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Ardchattan Priory


The site at Ardchattan Priory lies on the north shore of Loch Etive and incorporates the ruins of the 13th-century priory. The designed landscape was improved in the 17th century and a few trees remain from that time. The policies were extended in the late-19th century and the present gardens were created during the 20th century. They comprise herbaceous and shrub borders, a rockery, a rose garden and a woodland garden with a wide variety of small trees and shrubs.

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:

Type of Site

The present policies are pastures and shelterbelts dating from the mid-19th-century with formal and woodland gardens associated with the house and approaches.

Location and Setting

Ardchattan Priory is situated 5 miles (8km) east of the Connel Bridge on the north shore of Loch Etive, about 10 miles (16km) north-east of Oban. Na Maoilean rises to 1,148' (350m) to the north of the Priory. The soil is nearly neutral but the waters of the Ardchattan Burn are more alkaline as it flows through limestone outcrops before reaching the garden. While sheltered by the hills to the north, the site is exposed to severe winds along the loch, but the climate is softened by the influence of the Gulf Stream. There are long views to the south across Loch Etive to the Fearnoch Forest as well as stunning views along the loch to Ben Cruachan in the east and to the hills of Mull in the west. The cultivated pasture and woodlands provide variety in the surrounding upland scenery.

The Priory lies about 100 yards (90m) from the shore in the centre of the designed landscape. Small strips of woodland divide the policies from the surrounding moorland on the three other sides. The policies were enlarged during the 19th century. Documentary evidence relies on General Roy's plan of c.1750 and on the 1st edition OS plan of c.1860. No records of the earlier garden supporting the Priory have been seen but, as there are some very old trees, this would indicate that there has been a garden at Ardchattan for many years. The designed landscape extends to some 76 acres (31ha) today.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Ardchattan House, listed category B, dates from before 1600 when it was first altered from the abbey buildings to form a house. A Victorian Wing was added in 1852 by the Glasgow architect Charles Wilson. Ardchattan Priory, listed B, is the ruined remains of the Priory founded in 1230 and sacked in 1654. It is an Ancient Monument and in the care of the Secretary of State for Scotland. Part of it contains the private burial 'aisle' for the Campbells of Ardchattan and Lochnell as well as the fine 'Lochnell' Celtic stone. Colin Campbell of Glenure, brother-in-law of Charles Campbell, Laird of Ardchattan, is buried in the Campbell of Barcaldine Burial section. The Dairy was built c.1850 in a rustic style and has recently been converted into a cottage.


The present policies were laid out in the mid-19th century. They consist of three large pastures divided by the Ardchattan Burn which runs down from the hill to the shore. Shelterbelts were planted around the outside of the policies and there are several remaining individual parkland trees, mostly beech dating from about 1830 and sycamore which are about 400 years old. Clumps were planted in the parks nearest the house. The driveway leads through the woodland garden to approach the house from the west.


The woodland plantations have been extended since the 1st edition OS map of c.1860. They mainly shelter the policies and consist of hardwoods including oak and sycamore planted in the mid-19th century, amongst some conifers including Scots pine, Douglas fir and larch. Today these small plantations are particularly fine.

Woodland Garden

The Woodland Garden is well protected by a line of well-established large trees and several old yews. This is the youngest area and was begun in 1960. Planted with small trees and large shrubs, this garden has matured fast. On the south side of the drive amongst a wide variety of plants there is a large Stephanandra incisa with its bronze peeling bark. Crinodendron hookerianum with its crimson lantern-like flowers is also growing well as is the unusual low-growing honeysuckle, Lonicera syringantha, forming a grey mound. On the north side leading toward the Dairy is a small meadow filled with colourful bulbs and, later in the summer, wildflowers. The larger shrub roses are planted around the meadow mixed with other shrubs including a fine Eucryphia glutinosa and a tall Embothrium coccineum, all of them are unusual varieties. There are also a group of Japanese maples, and 14 different varieties of Sorbus.

The Gardens

The gardens lie to the south and west side of the house and are divided into two areas: the Woodland Garden which runs along the drive, and the Garden in front of the south side of the house. They have been described in greater detail by Sir Ilay Campbell.*

The Rose Garden lies just to the north of the yew hedge which divides it from the south garden. Here the Campbell-Prestons have grown a wide range of 'Old Fashioned' roses as well as some of the more special hybrid tea varieties. Rocks were positioned in the alpine or rock garden just to the west of the house to provide the right conditions to grow true alpines and these included small shrubs and low herbaceous plants.

Just to the south of the house lies the wide herbaceous border planted with many different perennials providing colour from mid-June to the end of November. The wide lawn runs down to the stone boundary wall on which grow several Clematis including a large Clematis montana. In front of the wall is the group of ancient sweet chestnuts thought to have been planted early in the 17th century. Adjoining the Priory wall on the east side of the house runs a long shrub border planted with many tender shrubs including a Drimys aromatica, the large-leaved Senecio rotundifolia, and an unnamed Hebe discovered by George Forrest.

* Scottish Field, May 11, 1985

Walled Garden

The kitchen garden is clearly shown on the 1st edition OS plan just to the north of the house. Part of it is still used for growing produce and the remainder is used as a paddock. The burn runs to the west of the walled garden and a magnificent walnut overhangs the 'Monk's Pool'. There is a tennis court to the west of the walled garden.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

The gardens are open between April and October, from 9am to 5pm.


Ardchattan Priory is ten miles north of Oban and is well signposted by road.


Mrs Sarah Troughton


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

Based on a monastic garden that probably dates back to the 13th century, the designed landscape has been improved in the 17th, 19th and 20th centuries, and makes an important contribution to the scenery of the surrounding area.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

An early monastic garden with improvements made in the 17th century, the present policies date from mid-19th-century with additions in the early/mid-20th-century.

Site History

Based on a monastic garden, the designed landscape was improved in the 17th century and extended during the 19th century. The present gardens were created during the 20th century.

The Priory was founded in 1230 for an Order of Benedictine Monks. In 1602 Alexander Campbell received the charter for the land. Some very old trees date from this time and the age of some of the trees which had to be cut down recently was confirmed as over 400 years. In 1654, as a reprisal for the then Laird of Ardchattan supporting the Earl of Glencairn's rising against Cromwell, Cromwellian troops burnt down the church leaving the Abbott's lodgings.

During the turbulent 18th century the Campbells sided with the government against the Stuarts. Thomas Campbell, the last male descendant, died in 1846 leaving the estate to his niece who enlarged the house in 1852 in Victorian Gothic style. In 1878 the estate passed to her 12 year old cousin, Robert Clarke-Preston, a descendant of Sir Robert Preston of Valleyfield. During the latter part of the 19th century the estate was let to several tenants including Mrs Popham and Sir John Lawes, Bt., a distinguished agriculturalist who improved the policies. In 1904 Robert and his new wife took up residence at Ardchattan. Mrs Clarke-Campbell-Preston began gardening; she created formal flowerbeds to the south of the house, and laid out long herbaceous borders. In 1950 her son Colonel Robert Campbell-Preston married Angela Murray, widow of Lt Colonel Antony Murray, killed in action in Italy in April 1945, and daughter of 2nd Viscount Cowdray; together they formed a 'gardening' partnership, Colonel Campbell-Preston providing the plant knowledge and his wife the artistic skills to lay it out. It is mostly their garden which can be seen today. Mrs Campbell-Preston died in 1981 and the Colonel has continued to care for and improve the garden ever since.


Early 20th Century (1901-1932)

Features & Designations


  • Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland


  • Ruin
  • Description: The ruins of the 13th-century priory that was sacked in 1654.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Rockery
  • Herbaceous Border
  • Rose Border
Key Information


Country Estate



Principal Building



Early 20th Century (1901-1932)





Open to the public