A Garden Evolution
Many visitors ask about the garden and how long it took to become established. The answer is “about a decade and two centuries.”
The earliest existing records of a garden on this site go back to the 1660s and John Urquhart who lived further up the hill in Cromarty Castle. He enclosed an area just to the west of our low wall for his ‘Great Orchyard’. The houses on this side of the Causeway (our 17th century house included) had their own ‘yards’ with fruit trees.
When George Ross acquired the Cromarty Estate in the 1770s and built Cromarty House, he bought the property along the west side of the Causeway, demolished all but this house and enclosed the land within the high wall we see today. His factor, Hugh Rose, who lived in the house, planted another generation of fruit trees.
Between 1896 and 1904, head gardener Alexander More planted a third generation of apple, pear, plum and peach trees, some of which are still producing fruit a hundred years later. More’s Victorian garden continued to be productive under the care of Donald Ross and provided fresh fruit and vegetables for the Royal Navy ships that visited the Cromarty Firth during the first half of the 20th century.
The property became derelict after WWII until 1990/1992 when the house was restored by the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust and sold to Ken and Kristina Dupar. The present garden, begun in 1995, was designed with links to its past history. A new orchard was planted with a mix of modern cultivars and replacements for old varieties originally planted more than a century ago.
As in its Victorian past, ornamental plants complement the orchard, but now in a design inspired by a mermaid tale told by Hugh Miller. Thora Brown’s statue is based on the story of Capt John Reid’s confrontation with a mermaid in which he gains his wish for the love of Helen Stuart. Capt Reid and his Helen lived in the house now overlooking the water garden in which the bronze mermaid sits.
The construction of the pond led to the building of the garden house and patio which provided the tons of topsoil that were redistributed around the garden. Follow the paths from the water garden to the wild garden, greenhouse and raised beds, orchard, mixed borders, herb garden, heather bank and (the no longer hidden) kitchen garden.