Inverewe botanical garden and house credits events and capital investment for strong start to 2017 season

National Trust for Scotland's Inverewe property has continued its 2016 visitor success and with a doubling of visitors so far in 2017, a 200% retail spend growth and almost a 100% increase in catering spend.

Inverewe's new glasshouse is part of a £2m investment. Image: National Trust for Scotland/ Alison White
Inverewe's new glasshouse is part of a £2m investment. Image: National Trust for Scotland/ Alison White

The Inverness-shire property has seen a massive rise of visitor numbers since it opened to visitors for the 2017 season on April 1, compared to the same period last year. 

This builds on a 62% rise overall in 2016, according to the latest figures from The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).

Property manager Kevin Frediani credits the success to the National Trust for Scotland programme of £2 million capital investment and its Erythronium Festival, which brought together experts from the fields of horticulture and art and the Scottish Rhododendron Festival, both in April. He has built a busy events calendar for the rest of the year as well, with the Archaeology Festival, featuring archaeologists from the UK and overseas, and the Scottish Adventure Film Festival later in the season.

"We are able to reach out to different audiences and this is certainly seeming to work," he said. "The National Trust for Scotland has invested heavily in Inverewe, with the refurbishment of our magnificent Inverewe House, the family home of Mairi Sawyer and the creation of our Sawyer Art Gallery. This gives us the opportunity to present wonderful and complementary exhibitions throughout the season, reflecting on the events we are staging. This first example with our Erythronium Festival clearly demonstrates that we have a great formula here at Inverewe and are creating a ‘destination’ for visitors, not just the superb garden and estate."

This year, Inverewe held a three-day Botanical Illustration Workshop by Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh tutor Jacqui Pestell at the Erythronium Festival, which it plans to repeat next year. A walk and talk by Erythronium specialist Ian Young also attracted almost 60 visitors.

Inverewe’s display of the beautiful woodland Erythronium flower was described by visiting world expert from Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Chris Clennett, as "the finest and most varied display of this spectacular ‘dog tooth violet’ that I have seen anywhere".

Frediani added: "As a result of such acclaim and encouragement from the leading authorities in this field, we have already begun to set in place our plans for Inverewe’s Erythronium Festival 2018. This will be held on 9 – 15 April 2018 and with such forward planning and strong promotion, we hope to attract a worldwide audience next year. Our aim is to introduce Inverewe as a destination."

As part of the £2m programme of refurbishment, the garden’s new £500,000  glasshouse also opened this spring. The garden’s founder, Osgood Mackenzie imported many tropical and half-hardy species which need the right conditions to propagate. The glasshouse has separate areas for potting, propagation, succulents and half-hardy plants. It incorporates computerised climate control, mist benches, automatic ridge ventilation and overhead shading systems, alongside a small office for plant collection management and a rain-water harvesting set-up, collecting into an above-ground storage tank.

Head gardener Kevin Ball said: "These new facilities will create exciting opportunities for the way we garden in this remote area of the highlands. We are looking to reinvigorate the national plant collections we hold, re-establish the Brachyglottis collection and develop others for the future. 

"Following Osgood Mackenzie’s pioneering approach of pushing the planting boundaries ever further, we will offer the visiting public the attraction of a wider range of vibrant half-hardy species and exotic plants. We are confident that it will help us to contribute strongly to Scotland’s, and the Trust’s horticultural heritage, and take forward Inverewe’s tradition of 'gardening on the edge’."

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