The modest garden and pinetum surrounding the mid 19th century house are set in a spectacular island landscape, making this an important and unique site. The House's location, set on high ground above the gardens, has views over to the South Channel and Castle Tioram. The garden falls steeply southwards to the shoreline and is divided by a small burn.
Type of Site
A 19th century house and garden, with a pinetum planted from 1855 onwards.
Location and Setting
The island of Eilean Shona, 600ha in extent, is situated at the mouth of Loch Moidart, near Moidart's western tip. It is reached by a short boat ride from the mainland (Dorlin Pier 4km (2.5 miles) north of Acharacle) across sheltered waters, which can be crossed in most conditions. Views of the sea and smaller off-shore islands are an important aspect of the landscape character.
Eilean Shona House is situated adjacent to the island's only pier, in the south-east corner of the island, with spectacular views across South Channel to the ruins of Castle Tioram. From the tops of the island's hills are long-distance views to Rum, Eigg and Skye in the west and to Ben Nevis in the east.
The gardens of Eilean Shona House are c 2ha (5 acres). The boundaries are as those of the mid 19th century. Adjacent to the garden is the pinetum of around 4ha (10 acres), with commercial coniferous plantations beyond covering the eastern sector of the island.
Eilean Shona House dates from the mid 19th century with extensions of c 1880 (architect unknown) and some internal remodelling by Robert Lorimer of 1891. The south-facing two-storey house is harl pointed rubble with tooled ashlar dressings, with an irregular four-bay front and an off-centre gabled entrance. There are various outbuildings and estate cottages, including the Old Schoolhouse, Sawmill Cottage, Bothy Cottage and Shepherd's Cottage. There is also a modest aviary and contemporary greenhouse, and a stone-lined reservoir.
Drives and Approaches
From the pier a single track runs north to Eilean Shona House, and then onwards to Barramore on the island's north shore. A network of narrow footpaths leads uphill from Eilean Shona House, through coniferous plantations, to Beann a' Bhàillidh the high point of the island, from where there are panoramic views back across the South Channel.
A coniferous plantation approximately 400m wide clothes the eastern side of the island, formerly enclosed by a deer fence. Eilean Shona House and most of the cottages are situated within its south-east corner. The woodland roughly covers the same extent as it did in the mid 19th century (1873, OS 6").
The House's location, set on high ground above the gardens, has views over to the South Channel and Castle Tioram. The garden falls steeply southwards to the shoreline and is divided by a small burn. To the east are lawns set with ornamental specimen trees, including maples, Tulip trees, copper beech, Podocarpus and Wellingtonia. The area west of the burn is primarily a paddock.
North of Eilean Shona House is a small, fenced vegetable garden beside the main track crossing the island.
The pinetum was planted from 1855 onwards. Thomas W. Dalgleish compiled an Eilean Shona 'Pinetum Book' in 1933, which records additions to the collection since then. Exotic specimens in the collection include Abies cephalonica var. apollinis, Picea bicolour, Podocarpus totara, Tsuga dumosa.
- 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 modest garden and pinetum surrounding the mid 19th century house are set in a spectacular island landscape, making this an important and unique site.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Mid 19th century; 1930s
Eilean Shona was until 1811 part of the Macdonald's of Clanranald lands which included Castle Tioram. Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale bought Eilean Shona in 1811, and subsequently bequeathed it to Archibald Macdonald of Rhu who then sold it to Captain Swinburne in 1853.
By the mid 19th century, there was a late 18th/early 19th century house in the south-east corner of the island. Swinburne enlarged it, and he may have first established the garden with its spectacular views to Castle Tioram and the South Channel of Loch Moidart.
Swinburne certainly established the pinetum, which he planted with many newly-introduced conifers. Spencer Thompson bought the property in 1878. He extended the house during the 1880s and commissioned Sir Robert Lorimer to remodel some of the interiors in 1891.
Although the site has had five owners since 1898, there has been little landscape change. The most significant was the extension to the pinetum in the 1930s by Lord Howard de Walden.
- Features & Designations
Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
- Key Information
Domestic / Residential
Open to the public
Ardnamurchan and Morvern