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14 Sept 2021

A walk in Canna House Garden

Written by Fiona J Mackenzie
A gentle stroll around Canna House Garden in the summer, with Fiona Mackenzie


Halo agus failte gu Garradh Taigh Chanaidh. Is mise Fiona J NicChoinnich agus tha mise nam tasglannaiche airson Taigh Chanaigh fhein.

Good morning and welcome to Canna House Garden. My name’s Fiona J Mackenzie and I’m the House Manager and Archivist in Canna House.

This morning I’d like to take you on a gentle little walk round the garden, so that you too can enjoy the beautiful garden and sounds of Canna House Garden just now.

So, just now I’m walking up the drive towards the house. The hydrangeas just now are absolutely stunning – what a beautiful colour they are.

And even more so because they’re right next to the beautiful, fiery montbretia there, which is always stunning. It really grows like a weed on Canna but it is absolutely beautiful.

So, there we’re looking up to the fruit beds, where we get strawberries and blackcurrants and some white currants too usually in the summer.

I’m just going to move round, looking down the drive there towards the gate at the far end.

It’s a little bit breezy this morning so we might get some wind interference, but hopefully not too much.

The saltire flag is flying as ever, looking beautiful against the sky.

More hydrangeas there.

The gardens are looking particularly lovely just now. We have two island residents who are contracted by the National Trust for Scotland to look after the gardens for us, and they do a wonderful job of it. The grass there just looking fabulous.

The benches and the chairs that you see out here at the moment are out because just last week we entertained a party of about 74 people from the Hebridean Sky cruise ship. And I did a little concert for them outside here, of Gaelic song and story all connected to the archives.

A popular feature of the garden are some of the stone cats, which we have had in Canna House Garden for the last few years, as a result of a project which we did. We have 12 stone cats on the island, all connected to Canna House and with names of some of the original Canna House cats. You can follow the cats in a trail all round the island.

So that’s Pepa – she was Margaret Fay Shaw’s last cat. She died just a very few years ago, I think it was maybe 4 years ago, at the ripe old age of 22. And of course, they’re all wearing their masks!

This is Sir Pooji Boyte and he’s a very fine fellow indeed.

Over here, we have Pooni, prize Siamese with a wonky ear. He was John Lorne Campbell’s favourite cat and he lived to the ripe old age of about 18, I think it was. He fathered many generations of Siamese kittens.

And this is sweet little Piccola, who has a piano keyboard going down her back, to represent Margaret Fay Shaw’s Steinway piano.

So they sit and keep guard on Canna House.

As I say, we have a trail of other cats, 12 in total, and a clue sheet to follow.

Nasturtiums over there under the Billiard Room window are particularly stunning just now, just beautiful.

Standing looking down towards the escallonia, which is an amazing feature of Canna House Garden, one that never ceases to amaze visitors. They find it totally magical walking up the escallonia and emerging into the garden.

So here I am looking down the escallonia tunnel towards the gate, so you can see what greets people as they emerge from the tunnel: looking straight up onto Canna House itself.

It’s very peaceful today.

There’s so many birds singing.

Now, I think we’ll walk round to the vegetable patch.

One of the favourite rose bushes of Canna House Garden – beautiful colour!

Now we’re looking round into the orchard where we have apple and pear trees, and the apples are just beginning to turn now.

A bench there which was donated to us by good friends of the island this year. That’s a lovely place to while away a little time when you’re on the island.

The sound of the bees, and the buddleia is amazing.

The old mangle in the corner.

Beautiful hostas there.

More delicate little pink roses.

And the vine in the greenhouse – certainly got plenty of leaves on it, don’t know whether there are any grapes on it yet.

The Canna community buy seeds for all the vegetables and Liz looks after the veg plots for us. It’s been an absolute godsend for us over the last 18 months during the pandemic. Liz was able to keep us supplied with carrots and cabbage and kale and lettuce – see some leeks down there – rhubarb, peas, beans.

And the little, tiny pink roses up against the shed walls.

The old washing green, looking onto the kitchen, scullery and the upstairs bedrooms of Canna House.

It’s nice to be able to see the walls of Canna House. There’ll be a lot of work undertaken on Canna House starting in the next few months, so we might not be able to see the walls for a wee while, while work is ongoing.

Standing on the croquet lawn. Before pandemics interfered, we would have summer croquet games here on the lawn. Hopefully we’ll be able to re-establish them, maybe next summer.

Looking down there past the saltire, you can just see the Rum Cuillins in the background there.

Looking up to the sundial up there.

And back to the front of the house.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed that little walk round Canna House with me.

Beautiful day today, beautiful gardens, and we look forward to welcoming you all back to enjoy these gardens and the rest of the island too.

And we hope that we will see you soon and you’ll be able to enjoy everything that Canna House has to offer you as well, once all the work is complete.

Mar sin, moran taing.

Thank you very much.

Canna House Garden is beautiful in late summer – join us for a walk around the garden in the early morning with House Manager and Archivist Fiona Mackenzie.

Canna House Garden is a special place. It is very popular with visitors, who comment on the peace of the garden, only occasionally disturbed by the call of the Canna cuckoo or blackbirds singing. Although Canna House itself is closed to visitors just now, awaiting the commencement of an extensive programme of repair and conservation works, this video offers us the chance to enjoy a virtual walk around the garden, when it’s at its quietest. The only sounds to be heard are the call of the birds, the buzzing of bees, the crunch of Fiona’s shoes on the gravel – and the ever-present Canna ‘breeze’!

Fiona tells us about the escallonia tunnel planted by the Thom family around 1896. The Thom family owned Canna between 1882–1938, when John and Margaret Campbell bought the island. We will visit the Canna House cats, both stone and real ones! Fiona tells us a little more about some of the stories related to these cats.

She has also incorporated a sound archive track into the video, recorded in Canna House Garden by John Lorne Campbell in 1954 – the ‘Canna Cuckoo’.

So make yourself a nice cup of tea, or pour a gin and tonic, and just for a few moments, imagine yourself in the peaceful, sun-filled surroundings of Canna House Garden. We hope it will inspire you to visit so you can experience it for yourself, perhaps next summer!

I love this place

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