The Queen Mother’s garden in Caithness survives harsh winter gales in the shelter of a 12ft walled garden.
The Castle of Mey has quite a bloody history. It was built by George, the 4th Earl of Caithness, for his second son William Sinclair. William was murdered in 1573 by his older brother John, who had been imprisoned in the castle for six years by his father. John was then murdered himself. Savage winter gales laden with salt spray howl across the gardens, picking up cabbages and throwing them 60ft away.
You wouldn’t expect a site with such a tough history and severe weather conditions to be home to a flourishing garden, but it is. It was the Queen Mother’s garden no less, and under her stewardship from 1952 onwards, the gardens flourished.
The garden is full of marigolds, pansies, dahlias, primulas and nasturtiums, while old-fashioned shrub roses and climbers form the highlights of the Shell Garden. The Queen Mother grew her favourite rose, Albertine, within the shelter of the walls, too.
The castle kitchen benefits from the wide variety of fruit and vegetables grown in the walled garden. The varieties have all been chosen for their resistance to wind and salt.
Raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, apples, currants, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, turnips, onions and leeks all thrive in the shelter of the walls as well as globe artichokes.
To find out more, visit the Castle of Mey’s website.