Kerracher Gardens -Peter & Trish Kahn — 9th January 2017

Two quite extraordin­ary people set out to create a garden in an area 58 degrees North, in what can only be described as the most remote garden in the United Kingdom.  It is situ­ated only 20 miles from Cape Wrath, N.N. Sutherland.

Describing them­selves as ‘fit’,  which to my mind is a bit of an under­state­ment, they appar­ently ran every­where, includ­ing up and down moun­tains car­ry­ing 56 lbs haver­sacks. The remote cove they chose was set off from one of the many lochs, which seemed to slice into the west­ern coast­line of Northern Scotland The cove’s greatest asset was an area of about 2 acres of rel­at­ively flat land, sur­round­ing a mall croft. The whole of this area has its back, so to speak, facing North. This ‘back’ is high, over a hun­dred feet, pro­tec­ted by con­i­fer­ous woods at the top of the escarp­ment, this area was the place for the garden they decided. And the great adven­ture began. It was going to take huge drive and energy from these two, with local sup­port. The first prob­lem was drain­age, fol­lowed by wind-breaks, deer proof fen­cing, soil struc­ture etc. etc.

They had the site but no access by any road! This was solved by get­ting the cooper­a­tion from a gen­tle­man run­ning a 25 ton cruiser for public trips up the nearby loch. The next step was to build a land­ing stage  for mem­bers of the public to land from the boat. The fish farm fur­ther up the loch had a flat bot­tomed land­ing barge, together with a few strong young men. This was made avail­able for shift­ing heavy goods and machinery, such as digger for con­struc­tion work. A large timber barn and a hun­dred foot poly-tunnel for propaga­tion pur­poses were also built.

After a year or so, the day arrived for the grand open­ing.  The Director of the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens did the hon­ours at a large gath­er­ing of guests. Within a short time  10,000 vis­it­ors per year were call­ing. With two ini­tial gar­dens estab­lished, plants from around the world were grow­ing with great suc­cess. Specimens from New Zealand, South Africa,Australia, the Mediterranean coun­tries and many others flour­ished. Their last ven­ture was a Darwin garden, designed to cel­eb­rate his birth. The theme was Tierra del Fuego, which Darwin had vis­ited on his trip in the Beagle. Most plants cur­rently grow­ing on that island were planted, together with a spe­cially cre­ated mosaic depict­ing the local iguanas and the Beagle.

It is impossible to convey the incred­ible achieve­ment which they had made, but as is the way of all endeavors, anno domini played its part. To con­tinue to run it required a huge com­mit­ment in time and energy, so the decision to retire was made. The croft and gar­dens are now back in the hands of a McCleod, the ori­ginal owners. Peter and Trish are now back in Sheffield and employed in propaga­tion work at the Botanical Gardens, which seems very appro­pri­ate. A remark­able story indeed.