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Crarae Gardens were laid out in the early- to mid-20th century within a late-19th-century designed landscape. The gardens comprise a section of forestry, borders around the house and a woodland garden designed around the steep-sided ravine of the Crarae Burn, which is spanned by several bridges. There is a wide variety of trees and shrubs, many of them rare and unusual, growing in the shelter of conifers.

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

No information available.

Location and Setting

Crarae Gardens are situated off the A83 on the northern shores of Loch Fyne some 10 miles (16km) south-west of Inveraray. They are developed on either side of the valley of the Crarae Burn. The surrounding landscape is mainly rough hill land and forestry. The soils are a thin layer of gravelly acid loam over impermeable grey glacial clay with pockets of localised mineralised peat which provides the conditions for growing the range of plants found here. The average annual rainfall is over 75". There are long views from the gardens across Loch Fyne to Castle Lachlan and the Strathlachlan Forest and, behind the gardens, Beinn Ghlas is a prominent feature. Outward views are a critical feature of the garden. The surrounding area is well forested and the gardens are not particularly significant in the landscape.

Crarae Lodge lies in the southern part of the designed landscape overlooking the Burn. The extent of the garden includes the Woodland Garden, the Forest Garden beyond, and the meadows to the east and on the other side of the A83 which were laid out to complement the Lodge and garden when it was rebuilt. The designed landscape at Crarae extends for 126 acres (51ha).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Crarae Lodge was built in 1898 and is a comfortable medium-sized stone-built house with separate offices to the north.

Woodland Garden

In 1932 the Forest garden was begun by Sir George Campbell. Ninety plots of different conifers were planted to demonstrate their potential as commercial forestry crops. The Forestry Commission decided in 1957 that this experiment was so significant that they took over the maintenance of the Forest Garden. However, the economic climate forced them to return it to Sir Ilay Campbell in 1980. These blocks of conifers are now fifty years old and display the habit and form of many unusual conifers which are normally only seen as garden specimens. The canopy of the trees is dense and dark but the garden is lightened by the great range of texture and variation in colour.

The Woodland garden was created by Sir George Campbell from 1925-1967 around the woodland planted by Crawford Tait of Harieston c.1800. The first ornamental gardening was undertaken by Lady Campbell in 1912. She laid out the paths. The garden is created by a wide range of trees and shrubs which can tolerate the site conditions. These are predominantly Acers, Sorbus, Eucalyptus, Populus and Magnolias, intermingled with a large selection of conifers.

Species and hybrid Rhododendrons and Azaleas flourish in the humid ravine conditions, alongside many other choice shrubs, including Drimys, Disanthus, Cercidiphyllum, Pieris and Osmanthus. There are several areas in which specialist plants are concentrated: in particular, the rhododendron hybrids raised by the Rt Hon Lord Glenkinglas, former Secretary of State for Scotland, Primulas near the mill-lade, and a grove of Eucalyptus near the Old Drover's Road from Kilmichael. Many of the trees were measured in 1976 by Alan Mitchell and he listed over 80 species, including an Abies grandis over 32m high which was planted by Sir George in 1914, and a Picea omorika (Serbian Spruce), 19m high, planted in 1914.

The plants are arranged for colour and textural effect as they mingle with the natural rocks. Climbers cascade down the cliff banks of the burn. Vistas over the soft bells of the species Rhododendron open up to a shimmering grey-leaved maple. Glades of silver-leaved Eucalyptus compete with groves of Magnolias. The shapes and sizes of the flowering shrubs all blend to create a beautiful and a spectacular garden particularly in the early summer and autumn.

The Gardens

Many of the smaller and more delicate plants are grown in the borders around the Lodge and lawn. These borders are full of rare and unusual specimens. Many interesting climbers scramble up the walls of the Lodge and outbuildings.

Walled Garden

The Kitchen Garden is now used as lining-out ground for growing-on young plants for sale. The modern greenhouses of c1950 are used for propagating material for sale. A small border at the visitor entrance to the garden is filled with roses and the Himalayan Blue Poppy which is a beautiful sight when in flower. (Since the survey, the kitchen garden has been completely redesigned and the proposed shrub planting has a special emphasis on summer flowering and scented plants.)

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


01483 211465

Access contact details

The garden is open daily from 9.30 am. The visitor centre is only open between April and October, Thursdays to Mondays.


Infrequent buses pass the garden entrance (ring 01586 552319).


The National Trust for Scotland


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

A spectacular Himalayan-style woodland garden containing many rare and unusual plants, Crarae is also notable for its forestry planting, displaying the shape and growth habits of many interesting trees.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

No information available.

Site History

Crarae Gardens were laid out in the 20th century within a late 19th century designed landscape.

The estate of Cumlodden has been owned by the Campbell family since 1825 and the Lodge was rebuilt by the widow of Sir George Campbell, 4th Baronet in 1898. In 1912 Lady Campbell, the wife of the 5th Baronet, and aunt of the famous plant explorer, Reginald Farrer, began the garden. Her son Sir George, the 6th Baronet, was given the estate in 1925, and he lived there until his death in 1967 when it was inherited by his son Sir Ilay Campbell, the 7th Baronet, who today continues the family interest in the garden. Sir Ilay generously gave the gardens to the Charitable Trust in 1978.


Early 20th Century (1901-1932)

Features & Designations


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

Plant Environment

  • Exotic Garden
  • Plant Type


  • Burn
  • Description: Crarae Burn
  • Cascade
Key Information


Woodland Garden


Ornamental Garden

Plant Environment

Exotic Garden

Principal Building



Early 20th Century (1901-1932)





Open to the public





  • Historic Scotland