Corrour Lodge lies at the north-east end of the Loch with views extending south-westwards down its length. Corrour Lodge gardens of 25 hectares includes a small alpine garden of 1 hectare and lakeside walks. The Rhododendron Garden lies on the south shores of Loch Ossian. South of Corrour Lodge, adjacent to the Head Stalker's House and the Doll's House, is the walled garden.
Type of Site
Alpine rock garden, Rhododendron garden, wild garden, innovative forestry plantations and estate landscape designed by Sir John Stirling Maxwell of Pollok (1866-1956).
Location and Setting
Corrour Lodge lies in Corrour Forest, a deer forest 48km (30 miles) east of Fort William, between Fort William and Rannoch Moor on the north shore of Loch Ossian. Corrour Station, on the West Highland Railway, lies 6.5km (4 miles) south-west of Corrour Lodge and 1.6km (1 mile) from the south-west end of Loch Ossian. The Loch is 4.5km (2.8 miles) long, lying south-west to north-east with mountains rising on all sides.
The estate lies at a high altitude; the highest points reaching over 3600 feet above sea level. It consists of rough grazing with a harsh, exposed climate and high rainfall. The rugged landscape, with a variety of habitats, is important for its wildlife and dramatic scenic qualities. Its landscape character derives from glacial action, resulting in undulating hills with smooth, elongated ridge profiles with a rugged massif set behind. The dramatic scenery is based on a large-scale landscape pattern, uniform land cover and strong uncomplicated landform.
Corrour Lodge lies at the north-east end of the Loch with views extending south-westwards down its length. From the Woodland Garden there are open views over Loch Ossian to Beinn na Lap (937m/3704 ft) Chno Dearg (1047m/3434 ft) and Beinn Eibhinn (1100m/3608 ft).
Corrour Estate extends to 19,509ha (48,219 acres), including 462ha (1,143 acres) of forestry plantations, mainly around Loch Ossian. The designed landscape consists of three areas: Corrour Lodge gardens, the Rhododendron Garden and the forest plantations.
Corrour Lodge gardens of 25ha (31 acres) includes a small alpine garden of 1ha and lakeside walks. The Rhododendron Garden (25ha/63 acres) lies on the south shores of Loch Ossian. The extent and configuration of the designed landscape remains largely unchanged since laid out during the late 19th-early 20th century.
Corrour Lodge destroyed in 1942, and rebuilt 1959 was demolished to allow for the construction of a new lodge (2001). Still existing from Stirling Maxwell's shooting lodge of 1897 is the arch way leading to Corrour Lodge, Gun Room, Deer Larder, Grouse Larder, Garages and several storage rooms. The Chapel, built of granite, was originally part of the 1894 Corrour Lodge. The cloister, which also survives, linked the chapel to Corrour Lodge.
Stirling Maxwell's 1890s building scheme included the Head Stalker's House, with its associated traditional timber outbuildings; Corrie Creagach House, attached to the former stables and coach house and built as estate employees accommodation; two Stalkers' Cottages; a Ghillie's Bothy and the Doll's House, built as the gardener's house.
Drives and Approaches
Vehicular access from Corrour Station was made along the south shore of the Loch. The new vehicular access road in 1972 came in from the north, and is now the major approach.
Alongside the main entrance to the Lodge is a memorial stone inscribed:
SIR JOHN STIRLING MAXWELL 1866-1956
WHOSE PIONEER WORK
ON THE PLANTING OF PEAT AT CORROUR
LED TO THE SUCCESSFUL AFFORESTATION OF
LARGE AREAS OF UPLAND BRITAIN
THIS MEMORIAL WAS UNVEILED BY HIS DAUGHTER
MRS. ANNE MAXWELL MACDONALD
ON 21ST SEPTEMBER 1967
WHEN THE SOCIETY OF FORESTERS OF GREAT BRITAIN
VISITED CORROUR FOREST
Sir John Stirling Maxwell's original conifer planting still forms part of the commercial plantations. Two original registers record the Loch Ossian Plantations, on either side of the eastern end of the loch, and record the species compositions of compartments in 1928 and 1949 (revised 1951). Several compartments have been felled and replanted under the Woodland Grants Scheme with a variety of broadleaves and a core of conifers.
The 28ha (68 acres) rhododendron garden lies on the south shore of Loch Ossian, south-west of the house. The Rhododendron collection, started in 1910, consists of some 125 species Rhododendron enclosed by a deer fence.
North of Corrour Lodge a stone circular wall encircles a beech and sycamore plantation, which in turn shelters a lawn.
A terrace extends the length of the south front, with steps leading down to a round lily pond flanked by granite-bordered planting beds. Granite steps lead down to the site of the alpine garden, a semi-natural rockery. This was described in Herbert Maxwell's Scottish Gardens (1911) and features in an album of photographs compiled by the Scottish Alpine Club (1933). The garden leads down to the rocky lochside, where a series of steps terminate at a granite-paved landing stage. To east and west, beech and birch plantations define a panoramic view across the length of Loch Ossian. Little of the original alpine planting survives apart from a few hardier exotics like Berberis, Ilex and Azalea mollis.
South of Corrour Lodge, adjacent to the Head Stalker's House and the Doll's House, is the walled garden. Rubble walls 1.5m high define the garden, with iron gates (the maker's plate is A. & J. Main & Co. Glasgow, London and Dublin) leading to a central axis path lined with overgrown Beech hedges.
Telephone0131 668 8600
- Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
The extent and configuration of the designed landscape remains largely unchanged since laid out during the late-19th and early-20th century.
Detailed HistoryThe 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
An innovative and influential late 19th century landscape design which impacted on both 20th century ecological and garden planting, as well as foreshadowing the 20th century development of upland forestry in the whole of upland Britain. John Stirling Maxwell's planting between 1890-1950 exploited the natural topography and combined an innovative mix of native and exotic species.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Corrour was part of extensive lands held by the Macdonalds of Keppoch, from the 14th to the 19th centuries. The Duke of Gordon, the feudal superior, sold the Loch Treig Estates in 1834 to John Walker (d.1857) of Crawfordton, Dumfriesshire for £45,000.
In 1831 the arable land comprised 20ha (50 acres) on the low-lying areas at Fersit and Torgulbin. Other areas provided some summer grazings, although of mixed quality. Leitir Dhubh, on the south shores of Loch Ossian, was a small native birch wood with rowan, alder, willow and bird cherry. An 1842 account of Kilmonivaig parish stated that 'Perhaps there is no part of the Highlands where nature has done more, and landlords so little, for the benefits of the inhabitants as some parts of the parish.' (New Statistical Account, 1842).
Colonel Sir George Gustavus Walker (1830-97) inherited the estate in 1857. The mid-19th century growth in the popularity and accessibility of Highland field sports (the de-restriction of game hunting which had previously been limited to the landowner and his first-born son) led to the construction of a shooting lodge and income from the lease of sporting rights. Walker made Old Corrour Lodge habitable, built a new lodge at Inverlair sheltered by European larch, and planted small woodlands at Fersit and Torgulbin (Koerner and Dick, 1998 p.24). Old Corrour Lodge, situated 525m (1,723 ft) above sea level in Choire Odhair (4.8km/3 miles south of Loch Ossian), was reputed to be the highest house is Scotland and one of the most inaccessible shooting lodges. The deer forest was limited to the area around it, which by 1883 constituted 5,883ha (14,540 acres) of the total 19,421ha (48,000 acre) estate. The comparatively small deer forest and fishing were let to Henry Spencer Lucy of Charlecote Park, Warwickshire. Lucy was married to Christina Campbell, heir of neighbouring Mamore Forest.
During the 1880s the estate changed in character, as a fall in wool prices led to increased emphasis on the income to be derived from trout fishing and grouse shooting. Sporting income rose from £553 in 1873 to £3,500 in 1911, grouse being the most significant game with 3,607 bagged in 1906. The extent of the deer park had increased to 13,949ha (34,475 acres) by 1891, when Walker sold Corrour.
The purchaser was Sir John Stirling Maxwell of Pollok (1866-1956) who built Corrour Lodge, a new shooting lodge 152m (500 ft) lower, on a south-facing terminal moraine. Sir John was an author on many subjects, biography, history, archaeology and topography, one of his works being Shrines and Homes of Scotland (1937). He undertook considerable work at his seat at Pollok Park, Glasgow (q.v. Inventory, Volume 2, pp.339-46) and in 1901 married Ann Christian, daughter of Sir Herbert Eustance Maxwell, Bt F.R.S. (1845-1937), President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Concerned to diversify the economic basis of the estate, he invested in forestry, housing for estate workers and the local community. 'Commitment to Corrour was not motivated by financial return. The estate's books never balanced, and the question seems mostly to have been not whether he would have to dip into other sources of income, but merely to what extent' (Koerner and Dick, 1998).
In order to provide shelter and a microclimate within which to establish a garden, in 1892 Sir John Stirling Maxwell began forestry planting, subsequently experimenting with commercial-scale, upland plantations. His trials covered the use of some 84 species including Lodgepole pine, Sitka spruce, Scots pine, Japanese and European larches. His pioneering work demonstrated the suitability of Sitka spruce to thrive at these high altitudes and was instrumental in developing the future of upland afforestation in Great Britain. His interest and experience led to his appointment as chairman of the Forestry Commission (1929-32).
In 1929 he published a book outlining his work at Corrour, Loch Ossian Plantations. An Essay in Afforesting High Moorland. He outlined and assessed the success of the planting techniques used ' notching, pit planting, turf planting, mound planting, the Manteufel system and the Inchnacardach system ' the importance of drainage, pest control, ground conditions and seed source.
In the lodge gardens, Sir John and his wife Ann created a flower garden. To the south of the house, a considerable layer of peat was removed to create a terrace. Below, on the knolls between the south-facing terrace and the loch, was a sub-alpine garden, which made use of the natural topography, glacial rocks and boulders. By filling suitable hollows with soil, a variety of species flourished, including varieties of Campanula, globe flowers, Primulas, speedwells and Dianthus. Norwegian saxifrage lined the steps to the rock gardens and there were masses of ground cover including snowdrops, woodsorrel (Oxalis enneaphylla), Pyrenean gromwell (Lithospermum gastoni) and Gentiana froelichi. The lochside was planted as a Wild Garden, flowering exotics like Iris and Spiraea being mixed with native wild flowers, heaths and grasses including heather, blaeberry, cornel (Cornus suecica), field orchid, bluebell, Digitalis, wintergreen and forget-me-not. Pinus montana provided local shelter (Maxwell, 1911, pp. 88-90).
A Rhododendron Garden was developed on the south shore of Loch Ossian, a mile from Corrour Lodge. Sir John Stirling Maxwell sponsored plant-hunting expeditions and many of the older plants were grown from seed collected in the Himalayas by well known collectors as Farrer, Forrest, Wilson and Kingdon-Ward. Sir John subscribed to Forrest's expeditions to Yunnan in 1925 and 1935, and to Kingdon-Ward's in 1935. The plantings were successful due to the care taken to provide shelter above them on the north-facing planting slopes. Rhododendrons were planted from the loch shore up to about 503m (1,650 ft). Donald Maxwell Macdonald, Sir John's grandson, subsequently managed and maintained the collection.
The West Highland Railway opened in 1895, with a station at Corrour to serve the shooting lodge. As there was no vehicular route to the lodge guests arrived at Corrour Station by train, were taken by pony and trap to Loch Ossian and were then transferred by the steam yacht, 'Cailleach' (the Old Lady), to the lodge. Later a road was opened along the south shore of Loch Ossian and cars were brought in by train, leading to the termination of the yacht service.
Stirling Maxwell's lodge was designed by Frank College, of Wharr & College, Glasgow, and built 1897-9. It was enlarged at various times between 1905-36, including work by L. & J. Falconer (1904) and Reginald Fairlie (1935). In April 1942, Corrour Lodge was accidentally burnt down. The loss of sporting income during the Second World War led to financial difficulties and most of the estate was sold to the Forestry Commission in 1966, the family retaining the sporting rights. A Colt house bungalow, clad in cedarwood shingles, was built on the same site in 1958.
Following the Forestry Act, 1981, the Maxwell Macdonald family was given the opportunity to buy back the estate. The estate was sold in 1996 to Corrour Estate Ltd. which commissioned Moshe Safdie and Associates to design a new lodge on the site, now built (2002).