Crarae Garden teacher information

Crarae is the finest example of an exotic Himalayan-style woodland garden in Britain. Set beside the banks of Loch Fyne, this unique 40-hectare garden is planted around the steep-sided Crarae Burn.

The garden was started by Grace, Lady Campbell, in 1912 and includes a National Collection of southern beech, as well as superb examples of maples, mountain ash and eucalyptus trees. It is a magical spot at any time of year, with the earlier flowers of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and magnolias being replaced later in the season by the rich tints of foliage and fruit. Thanks to the Argyll climate, Crarae has one of the most extensive fern populations in the UK, ranging from huge golden-scaled male ferns to tiny filmy ferns.

With its wide variety of plantlife, Crarae Garden attracts many different birds including goldfinches, woodpeckers, treecreepers, dippers, ravens, buzzards, sparrowhawks and peregrine falcons. Mammals include red deer, roe deer, red squirrels and otters.

There is also a Neolithic chambered cairn within the garden, and a medieval kirkyard adjacent to it.

A school visit to Crarae Garden offers walks and activities in the gardens, providing excellent opportunities to engage with the Curriculum for Excellence. Teacher-led walks only are available.

Seasonal highlights
Spring: Several hundred rhododendron and azaleas make spring a popular time to visit, from late April (until June or July). Many of the later flowering varieties have a wonderful scent. Under everything is a groundcover of beautiful, unfurling fern fronds.
Summer: There is a mass of expanding new foliage, and the garden becomes full of different textures and hues. Later, huge eucryphias flower, along with hydrangeas and buddleias (that attract small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies).
Autumn: An enormous variety of maples, birches and rowans provide a brilliant display in September and October. The masses of berries attract both native and visiting birds. It is the best time to see red squirrels, too, as they stock up with food for the winter.
Winter: The garden has winter flowering shrubs, such as the spectacularly large witchhazels, while many deciduous trees have brightly coloured bark. You might see wonderful icy sculptures in and around the Crarae Burn, or even early flowering rhododendron.

Possible topics

  • Minibeasts
  • Wildlife
  • Archaeology

Resources for schools

  • Set of information sheets about the garden
  • Slideshow about Crarae Garden in the visitor centre
  • Children’s Planthunter’s Diary and Quiz (1 quiz booklet per 3 pupils)
  • Backpacks – for learning about the environment, including minibeasts and birds (can be booked for teams of pupils)
  • Games are available on the lower lawn (weather permitting).

Planning your class visit

  • To book: please contact Crarae Garden to arrange your visit.
  • Book well in advance to avoid disappointment.
  • Crarae Garden is open to schools all year round, weather permitting.
  • Maximum class size: teacher to decide; ratio of 1 teacher/adult to 5 pupils recommended.
  • Access: the visitor centre, lower garden and lawns are accessible for wheelchair users. We can provide indoor games at the visitor centre for pupils with mobility impairment. Please discuss requirements when booking your visit.
  • Parking: parking for a school coach is available in the car park, next to the visitor centre.
  • Toilets: a fully accessible toilet is by the visitor centre inside the garden.
  • Refreshments: pupils are welcome to picnic in the garden. The car park is large enough for a coach to stay during the visit so pupils could shelter here in bad weather, if required.
  • Clothing: pupils should be dressed appropriately for the outdoors.
  • The site has been risk assessed. Teachers should prepare their own risk assessment for the visit.
  • Teachers are encouraged to make a free preparatory visit to Crarae Garden before booking a class visit in order to orientate themselves and also discuss their requirements with the property manager.

Charges

  • There is no admission charge for schools with Trust educational membership.
  • Non-members are welcome but there is an admission charge of £2 per pupil.
  • Accompanying adults are admitted free.

During your class visit

  • On arrival: please report to the Admission Desk in the visitor centre.
  • The duration of a visit depends on the walk or activities booked – but you should allow 1–1.5 hours for a walk around the garden.
  • Teachers are responsible for their pupils and their behaviour.
  • Please note: parts of the Himalayan Glen path are next to the steep-sided gorge – so extra care and supervision are required here.
  • Pupils are welcome to take photos and films in the garden.
  • Coats and bags should be left on the coach.
  • Shop: there is a shop that pupils may visit under teacher supervision (in small groups please).
Download

If you prefer to print this information you can use this download. Please note that some of the information may now be out of date.