The approach to Earlshall Castle in Fife is via the former RAF Leuchars site – now transferred to the Army and with uniformed guards still present at the entrances – past modern residential streets with names like Wessex and Beaufort. The outermost row of officers’ houses, all red brick Arts and Crafts and Queen Anne revival transplants from Surrey suburbia, gives way suddenly and surprisingly to an expanse of parkland. Here sits the quintessentially Scottish Earlshall, a 16th century house romantically restored by Robert Lorimer in the late 19th century.
For its Scotland’s Gardens opening on the last Sunday in May, the garden was glorious, the herbaceous border by the croquet lawn burgeoning and the romantic kitchen garden basking in its walled microclimate. Particularly striking was the pollarded lime allée where these trees' affliction of sprouting from the base of the trunk ingeniously becomes a virtue by way of topiarising the growth into cubes. The main event at Earlshall is, however, its spectacular yew topiary lawn, which has continued to evolve since originally laid out by Lorimer. The trees’ sculptural shapes are fascinating in their ambiguity, and it’s a blessing that the overtly figurative has been avoided in the shaping of them. Of course, it’s impossible to resist the temptation to anthropomorphise each yew: that could be a peacock, but is it a frog, or a take on a Barbara Hepworth, or a Jeff Koons dog, or Pac-Man?
Earlshall Castle garden will next open on Sunday 19th June. The house is currently on the market so unless you're an oligarch this may well be the time to catch it.