Arisaig House has formal gardens designed in Traditionalist style. The House is set in an elevated position. The formal gardens and woodland walks lie on this higher ground with the walled garden set on the valley floor. Principal views from the House and gardens lie to the south-east over the valley and beyond to the coast.
Type of Site
Formal gardens designed in Traditionalist style.
Location and Setting
Arisaig House is situated on the south side of the A830 Lochailort-Morar Road, 3.5km (2.2 miles) south-east of Arisaig, on the north shores of Loch Nan Uamh.
The House is set in an elevated position, 20m above the narrow flat-bedded valley of the Borrodale Burn. The formal gardens and woodland walks lie on this higher ground with the walled garden set on the valley floor. Principal views from the House and gardens lie to the south-east over the valley and beyond to the coast.
The designed landscape remains the same in extent as in the late 19th century, extending to 8ha (20 acres) of which 6ha (15 acres) are woodland.
Arisaig House rebuilt and remodelled in 1937, incorporates some walls and fabric of Webb's 1864 house. The main L-shaped block faces south and east, with a service wing at right angles on the west side forming three sides of a quadrangle.
The Gardener's Bothy by Philip Webb (1864) has a single-storey range of garden outbuildings attached to the north-east gable. The Walled Garden, dating from 1860, lies to the north-east of Arisaig House. Borrodale Farm and Stables are to the north-east, and became the home farm in 1860.
Drives and Approaches
The main approach leads southwards off the A830. The drive is 180m long and bordered by specimen conifers, planted in the 1860s. These include mature specimens of noble fir, Wellingtonia, Monterey cypress, cedar and species of Rhododendron. The drive curves gently to the forecourt, the main entrance being a gabled porch set in the north elevation. To the west is an arched pend with a drive leading through to a service court, then beyond south-westwards downhill to Druimindarroch. To the north-east a drive leads downhill to the Walled Garden.
Prince Charles' Cave, 400m south of the House in a steep-sided glen, is so-called because it harboured the Prince after the Battle of Culloden, on his flight through Morar. It is surrounded by beech woodland, planted in the 1860s.
Broadleaved woodland surrounds the House; mostly comprising beech mixed with Scots pine and yew. To the south of the formal gardens, there is a woodland walk bordered by stone boulders. This leads through woodland compartments planted with a selection of exotics, including Cercidiphyllum japonicum, Nothofagus dombeyi, Holm oak and some fine specimens of Douglas fir.
The gardens lie on the house's south front, where a paved terrace is set with an Edwardian-style rose garden. From the terrace, formal lawns including a croquet lawn, extend south with shrub-filled borders and island beds. These include some significant specimens of large-leaved Rhododendrons (including Rhododendron sinogrande). The lawn perimeter is planted with specimen trees.
Steps lead down to the walled garden from the House, through a rock garden set on the hillside which is planted with ornamental maples, dwarf conifers, Azaleas and Rhododendrons. A herbaceous border is set against the wall, the length of the walled garden.
The walled garden is reached from the House by a steep flight of steps. It has been formed on two terraces set into the hillside. The upper section has a flower garden with the remains of an orchard and the lower area is laid out with fruit, vegetables and a helipad.
The Gardener's Bothy overlooks the whole composition, with a view down the glen to Loch Nan Uamh.
- 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 gardens are a good example of early 20th century Traditionalist design, and form an important setting for Arisaig House, the only Scottish country house designed by architect Philip Webb (1831-1915).
Main Phases of Landscape Development
In 1850 Francis Dukinfield Palmer-Astley (1825-1868) purchased the Arisaig estate and commissioned Stevens and Robinson, London architects, to design a new house. The plans were never executed as he then commissioned Philip Webb (1831-1915) to prepare designs for the estate. These included a country house, one of his earliest country house designs, and a steading at Borrodale Farm, to the north-east. Webb drew a view from the proposed house to illustrate his proposals, the views being a major design consideration. All the main rooms look towards Loch Nan Uamh and the Moidart coast. Webb's design was picturesque with prominent, sturdy chimneys; a skyline punctuated with gables, and fine detailing. It was set into the hillside to shelter it from Atlantic gales, with side wings enclosing the entrance court. Building work started in 1863 to a cost of £12,000 including the Gardener's Bothy, farm cottages and farm buildings.
Some 0.5km to the north-east of Arisaig House lies the site of Borrodale House where Prince Charles Edward Stewart stayed from 11th-18th August 1745, at the start of the Jacobite Rising. The house was subsequently destroyed in reprisals by Cumberland's troops and then rebuilt in the late 18th century. Webb remodelled it into two cottages, and built an L-plan steading to the south.
Palmer-Astley was succeeded by his only son, Francis Dukinfield Astley, a lieutenant in the Scots Fusilier Guards. In 1880, he died unmarried thereafter the estate passed to his eldest sister, Gertrude Susan Astley. She married Sir Arthur Nicholson who inherited the Arisaig estate on her death in 1920. Their eldest daughter, Charlotte Gertrude Astley-Nicholson (d.1961), succeeded him.
In 1935 Arisag House burnt down, only the south-east kitchen wing surviving to any extent. The House was rebuilt to the designs of I. B. M. Hamilton and supervised by Orphoot, Whiting & Lindsay in 1936-7. Although it incorporated much of the original fabric, the design was altered and the interiors were entirely replaced. Webb's complex of outbuildings and gardens survived, little-altered.
In 1955, the estate was gifted to Miss M. J. Becher (d.1994) who lived at Arisaig House until the late 1970s. The House was sold and eventually, in March 1981 was bought by the present owners for use as a small country house hotel in 1982. It is now reverting to its original use as a family home (2002).
- Features & Designations
Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
- Key Information