I’ve just returned from a three-week trip exploring Scottish Gardens. My husband and I rented a car at the Aberdeen Airport and set off for our adventure. Rich did all the 852 miles of driving with a right-hand drive and a left-hand 6-speed shifter. Our GPS guide was the calm and reassuring voice of the actress Emma Thompson, and we loved her. But it takes both of us to stay focused on driving down shady tiny “B” roads with one-lane bridges, watching out for horseback riders, cyclists, and huge farm equipment along the way.
I realize how fortunate our travel interest in gardens is as it guides all our travel planning. We enjoy being outdoors, and gardens give us that opportunity every day. Scotland has spectacular scenery, centuries of history, and castles, — so many castles. Guidebooks give travelers sample itineraries to help plan their adventure, but we build our plan garden by garden. Fifteen years ago, I found garden guides organized by regions in the U.S. and the countries of Canada and Great Britain. My most exciting find was 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die. a challenge we are working through. Every time we start planning a trip, this is where we begin. We have visited 982 gardens in all 50 states and 40 countries in the past fifteen years. On this recent trip, we visited 32 gardens. From the grand Castle Drummond to the small and spectacular private An Cala, and we have reveled in our discoveries.
I believe the best view of our world is through the lens of a garden. Every garden has a story: who is the gardener, how did it come to be located here, what is the architecture of the dwelling the garden surrounds? Is it a house or a castle? What will be discovered as you find your way to the garden and return from there? I’ve read there were only two reasons a person built a castle. The first is to announce I’m here! And the second, I am staying here! The here is often a prime location, high on a hill, at the power point of a river, a view of the sea, or a very exclusive neighborhood.
Another great joy I find in visiting gardens is the quiet, calm environment I wander into. Travel is a challenge. There’s all the stuff we carry with us, directions to follow, the local behaviors to interpret, cultural rules, different foods, sometimes masses of people, and today’s seriously unpredictable weather. It can be arduous. In a garden, the stress falls away. In many, many of the gardens we visit, we are there alone, sometimes there are chickens or peacocks.
Gardens are a pleasure, and there are flowers. Gardens are our happy place. I’ll be writing about many of the gardens we visited in the next few months.
People ask us for ideas about traveling, and the best idea I have to offer is to choose what you love to learn about and go there. Maybe it’s waterfalls, fashion museums, or baseball stadiums. I’ve read about a couple visiting all the McDonald’s restaurants in North America! For us, it’s gardens that have made all the difference and taken us to the most exceptional places in the small part of the world we have been able to explore. Happy Travels.