Make the most of Scotland’s gorgeous green spaces with an outdoor ceremony – there are some truly spectacular places out there as Holly Jones tells us…
Scotland might not be known for its scorching temperatures, but when the sun is shining and the sky is blue there is no better place to be. Combine that with an abundance of magnificent houses and castles, many of which have splendid gardens, and you can start to feel very lucky to be here! If you have your heart set on an alfresco ceremony or just want a beautiful backdrop to your wedding photos, have a look at our pick of Scotland’s venues with glorious gardens.
Culzean is one of the country’s most popular castles, for ordinary visitors as well as bridal parties, and if you’ve ever been there you’ll know why. The 18th-century castle perches on a clifftop looking out to Arran. Its gardens and grounds cover 240 hectares of prime Ayrshire countryside and three miles of rugged shoreline. It also boasts a variety of gardens within the grounds and many parts are licensed for civil ceremonies. So if you have your heart set on an open-air wedding but want to explore the various options available, Culzean Castle could be a fantastic choice for you.
0844 493 2156, www.nts.org.uk
This Georgian townhouse in Kirkcudbright was once home to the Scottish painter E. A. Hornel, and is the perfect venue for a small wedding. Say your vows in the gallery surrounded by Hornel masterpieces or have your civil ceremony conducted in the lush Japanese-inspired garden, partly designed by Hornel himself. Whether you want to get married in the gardens (which back on to a lovely river) or just use it for some picturesque photographs, this is an intimate venue steeped in art, culture and beauty.
0844 493 2156, www.nts.org.uk
Gilmerton House, close to North Berwick, is a spectacular exclusive-use stately home set in 1000 acres, large parts of which are scenic woodland. Several reception rooms can be booked for your ceremony and there are ten luxurious bedrooms for those who want to make a weekend of it. For weddings with a large number of guests, the picturesque Rose Garden offers plenty of space for a marquee, while the extensive grounds have a wealth of settings for photographs
you’ll treasure forever.
01620 880207, www.gilmertonhouse.com
This World Heritage Site is nestled in the spectacular South Lanarkshire Valley. The beautiful rooftop gardens, the largest in Scotland, are a lovely spot for photographs, offering panoramic views across the valley and up to the Falls of Clyde – an area so scenic the likes of Wordsworth and Turner came here for inspiration. Weather permitting, the Robert Owen Garden is used for drinks receptions before or after the ceremony. If you want a truly unique venue in a world-class setting, New Lanark could be what you’re looking for.
01555 661345, www.newlanark.org
Bunchrew House Hotel
This exquisite 400-year-old house near Inverness is home to its very own ‘Loving Tree’, a beautiful Cedar of Lebanon planted in 1745 by Bunchrew’s owner Duncan Forbes. Couples can actually get married under the tree – it’s said to bestow good luck on all who exchange vows beneath its embrace. What could be more romantic than that? As well as being a lovely place to hold your ceremony, Bunchrew House Hotel also has some magnificent gardens. These were originally planted by Duncan Forbes, and still follow his layout, with a large herbaceous bed and native flowers as well as what is claimed to be Scotland’s oldest holly bush. All these quirks make Bunchrew a wonderful venue for a wedding.
01463 234917, www.bunchrew-inverness.co.uk
Carberry Tower sits in 35 acres of manicured gardens which have proven very popular for outdoor weddings. The castle, in East Lothian, also features a beautiful rose garden which was a gift from the late Queen Mother. There are paths and benches dotted throughout the estate, so the happy couple and their guests can enjoy some wonderful photo opportunities. Carberry’s ceilidh hall can accommodate up to 150 guests and boasts floor-to-ceiling windows which slide open to a beautiful enclosed garden, making it the ideal space for a winter or summer celebration.
0131 665 3135, www.carberrytower.com
This luxurious exclusive-use 12-bedroom house is set in 30 acres of woodlands and smart formal gardens just outside Dollar in Perth and Kinross. The beautiful ballroom is suitable for up to 100 guests, but if you need a larger space the pavilion can seat 400. The pavilion has a glass wall so guests can enjoy looking out to the picturesque gardens. Solsgirth House also has a loggia, a unique feature ideal for a champagne reception without having to worry about the unpredictable Scottish weather. All in all, Solsgirth is an idyllic countryside setting for a fairytale alfresco wedding.
01259 743881, www.solsgirthhousehotel.com
Clan Donald Skye
Clan Donald Skye is a magnificent 20,000-acre estate in the south of the island. It is home to historic gardens, woodland and the picturesque remains of Armadale Castle. Clan Donald is also steeped in history – Flora MacDonald, the heroine rescuer of Bonnie Prince Charlie, even got married there! Happy couples can marry in several locations on the estate, including the standing stones and, most popular of all, a beautiful gothic arch that forms part of the castle’s original stairwell.
01471 844305, www.clandonald.com
Named after the wild cherry trees in its grounds, Gean is a relaxed country house in Clackmannanshire, originally built as a wedding present for the son of Alexander Forrester-Paton. The house is surrounded by extensive formal gardens and woods which are kept
as natural woodland. Your wedding guests can walk through the hidden gardens, which feature a Japanese garden, varieties of cherry trees and beautiful vibrant-coloured borders. The Gean House gardens also have a unique little gazebo which is ideal for wedding photos even if the sun isn’t shining.
01259 226400, www.geanhouse.co.uk
Renowned for glamorous parties, this venue in the heart of Fife has landed the gong for ‘Wedding Venue of the Year’ an incredible seven times in the past nine years. The 400 acres of parkland and gardens that surround the house are a photographer’s dream and there are a variety of outdoor options that can be used for weddings. If the weather permits, couples can exchange vows on one of the hotel’s manicured lawns – using one lawn for the ceremony and an adjacent lawn for a drinks reception – while use of its Millennium Ballroom includes access to fabulous, floodlit Ballroom Gardens. These have an awning that slides out to cover the garden terrace in case of rain.
01592 610066, www.balbirnie.co.uk
East Lothian’s Dirleton Castle is a splendid 400-year-old fortress-residence with picturesque ruins and a celebrated garden. In fact, Dirleton is more famous for its gardens than for its noble ancestors. The gardens today date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and are a beautiful setting for wedding photographs – they are even home to the world’s longest herbaceous border. The chapel, open-air Great Hall and the Barrel Vaults are all magnificent settings for a romantic ceremony.
0131 668 8600, www.historic-scotland.gov.uk
Threave House and Garden, in Galloway, is one of the National Trust for Scotland’s most visited attractions, and the garden was recently voted one of the top ten to visit in the UK. The estate covers 1,600 acres and has a sculpture garden and stunning landscapes. It is also home to the National Trust for Scotland’s renowned school of horticulture – so you couldn’t get a more fitting venue for a garden wedding. Couples can get married anywhere within Threave’s gardens, so feel free to pick your spot – the Orchard and the Rose Garden are both highly recommended.
0844 493 2156, www.nts.org.uk
Lochinch Castle & Castle Kennedy
South-west Scotland’s Lochinch Castle and Castle Kennedy Gardens are wonderfully romantic places that are steeped in history. The 75 acres of gardens are famous around the world for their exotic plants and trees and will make a stunning venue for any wedding. You could hold your ceremony in the beautiful Walled Garden, the historic 16th-century castle ruins or the Lochinch Castle Gardens with spectacular views over the White Loch. Whichever you choose, these venues are a hidden botanical treasure.
01776 702024, www.castlekennedygardens.co.uk
GREEN AND PLEASANT LANDS
If you want the feel of an outdoor wedding but fancy something a bit different, here’s our selection of the best of the rest, from a grand Victorian glasshouse to the majestic setting of The Hermitage.
Glenapp Castle Hotel
This luxurious 17-bedroom castle in Ayrshire can be used for intimate weddings or as an exclusive-use venue for up to 40 guests. It is set in 36 acres of stunning gardens and woodlands and has a large and magnificent Victorian glasshouse. Ceremonies can be conducted in the glasshouse, which gives the feel of an outdoors wedding without any worries about the weather.
01465 831212, www.glenappcastle.com
For a wedding venue with a difference, The Hermitage, in Highland Perthshire, is the perfect spot. The Hermitage is a beautiful natural setting for religious and humanist weddings and traditional handfasting ceremonies. Your nuptials can be held on the arched bridge spanning the River Braan or in a secluded spot under the vast canopy of trees. For an all-weather location, Ossian’s Hall, an 18th-century folly, offers a beautiful venue in this truly magical place.
0844 493 2156, www.nts.org.uk
The Pavilion at Queen’s Park
Queen’s Park’s Pavilion, in Glasgow’s Southside, is a striking Paxton creation which can accommodate weddings of up to 100 guests. The splendid venue has a Zen garden, ponds, tropical fish, exotic birds and even a reptile house, so there is a lot to keep your guests busy before and after your ceremony.
0141 287 5064, www.glasgow.gov.uk
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s Botanics have a truly tranquil feel despite being in the heart of a busy city. Whether you tie the knot outside in the John Muir Grove or in the elegant Caledonian Hall, you’ll be surrounded by lush lawns and magnificent trees, and some very well-tended flowering borders.
0131 552 7171, www.rbge.org.uk