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Inveraray Castle


The designed landscape at Inveraray Castle dates largely from the mid-19th century in its present form. It includes parkland with an 18th-century lime avenue, some contemporary broadleaved woodland and some 19th-century conifer plantings. The formal parterre gardens retain their mid-19th-century layout with paths in the shape of the St Andrew's Cross.

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

Inveraray is a designed estate landscape with castle focal point incorporating an 18th-century improvement landscape (parklands, garden buildings and vast woodland plantations) and planned town.

Location and Setting

Inveraray is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Argyll. The focal point of the designed landscape is Inveraray Castle, located at the mouth of the River Aray on the north-western shores of Loch Fyne. The planned town of Inveraray is the traditional county town of Argyll, located 600 metres northwest of the castle. Three fingers of naturally low-lying land extend outward from the castle into Glen Aray to the northwest, Glen Shira to the northeast and the large tract of land known as the Fisherlands (or alternatively the Argyll Fields) to the southwest. These low-lying areas form the parklands and pastures of the designed landscape. The boundary broadly follows the sloping contours of woodland plantation surrounding these three flatland areas including Ballantyre Wood, Brackley Wood, Dub-Loch Wood and the plantations at Sron-ghabh and Tom-breac. The Woodlands, covering more than 4000 acres, are a key component of the landscape intervention. Loch Fyne, one of Scotland's largest sea-lochs, borders the designed landscape to the southeast. The distant mountains and high moorland of Argyll provide a wider setting for both the castle and the planned town.

The 18th century planned town of Inveraray is located on a natural promontory on Loch Fyne known historically as the Gallows Foreland Point. To the northwest of the castle, Dun Na Cuaiche (the hill of the cup) and the watchtower on its summit, is a dominant part of the natural topography making a significant contribution to the setting of the castle and the overall experience of the designed landscape.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The Inveraray Castle designed landscape provides the setting for over 100 listed buildings, more than 30 of which are ancillary to the castle. The pervading character is Gothick and rustic forms infused with classical order and proportion. Various works by Roger Morris, William Adam and Robert Mylne accord with flourishing ideas of the 'sublime' in landscape and garden design between 1750 and 1800. Inveraray Castle was begun in 1746 to designs by Roger Morris. The building is an important and influential example, blending Gothick and castellated elements with classical order and proportion, to simultaneously reflect dualistic ideas of both ancestry and progress. William and John Adam were the superintendents of works. The architect Anthony Salvin added the conical towers and a third floor in 1877 following a major fire.

The planned town of Inveraray (largely 1750 to 1790) is Scotland's most ambitious and distinguished early model planned town. It acts as the principal counterpoint to the castle within the designed landscape. The structured order of the central axial plan configuration with the prominent point-of-view locations of key buildings on Front Street and Main Street with Inveraray Town Church (designed 1792 by Robert Mylne) at its centre embodies 18th century improvement ideals in architectural form. The order and linearity of the central plan is juxtaposed with the irregular height and massing of the buildings lining Front Street. Some of the earliest buildings in the town on Front Street include the former Town House and the Great Inn, both 1750 by John Adam. Robert Mylne's round-arched Screen Wall (1790) helps unify the town frontage as part of the wider setting of the castle. The layout of the planned town was influential, anticipating the towns founded by the British Fishery Society across Scotland after 1800 such as Oban and Ullapool.

Key architectural features in the wider environs of the designed landscape include the commanding Watchtower (1747-8 by Roger Morris), crafted to give the impression of a building of antiquity. It stands on the 248 metre high hill of Dun Na Cuaiche to the northeast of the castle and is the principal high ground viewpoint for the castle, town, parklands and plantations with the loch, moorland and mountains of Argyll forming the wider backdrop. The large cylindrical tower Dovecot (1747 by Roger Morris) at Carloonan at the northern end of the park is an important element of the built landscape drawing the eye into the furthest reaches of the parkland, terminating the vista of the Oak Walk avenue. It is visible from the Garden Bridge (1761 by John Adam) two kilometres away at the south end of the avenue. The handsome Aray Bridge (1774 by Robert Mylne) carries the road across the mouth of the river to the south of the castle. The circular void at the centre of this humpback bridge is aligned with the Carloonan Dovecot along the axis of the Oak Walk avenue to the north (vista now obscured by trees) and the bridge is also framed by the arched screen wall at the head of the Town Avenue to the southwest. There are fine views of both the castle and the town frontage from the summit of the bridge. The rusticated temple-like spring house known as the Bealach an Fhurrain Well (circa 1747 by William Adam or Roger Morris) is located on sloping ground behind the Upper Avenue on the axis of the lime avenue extending from the castle. It was a popular excursion for visitors to the castle in the 18th century, and it also supplied the town of Inveraray with water for a period. The most northerly bridge in the policies is the Carloonan Bridge (1757 by William Douglas) in Glen Aray and the most easterly is the Kilblaan Bridge (1761) in Glen Shira.

Cherrypark Court Of Offices (1760 by John Adam), now the Argyll Estate Office, is a symmetrical Neo-Palladian square with pyramidal corner blocks around a cobbled courtyard. A domed Ice House (1781 by Robert Mylne) stands a short distance to the north of Cherry Park. Further northwest, the Walled Garden (1752-55 by James Potter) incorporates a high, 450 metre long wall. The adjoining Gardener's Cottage was remodelled in the 19th century. The 19th century glasshouses have been restored and are used to grow flowers for the castle's formal garden. To the north of the walled garden, the surviving buildings of the Maltland Square complex continue to evoke the agricultural ambitions of the ducal estate during the 18th century. The Glen Aray parkland provides the setting for the surviving buildings at Maltland Square include the restored and converted 'Great Shade' Barn (1774), the former Coach House (circa 1760) and former Riding School (1780).

To the east at the mouth of the River Shira, are the Garron Bridge (1747-49 by Roger Morris and William Adam) and the Garron Lodge and Screen Wall (1775-6 by Robert Mylne). This important group of buildings served as a processional introduction to the designed landscape when arriving from the northeast with long views from the Garron Bridge towards the planned town two kilometres away across the bay. The lodge was built for a new private approach drive to the castle established circa 1775. Robert Mylne provided designs for the Dubh Loch Bridge (1785) and also Maam Steading (1790), an important half-circular Gothick agricultural range on the flatlands of Glen Shira. The circular 'Beehive' Cottage (1801 by Alexander Nasymth) is situated in woodland on the southwest slopes of Dun Na Cuaiche. The 'Fishing House' (1802 by Nasmyth) is a hexagonal summerhouse near the waterfall at Carloonan. North Comalt Lodge and South Comalt Lodge, sited toward the southern end of the Fisherland Meadow, are early 19th century and may also be by Alexander Nasmyth.

Drives and Approaches

The Lime Avenue (circa 1650) is the historic processional approach to the castle. Orientated on the southwest axis, it extends across the Wintertown Park. The new castle was begun in 1746 in front of the 15th century castle (demolished by 1775) using the same lime avenue axis. The Lime Avenue is no longer used as an approach but remains a fine feature of the present designed landscape. At its southwest end, the Lime Avenue adjoins the less formal Upper Avenue (probably established circa 1650-80) bordering the north side of the Fisherlands. At its far end, the Upper Avenue joins the Queen's Drive which meanders on higher ground through the Ballantyre woodland to the north.

The Town Avenue runs the full length of the Fisherlands tract parallel to the shore of Loch Fyne. This was originally the 'Great Beech Avenue' (circa 1650-80), part of a processional approach to the ancestral seat from the southwest. From 1750 the avenue served as a separating boundary between the Duke's parkland and the developing new town. It was felled in 1955 due to over-maturity and has subsequently been partly replanted.

The Oak Walk avenue is the primary co-axial route northwards across the policies. It extends over the garden bridge through the Duchess Louise Wood towards Carloonan and predates the 1747 dovecot terminus eye-catcher to the north. An extended avenue of oak trees crossing the northern parkland leading to the dovecot, shown on various early plans, was probably removed at some point between 1750 and 1800.

The shift away from the axial formality of the earlier avenues is recognisable in the lengthy Grand Approach (circa 1775). Beginning at the Garron Lodge two kilometres to the northeast of the castle, the approach passes behind the A83 following a meandering route around the lower slopes of Dun Na Cuaiche where glimpses down towards the castle and town were stage-managed by the arrangement of parkland specimen trees. The approach emerges from woodland alongside the River Array and passes over the Garden Bridge to further heighten the effect of progression before reaching the castle.

The principal approach to the castle in the present designed landscape is from the Wintertown Gate. It proceeds from the Castle Lodge (1795) at the north end of the town's Front Street, westwards across the Wintertown Park.


The parklands broadly occupy the areas of low-lying land at the foot of Glen Aray and neighbouring Glen Shira, and the tract of land to the southwest known as the Fisherlands. The man-made serpentine watercourse that runs south from Carloonan Mill, parallel to the River Aray, remains evident in the present landscape and is shown on Patterson's 1756 survey plan. By the mid-19th century the layout of the parklands had moved further towards a naturalistic, more informal arrangement. The 1870 Ordnance Survey map shows numerous specimen trees growing in the parkland and edging the rides. A number of 18th century examples are evident across the parkland, particularly around the banks of the River Aray, and are apparent on recent satellite mapping. A programme of replanting in key areas of the parklands is on-going. In the present landscape, much of the parklands and farmland are grazed with livestock. The Fisherlands meadow was drained in the 1740s and this large open area of parkland was planted with four roundels of trees by the 3rd Duke. In the present landscape, the large roundel near the centre of the tract continues to provide a punctuation point of visual interest for long views southwards across the parkland from the castle and particularly from the watchtower on Dun Na Cuaiche. The track running through the middle of the Fisherland Meadow and skirting the large roundel is first shown on George Langland's map of 1801. The remains of two further roundels are located further southwest on what is now the Inveraray golf course, behind the post-war housing scheme at Newton. A private housing development has more recently been built along this section axis of the Town Avenue (2005-10).


The first recorded woodlands were planted by the 8th Earl of Argyll circa 1650 although some of the larger trees measured in the late 18th century were likely to have been planted earlier. The Statistical Account of Scotland records that the 9th Earl planted the hillsides of Dun Na Cuaiche with oak, Scots pine, ash, beech and plane. The triangle of woodland to the north of the castle known as the Duchess Louise Wood is bordered on two sides by the River Aray and is likely to have been first planted in the late 17th or early 18th century. In the present landscape, mature hardwood mixed woodland, particularly on the lower lying slopes of Dun Na Cuaiche and around Strone Point, provide colour and texture, acting as a framing device for Inveraray Castle. In 1746 Duke Archibald planted Leachan Mor and several farms at Inveraray with woodland. Further woodland was planted in 1771 and between 1805 and 1808, predominantly oak, beech, lime, larch, fir, horse chestnut and sweet chestnut. More was planted by the 6th Duke and the lists of trees planted in this period are given in the Statistical Account of 1845. The Statistical Account notes that between 1832 and 1837, the 7th Duke planted over 400,000 trees including 170 000 oak, 10 000 plane and 5 000 laburnum. Between 1853 and 1883 more than two million oak, larch, Scotch fir and spruce were planted. In 1888 Ballantyre Wood was planted with exotic conifers including Douglas fir and giant fir. This was the first forestry plantation of these species in Scotland. Exotic conifers and other ornamental trees were planted around the skating pond and near the kiln house in Brackley Wood. Around 1950, much of the woods were replanted with conifers as a commercial crop. Today, the balance has shifted further with conversion to the spruce monoculture typical of commercial forestry. Several exotic examples remain and the spiky canopy protrudes above the younger conifers. The 4,305 acre (1,742ha) extent of the woodlands and plantations has remained largely unchanged since the mid-19th century.

The Gardens

The present formal garden features an arrangement of six parterres established between 1840 and 1870 on the southwest axis of the castle. There are two roundels, with paths and bedding forming the pattern of the St Andrew's Cross. It also contains a sundial with an octagonal pedestal and a range of fragments of marble statuary. In the less formal area to the south, exotic trees and various varieties of fruit trees, herbaceous plants and shrubs including rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and heathers were planted from 1900 onwards. Two wrought iron guns, retrieved from the Spanish Armada galleon sunk in Tobermory harbour in 1740, border the path extending to the south. In 1982 over 38 trees were measured within the garden grounds including old examples of cedar, yew and a larch dating from 1746. More recently the rose garden has been renovated and replanted with colourful shrub roses.

The A83 runs along the shore of the loch while the A819 cuts through the landscape along Glen Aray to the north of the castle. Strone Point, two kilometres east of the town, is also within the boundary of the designed landscape. Strone Point is recognised by Scottish Natural Heritage as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (see references) for its national geological interest due to its position close to the centre of the Dalradian Supergroup fold complex, one of the most interesting geological folds in the British Isles and responsible for the rugged topography surrounding Inveraray. The castle itself is built from local green chlorite schist.

Viewpoints include the introductory view of the town from the Garron Bridge at the mouth of Glen Shira and the view of the town and castle simultaneously from the Aray Bridge. Key views across the designed landscape are from the watchtower at the summit of Dun Na Cuaiche. Significant long range views include the hills of Strachur and Cruach-nan-Capull and the A815 road along the opposite side of Loch Fyne. The annual rainfall is high with an average of 2,300mm and the soils are slightly acid. The low-lying coastal areas are influenced by the Gulf Stream and associated maritime weather conditions.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

The castle, parkland and woodland are open to the public between April and October. Please see:



The Duke of Argyll


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

Inveraray Castle is one of the most grandly conceived and culturally significant designed landscapes in Scotland reflecting over 300 years of landscape intervention and evolution by the Earls and Dukes of Argyll. The parklands, woodland plantations and key buildings within the policies have been orchestrated around the castle on a vast scale taking full advantage of the rugged natural topography and inland sea setting. Guided by the hand of numerous important designers including William and Robert Adam, William Boutcher and Walter Patterson, Robert Mylne and Roger Morris, Inveraray is an archetypal example of the 'Sublime' in Scottish landscape. The planned town of Inveraray is an integral and indivisible component of the Inveraray designed landscape. Built largely between 1750 and 1800, it embodies improvement ideals of the Scottish Enlightenment and is among the country's earliest experiments in town planning.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

circa 1650-1680; 1743-1761; 1771-1790; 1848-1880

Site History

The present Inveraray Castle designed landscape and its associated buildings are largely the product of four main phases of landscape intervention from 1650 through to 1880.

Sir Duncan Campbell built the first castle in Inveraray in 1450. Easily accessible by sea, by 1650 it had become the principal family seat of Argyll (Chiefs of Clan Campbell). The Earls and Dukes of Argyll were powerful political and military figures in Scotland. They served ostensibly as heads of government and advisers to the crown with responsibility for national economic and political affairs before and after the 1707 Act of Union between Scotland and England. The 8th and 9th Earls of Argyll established large woodland plantations at Inveraray, planting long processional avenues of lime and beech trees between 1650 and 1680. These are the earliest recorded evidence of formal planting at Inveraray, indicating the importance of timber as a managed commodity at this early date. A formal garden of terraced parterres between the castle and the River Aray was well established by 1720. Around the same time, Sir John Vanbrugh provided the 2nd Duke with a sketch for a square-plan Gothic building as a potential replacement for the old castle. A large scale prospective plan (1721) of the Inveraray policies by William Boutcher, a survey plan (1731), and Daniel Patterson's estate survey (1756) depict an elaborate network of pathways and avenues across the gardens and parklands, with formal rides radiating through the recently established dense woodlands from the focal point of the castle. Significantly, the layout was directly informed by the rugged surrounding topography and the plantations integrated into the aesthetic programme, bringing the wider countryside into the scope of the garden. This less formal approach to landscape design, according with the natural scene, was established in England during the same period. Inveraray is a key early example in Scotland.

The 3rd Duke of Argyll, Archibald Campbell (distinguished political leader, soldier, lawyer, Whig Unionist and former ally of Prime Minister Robert Walpole) inherited Inveraray in 1743 at the age of 61. Earlier, Archibald had planted a wide variety of trees imported from America at his villa in Hounslow and around 1750 influenced John Adam with the planting scheme at Blair Adam in Perth and Kinross (q.v. Inventory). With his keen interest in architecture and the laying out of grounds and gardens, he implemented the 2nd Duke's plans to rebuild Inveraray Castle and improve the policies. This included the demolition of the village beside the castle and the removal of its tenants to a new planned town 600 metres south on the shore of the loch. Nurseryman, Walter Patterson was brought to Inveraray from Edinburgh to rework the gardens and plant a great number of exotics of different kinds throughout the parks. The section of the River Aray passing the castle was canalised in the Dutch manner and cascades were added at this time. The new castle was begun in 1746. It was an early and influential showpiece of 'Gothick' architecture 'improved by classical rules and proportions' to a design by Roger Morris who was the 9th Earl of Pembroke's architect in England. Between 1744 and 1750 Roger Morris and William Adam provided plans for a number of important buildings at Inveraray, carefully sited to accentuate the natural elements of the landscape. These include the Rustic watchtower on the summit of Dun Na Cuaiche, the large circular tower dovecot at Carloonan and the Garron Bridge at the mouth of the River Shira. The introduction of Gothick and rustic styles of architecture at Inveraray as a counterpart to the immense and rugged natural landscape reflect a growing appreciation of the 'Sublime' in Scottish landscape from the mid-1700s. Sir John Clerk, a key figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, was pursuing similar ideas at his estate at Penicuik, Midlothian (q.v. Inventory). It also prefigures the 'Picturesque' and 'Romantic' movements that began to formulate during the latter years of the century.

Work began on the building of the new town of Inveraray around 1750. As an experimental model of enlightened planning, the new town was to serve as an economic and commercial centre of the Western Coast and the Isles. Plans for it evolved steadily until the 3rd Duke's death in 1761. By this time much of Scotland was experiencing the benefits of an increasingly rich and stable political nation. The 5th Duke was even more a product of the new age and was responsible for accelerating the programme of building works at Inveraray, largely completing the planned town between 1771 and 1792. The last remnants of Inveraray's old town and the 15th century castle were taken down by 1775 by which time the formal parterres surrounding the castle had been swept away and replaced by extensive lawns, further reflecting the contemporary taste for the naturalistic in garden design.

Many buildings by the 5th Duke's architect, Robert Mylne, followed the Gothick precedent already set by the castle and other buildings by William Adam and Roger Morris. The town frontage with Mylne's round-arched screen walls was by this stage providing a principal focal point of an orchestrated setting for the newly completed castle. As part of the ambitious programme of agricultural and commercial enterprises for the 5th Duke, Mylne laid out model farms in Glen Aray and Glen Shira. The fame of the developing new town and its relationship to the ducal estate drew many notable visitors to Inveraray from a wide range of professional backgrounds. The Inveraray landscape was written about extensively during this period, much of which is comprehensively captured in monograph by Lindsay and Cosh. From 1750 onwards, many of the avenues and ridings through the policy woodlands were allowed to grow-out and re-naturalise in the picturesque fashion of the period. A number of lodges and Ossianic follies were added, circa 1800, by the celebrated Scottish naturalistic landscape painter and skilled amateur architect Alexander Naysmith. These served to accentuate the romanticised view of the natural landscape. In 1805 one visitor was compelled to write that 'this noble seat and its scenery, when beheld by the rude sons of Caledonia, in unequal comparison with their lowly huts and naked wilds, are regarded as a perfect Elysium and the residence of a divinity' (Lindsay and Cosh, p75).

Between 1806 and 1847 the 6th and 7th Dukes continued to plant significant numbers of trees although little further building work was carried out. Plans to develop the Fisherlands with a model suburb of 64 houses in 1810 did not come to fruition (Lindsay and Cosh). The taste for formal gardens had returned by the Victorian era and designs for a new garden were prepared by the architect W. A. Nesfield in 1848. Between 1848 and 1870 the 8th Duke laid out new formal gardens on the axis of the castle extending southwest towards the Lime Avenue which was by that time already 200 years old. The 1870 Ordnance Survey shows remnants of the 1721-1756 pathways and avenues through parklands still in evidence. In 1871, the son of the 8th Duke married Queen Victoria's daughter and several commemorative trees were planted by the Queen and her family on their various visits. During the Second World War, the park was used as a headquarters for Combined Operations Training and temporary buildings were erected across the parklands with much woodland felling as a result. Many of the brick bases for these structures remain in the undergrowth. When the 11th Duke inherited in 1949 he began a programme of conservation works at the castle and the planned town between 1958 and 1963 under the direction of Ian Gordon Lindsay. The circa 1850 formal garden layout was also restored during this period.

Associated People
Features & Designations


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


  • Castle (featured building)
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  • Dovecote
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  • Gazebo
  • Description: Hexagonal gazebo known as the Fishing House.
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  • Boat House
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  • Icehouse
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  • Avenue
  • Description: Lime avenue.
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  • Parterre
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential





Open to the public





  • Historic Scotland