For sale – Scots garden that supplied fruit and veg to London Royal

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GREEN-fingered home hunters can get their hands on a Scottish garden which once supplied fresh fruit and vegetables to the Royal family 450 miles away.

The 18th Century, seven-bedroom property in Argyll provided Princess Louise, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, with weekly supplies.

In the early decades of the 20th Century, produce from the garden at Parkhead in Rosneath was taken across Gare Loch by paddle boat and then on to Glasgow from where a steam train whisked it overnight to Kensington Palace, London.

Remarkably, the gardener who grew fruit and veg by appointment until the Royal’s death in 1939 is alive and well. Willie Cowan, 94, lives in a care home nearby.

 

How the former Royal fruit and veg patch looked when the current owners took it over in the 1970s
How the former Royal fruit and veg patch looked when the current owners took it over in the 1970s

 

The home and its remarkable seven-acre gardens are now up for sale for £600,000.

But anyone hoping to repeat Willie’s success with the Royal family will first have to recreate the “giant allotment”.

Current owners, Ian and Susan McKellar, bought the house in 1970, when the garden was empty and the house lay almost derelict.

 

The house was nearly derelict when the McKellars took it over
The house was nearly derelict when the McKellars took it over

Working from an old, 1930s plan, former architect Ian and his wife have transformed the curved house into a stunning family home and created one of Britain’s most revered walled gardens on the site of the former royal fruit and veg plot.

The seven bedroom house boasts its own art gallery and studio and comes with seven acres of surrounding woodland and parkland.

“Everything you can see now was originally used as a giant allotment,” said Mr McKeller of his stunning garden.

“Half of the house was burnt out. You were left with the open roof and could look out to the sky above and the garden itself was just rubble and a bit of grass when we bought it.

“It had been a production garden for the Royal family and was used to provide fruit and veg for Princess Louise but the only thing that remained from her time when we arrived was the root of an old, ‘Brown Turkey’ fig tree which we have now re-planted.

 

Nowadays, the garden is one of the most celebrated in the UK
Nowadays, the garden is one of the most celebrated in the UK

 

He continued: “A gardener from the time, Willie Cowan, told me the story from when he worked here in 1937.

“The fruit and veg was taken to the local pier and then a paddle boat would take it across the water and eventually on to Glasgow and from there it would be put on the overnight train to Kensington Palace for them to eat the next day.

“She must have liked it enough to have it sent down to London. And it saved them shopping.”

He added: “Willie told me a couple of great stories about the Princess. He said that when she was leaving, she would always give the gardeners a sixpence.

“She’d come up at certain occasions like Christmas and when she was leaving she’d always give a bit of gratuity.

“He said that he spoke to her very little but one of the times he did see her was at a fancy dinner for the gardeners.

“He said he was a young boy sitting at this ‘do’ and his mouth was full of grub, when he got a tap on the shoulder and was mortified to turn round and see Princess Louise standing there. He was mortified.”

After years of hard work and lovingly creating, and tending to his stunning garden, Mr McKellar says it will be a wrench to leave.

He said: “Until two years ago I maintained the garden myself without having to get anyone in to help. But I’m now 76 and everything moves on.

“It will be a wrench to leave but we want to move back to Glasgow to be closer to our daughter.”

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