Welcome to the The Big Garden!  |  Filte gu An Grradh Mr!

Where we are, What we do

An Grradh Mr is the historic high-walled kitchen garden at Cille Bhrghde [Kilbride] on the island of South Uist, in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. It is the only such walled garden in these islands with its walls intact, and the only such garden used for its original purpose - to supply the needs of the household.

Just a few paces from the beach, the garden looks out over the Sound of Barra and the many islands scattered across an ever-changing canvas of sea and sky. This is where we live and work.

Here at the walled garden and our croft on the nearby island of Eriskay, we grow a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and soft fruit, and also keep chickens, geese and sheep. These together provide most of the food we need and - certainly from late spring through to autumn - a modest surplus besides.

Eat fresh, Buy local

According to the time of year, and as available, we sell -

  • Free-Range Eggs - hen (year-round) and  goose (early Spring only)
  • Jams, Marmalades, Chutneys and other preserves (year-round)
  • Lemon Curd - freshly made (April to September only)
  • Hogget Lamb (18m-2yrs old) from our own flock of Hebridean sheep - Roasting joints, chops and more (frozen, generally May to September.
  • Soft fruit - gooseberries, rhubarb, blackcurrants ... (Summer only)
  • Vegetables and salads - tomatoes, courgettes, carrots, onions, peas in the pod, broad beans, lettuce, ... (Summer)
  • Herbs - parsley, chives, fennel, dill, rosemary, sage, basil, ... (Summer)

A notice board by the south gate shows what’s currently available, but it does vary day by day, and even in the course of a single day - especially during the busy summer school holidays. 

An Grradh Mr is first and foremost our private home and garden, but if you’d like to look round the garden, just ask when you pay for your purchases.

There’s generally somebody at home, but if you’re travelling some distance you might want to phone first to avoid disappointment. Call 01878 700828 or email mail@biggarden.co.uk

The Garden

The half-acre walled garden is worked according to organic principles. We see a three-fold justification in this: environment, health, and quality. There can be no doubt whatsoever that our organically-grown potatoes, cabbages or whatever, fresh from the garden, are far tastier and more nutritious than anything that can be bought in a supermarket or retailer, anywhere, at any price. And how can working only with natural materials entirely of this place be anything other than good for the health of ourselves and the environment?

Crops are inter-planted and rotated so that the soil does not become exhausted, and to resist pests and diseases. In early Spring the soil is fed with a compost comprised of seaweed from the shore outside, garden and kitchen waste and soiled straw animal bedding. We sow more than we need, so that if a few seedlings are lost to pests, disease or extreme weather, we have replacements. When propagating, too - whether fruit bushes or trees and shrubs for shelter and ornament, we have to allow for a high proportion of losses to the harsh weather. Thus we often end up with more than we can use, and so there'll often be shrubs and plants for sale at the garden 'shop’.

Certainly, there isn't a single day of the year when the majority of the food on our plates isn't from the garden, and the very best the season has to offer: whether that be mouth-watering tomatoes or strawberries, fresh-picked rocket or lettuce, tasty parsnip or artichoke, irresistible jams with gooseberry or rhubarb, or a glass or two of blackberry wine. We’re happy to offer you a taste of our own plentiful harvest!

The Croft

Our croft on the nearby island of Eriskay is a long narrow strip, totalling about 15 acres, running from the rocky north shore of the island for about half a mile to the rocky buttresses of Beinn Sciathan, Eriskay’s highest point. From the shore (with its plentiful supply of seaweed for fertlizing the ground) and the ‘new’ road is the most productive part of the croft, with finer sweeter grasses, soft fruit, the hen houses and croft store. Here too is the eco croft house we built 2008-2009 (which currently we let out as a self-catering holiday cottage).

Our hens and geese have free-range over the lower croft - including the shore with its many tasty morsels amongst the seaweed. The hens are mostly Welsumer, but also Orpingtons (mostly Buff), Cream Crested Legbar, Scots Dumpy, and others.  Our white Embden geese are left pretty much to their own devices, but in spring they provide a limited supply of huge and very tasty eggs ; and in autumn the freezer is re-stocked with goose.

Above the ‘new’ road and up to the hill fence the croft heather, grasses and low-growing herbs, and - especially in spring and early summer - wild flowers, orchids, and amongst these many ground-nesting birds.  In 2012 we enclosed between the new and old roads - and then in 2013 we completed a third field, from the old road up half way to the hill fence. Although very expensive - and absolutely exhausting work, investment in these fences is the key to making our croft productive and economically relevant in today’s world.

The three new fields between the ‘new’ road and the hill fence - together amounting to three-quarters of the total area, will enclose our flock of pedigree Hebridean sheep which we keep both for their black wool and for their meat. Being native to the islands and very hardy, they are ideally suited to the extreme conditions here. The slower maturing of this ancient breed, combined with the completely natural grazing, gives incomparable flavour and texture to the meat; whilst the lack of need for routine treatment with medicines, makes it naturally organic and healthy.

Quality pedigree Hebridean lambs are available for purchase, generally in autumn, and pure-bred hatching eggs from October to April. Please enquire.
 

Buff Orpington cockerel

brigid crossIn the 5th century, St Birgid - daughter of an Irish Prince and a contemporary of St Patrick - landed on the beach right here - with an oyster-catcher perched on each wrist. A chapel - now long since vanished - was dedicated to her, and from this comes Cille Bhrghde in Gaelic, or Kilbride in English - both meaning Chapel of Bride. It is thought that the word Hebrides is from old Norse, meaning ‘Isles of Bride’.

Gooseberries - almost ready for picking

It’s all in the name: Grradh [Gah’-ruh] is a Scottish Gaelic word that means a garden or similar private enclosed space, or the wall that encloses such a space. So our walled garden more or less epitomises the word. There are similar or related words in other European languages: garth, garden, and yard in English, gardd in Welsh, gaard in Danish, Garten in German, etc.

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The garden dates from 1630 or earlier, but was rebuilt in its present form around 1742 by Alexander MacDonald I of Boisdale. Remains of his grand house can be seen just outside the garden walls. When Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived here from France in 1745, at the start of his ill-fated campaign, Boisdale told him to go home!  The Prince returned here after final defeat at Culloden in 1746. MacDonald’s wife took food to the Prince, and it is likely that some of the food he ate at that time came from this garden..

Hebridean ewe lamb

The first potatoes grown in the Outer Hebrides were grown in this garden in about 1742.  During the 19th century, peaches and other delicate fruits were being grown here, trained against the warm, south-facing wall. .

Beetroot - freshly pulled and incredibly sweet and tender

Paradise: from an old Persian word meaning  ‘a walled garden

[The Hebridean Woolshed

[Uist Self-Catering]

[Kilbride Campsite]

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Site by Jonathan Bridge, (c) Jonathan & Denise Bridge 2013, Updated 06/11/13