Kinross House Gardens begins my series of garden visits for the summer. Yep… and it ticked all the boxes for a formal garden. However, it also ticked a few more for garden watching too! I enjoyed my visit way more than I expected.
My intention for this garden visit was to be a quick wander and a brief photo shoot… before and after shots really. It has been a few years since I’ve been here and it was the long central border that was taking me back.
Knowing the layout… I thought I’d have a quick buzz about some other areas too. First off, I popped into the Kitchen Garden on the left just outside the garden entrance. Beautiful rows of healthy looking produce growing in tidy beds were seen… but what was that rustling sound?
Standing a moment, my question was quickly answered. Out from under the strawberry netting appeared a grey squirrel behaving decidedly suspicious! It ran off at speed towards the wall that surrounds the main garden. It dropped something on the path… a half eaten strawberry. I hadn’t realised squirrels would eat them!
Drawn to the deep blue flowers behind the greenhouse in the far corner I stood for a moment admiring the view ahead inside the garden. At the same time I enjoyed being in a kitchen garden that was very much cared for. More rustling could be heard.
Passing a fruit cage at a corner the noise got louder. Inside I could see blackcurrants on the bushes. At ground level I could also see a smaller grey squirrel frantically trying to get out from under the netting. It hid as I approached.
When I stood still it made a successful escape running off to a climber on the wall. I could hear the climber rustle now. I do suspect that more than a couple of eyes were watching me as I walked out the gate.
Through the arch, passing a tidy plant sales area and the neat lawns of a formal garden could be seen. Yes… before even walking out into the garden I just knew the long borders weren’t going to disappoint.
En route to the long borders I pass another classic formal garden feature… a raised circular pool with water lilies and a fountain sculpture. Symmetrical rose beds, clipped hedges, topiary, trees, garden seating areas and the perimeter garden wall kept ticking the boxes for a formal garden.
Almost there now! Just a brief stop for some garden watching first… lots of birds were about which was great to see. However it was the ones swooping to the ground that first caught my eye as I approached the house when I arrived. They were inside the garden too. Sorry, too fast for photos.
These are birds I have never seen in my garden (not enough space I suspect). You might have guessed what I was watching… swallows. I was transfixed for a while. I had never seen many at all and here they were all around me. Okay, moving on let's take the steps now.... the border awaits.
The long border draws you down to a gate – the ‘Fish Gate’. Okay… this is quite a special (and historical) location. We’ll not go out there just quite yet though. This became my favourite part of this visit… some brilliant ‘just out of the garden’ watching there!
Looking from the bottom back up to the house gives a sense of scale to the garden and a contrast outside and inside this long border.
Borders like this need staking to help the plants keep upright by the end of the summer. Here you can see how it can be done and in a few weeks this will be completely hidden with the growth the plants will put on.
At the moment, the plants below look like they are patiently standing for the summer party to begin. Personally, I love this stage of the border. I also love the colour range across long borders like this. One minute you are looking at purples and pink...
Then seamlessly you are looking at hotter, deeper colours. Okay… so what's on the other side of the 'Fish Gate'?
Nope… I didn’t spot any fish! There was a clue in the background of the first border photo. Kinross House was built on the shores of Loch Leven.
Standing from various points in the garden and just outside this garden gate the ruins of Loch Leven Castle on ‘Castle Island’ can be seen. Passing by the town of Kinross along the motorway you can also clearly see the Loch and Castle.
Loch Leven Castle is most remembered for the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots in 1568. However, for 300 years it had an important role in Scotland’s history. Searching for info I came across some excellent photos from the island on the Undiscovered Scotland website with links to the history too. Boat trips across to the island operate over the summer months if you fancy the trip over to see it for yourself.
Oh… but what about the special ‘just out of the garden’ watching through this gate? Ah… for me this was very special and quite a surprise too. I opened the gate to…
.. a wonderful row of young swallows on the fence of an unused tennis court. Parent birds swooped in and out. I really was transfixed now! The birds didn’t seem bothered at all by my presence. I guess they had an idea I couldn’t get too close to them anyway. Photos were tricky to get.
On another side of the fence I was able to walk almost completely under three young swallows. Looking at them closely I could see their banana mouths which told me they were fairly recent fledglings. Not the best of pics though but I was just thrilled to capture this moment.
A quick flight across me as I stood still with my camera and my attention was now drawn to a green looking bird in a bush. What was that? I turned to take photos while the young swallows looked on from above me. I could barely see it as it was so well camouflaged.
I took the shot not knowing if I got it or not. I was thrilled that I did! My guess was a warbler perhaps. I posted my photo on the Birdforum and it was confirmed that it was a willow warbler. I had never seen one of them before so I was delighted.
Some time past as I returned to watching the longer strip of young swallows. Time was fast running out. Time to head back into the garden now. The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds.
Inside the garden again and my eye was drawn to the border along the wall. I’m really not what you’d call a rose fan but I could not deny how well they looked with the stone of the wall.
Okay… let’s quicken our steps now along the perimeter edge of the garden. Ah… parent swallows are speeding away too having just flown over the gate.
Woah... this riot of colour did make me smile. Yep... formal gardens just wouldn’t be the same without roses. Bright colours really do stir the senses too don’t they?
Walking along towards the corner and the cooler paths under trees and the expanse of lawn can be seen once again. Green is such a relaxing colour. Oh… and what another lovely and expected moment of garden watching I was witnessing now!
Another parent bird and juvenile moment… this time it was a Pied Wagtail. I stood a moment longer but went no closer. What a 'garden' visit I was having!
Really must get going now. Walking to the opposite corner of the garden (past the pool) and we have a return to the classic formal garden vista….
Walking around the House to leave the garden and this not so classic formal garden view really caught my eye. It really made me smile… a children’s slide (blue like ours was) tucked in a corner like we used to do with ours.. Kinross House is a family home and not open to the public and how great to see that a young family can enjoy this garden too.
A final look back over the long border and Loch Leven Castle beyond…
Driving away and a brief stop to take a final look back across the front lawns to garden entrance. The swallows were still skimming along the ground as they had done when I arrived…
A final view of Kinross House from the driveway…
A final visit… I hope not. Ideally it would be great to return at the end of August to see how the long borders and kitchen garden looks then. Oh... and I wonder what birds will be visiting then.
Okay… I couldn’t wait until August! Yesterday I made a return visit with my video camera. Yep… you can perhaps guess where I was heading… this time I didn’t go into the garden.
When standing watching the rows of swallows just outside the garden gate I spotted people walking along a path. I knew there was a walk around parts of Loch Leven so I headed around the other side to see where I could pick it up.
From Kirkgate Park I was able to park my car and pick up part of the Loch Leven Heritage Trail. I had never been along this part before and within five minutes along it I was standing on the other side of the unused tennis court of the previous day and looking at a couple of swallows.
Not a long line of swallows this time but that was okay. I took my tripod this time and waited patiently. Meantime I took out my camera and got a couple of photos first but my quest on this visit was to capture footage of the young swallows being fed.
The young swallows were also waiting as you can see above. I was thrilled to get some closer photos this time. I did find it difficult getting the eyes in my photos as the head is so dark. I haven’t mastered enough settings in my camera yet. Ah… but I do know others who have like Richard and Mike who have some brilliant swallow shots on their blogs.
So was this second visit to this area worth it? Oh yes... I am absolutely thrilled to say it definitely was! Roll the film…
Bright midday sunshine made seeing in the viewer of my basic video camera difficult and focusing a bit tricky… but hey I did still get some swallows being fed on film. I am well chuffed!
One final look at Loch Leven Castle from the Loch Leven Heritage Walk seating area nearby…
There really is a lot to see in this area around the Loch. I’ve other photos from way back in April that I really must sort out to show you another time. I also must explore it some more! For the moment though, I’d like to wish you a great weekend and award you a gold star if you read all the way to the end again :-)
Oh... one very final thing … this area has one other major attraction and it’s on this weekend. I’d like to wish all the revellers at Scotland’s Music Festival T in the Park a great time. My daughter is there for the first time this year so I’m especially hoping the weather holds out for them!
Enjoy your weekend and any garden visits you might have :-)
All but the last three photos were taken on July 9th 2009. The video and last three photos were taken on July 10th 2009.