Arduaine Garden lies on the southern slope of a hilly peninsula that projects from mid-Argyll into Loch Melfort. The scenery in the wider area is mainly either coastal, hilly, grassy, rocky, or some combination of all four. It is therefore a surprise to stumble across this wonderful green oasis that transports you to another place and time.
On turning off the A816 you find the garden's car park is close by the excellent Loch Melfort Hotel (which can also provide a welcome drink and a bite to eat after your tour). The approach to the 20 acre garden itself is along a path leading down past the hotel that, in Spring, is adorned with daffodils, and at all times of the year offers extensive views south and west to the many islands that dot this stretch of coastline.
Once within the tree-clad confines of the garden itself you find yourself in what feels like an enormous private garden: peaceful, dazzling, varied, surprising, and thoroughly enjoyable. Those used to the NTS's better known Inverewe Garden south of Ullapool will find something much more intimate at Arduaine.
The story behind Arduaine began in 1897 when James Arthur Campbell purchased three farms on the peninsula and named the estate that emerged as a result Arduaine, or Green Point.
Stories differ as to what brought him here in the first place; the most convincing is that he saw it while sailing the west coast of Scotland with his wife looking for the right place to build a home and garden. Work began on the garden in August 1898 and, a month later, on house that turned out to be less enduring than the garden and had to be demolished and rebuilt part way through.
Arthur Campbell continued to develop Arduaine Garden until his death in 1929; and it remained in the family until 1971. In that year it was purchased by Edmund and Harry Wright, who were also engaged in the development of a garden 40 miles north in Appin. Much of the garden as you see it today, especially around the ponds, is the result of their work.
Arduaine Garden passed into the hands of the National Trust for Scotland in 1992, and they have since sought to develop it as a visitor attraction capable of supporting itself without detracting from its essential character. As they say: "Arduaine is a green and peaceful place, and must remain so."
The garden can be enjoyed in many ways. There are two discreetly waymarked paths taking in all the essential areas. The shorter, green path leads you past the lower ponds before taking you to the signature Heron Pond.
This can then be combined with the longer, blue path that takes you along the length of the garden before climbing to emerge via the beautiful Owl's Walk at a stunning viewpoint overlooking the islands to the west of Arduaine and north west to Mull.
You are then taken around the top of the garden, always in the shelter of the higher ridge line to your left: and from the well named cliff path above the garden you begin at last to gain some real feel for the scale of the garden and the amount of effort it must take to maintain in this condition. Zig zags back down from the cliff path lead you through the Inside Garden, and back to the Long Border, which is where you began.
A stroll round both paths will take about an hour. Parts of the garden are accessible to wheelchair users; though the NTS suggest that a "reasonably strong companion" is advisable in some areas. Certainly parts of the cliff path and the zig zag descent do require care.