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Torosay Castle was sold in 2012 and appears not to be open to the pubic. For the moment, the remainder of this page is as written before the sale took place, and is inevitably out of date as a result. The story of Torosay Castle, or Duart House as it was known until 1911, is told on our separate feature page about the castle. Torosay Gardens developed in parallel with the castle they adorn, and today they add greatly to the interest of a visit to this sheltered corner of a generally very unsheltered island.
When John Campbell set out to replace the existing Georgian house on the site with the much grander building you see today in the 1850s, the walled garden to the south of the house already existed, and it is likely that some of the older and larger trees that now help form the surrounding landscape had already been planted.
But the real origins of today's gardens date back to 1900, when the 2nd Laird of Torosay, Murray Guthrie, commissioned the construction of the formal terraces which are now such a striking feature of the gardens to the south of the castle.
It is probable that the water garden dates back to the same time: the pond being formed by the excavation of the fill required for the terraces. At the same time the Rockery was formed, being constructed around a large natural outcrop of rock.
During World War II and the years that followed, the gardens went into a period of decline. By the 1960s large parts of the gardens were overgrown, the pond had silted up, parts of the wall surrounding the walled garden had collapsed, and the yew hedge had reached 30ft in height.
The turning point came in the early 1970s when the family took the decision to share the house and gardens with visitors, and to use the proceeds to fund their restoration. Work got under way to arrest, then reverse, the decline of the preceding 30 years, while new features like the Oriental Garden were added.
The natural starting point for a tour of the gardens is the north west corner of Torosay Castle itself. From here steps take you down to the semi-circular White Lady Garden, named after the statue which stands at the focal point of this area.
From the far end of the White Lady Garden, more steps take you down to the north end of the Statue Walk. This is flanked by 19 life-sized statues by the 18th Century Italian sculptor Antonio Bonazza. Murray Guthrie found these at a deserted villa near Padua in northern Italy and arranged for their shipment to Torosay in about 1900.
From here a path west leads you first to the Water Garden and then to the Woodland Garden beyond it, which occupies the south west corner of the gardens. Many of the trees here are cared for by Torosay on behalf of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.
Heading east, back towards the main axis of the castle, brings you to the Walled Garden, largely rebuilt in the 1970s, complete with its Colonnade. Beyond this you find yourself on a southern continuation of the Statue Walk, whose focal point is an impressive sundial. This was set up in the mid 1800s, rather before steps were taken to standardise time across Britain, and as a result it is best not used to set your watch!
Continue east, and you come to the Bog Garden. Turning uphill from there, back towards the castle, brings you in turn to the greenhouses, the Oriental Garden, and the Rockery. From the nearby Lion Terrace a staircase takes you into the East Gazebo and out onto the Fountain Terrace immediately to the south of the castle.
Even if you are not intending to tour the castle itself, remember that the Tea Room is accessible to visitors to the gardens, and after a long walk around a large and impressive garden, some refreshment will probably be most welcome.
Beyond the confines of the formal gardens, the Torosay estate is home to large areas of woods and parkland. These are perhaps best appreciated by walking the few hundred yards east from the castle to the station for the Isle of Mull Railway, which runs through the estate to a second station not far from the ferry terminal at Craignure.