Walled Garden

The Castle Menzies SCIO (TCMS) owns the Castle's Walled Garden, situated to the North East of the Castle, on a steep slope underneath Weem Rock.  The location and the environmental conditions make the Walled Garden a very fertile spot and plants grow rapidly here.  There are fine views of the surrounding countryside as well as of the Castle.

The Walled Garden was once nationally renowned, featuring a world-class arboretum, said to have initiated an interest in botany of one of the Clan Menzies' most famous members, the 19th Century botanist and explorer Archibald Menzies, whose works are commemorated in an exhibition in the Castle.

At the start of the 20th Century, shortly prior to the Castle's sale in 1914, there had been around 10 gardeners employed.  After the break-up of the Castle estate the Walled Garden slid into ruin.  It was purchased by the Menzies Clan Society in 1984, in a sorry state.

Old maps indicate that there were gardens in its present location from c.1600.  What exactly this area was used for initially is unclear, as there were other formal gardens laid out in the area to the south of the Castle which were demolished at some point. It is thought that this may have been for defensive reasons, as the demolition happened at about the time of the last Jacobite uprising. Certainly, after this had happened, attention seem to switch to the current site which were developed into three terraces of walled gardens over the course of the 18th and 19th Centuries.

With the terminal decline of the main Menzies family, the Walled Garden was essentially left to its own devices and over the years it became an almost impenetrable jungle of self-seeded vegetation, as the various subsequent owners of the Castle concentrated their attention on the building rather than the grounds.  It was in this sad condition that the Menzies Clan Society was able to buy the Walled Garden in 1984. By this time only the top two terraces remained, nature having reclaimed the bottom, unenclosed terrace. With the assistance of a grant from the Countryside Commission, the remaining terraces were cleared and the central staircase was repaired.  The Walled Garden was subsequently transferred to The Menzies Charitable Trust and then to TCMS.

With the assistance of the BBC Scotland gardening programme The Beechgrove Garden it was possible to plant out part of the upper terrace with some of the trees that Archibald Menzies identified or imported through his botanical work. This is an appropriate memorial, as Archibald Menzies was, at one time, an apprentice at the Castle Menzies Gardens.

In more recent years, Paul Findlay, a Menzies Clan Society member, was immensely helpful in devoting time, labour and finance to smartening up the Walled Garden and provided an impetus to return it from mostly jungle to a space which can be enjoyed as a historic site of interest.  This work was carried forward by subsequent Castle Managers and volunteers (particularly David Henderson and family) and the work continues today.

In 2023 the SSE Griffin and Calliachar Community Fund provided a grant for us to repair and make safe the large retaining wall across the middle of the garden, which will allow us to take forward our plans to provide full access again to the arboretum in the upper part of the garden and to develop comminuty-based involvement, which we are very much looking forward to.

Click here for a longer article about the Castle Gardens.