This is a Picturesque, multi-phase castle, gardens and parkland with a fine tree collection. The site is important for its association with the artist Mary Seton Watts, and the influence of the early-20th-century crafts revival.
Type of Site
Picturesque, multi-phase castle, gardens and parkland with fine tree collection.
Location and Setting
Aldourie Castle is situated approximately 13km (8 miles) south-west of Inverness, on the south shore of Loch Ness. The policies lie between the B862, one of General Wade's Military Roads, and the loch. To the east of the B862 the land rises up to Drumashie Moor. Although set back from the nearest public road amidst well wooded parkland the Castle is prominent in views from the opposite, northern, shores of Loch Ness. The main views from the Castle extend to the north-west across Loch Ness to Bona Church and to the south-east across lawns to Drumashie. Vistas to the Castle are presented on the approach along the main entrance drive, as part of the contrived composition.
Aldourie Castle is set on a level terrace above the loch, with its main lawn facing north-west out onto the loch and the slopes of Creag Dherag. The parkland of 38.9ha (96 acres) extends to the north-east and south-east of the house and is enclosed by woodland. South of the parkland, a series of agricultural fields are enclosed by a regular pattern of shelterbelts, screening Aldourie Farm. The extent of the parkland remains unchanged since the mid 19th century (1870-71, OS 6").
Aldourie Castle, progressively extended and altered in the 19th century, incorporates a 17th century mansion Thomas MacKenzie (1814-54), of Mackenzie & Matthews, Elgin, was commissioned to extend and enlarge the house in 1862-3. Further additions in 1902-4 by Sir Robert Lorimer included a wing at the south-east.
A late 19th century timber Lych Gate, forms the entrance to the family Burial Ground. To the east of the Kitchen Garden is a Gardener's Cottage. To the south-east of the Castle at the entrance to the South Drive stands a plain whitewashed Lodge marking the entrance, formed by rustic Gate Piers of cast-iron in the form of tree trunks. Two pairs stand defining the drive and outer pedestrian entrances.
Drives and Approaches
The main approach leads westwards off the public road (B8620) and along a short, straight track. It then leads southwards, to pass the kitchen garden and divide the East park. As it crosses the Dobhrag Burn it passes the lodge to turn northwards towards the Castle. A more eastern route, now unused, led off from the drive just to the north of the Dodhrag Burn to cross north-eastwards through parkland and then through the north perimeter belt to an entrance on the public road.
The parkland extends to the south and east of the Castle. Its north side is sheltered by a tree belt which extends north-westwards from the public road to the loch, enclosing the kitchen garden, burial ground and arboretum. The easternmost park is bounded on its west by a section of the main drive leading to the kitchen garden, while its southern boundary is defined by the Dobhrag Burn, with enclosure fields to the south of the burn. It now contains remnant tree clumps, roundels and some specimen trees. West of the drive the parkland extends to the front of the Castle and then around to the south-east. The Dobhrag Burn flows diagonally across this area of parkland from a point north of the lodge to the north parkland boundary. Remnant tree-clumps and specimen trees form the structure of the parkland and channel views across from the drive to the Castle and Loch.
The junction of the drive with the gravel forecourt in front of the Castle is marked by a significant specimen sycamore planted on a mound.
Late 19th/early 20th century views of the Castle show formal gardens comprising carpet bedding and serpentine paths at the south-east front. This area is now lawn. The gardens extend to the north-east of the Castle and comprise a series of woodland walks along the Dobhrag Burn, to the Burial Ground and through the arboretum. Directly north-east of the Castle are high yew hedges on a raised dry-stone embankment which enclose an area of higher ground.
The kitchen garden lies to the north-east of the Castle, sheltered on its west and south sides by a tree-belt. Its eastern boundary lies directly adjacent to the main approach and Gardener's House. Its north boundary is formed by a rubble wall with a curvilinear lean-to glasshouse (mid 18th century?), and a later, lean-to glasshouse. Other boundaries are hedged. To the north-west of the Gardeners House is a free-standing curvilinear glasshouse of c 1850, with ridge ventilation.
By 1870 it was laid out with a grid of paths comprising a crosswalk aligned north-west to south-east, and a series of four parallel paths (1870-71, OS 6"). To the north of the cross-path there appears to have been an orchard.
- Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts
The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:
Reason for Inclusion
The picturesque gardens, parkland and fine tree collection form the designed setting for Aldourie Castle. The site is important for its association with the artist Mary Seton Watts, and the influence of the early 20th century crafts revival.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
17th-18th centuries; 1822-9; late 19th century.
The lands and Barony of 'Aultdownie' (NAS) were originally a property of Mackintosh of Kyllachy (1625) in Nairnside. In 1776 Aldourie passed by the marriage of Alexander Tytler (1747-1813), later Lord Woodhouselee, with Ann Fraser of Balnain into the Fraser-Tytler family.
The 17th century mansion house consisted of a rectangular main block, one room deep, with a round tower at the south-west corner. In 1839 it was extended to the west, with a two-storey wing. William Fraser-Tytler, a Lieutenant in the Bengal Army and Sheriff-Depute of Inverness-shire for 42 years, was in the 1860s, responsible for transforming Aldourie from this relatively modest mansion house into a picturesque castle with landscaped grounds. He commissioned Mackenzie & Matthews to extend the house 'in all directions, parading the full repertoire of early 17th century Baronialism, including a balustraded round tower cribbed from Castle Fraser, Grampian, oriel windows, scroll-sided steeply pedimented dormers, candle-snuffered turrets, corbelling, rope- moulded stringcourses and gunloops' (Gifford, 1992, p.148). A fire-proof cement floor was laid between the ground and first floor. The parkland was probably laid out around this time, involving land-drainage and canalising and ornamenting the Dobhrag Burn with small cascades and footbridges. North-east of the Castle, considerable earth-modelling, taking advantage of the incised topography, formed a series of enclosed dells and a long terrace set with a formal walk overlooking the Dobhrag.
William Fraser-Tytler married Mary Grant and had 11 children. A number of them entered military service or the East India Company, including their son Charles who married Etheldred St Barbe. After Etheldred's death in 1851, their daughters were brought up at Aldourie, moving in 1861, on Charles return from India, to Sanquhar. Mary, the youngest, married the eminent painter George Frederick Watts (1817-1904) in 1886, becoming Mary Seton Watts (1849-1938). She was thirty-six years his junior and devoted her life to his care and, following his death, his reputation. Shortly after their marriage Mary designed a triptych for the entrance to the family Burial Ground. This included bronzes, modelled on Watts drawings 'Love and Death' 'The Messenger' and 'Death and the Angel Crowning Innocence'. The latter was drawn as a memorial for Mary's nephew who had died six weeks before their marriage (Gould, 1998, p.30). Her watercolours of the parkland at Aldourie survive (Gould, 1998, p.29).
In 1891 the Watts moved to Limnerslease, Compton, Guildford. Mary Watts gave up painting to develop her skills in modelling and terracotta work. In 1893 she set up a school of decorative terracotta work, which produced external decorations for the Compton Memorial Chapel and funerary monuments. She set up a professional Pottery Arts Guild at Compton followed, in 1900, by one at Aldourie. She trained Louis Deuchars to model terracotta and assist in the classes held at Compton before he went to Aldourie to run the workshop. Terracotta memorials, garden ornaments and sundials produced to her designs were exhibited internationally, won awards, including medals by the Royal Botanical and Royal Horticultural Societies, and were marketed by Liberty.
In 1893, the Lovat Scouts reputedly were founded at Aldourie by Lord Lovat and Edward Fraser-Tytler (Gould, 1998, p.62-3).
- Features & Designations
Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
- Key Information
Open to the public