It’s winter. The weather is rainy, the sky is grey, and it is usually at such time when we come back to our memories about visiting beautiful places full of greenery. Despite its fame for bad weather, Scotland is a great place if you are a garden lover, as the country’s gardeners were taking the advantage of warm Atlantic currents for centuries. From the famous botanic gardens in Glasgow and Edinburgh, through the galore of fantastic properties managed by the National Trust of Scotland to many private-owned walled gardens that can be found everywhere – from the outskirts of Glasgow to remote places like the Isle of Gigha, up to small community gardens, such as the one I once randomly found in Orkney’s St Margaret’s Hope. But there is one place in Scotland that is truly unique, and that I wanted to share with you for a long time in my Explore Scotland series: Linn Botanic Gardens in Cove.
This magical place, located just a short drive from past Helensburgh (or a short pedestrian ferry hop from Gourock and then 45 minutes walk along the shore) is a garden like no other. Surrounding a stunning victorian mansion, located on the slope above Loch Long it is a work of love of one man – Dr. Jim Taggart, who began working on it in the early 1970s. Today, with around 4000 species from all around the world, Linn is considered by some experts to be one of the most biologically diverse places in the whole of Scotland.
But I am not a botanist. I can differentiate between a cactus and a tulip, recognize few most common trees and that’s all. But it does not matter: the beauty of this place lies in the fact, that it is not maintained as well, as your typical botanic gardens, with plants growing in nice rows and have signs attached to them – even with the help of the volunteers it would be beyond capabilities of one man, or even the family. Therefore the walk around the garden – following clearly marked path around it – is a magical journey. The trail takes you through frail bridges over deep ravines, around a bit overgrown victorian gardens surrounding the beautiful mansion that, unfortunately, has seen better days, then through the woods to the little pond and in some places you could virtually feel as if you were exploring some tropical jungle – especially that due to lack of maintenance, the garden was ovegrowing, creating that fantastic, unique feel of tropical wilderness. I don’t think my words could give this place any justice, so just look at the pictures and remember, that even the best photographs are unable to capture the beauty of this place – and, to be honest, mine are far from best.
The tranquility of this place is amazing, especially that it remains out of the usual tourists’ routes and only those in the know come here – unless, like us, you will bump on this place by accident. The last time we were there it was a sunny Sunday in May and we had the whole garden to ourselves – you were paying for your visit in the honesty box by the entrance.
Unfortunately, it is also a place with a tragic history. Dr Taggart’s son, Jamie, was as passionate about the garden as his father and was traveling the world to bring new species to it. During one of those trips to Vietnam in 2013, he got missing, and has his fate remains unknown. Dr Taggart himself died in 2019 aged 84 and the fate of the garden became at risk. The property had been sold, but soon after it had been on the market again – apparently the state of the mansion requires extensive repairs and the garden itself also requires some maintenance. At the moment of writing the garden appears to be closed to the public – which was the case at least since the COVID-19 pandemic, so we can only hope that the new owners will make it available to the public again soon. The discussion on the Facebook page dedicated to the garden suggests that it is in good hands now, so fingers crossed. The garden’s website seems to be the best place to check for updates. And then – just go. Scotland is known for it’s beauty but if there is something you could call a hidden gem, Linn Botanic Garden surely is one.
You can reach Linn Botanic Garden by car, it’s located in Cove on the Rosneath Peninsula. It takes about an hour to drive there from Glasgow. You can also get there by public transport by taking the train to Gairlochhead and then a local bus or taking a train to Gourock and then taking a pedestrian ferry to Kilcreggan and then take a bus or just walk. Such a trip would make a great day out.
Check the garden’s website for access: http://www.thelinn.co.uk/
Picutes: Tomasz Oryński, Urszula Hałenda