Scottish sojourn

16 August 2017
Ben Pentreath

I’ve just come back from a few days in Scotland. Heaven.  It’s about that time of year when Charlie starts getting itchy feet to travel north, like a homing pigeon needing to return to its deep roots.  So on Friday we travelled north to stay with our clients and now friends John and Cathy. Charlie headed back on Sunday and for the last couple of days I’ve been on a tour of beautiful towns in East Lothian, getting ready for a new project there which is incredibly exciting.

John collected us from the airport and within five minutes we were touring the latest developments at Tornagrain, his town that we are working on, which I wrote about back in March when I was last staying….

So exciting to see how it’s all grown in just six months. Everything is looking amazing.  And the houses are being snapped up.  Here are the little cottages around Malvina Green, taking shape.

Little hints of slightly more contemporary architecture stop things being dull.  And I am loving the bold colours that look so good against the silvery Scottish light.

The first street.

A tiny ‘gatehouse’ leading from the first phase of the development to a small pocket park and community orchard – part of the essential ‘DNA’ of Tornagrain that John wanted to see.

And on the left the little stone and slate bus shelter with the knobbly spruce columns. 

On Saturday, we visited somewhere which Charlie and I have wanted to see for a long time – the Gordon Castle Walled Garden.  Charlie first came across the walled garden through Instagram. It’s an extraordinary project, being masterminded by Zara and Angus Gordon Lennox, restoring the eight acre walled garden to new productivity at the centre of their estate.   First, we visited the beautiful castle….

Then made our way into the garden – with the indomitable Zara as our guide. 

Two years ago everything you see did not exist… This is an entire restoration project.  It will take years to complete but the progress is already remarkable.  Inside the potting shed. Drying trays of lavender.

Old horticultural prizes pinned to the wall.

I love this sign.

There is a handsome new visitor centre and cafe designed by the renowned classical architect Craig Hamilton. 

And then the veg!

Best playground you’ve ever seen:

The grassed amphitheatre, for outdoor events and plays:

Looking across to the garden cottage;

Newly laid out beds will be planted with soft fruit. Each of the brick borders (which are very beautiful) have been laid by hand – a monumental task in itself. 

This year’s new arrivals are the cages for trained pears:

Against the south-facing, brick-lined walls, ancient apricots and plums have been reared back to life. 

The famous Gordon Castle plum: Perfect planting combinations.  The whole garden masterplan has been laid out by Arne Maynard.

Inside the cafe. We only had time for coffee. But lunch looked amazing!

Beautiful new gates made by the estate joiner. 

Gordon Castle is an amazing place to visit. If you are heading north, make sure you go. And it will be a place to go back to – you know it will only get better and better.


Late in the afternoon we headed up with John and Cathy to see a place I’ve always wanted to visit but we’ve never had time – their little timber cottage, tucked away down a long track in the woods, in beautiful country (also rather popular with midges that afternoon….).  A few snaps of the most idyllic building.  Note the knobbly spruce columns. 


This being Scotland, it soon started to rain, but soon enough stopped.

Peacocks in the evening sunlight back home.

The following morning Charlie and I went for a quick walk down to the walled garden – waiting for a project like Zara and Angus’s, perhaps….? 

Then we had to drop Charlie at the airport before the rest of us went to the Festival of Wheels. Morris minors were the star of my show, of course, but there were plenty of splendid vehicles to look at.  Best of all, I might add, was being driven in a 1950s Bentley for the first time in my life – so quiet, and so comfortable. 

Early on Monday morning we headed down for our tour of East Lothian towns, getting to know the essential DNA of these places.  A few snapshots.

Serenely beautiful Gifford, which was a revelation. A quick stop to Haddington before we needed to be off.

And we sped through the perfect country of ready-to-harvest corn and barley, under sparkling blue skies, and all too soon the Scottish journey was at an end, and we were heading back down south on the train from Edinburgh.

Tomorrow I’m off for Italy for a just a few days to stay with Valentina, while Charlie heads down to Dorset to get ready for the Melplash show, and his 63 entries. Watch this space.

12 comments on this post

Carol Brynersays:

Lovely post. Tickled to see “Lux Flakes.” My mother always saved her delicate things for what she called her “lux wash.”


I do wish you could design and supervise the building of all new smaller housing in this country; what passes for acceptable accommodation is bland, cramped,unrelated to the immediate cultural environment, poor value for money,and,from what one learns from new buyers, incredibly shoddily put together. There. Best wishes, Nicola


Such beautiful photos, thanks for taking us along!


As always your blog enchants and after a particularly dreadful week it is much needed.As noted by others,your efforts are much appreciated! I suspect it is a labour of love.


wonderfully beautifully scottish, thank you for taking us along,dear ben and charlie. almost shocking to see photograph after photograph of perfect gardens, even the regular “joe” houses’ front flower gardens, enviable! in my yard, am staring down bobcats and earthquakes, oh and thunder storms. heartening and kindly to see so much beauty by folks who care! same as birgit, what r “melplash”, dear charlie, best kiwi luck to you and angels all around you in italy, dear ben.


Joyce Morrissays:

Charlie, have you been to Skye? If not, you HAVE to get there at some point. Have recently spent 2 idyllic weeks there, admittedly with incredible weather, but oh my it’s so amazing. Indescribable. Moving soon, back north and will be only a two hour drive away from my favourite place on earth.
You would not be disappointed.
Thanks for the gorgeous bloggies. It must be such an effort sometimes, but, rest assured, they are SO appreciated. X

Diane Keanesays:

Another utterly enjoyable post, Ben. I am glad you anticipate working in Scotland, it means we’ll get to see the Gordon Castle gardens 0 mature into full glory over the years. The potting “shed” is marvelous, I could almost smell the earthy, organic aroma from your photos. I also enjoyed the photos contrasting the two out-buildings, one could picture the owners from the state of the buildings. The East Lothian cottage garden will be on my Pinterest garden board shortly (I always note the source.)

I hope your parents are settling into their new home. How lovely for them to be nearer you and Charlie.

Hugs from Diane


That William Morris fabric, Blackthorn? we used to have it at home in the 70’s, it’s so timeless.

Great excitement this week as I just made a spur of the moment decision to head to Dorset in March 2018 for my best friend’s 60th – a weekend at an old vicarage – old friends, their kids and grand kids, dogs, delicious food and lots of Champagne and Gin. Can’t wait. Life is too short to always count the cost.


I was charmed to read your posting this week from Scotland!
I am so glad that you enjoyed your visit to my home country. Scotland has suffered more than most places from the negative effects of crassly-designed housing & new towns, so it is really heartening to see how much care is going into the creation of Tornagrain. There are comparable projects going on at Chapelton of Elsick in Kincardineshire & Knockroon in Ayrshire, so let’s hope they represent a new beginning for creating communities here.
I recently visited the Gordon Castle garden too and it is just a delight – the Gordon-Lennoxes deserve the greatest of credit!
Thanks very much for your blogs – they really do help maintain morale in a world where every decent value seems under attack…

Have a great week!


Dear Ben & Charlie
Thank you for sharing your lovely Scotland trip with us.
How beautiful is the whole British Isle …….
A fabulous projekt the new town buildings and this wonderful Gordon Castle …… three years ago we passed through Morayshire as we came back from the Isle of Skye to Ballindalloch Castle in Banffshire. The next time we’ll visit Gordon Castle !
Scotland, always a pleasure also the East Lothian Snapshots, so nice…….
Wish Charlie good luck for the Melplash Show ( what is it, I have nothing found in the translation ? )
And wish you Ben very nice days in Tuscany, it is also a favorite holiday place from us, enjoy the food, Pici con ragu maybe cinghiale 🙂 AND Pecorino 🙂 fantastic !
Have a nice time, Yours Birgit

Thank you for the amazing post! The new town buildings are so charming. You always find th most beautiful and interesting ppl and places.
xo, lissy


I wonder for how long the bus shelter will have buses…….

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