The Highland Cow

Introducing my take on the iconic Scottish Highland Cow.

Highland Cow Close Up, Rebecca Johnstone

With my Glasgow and Paisley collections well-stocked with designs, I thought it was time I turned my attention to my roots in the Scottish Highlands.

I think a lot of tourists visiting Scotland imagine seeing a Highland Cow as soon as they arrive on Scottish soil, maybe even grazing in a field outside the airport, but the Highland cow is in fact a little more elusive.

I realised just how elusive when I went to photograph some of these gorgeous beasts in their natural habitat.

Highland Cows on a Hill, Rebecca Johnstone

Lots of artists and designers feature Highland cows in their work, and instead of just jumping on the bandwagon, I wanted to experiment with the story I was trying to tell through my designs.

As I called to them from the fields, I fondly named the handsome pair I found grazing Hamish and Henrietta.

Highland Cow face, Rebecca Johnstone

I imagined a love story under the Highland stars; a courtship at the back of the cow shed. But maybe they’re both girls, or maybe they’re both boys, or maybe they’re even siblings - I’m not bias! Free (Highland Cow) love!

Highland Cow Coffee Shop, Rebecca Johnstone
Highland Cows, Rebecca Johnstone

I wanted to create a simple line illustration I could use in different ways, and then add texture. Creating the texture was fun! This is Hamish.

Hamish the Highland Cow illustration, Rebecca Johnstone
Highland Cow - textured, Rebecca Johnstone

I love both versions of Hamish, and the slightly disinterested expression. I mean, if anything sums up the attitude of a Highland Cow it’s disinterest surely?

This next version of the print with a background of my Mackintosh-inspired TARTAN ROSE pattern feels like it fits my more ‘maximalist’ style. Or maybe the simple white version on the patterned background would be better?

What do you think? Is it too much to have THREE Scottish trends in one image?!

Highland Cow illustration with patterned background, Rebecca Johnstone

Now I need to work a bit more on Henrietta to get that Highland romance off the ground…moooo!

Hamish and Henrietta Highland Cow Love, Rebecca Johnstone

Those gorgeous tousled fringes swishing in the breeze, the cute slobbery snouts and trusting eyes. I wish I could have taken one or both of them home with me, but that’s neither practical, responsible - or legal!

Highland Cows deserve to stay in the habitat they love, and that’s firmly in the Scottish Highlands enjoying the best of the Scottish weather, come rain or shine.

I see a Highland Cow pattern in my future. Watch this space for more Highlands-inspired designs. Also a big shout-out to my Dad, who knew just the spot for me to photograph Hamish & Henrietta :D

Accessibility: a lovely reader got in touch to ask for an audio version of my posts. This is the first time I’ve tried it but you should be able to listen to the audio below. Please note, neither of these are my own voice!

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition

I was lucky to catch the last day of the Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition this week, on display at the University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

Consisting of a small selection of her work grouped according to three distinctive ‘eras’ of her style + printing templates and personal ephemera, it gave me plenty to immerse in as I entered her beautiful, often intricate world of black and white.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

Her designs are ethereal and dreamy, exquisite in their confident lines that express so much, often in extreme simplicity.

Female portraits and sideways glances. Liquid eyes filled with sorrow or something deeper and more mysterious. Swarming tendrils of hair, a fish swimming through like it is instead seaweed on the ocean floor.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

A weird spell cast by a wandering elf

That charms with fingers cold

Haunting and beautiful, I see a mother and a child in both the image above and below. I wonder if that is because I am viewing it through the filter of being a (relatively) new mum myself? Hannah Frank had no children so perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps they are nymphs or sprites or spirits or just beautiful, sad girls?

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone
Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone
Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone
Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone
Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone
Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

These intricate printing plates were a wonderful surprise I hadn’t expected to find. Their shimmering gold and silver surfaces added an even stronger Egyptian/Eastern flavour for me, and when one of the curators told me it was OK to touch them and even take etchings, I happily grabbed a pencil and paper.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone
Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

The bird symbolism was strong, and I got the sense that the birds held an ominous portent.

The stars and florals and swirling shapes put me in mind of Mucha, and the masculine female faces and lettering of Alistair Gray. Art Nouveau influences wrought in fluid darkness.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

Another allusion to Egyptology - the illustrated lines below published in the Glasgow University Magazine, Christmas 1934 - pictured in a cabinet alongside her official wedding invitation and other papers.

‘I am thy soul, Nikoptis.

I have read out the gold upon the wall,

And wearied out my thought upon the signs.

And there is no new thing in all this place. ‘

From the poem The Tomb At Akr Çaar by Ezra Pound.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

I hadn’t realised before seeing this exhibition that Hannah Frank had turned her attention to sculpture in the 1950’s. Well-expressed female forms in plaster and bronze, they often had long, regal necks, again quite Egyptian in style.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

I like the relaxed, casual poses they strike, although I think I prefer her black and white drawings the best, for which she is probably better known.

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

From the very beginning of her career, her style was so obviously hers. Undeniably so. Distinctive and pure.

This is a lesson I needed to see because I’ve struggled to hone my own identify as an artist, purely because I enjoy trying lots of different styles of work.

Success comes from recognition and that can only truly occur when as an artist, you focus, focus, focus and hone in on your specific niche. Thank you Hannah Frank for this nugget of gold!

Hannah Frank 110th Birthday Exhibition, Rebecca Johnstone

I did once ‘meet’ Hannah in person - at her 100th birthday exhibition, just before she died.

What a fantastic, spirited and talented woman she was.

Please note, this exhibition is now finished, though there are some signed prints left in the GU Shop. I couldn’t leave without buying the book!

The Sea, The Sea: New Year Walk on Nairn Beach

To usher in the start of 2019 last week, we went to Nairn beach to see the sea. Ah the sea, the sea!

Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone

I’d love to live closer to the sea; to have its roar and tumble and gentle numbing reassurance right there on my doorstep. It widens perspectives and disperses problems like nothing else for me.

There is something so bracing and dramatic and levelling about walking towards waves cresting onto shell-scattered sands with the wind in your face and clear blue skies; dogs dashing in and out of the surf.

Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone
Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone

I love this shot I took of myself, a lone photographer as if on stilts on the sand. The light was just perfect.

Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone

And then again from the dunes, the two of us anonymous in silhouette.

Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone

The above image transported me to Cape Town, to where my mother and grandmother were born. It’s as though in the distance lies Table Mountain beyond, not the Moray Firth.

Oh how my imagination thrives on the sparest of details!

Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone
Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone
Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone

Sea-treasure and heart-shaped stones. I wanted to take home a whole pocket-full, but resisted for the sake of my already burgeoning shelves and memory-boxes.

Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone
Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone
Nairn Beach January 2019, Rebecca Johnstone

The sailboats in the harbour had lovely names like SEAMOON, ELEANOR, MARIETTE and JETSTREAM. I love reading the names of boats, often hand-painted by the owners. Imagine having a boat named after you. That would be so special.

The sea and boats are a great theme for a pattern collection, and I’ve had an old book of shell drawings for a few years that I’d like to use as inspiration for some new designs. Soon. Definitely soon.

‘The sea is my brother’, as Jack Kerouac said. Or at least, a long-lost cousin.

Until next time lovely waves, though I must admit I wasn’t brave enough to dip my toes in. It was baltic!

Festive Messages

So this year I sent my first batch of Christmas E-CARDS. Christmas e-cards are a ‘thing’.

You might remember I wrote about my research into the current e-card options earlier in the year - whether to go paper or paperless - but I had never actually sent any.

Then a few weeks before Christmas my husband revealed he’d booked us a trip to the Christmas markets in Berlin as a treat. Yay! It was in that moment that I realised I would never be able to get everything done, and that in fact, something had to give. The cards.

A bit flustered and almost out of time to send traditional through-the-post cards to friends and family anyway - especially those living abroad (definitely those living abroad), I decided it was the perfect time to give e-cards a go

Full disclosure - I had some ‘credit’ at Paperless Post due to having featured many of their cards in my earlier post, so with an account all set up and ready to go, it was the easiest option. And it was actually really easy.

You don’t need instructions because once you click on a card, the options just present themselves and you progress through them choosing things like the colour of the envelope and liner, the font and size of your message, and whether you want a background or not. You even get to change the stamp to show postage in your home country - impressive - though I didn’t do it myself (because, time).

I chose this lovely ‘Christmas Square’ scene of skaters in the snow, with a backdrop of foliage and berries. What do you think? I’m always drawn to this kind of vintage-nostalgic image.

Paperless Post Festive e-card

You have the option of sending yourself a ‘test’ version of your design to see how it all looks and to make sure you’re happy with it. I found the process so quick I wanted to make sure I had actually created a personalised card, but I had. Simple.

Then came the hard part: who did I want to send it to and did I have their email addresses?

You can upload email addresses in bulk in various different formats which would be handy for next time or for those more organised than me. I did it line by line and sent 10 cards initially to test out the process.

What I found particularly heartening is a ‘reply’ function that appears automatically, so the recipient can send you a message back. You never normally hear back from sending someone a card (especially to friends and family you hardly see or speak to IRL), so this added an unexpected interactive element to the whole thing which was a pleasant surprise. Who said e-cards are impersonal?

in summary, I would say e-cards are set to become increasingly popular as people lead busier lives and live a more global/nomadic lifestyle. I did feel a nice warm glow from having done something, rather than giving in and doing nothing due to lack of time and missed posting dates; I connected with family members in Dubai and Cape Town, as well as friends down the road. I will definitely do this again. One friend even messaged to say she loved the eco-credentials of my e-card - another fab bonus. Just remember: you’re still only as good as your (email) address book.

So although I saw another friend post on social media that her collection of Christmas cards makes Christmas special - the reliving of special memories while she is writing to a particular person, as well as the joy of receiving cards back, sometimes a trip to Berlin beckons. Maybe I could put this on an e-card?

Festive Market Belrin 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

PS. In the last few years I’ve noticed ‘New Year’ cards becoming a ‘thing’. I’ve only ever sent one to my Mum, because, well because she’s my Mum and I saw the most beautiful card one year that I knew she would love (she did). But it’s not something I want to start with everyone - double the December workload and all that, but I just checked, and there is a whole section for New Year cards. It’s not too late!

Christmas @ Liberty of London 2018

Back in October I had a whirlwind weekend in London, and my first port of call was the Christmas Shop in situ on the 4th floor of Liberty.

The Christmas Shop is a destination in itself, but I also got quite distracted by the interiors floor and all the wild and wonderful creatures on display. I realised right then, I would happily live in the shop.

The soap is beautifully wrapped in patterned paper, the Moroccan rugs transport you as if on a magic carpet ride to a dusty, secret bizarre, and the fabrics - well I could browse those all day, stroking them as if they were special pets. (Yes that’s a tad concerning.)

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

It was all laid out for me like a dream, and due to it being only an hour before closing (one precious hour), it was remarkably quiet to the point I felt like I almost had this wonderland to myself.

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

I loved the winter toadstools, both the wooden version and the metallic-glazed bauble version. They don’t do anything but they do look pretty. I think that’s partly the point of decorations…

There were lots of ‘London’ themed baubles, as you might expect. Corgis, black cabs, the Queen’s Guard, scenes featuring Liberty itself.

I like them but they’re a bit touristy for my taste. I prefer the ice skates and the robins and the more trad Christmas symbols.

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

This cross-stitch stocking deserves a mention because it’s so intricate and gorgeous. I know I would never have the patience (or skills) to complete a project such as this, but I stood to admire it and considered buying the pack for my aunt who adores cross-stitching.

These are the gifts that become a tradition, or rather the Christmas decorations that become heirlooms, unveiled year after year. If someone made me this stocking, it’d definitely be a keeper!

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

And now for the NUTCRACKERS!

It definitely felt it was a ‘Nutcracker Christmas’ this year, with more cards and wrapping paper devoted to this dapper dude than ever before. I really, really wanted one of the musical box versions, but he was rather heavy and we only had carry-on luggage. Next year perhaps.

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

The stockings were lovely though of course I had designs unravelling in my head for my own stockings. Unfortunately I ran out of time this year which was especially disappointing as I’d wanted to make a special stocking for baby Jack. Another to-do for next year’s festive list.

Then came the more exotic baubles. The fruits and festive jumpers (never seen any like that before), the vodka and rum bottles and the inevitable Day of the Dead skulls. I like them well enough at Halloween but I’m not sold on these for Christmas. Am I getting old and boring? Probably!

One thing I do know - Gisela Graham really has Christmas sewn up doesn’t she? I mean, is there anywhere or anything that she has not conquered for Christmas?

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

I think my overall favourite was this gorgeous peacock, perfectly poised and perched amidst the boxed delights. I love the deep turquoise with the gold and green. There is even a fairy + a brace of pheasants to coordinate too!

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone
Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

Overall it was the best Friday night I’ve had in ages, wandering the rows of glittery offerings, the baubles in baskets and bowls, the twinkling lights and the life-sized deer/stag. A very special place indeed.

Christmas Shop @ Liberty 2018, Rebecca Johnstone

Character Creation @ Oliver Bonas

This week I had an arty evening at Oliver Bonas, Glasgow, creating animal characters with their London-based designers and a small class of like-minded creatives.

The theme was all about the brand’s autumn/winter ‘story’ of KINSHIP, WOODLAND ADVENTURES and FANTASTICAL FRIENDS.

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow

Browsing around the store beforehand was a delight, as the colours, patterns and designs they feature on their fashion and homewares are always innovative, clever and VIBRANT.

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow
Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow

The packaging on products like soap and beauty products and even their tissue paper is just so FUN. Bold/neon abstract prints that are really quite simple but so eye-catching. Even the inserts on their frames are amazing enough to just keep instead!

Here’s some insight into their A/W animal theme and why TIGERS feature so prominently.

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow

The patterns make you want to buy the product, and this is why I wanted to get into pattern design because it is so versatile, persuasive, exciting and EVERYWHERE. Oh, and I now want to live in a branch of Oliver Bonas!

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow

Gold handled tea pots and tea sets. Jazzy chartreuse and sage abstract florals. Fabulous!

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow

I loved the embroidery detail on this sage green scarf (above) which gives it a real hand-finished quality with the level of detail. It also fits nicely into the idea of woodland walks all cosy in autumn layers. I love stitch marks and want to use them a bit more in my own designs. Maybe even in my characters?

The metallic print on this bag (below) also taps into the animal theme, and I can really see myself buying it - if I didn’t already have too many cute bags…

The blankets/throws are really cool too in sorbet shades which seem like they would suit summer best, but work so well in-store; a bright yet cosy contrast to the darker, more opulent shades.

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow
Bear face character illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas, Glasgow

So after a browse and a few sips of pink lemonade (Prosecco for some but I was driving), it was time to get started.

We had a few rounds of warm-up exercises lasting from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, where we had to interpret a ‘character’ from a random selection of animals, using a colour and a specified ‘decoration’ for that animal, also picked at random and limited to one. Pressure!

Luckily there were a few Oliver Bonas ceramic animal ‘friends’ dotted around for inspiration, which helped me a lot with faces and basic body shapes.

It was quick-fire fun and we initially used felt tip pens. Some of my combinations were:

  • A purple lion + bear with spots

  • A yellow owl with stars

  • A blue dinosaur with flowers

  • A turquoise bear with dots

My drawings - really more like sketches or outlines - are naive and childlike, but I quite like that aspect.

Tiger & Bear Character illustration, Oliver Bonas

Obviously this Tiger & Bear duo are not very polished after only 2 or 3 minutes, but I like how having a time limit and colour restriction can shake up your interpretations into something that you wouldn’t normally create. An interesting dynamic.

Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow
Character Illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas Glasgow

I think my FLORA-SAURUS was pretty ingenious:

'Flora-sauras' character illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas, Glasgow

Once we all agreed we were raring to go on our main animal character of the night, the same rules applied and I my pick got me a GREEN OWL with stripes.

For this more in-depth character we moved on to using watercolours which upped the ante a bit.

We were advised we could sketch outlines in pencil first, but with only 15 minutes in total, I just wanted to dive straight in with my watercolour brush!

Festive owl, character illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas, Glasgow

I really like my owl, and would like to work on him a little more. Or maybe it’s a her?

I know owls have been a bit over-represented in the last decade or more, but they are popular for a reason and I have always loved them - one of my childhood cuddly toys being an owl.

Finally, we had 5-10 minutes left to work freestyle on anything we wanted - any animal in any medium. I really enjoyed working on my FLORA-SAURUS dino so I created a more in-depth version who I named ‘RUPERT’.

'Rupert the Dino', character illustration workshop @ Oliver Bonas, Glasgow

He came out in fire-breathing orange and as there were metallic oil-pastels being passed around, I added those in too - the bronze feels like a nice touch don’t you think? I’d like to experiment with this medium a little more as the pastels resist the paint giving a lovely texture, though precision isn’t easy after a few minutes of use and the warmth of your hand.

A really great evening all round and I made some new friends too. Watch this space for more character creations!

Dainty Dora @ Scottish Design Exchange Glasgow

Yesterday I launched a collection of my wares in the new Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow.

Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

Located in the heart of the city centre within busy Buchanan Galleries (facing you when you exit the car park into the mall, and just along from John Lewis), the shop is testament to everything that is great about Scottish design.

I feel honoured to be part of it this not-for-profit social enterprise that supports and nurtures local designers, especially as we inch ever-closer to Christmas and the demands of keeping up pace and presence to catch the attention of shoppers.

Glasgow Argyle Street Pattern Bomb Print by Rebecca Johnstone/Dainty Dora @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

My range is displayed on the wall towards the back of the shop (an inch to the left from the mannequin in the middle in the image at the top!), and totally visible from one of the main doors.

YOU WILL FIND:

Limited Edition Risograph prints (numbered/signed), Glasgow Triptychs of The Lane, The Crest and The Crane, my exclusive 100% silk scarf collection, Paisley in Pattern 2019 calendars, mounted A4 and 8x6 prints featuring my take on the Glasgow Crest/Coat of Arms + Pattern-Bombed Photo prints of iconic scenes around the city, and a small selection of postcards.

Stepping back to take in my display once I’d finished tweaking and changing things around, I had to pinch myself as it is still feels hard to believe I have a range of art and accessories, all designed and made by me, on display in such a central and significant retail environment.

Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow
Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

It feels incredible and I’m so grateful to every customer who has bought work from me and shared it with their friends and family, as gifts, or just by displaying it in their homes.

But I couldn’t have done it alone.

My long-suffering husband who having escaped becoming an Instagram Husband has gradually morphed into my Business Partner/IT Manager/Confidante/Handy-Man extraordinaire, and has been instrumental in my success.

When I asked him to reconfigure a vintage record player for me to use in my display he agreed without complaint, and then proceeded to spend 4 hours making it right, even crafting new wooden knobs for the front. That was after half an hour searching the loft for the missing legs…

Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

And when I needed help hanging up my shelves, he was there, by my side. Even the typewriter above was bought as a spare for parts to make sure my actual typewriter works <3

I mean he did accidentally bar-code some Lion Christmas cards as Penguins, but it’s an easy mistake to make when you’re thrust into the public eye against your will, isn’t it?

Even my 9-month-old son has played his part, because ever since I found out I was pregnant, he has been a good-luck charm in everything I have done. Cheesy, but true - pregnancy was amazing for my creativity!

So - a big week of preparation and planning for us, and maybe it sounds a bit soppy to mention my husband and my son; to mix my business persona with my wife and mother self, but I believe in working from the heart and I know I couldn’t have done it without them both.

Glasgow Crest 4-colour illustrative print

Glasgow Crest 4-colour illustrative print

Mackintosh Birds 100% Silk Scarf + Print

Mackintosh Birds 100% Silk Scarf + Print

Ashton Lane Thistles Pattern-Bomb Photo Print + Postcard

Ashton Lane Thistles Pattern-Bomb Photo Print + Postcard

Check out my work and that of all the other amazing designer-makers on display at the Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow. (There is also an Edinburgh store, based at Ocean Terminal.)

If there is something in my oeuvre that you would like/have seen that is not in stock, or that you can imagine that isn’t currently available, let me know and I’ll make it happen, if I can.

Dainty Dora/Rebecca Johnstone @ Scottish Design Exchange, Glasgow

Scottish Design Exchange, 2nd Floor (near John Lewis), Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow

Mon-Sat 10am-6pm
Sun 10am-5pm

A visit to Drummond Castle Gardens, Crieff

A few weeks ago I visited the extraordinarily beautiful, lush and sculptural Drummond Castle Gardens in Crieff, Scotland.

"Drummond has all the characteristics of a courtly, 17th century Scottish Renaissance garden. It is a composite garden, restructured in early Victorian times and renewed again in the 20th century when the garden framework and the exceptional interest of the original 19th century design were carefully preserved."

Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone

Looking through the many photographs of the day, it's as if there was no-one else there but me and that's pretty much how I remember it; a mid-week July day in the middle of a Scottish heatwave - extraordinary in itself!

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

The gardens are so grand and majestic and the weather was so glorious, it could have been any of the great formal gardens in Europe or beyond. In fact, Drummond is on the list with the finest, and I can see why.

Featuring French and Italian influences, Drummond is an eclectic garden with its fountains, terracing, urns and statuary.

Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone

These trees particularly transported me to Isola Bella in Italy, while the soft warm grass and flowers were in total opposition to the slush and snow on display when I visited the Gardens of Versailles.

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone

It was so peaceful and serene, and I couldn't help but smile as I wandered, though I was alone.

"A ballad describes the gardens full of “evergreens and flowers…and the waterworks are a’ let on..."

Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

Approximately 130 steps lead down into the garden, towards a multiplex 17th century sundial at its centre, however this was unfortunately away for refurbishment on my visit.

A fountain is always a focal point though, while the white statues were so stark and regal against the backdrop of green. 

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

There was a 15-minute woodland walk which I decided not to do, purely because I was wearing inappropriate footwear. I was intrigued by the kitchen gardens however and loved the big glasshouses and cold-frames filled with plants, flowers and fruit.

There was a polite sign asking people not to touch or pick the peaches to prevent bruising and wastage.

Fair enough, but it was tempting. I can imagine how Eve felt in the garden of Eden...

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

This scene with the wheelbarrow and the hose pipe just struck me as so perfect and beautiful. I love the sense of hidden hands toiling to make this garden beautiful; their tools on display as if the garden itself is an outdoor art gallery, which really, it is.

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

It's similar here with this beautific statue with the weeds and earth at her feet. The juxtaposition makes it interesting and the colours make it pop.

The buckets destined for the compost heap inject a sense of life and realness into the scene, like seeing the fruits of the effort that go into the maintenance of such a pristine space.

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

Then there was this tree with eyes. Real eyes it seems, like an old, magical tree. I wonder what stories it could tell from the days of the Jacobite Rising?

Meanwhile, the regimented curves and lines of low-cut hedges created a mini-maze effect, shaped in part like an Aztec eye. 

Drummong Gardens, Crieff, Scotland, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone
Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

These foxgloves nestled between shady rocks reminded me of those I saw on Arran a few years ago, their abundance so gleeful and cheery. The colour is so special in contrast to the greens of weeds and ferns and moss. It was the perfect goodbye from Drummond Castle Gardens.

Drummond Gardens, Crieff, Rebecca Johnstone

Drummond Castle Gardens are open May to October, with no access to the Castle. Find out more & buy tickets.