“The Queen Mother lovingly created the garden at the Castle of Mey on Scotland’s northern coast and it became her summer retreat for more than half a century,” says
Tamsin Hope Thomson in The English Garden magazine, September 2005 issue:
Her Majesty, the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother noticed the Castle of Mey on her first trip to Caithness back in 1952. As friends drove her to their house along the Scottish coast, she saw a neglected castle, then named Barrogill. It had been up for sale for months. The gardens were overgrown, there were no bathrooms or electricity but she took a liking to it immediately.
What a gardening challenge, even with a royal budget and extensive gardening staff!
There’s no castle further north in Scotland, and the Castle of Mey is open to gale-force winds “known to rip up cabbages and toss them 60 feet” it is said.
A twelve-foot stone wall protects the kitchen garden — a delightful hedge-edged maze of veggies and flowers — but the sycamore trees in the East Garden are wint-bent into living sculptures, “braced against the elements as though brushed by a giant arm.”
The castle and gardens have been open to the public since 2001, so travelling gardeners can wander the woodland paths or enjoy a quiet moment in The Shell Garden, where Her Majesty liked to sit on a summer evening.
Head gardener Grant Napier has been experimenting with more perennials — “a wee bit here and there,” he says — to extend the gardening season, and the flower display is apparently magnificent right through the season.