Royal Botanic Garden
Arboretum Place, Edinburgh

Originally from the Himalayas, Japan and China, rhododendrons thrive in the naturally acidic soil found in most areas in Scotland.

Though this year’s Scottish Rhododendron Festival runs from now until May 31, many species have been flowering earlier due to temperatures in February being around 2.4°C above the 1981-2010 long-term average.

David Knott, curator at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, says the unusual temperatures and early blooming highlights the impact of climate change on plants and flowering behaviour.

Knott says his team will continue to monitor the situation at the Botanics, which is a world centre for rhododendron studies.

During the course of the festival expert guides Maria and David Chamberlain will lead walks exploring the garden’s 72 acres, including the large selection of tropical rhododendrons which usually thrive in early spring.

The shop has a wide range of rhododendrons available such as Nancy Evans, Hoppy, Titian Beauty and compact hybrids such as Firelight and Golden Gate.

Benmore Botanic Garden
Dunoon, Argyll and Bute

On April 11, David Chamberlain will also lead a walk taking in the beauty of the rhododendrons at Benmore Botanic Garden, long renowned for its fine collections of plants and trees from the east and the Americas.

From now until early summer, the slopes of Benmore seem almost painted with the vivid colours of the 300 plus species in its world-leading rhododendron collection.

Cawdor Castle
Cawdor, Nairnshire

The grounds of Cawdor Castle are listed in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, the national listing of significant gardens.

Open daily from April 13 to the end of the Rhododendron Festival, the grounds have an association with the colourful woody plants dating back to the 1920s when Jack Cawdor, the 5th Earl of Cawdor, went on an expedition to Tibet with plant hunter Frank Kingdon Ward.

Cawdor went on to raise many plants from seeds collected on the expedition.

A selection of tree rhododendrons feature in the wild garden which leads into 750 acres of the best preserved area of ancient primeval oak woodland in the UK.

Victorian Gardens at Abbotsford
Melrose, Borders

Like Cawdor Castle, the Victorian Gardens at Abbotsford are new editions to the Rhododendron Festival this year.

Each day from May 1 to 15 at 11.30am to 12.30pm, heritage development manager Pippa Coles will lead a tour exploring the lesser known design features of the garden and its story after the time of Sir Walter Scott, who built the mansion in the 1810s.

Spaces on the tour, which is free to visitors of the house and gardens, can be pre-booked on 01896 752043.

Achamore Garden
Isle of Gigha, Argyll and Bute

The Rhododendron Festival was originally founded by the Glorious Gardens of Argyll and Bute, a collection of 20 gardens throughout the mainland of Argyll and to the islands of Bute, Seil and Gigha.

Achamore Garden is situated on the latter and features some of the most stunning rhododendron displays in Scotland, partly thanks to Colonel Sir James Horlick who created the gardens in the 1940s with gardener Kitty Lloyd Jones.

Open daily throughout the festival, the garden extends to around 50 acres of natural woodlands and features a large walled garden where rarer exotic plants and trees can thrive.