off to explore...

A brief history of Geilston...

Geilston Gardens are set around Geilston House, a manor house, originally a farm, which has its origins in the fourteenth century. The farmhouse fell into the hands of James Donald, a successful tobacco merchant in the eighteenth century. In 1805 to the Geils of Glasgow took it over, hence the name. After the last inhabitant, and enthusiastic gardener, Margaret Bell, finally gave up the property the National Trust for Scotland took over the site. The house is a great higledy pigledy building comprising of many extensions which have been made over the years. The exterior was recently re-roofed but the interior of the house having bee empty for a number of years, is still awaiting refurbishment. The grounds however are in preside condition. There are four distinct areas: the walled garden, the kitchen garden, the woodland garden and the orchard. We decided to explore the walled garden first...

The Walled Garden at Geilston

The Walled Garden is accessed through a small door in the wall to the west of Geilston House. On entering the first thing that strikes you is the enormous 100ft high Wellingtonia tree in the centre of the lawned area. The tree which is thought to be over 250 years old towers above the many herbaceous beds with their riot of colour. The borders were in full bloom when we visited (15th June), the many vivid colours providing a haven for bumble bees

On the northern wall of the walled garden is an ancient lean to greenhouse by Mackenzie and Moncur of Edinburgh dating back to the nineteenth century. Still heated (by a modern oil boiler) it is home to many young vegetables, fruits and flowers including the beautiful pink and white Phlox and the unusual and strikingly architectural Aeonium. which we hadn’t come across before.

Adjacent to the glasshouse is a potting shed with an inscribed date above the door of with the date 1797 inscribed above the door.

Stepping inside the potting shed we looked through the ‘secret’ window which has a stunning view of the Geilston burn as it crosses the weir.

It was time to move from the Walled Garden to the Woodland Garden...

From the Walled Garden an arch framed gate leads into the woodland garden...

The Woodland Garden at Geilston

Once through the gate a series of paths meander down to the banks of the Geilston burn (river) Steep sided, bordered by many colourful Rhododendrons there are many secret hidey holes, nooks and crannies. Down by the burn there are some fantastic red barked rhododendrons looking like witches hands pushing out of the ground. We'd been exploring the Woodland Garden for a while when we rounded a corner and came across a bridge over the burn and the weir which we'd seen from the potting shed window. This was a magical place as the sunlight danced on the water...

The Weir at Geilston Gardens

The Woodland Garden trail had taken us right around the back of the Walled Garden and we now emerged at the entrance to the Kitchen Garden and the Orchard.

Geilston Orchard and Vegetable Garden

At the entrance to the Kitchen Garden is a bug house which accommodated a host of different insects. Then onto the garden itself. The first thing one is struck by is the enormous neatness, uniformity and rigour taken in maintaining this garden in immaculate condition. Row upon row of many varieties of each type of vegetable and fruit bush, beautifully tended. We were told that in addition to the two full time gardeners there are a number of part time workers as well as a large group of volunteers. Whatever they are doing is certainly working! When fruit and vegetables are ready for picking, they are sold to visitors at the front gate of the gardens.

We had a great day at Geilston Gardens. Much to see, and also lots of things for kids to do and explore. We'll be back at the end of the summer to see how the produce got on and perhaps buy some. We may also take a picnic to have on one of the many well sited picnic benches throughout the gardens.


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