Culross Palace and Gardens, Culross, Fife, KY12 8JH

The village of Culross, on the north bank of the River Forth, was once a bustling port and its steep streets and narrow wynds would have been filled with the traffic of horses, people and carts carrying goods to the ships that lay at anchor.

Today tourists and film crews vie for space on the pavements amongst the charming 17th century houses with their traditional pan tiled roofs and crow-stepped gables.

The backdrop to these white buildings is the ochre lime-washed Palace, which was never a royal residence but instead the home of a rich merchant who made his money from the abundant local coal and from the salt flats on the edge of the river.

Around 20 years ago the garden behind this intriguing house was beautifully restored in keeping with the period when the mansion was built, with regular flower beds lined with willow hurdles, paths made from shells collected on the river and even a flock of Scots Dumpy hens to scratch amongst the kale and the flowers.

The garden contains plants with both culinary and medicinal uses and there is an abundance of the kinds of herbs that would have been grown at the time.

The result is both authentic and surprisingly modern, echoing today’s preference for raised beds that are easy to work and can be planted densely to provide raised yields. Sage, lavender and rosemary are used as edgings here and on warm days they fill the south-facing, sloping garden with their scent.

The lower section of the garden contains flowers, which around the walls are vines, mulberries, medlars and other fruit trees and from the top terrace, where there are seats surrounded by roses and other flowers, there are views over the village and the Forth.

Since its redesign, the garden has been run on organic principles and during the summer months, flowers, fruit and vegetables are sold to visitors.

By contrast to the intensive planting at the rear of the Palace, the front courtyard has a smooth lawn and seasonal flowers in containers.

Aberdour CastleAberdour Castle (Image: free)

Going Back In Time

Further along the Forth Estuary is another garden that also retains a sense of the time in which it was built. The terraces of Aberdour Castle were laid out during the 16th century and the grounds contain many features from that time, including a beehive-shape doo’cot.

Beneath today’s smooth lawns, archaeologists have discovered evidence of a millpond and a vegetable plot which would have been used for growing kale and leek, which were staples at the time.

Today the castle’s current vegetable garden grows a wide range of crops and an orchard provides 18 different kinds of heritage Scottish apples.

Herbs, including camomile, lemon balm and Jerusalem sage are a nod to the importance of herbs during the Medieval period, while perennials provide summer colour and shrubs, including cotoneaster and viburnum, supply year-round interest.

Details: Culross Palace is open daily 10am-5pm Tickets: £13/£10/£1 (YoungScot)

In association with Discover Scottish Gardens