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Culloden House


The site sits on the north-west facing slopes below Culloden Moor, within 2km of the coast. The principal vista within the designed landscape is still defined by the principal avenue from the south-west. Only the core of the designed landscape remains intact.

The following is from the Historic Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Scotland website:

Type of Site

17th century designed landscape, considerably modified in the late 18th century. Culloden Wood (part of the original policies) lies adjacent to Culloden Moor, and incorporates elements commemorating personages and events of the Battle of Culloden.

Location and Setting

Culloden House is situated 3km east of Inverness, between Smithton and Balloch, on the south shore of the Moray Firth. It is accessed via 'C' class roads from the A96(T) or B9006. An area of housing development is now situated to the west of the designed landscape.

The site sits on the north-west facing slopes below Culloden Moor, within 2km of the coast. Woodland belts and housing development restrict views from the site. A major vista, northwards from the house, is interrupted by traffic entering Smithton. To the south and east of Culloden House, coniferous plantations on higher ground form the upper horizon of all views. The principal vista within the designed landscape is still defined by the principal avenue from the south-west.

Only the core of the designed landscape remains intact. Available documentation indicates that the extent of the designed landscape increased during the 18th and 19th centuries (Roy, 1745-55; 1870, OS 6"; 1903, OS 25"). It has contracted during the 20th century, mainly due to urban development.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Culloden House, built in 1788, is an astylar, double pile, two-storeyed mansion house with mansard-roofed attic, linked to lower pavilions by quadrants. The architect is unknown. The walls of are of cherry-caulked red rubble with contrasting polished sandstone dressings. The basements and quoins are of rusticated yellow ashlar and the links of polished yellow ashlar. The Gate Piers in front of the house are also c 1788.

The Dovecote c 1788, is rubble-built, octagonal, slated roof with three dormer windows. Raised quoins and a string course implies that it was harled. Nearby are the Stables and Yard Wall, c 1788. The stables comprise a courtyard block with seven-bays, with slightly advanced and pedimented outer bays on the east and west fronts. The Loch Lann Kennels, now severed from the core area by the public road, are 18th century with 19th century additions and alterations. They are cottage ornée in style with Gothic windows.

The Gardener's Bothy, c 1788 is a simple two-storey brick house with polished ashlar dressings and rusticated quoins. The large rectangular Walled Garden (c 1788) is of brick with ashlar copes and square rusticated ashlar piers with caps and lead urns flank its entrance. The early 19th century Ice House comprises a single chamber built into a slope, with a square-headed entrance. The public road bisects the core area of the designed landscape thereby severing the Ice House and Loch Lann Kennels from the nucleus.

Drives and Approaches

The principal approach is from the Inverness direction (i.e. to the south-west), along the formal avenue axial with the house. Mature lime trees form the avenue, which was originally about 0.7km in length. It has been severed in three places by public roads (all 20th century) and is consequently no longer used for vehicular access, but as a footpath. It terminates at the main gate to Culloden House Hotel gardens. At the gate, the drive divides at right angles to lead eastwards and westwards, but roads now sever the drives in both directions. In front of the house is an extended-oval entrance lawn, which functions as a turning circle.


The outer parklands associated with the 19th century policies have been developed for housing or playing fields. The surviving parklands extend around the house, except on its west side. Immediately west of the south oval lawn is an area of parkland leading up to Culloden Home Farm, with copper beech and lime. East of the house, an area of parkland extended to Culloden Wood. The wood has now been divorced from Culloden House by a public road and late 20th century housing. The small parkland surviving directly east of the House has informal planting and groups of specimen trees including significant specimens of copper beech, Wellingtonia, Douglas fir, oaks and lime.

To the north is another area of parkland, now bounded by a road. It is managed as mown rough-grass and has a number of trees surviving from 18th and 19th century plantings. An adjoining area to the east is pasture.

Woodland Garden

The woodland garden lies west of Culloden House, either side of the Walled Garden and around the Mains Farm. This area is planted with ornamental trees and a network of informal paths.

Immediately west of the house is an area principally of specimen conifers and evergreens, including Wellingtonia, Douglas fir, Western hemlocks, silver firs and a prime specimen holly.

South of the Walled Garden are the remains of a formal garden associated with the Orangery (1870, OS 6") and around the walled garden itself are remains of formal walks, now overgrown, associated with lines of 18th century (?) trees. The planting includes mature specimens of lime, sweet chestnut, horse chestnut, elm, beech and oak of a considerable size. Some are planted in lines associated with old footpaths. The woodland contains yews, holly, laurels and a single specimen holm oak (Quercus ilex). Between the Home Farm and the south parkland is an area of recent woodland planting, comprising a few remaining older trees of beech, oak and sycamore with Rhododendron and regenerating sycamore and willow.

The remains of the formal garden now surround a hotel annex, built on the site of the 18th century Orangery. The Orangery sat within a semi-circular enclosure, enclosed by railings and by the kitchen garden on its north western boundary. The railings have not survived but the entrance into the garden, with central gate pillars and steps does. Many mature trees and shrubs from the original planting scheme survive, in the form of large Irish yew, variegated hollies, laurels and Rhododendrons.

Water Features

East of the oval entrance lawn is a rectangular canal, set with a central artificial island. The island was decorated with a statue, removed in the late 19th century.

Other water features include the channeled burns and drainage ditches which run along the western boundary and across the site from the old dam to the Home Farm.

Walled Garden

The Walled Garden lies north-west of the house. It is trapezoidal in plan and divided into two major compartments by a central path lined by apple and pear espaliers, trained along fences which retain their original iron posts and strainers. The garden walls are of rubble with stone copings. A glasshouse range, now demolished, stood within the south-east angle of the garden (1903, OS 25"). Currently, the gardens are disused.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

The following is from the Historic Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Scotland website:

Reason for Inclusion

Historically important due to its close association with the Battle of Culloden (1746), as well as personalities connected with major events and contemporary politics, this 17th century designed landscape has been modified in the 18th and 19th centuries. This very significant landscape is well managed and still mostly intact, despite the encroachment of 20th century suburban housing.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Late 17th-mid 18th century, late 18th century, 19th century.

Site History

Coulloddin Castle', a tower house belonging to the MacIntosh family, existed by the late 16th century (Pont, 1595). 'Grey' Duncan Forbes (1572-1654), Commissioner to Parliament and provost of Inverness, acquired it in 1626.

Duncan Forbes (1644-1704), Nairnshire Commissioner to Parliament, was politically active and involved in the expulsion of James VII. Following this, his estates at Culloden and Ferintosh were 'ravaged' by Jacobites resulting in damage to a cost of some £54,000 Scots. The Parliament met his claim for compensation.

By 1746 the house had been remodelled to form a 'plain four-storied edifice, with battlemented front and central bell-turret' (Groome, 1882), probably for Duncan Forbes (1685-1747), who succeeded his brother in 1734. Forbes studied law, became Sheriff of Midlothian and, in 1737, Lord President of the Court of Session, one of his supporters being John, 2nd Duke of Argyll. He was in residence at Culloden House until 1746, when the advance of the Jacobite army and the withdrawal of the Hanoverian garrison from Inverness forced him to withdraw to Skye. In February 1746 Prince Charles gave orders for the protection of the House, but the Battle of Culloden took place within the policies (16 April 1746) and within a short distance of the house. Tradition tells of eighteen Jacobite officers concealed within one of the vaults for three days, in the care of Forbes' steward, before they were discovered and led out to be shot in woods nearby by order of the Duke of Cumberland.

Forbes opposed the government's repressive measures after Culloden. He protested at the 'cruel reprisals' (Dictionary of National Biography, 1917) instigated by the Duke of Cumberland and against the imprisonment and trial of Scots prisoners in England, as, he argued, this demonstrated the government's lack of faith in the Scots Judiciary, Scots Justice and was in breach of the Treaty of Union. He collected money to support the Scottish prisoners and wrote an anonymous letter to Robert Walpole, protesting against the severity of their punishment. This, in the eyes of the state, made him a Jacobite. The Duke of Cumberland is said to have described him as 'that old woman who talked to me of humanity.' Even his own expenses, in raising troops for the defence of the Hanoverian government, went unrewarded.

Mid 18th century engravings show the mansion set within a square, walled court with a corner belvedere. A straight, formal approach drive led through a gateway into the court, on an axis with the central entrance into the house. Woodland extended behind the house. This corresponds with the layout depicted on Roy's Survey (1747-55) which, in addition, shows enclosed fields set out regularly around the house, and to either side of the approach drive (oriented south-west/north-east), which is set on an axis with house. The tree-lined enclosure fields were variously grassed parks, arable and plantations. Pennant referred to 'the great plantations of Culloden House' (Pennant, 1772), said to have been planted in the 1720s (Old Statistical Account, 1793).

Forbes' mansion house was demolished between 1772-83, when a new house was built for Arthur Forbes. It incorporated the vaults of the earlier house. The walled garden, doocot and stables are contemporary with this existing house. Statues decorating the quadrant walls on the north-east garden front of the house represent 'Zenonia', 'Odenetus', 'Cato', and 'Scipio'. This may allude to the Stoic ideas of reason and virtue, the Forbes' political role (equated with that of Odenetus who was entrusted with the protection of Rome's Eastern empire) and his criticisms of the government, the ideal of the balanced constitution and the ideal statesman. The naming of the 'Lord President's Seat', a rock outcrop in Culloden Wood may date to this time. Sometime in the late 18th/early 19th centuries a series of estate buildings were constructed and an orangery built within a formal garden, south of the Walled Garden.

An 1837 survey, (Brown, 1837) depicts the designed landscape by then essentially informalised, including a few surviving formal elements; viz., the south avenue and the oval entrance lawn, south of the house. This layout remained substantially without alteration throughout the 19th century (1870, OS 6").

Duncan Forbes (1851-97) succeeded in 1879, by which time the estate comprised 2,288ha (5,655 acres) (Groome, 1882). Culloden Battlefield lies immediately south-east of the Culloden House designed landscape. Forbes was responsible for documenting the landscape of the battle, initially by marking some of the graves and battlefield locations. These came to form the nucleus of 'The Culloden Memorials', later maintained by the Gaelic Society of Inverness and in 1944 part of a series of bequests to The National Trust for Scotland, which today comprise the Culloden Battle site.

The 'Great Cairn' (6.5m/20ft in height and 5.8m/18ft diameter at the base) was erected in 1881. A stone incorporated in the face of the cairn has an inscription 'Culloden, 1746 ' EP fecit 1858', carved by Edward Power, who planned to incorporate it into a cairn in the 1850s. Originally the crevices in the rock were filled with soil, planted with ferns, and ivy was planted around the cairn's base. A slab at the base is inscribed 'The Battle of Culloden was fought on this moor, 16th April 1746. The graves of the gallant Highlanders who fought for Scotland and Prince Charlie are marked by the names of their clans.' Other memorials erected by Duncan Forbes in the 1880s include one at a little spring called 'The Well of the Dead' since 1746, which marks the spot where Alexander MacGillivray of Dunmaglass, Commander of Clan Chattan was found; and headstones distinguishing the various clan graves: Mackintoshes, Camerons, Frasers, Stewarts lying to either side of the road. The Prince's Stone, a large boulder capping a rock outcrop, said to be where Prince Charles took his stand during the battle, was removed to Culloden House, where it was displayed until 1897.

On Duncan Forbes' death in 1897, the house and 31.5ha (78 acres) of parkland were sold, although the Home Farm was excluded. It was probably then that the garden statuary was sold. Many historic and interesting Jacobite relics were dispersed at the sale. The 'Brangas tree', an English elm to which was fixed an iron 'branks' (Gaelic form brangas) traditionally used to padlock a malefactor's neck, was enclosed within railings at the head of the avenue (1903, OS 25"). The tree has since been felled.

During the mid 20th century, the estate was further fragmented by construction of roads and housing within its former boundaries. The Home Farm has been restored and the house is now a hotel.

Features & Designations


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

Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential