Bargany garden in South Ayrshire is at its colourful best in May.

The west coast of Scotland is renowned for its woodland gardens but one of the most spectacular of these is also its least known.

Bargany, near Girvan sits  three miles inland from the coast, surrounded by hills and forests and close to where the Water of Girvan follows its meandering path to the sea.

For most of the year Bargany is a cool, green space of sheep pastures, dense shrubs and tall trees but in spring it undergoes an extraordinary transformation as the rhododendrons and azaleas that make up most of the planting begin to open their buds.

Almost overnight the garden discards its subtle tones to put on a display of dazzling colour while the mass plantings of yellow-flowered Rhododendron luteum fill the air with an almost overwhelming sweet perfume.

Scottish Gardener: Middle: Clearing the ground has revealed the Victorian rockery. Right: Evergreen rhododendrons in the walled garden.Middle: Clearing the ground has revealed the Victorian rockery. Right: Evergreen rhododendrons in the walled garden.

This is gardening on a grand scale, where diggers and chainsaws do the job of normal tools, but it is a labour of love for Sally-Anne Dalrymple-Hamilton, who in 1998 took over the running of the family estate with her husband John.

She knew nothing about gardening at the time, but events quickly took over and she realised that the only option was to get her hands dirty

“We had only been living here for a few months when the Boxing Day storm struck us and it was devastating,” she say.

“Twisters had torn at the trees, snapping them off like twigs at all different levels and when the winds died down 200 trees were on the ground.”

The work of clearing up this devastation went on for many months, but as the fallen timbers were removed new views opened up through the garden, inspiring Sally-Anne to continue clearing the ground.

“The main planting on the estate had been carried out in the 18th and 19th century, so trees were reaching maturity and the rhododendrons were above head height.”

By cutting down sections, thinning out others and introducing a bold pruning regime, the garden began to reveal itself as it had originally been conceived.

Scottish Gardener:

Today the work of managing the garden’s exuberant growth continues, helping to rejuvenate the plantings and uncovering areas such as the Victorian rock garden, that had become congested and overgrown.

At the heart of Bargany is a huge pond with waterlilies and a boat house and while the main section of the walled garden is now home to grazing sheep, parts of this large enclosure are filled with cherry blossom and the exuberant colours of azaleas.

Here too is an old pineapple pit, which would once have supplied exotic fruit to the house.

Bargany is a private estate, but in May it opens its gates to allow visitors a chance to explore and Sally-Anne has welcomed their return after last year’s enforced closure.

“The garden starts to come to life with the daffodils in March, these are followed by bluebells in the woodland and then the rhododendrons get going and it is lovely to be able to share it. This isn’t a manicured garden, we don’t have a full-time gardener keeping it in shape, but it is a much loved family garden and we enjoy it just the way it is.”

Scottish Gardener:


The first rhododendrons reached the UK from the Iberian peninsula in 1763 and they rapidly made themselves at home, flourishing in the damp, acidic soil of the west coast and eventually, in the case of purple-flowered Rhododendron ponticum, running rampant.

In the decades that followed more species arrived in Britain, first from Europe and America, but then from the Far East and today the area covered by northern India, south west China and Myanmar is still yielding up new Rhododendron discoveries.

Azaleas belong to the same plant family as rhododendrons and while the deciduous species come from North America and Europe, the evergreen kinds are native to China and Taiwan.


Garden Notebook
Nr Dailly, Girvan, South Ayrshire KA26 9RF
Open daily in May, 10am - 5pm.