On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in early June 2018 we took the cameras and went for a walk in the secret garden of the Old Convent in Fort Augustus. It was the second visit of the day for Alastair, who’d got up very early that morning and gone for a quiet stroll before anybody else was awake - 5am.
The Old Convent was originally built as a church in 1842, then converted into a convent 'St Scholastica's Priory' in 1891, the nun's took residence in 1892 until 1922 when the remaining nun's were moved to Holme Eden Abbey. Some of the nun's are buried in the graveyard at Fort Augustus Abbey, half a mile from the convent on the shores of Loch Ness.
In recent years the Old Convent has been turned into a private quest house, with only a small area from the original grounds being purchase along with the buildings. The remainder of the grounds were purchased by the Fort Augustus Community Council, to protect them from any ruinous developments and allow walkers the freedom to wander.
Although most of the original gardens and grounds have now reverted back to their natural wild state and are not specifically interesting - other than forming a part of the lovely landscape of the Great Glen - a small section has managed to retain some of the splendour of the original garden
Hidden away and over grown this beautiful secret garden is a magical joy, full of wonder and natural chaos. It is particularly magnificent when the Rhododendron bushes are in bloom. As you wander through the landscape a bank of multi coloured Rhododendron bushes appear before you, in the centre is a very old wooden cross. If you carefully navigate a path through these bushes you discover that the bank slopes down quite steeply at the rear and the trees and backs of the bushes form a canopy overhead, creating this wonderful garden. The canopy is quite dense, the sunlight can only break through in certain places with dapples of golden light splaying across the gnarled roots of the trees and ground below. Because of the overhead canopy the atmosphere underneath is damp. Many of the roots are covered in a deep green moss, with lichen growing everywhere. We also spotted some beautiful white Rhododendrons growing out of the tree trunks inside this area.
Everything feels very old and everywhere there are large tree roots, forming fantastic shapes. You have to be very careful where you place your feet, in case you trip and fall. Chaos reigns and it’s magnificent. Although not a large area, once inside the magic of the place takes over. You feel like you’ve discovered something very special, it’s a little like Alice In Wonderland, falling down the rabbit hole and landing in another world.
We photographed many images of this beautiful, mysterious place. Presented here are six of our favourites. We hope you enjoy seeing them.
Christine and Alastair
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