Balfour Castle Orkney Islands, Scotland

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Victorian Garden
Greenhouse Vegetables

Balfour Castle, gardens and grounds...

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Balfour Castle sits within a planned landscape which incorporates many earlier elements.

The design also uses ideas which were then modern such as the ha-ha walls - a means of keeping cattle out of the formal gardens without the use of fencing. Magnificent views south toward the main island and the Orkney capital, Kirkwall were thus retained.

The very first Balfour to arrive in Shapinsay planted trees in the late eighteenth century and these existing woods were extended as the Castle was being built. The new plantings quickly became established and grew into the magnificent woodlands we see today. Not only is this the largest wooded area in Orkney but the trees also provide excellent shelter for the Castle and the Victorian walled garden.

Along with the Castle designs the architect, David Bryce, submitted plans for a 'new' vegetable garden and glasshouses. The two-acre walled kitchen garden which was built just after completion of the Castle is based on a traditional four square design but is doubled to create upper and lower sections. Raised beds were constructed to augment drainage and thus permit early planting.

The four glasshouses were heated using a piped steam system. The name of one of the glasshouses - the Peach House - suggests just how productive these heated houses were. The walled garden still fulfils its primary function of providing the Castle with its fresh produce right the way through the year.

The old sunken gardens sit just to the west of the main house - below the library and conservatory. These were maintained until the second world war but then fell into disrepair. This area has now been compleletly redesigned, there are now three areas including, a sculpted grass feature, a maze and a water feature.

A change in planting style and higher walls of very different construction mark the oldest part of the gardens - those associated with the mansion of Sound burnt down in 1746. These pre-dated the Balfours' time in Shapinsay. Buchanan's Gate is a surviving portion of the old house which has been incorporated into the western wall. It marks the boundary of the gardens and the start of the Estate's farmland.

Balfour Castle Accommodation
History of Balfour Castle

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