Davina, Lady Stair

I read about Lady Stair’s garden in last week’s Scotland on Sunday. What an inspiring gardener Davina clearly was. I would have loved to have met her.

DAVINA Dalrymple, Countess of Stair, [1930-2017] wwas the daughter of Sir David Bowes-Lyon, brother of the late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, and therefore a first cousin of The Queen.

In 1960 Davina Bowes-Lyon married John Aymer Dalrymple, 13th Earl of Stair. After their marriage the couple lived in the family estate at Lochinch Castle near Stranraer.

Throughout her many years in Wigtownshire Lady Stair was much involved in community affairs.

The grounds of Castle Kennedy and the adjoining Lochinch Castle, east of Stranraer, are famous for rhododendrons, magnolias and azaleas and has been described as one of the showpieces of Galloway. The gardens are situated on an isthmus between two natural lochs – the Black and the White – and provide a superb vista of the surrounding landscape.

The Stair family have been associated with the area since 1677. Lady Stair worked throughout her time as chatelaine to make the gardens horticulturally important, supervising the planting of many rare shrubs and trees. Since she came to Lochinch she has been part of the ‘Gardening Team’ and remained much involved in the day-to-day running of the estate.

Lady Stair created a new private garden which opens by arrangement to visitors in the summer months. “I have lived in this lovely place for nearly 55 years,” she once commented. “It has been very rewarding reviving several areas of the Castle Kennedy Gardens which had become overgrown. I loved the challenge to develop the walled garden.”

Lady Stair created the magnificent walled garden, which had previously been the kitchen garden, with a dedicated zeal. It now complements the entire gardens and greatly enhances the general appearance of the grounds. The long panoramic views, the avenues of ancient trees and colourful terraces all fit naturally into the glorious Wigtownshire countryside. The setting and gardens reflect the more naturalistic landscape style which was made famous by the English landscape architect Capability Brown.

Another significant achievement was the Garden Centre at Castle Kennedy. Lady Stair not only introduced rare plants but ensured all the pot plants were of the highest quality – many from cuttings she herself had propagated.