Alan and Ruby Inkster’s gardens began with the planting of several saplings in a 60-acre site. Once they had grown, the site was opened to the public in 1997, named Da Gairdins—the local Scots dialect for “the gardens.”
The Inksters planted their many trees, pampas grasses, cabbage trees and variety of other vegetation not native to Shetland in part to show naysayers that it could be done. Located in the North Atlantic, Shetland is the northernmost part of Scotland. Similar to Iceland, which is famously but incorrectly said to not have any trees, Shetland’s native woodlands were dramatically reduced by human settlement and a need for wood.
With the archipelago practically cleared of this type of plant life, the Inksters were often told that growing them again would be impossible. Nowadays, Da Gairdins not only feature wooded walks but also palm-like vegetation from New Zealand and other Southern Hemisphere latitudes of comparable climate, all around a few ponds populated by frogs. So numerous are these amphibians that they have become the mascot of Da Gairdins.
The Norn language-influenced version of Scots common to Shetland can be appreciated not only in “Gairdins” but also in features such as Di Boatie Hoose (the Boat House) and Do Modoo (the Meadow). Its coastal location also provides great views over the waters off the coast of the community of Sand.
Know Before You Go
Open during daytime throughout the year, entry to the gardens is free but donations for Da Gairdins charity are welcome.