Islay House is a late-18th-century picturesque landscape extended and elaborated in the 19th century, which lay at the centre of major agricultural and landscape development on Islay.
Daniel Campbell inherited the estates in 1753 at the age of sixteen. Before taking possession of his estates in 1758, Daniel Campbell the Younger undertook the 'Grand Tour', travelling for some five years. In 1768, during the period of Scottish renaissance and enlightenment, he removed Kilarrow village from the immediate vicinity of Islay House and rebuilt it to found the new model village of Bowmore.
Detailed DescriptionThe 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
A late 18th century picturesque landscape extended and elaborated in the 19th century, which lay at the centre of major agricultural and landscape development on Islay.
Location and Setting
Islay House is located at a central location on the Island of Islay at Bridgend, at the junction of the A846 and A847. The designed landscape of Islay House is located on a low-lying plain facing south-west across Loch Indaal with the A847 and saltings separating the house and its grounds from the sea.
The designed landscape had reached its greatest extent by 1840 (OS second edition map), covering 34ha. This area still retains its essential characteristics although it is now in divided ownership and management differs across the area.
Islay House and the core of the ornamental landscape (the area between the Home Farm and the A847 including the Kitchen Garden) are owned by Captain Thomas Friedrich while the wider designed/estate landscape is part of the Islay Estate, owned by the Morrison family who purchased it in 1853.
The core of Islay House dates from c1677, with a gable fronted wing and two polygonal stair towers which were added c1760. Early 19th century ancillary buildings to the south east and the rear were replaced and extended 1841-5 by William Playfair in Baronial style. Other work by Playfair included the Dry Bridge over Bridgend-Ballygrant Road in 1842 (now demolished with the stone stored separately) and the East Lodge and Gate Way in 1845. The gate piers are square with low walls and spear railings. The Entrance to Strand Lodge Plantation consists of a gate with four round piers, flanked by two square piers.
East Tower, an octagonal folly, 11.5m high, with a corbelled and crenellated parapet and decorative banded courses, possibly late 18th century (monogram D C ), is situated on Cnoc na Croiche, a knoll by East Lodge. The grassy knoll served as an artillery battery overlooking Loch Indaal and there are still canons found lying in the grass around the tower. The summit of the knoll gives way to a tiered landscape below and the remains of a surrounding moat. West Tower, is a small 18th century square rubble crenellated Gothic folly, 5.2 metres high situated to the west of the house.
The Walled Garden cut into the contours of the land contains ruins of an extensive glass house range and potting sheds. There is also the medieval burial ground and church site of Kilarrow positioned to the south-east of the house. Within the gardens some ironwork remains of two circular ruined aviaries with an adjacent moat/ornamental pond around Croc na Croich. The Gardener's House and Gate piers, is an early 19th century traditional one storey lodge with two square lime-washed gate piers.
The Home Farm, situated on high ground 90m east of the house, dates from the later 18th century with 19th century additions. The central range is a plain harled 2-storey building with an advanced and pedimented frontispiece capped by a stone-built clock-turret, which originally supported a belfry and finial (Heath, 1830). Part of the range has been modernised to serve as a garage and store. The farmstead comprises various ranges of domestic and agricultural buildings grouped around a courtyard. The Bluehouses are early 19th century harled estate cottages.
Drives and Approaches
There are three primary approaches to the house, one from the south, for arrival at Port Ellen, one from the east for arrival at Port Askaig and one from the west via West Tower Plantation.
From South Lodge on the A846 the drive passes through South Lodge Plantation over the River Sorn, over the A847 to approach the house through Islay House Plantation.
The more spectacular approach was from the East Lodge on the A846, the drive follows a 4km route through plantations along the valley of the River Sorn, crossing the Dry Bridge (now demolished) before the final approach to the house. From the west an approach extended from West Tower Plantation to the house.
The estate woodland forms a major feature of the Islay House Estate. The majority of the plantations are deciduous with no commercial conifer plantations forming or affecting the core of the designed landscape. South-east and north-west of the house are significant 19th century plantations with good specimen mature beech, ash, sycamore, elm and horse chestnut.
To the south-west of the house a large lawn is sheltered by plantations on its north, northwest and south sides. On the northwest sides there are specimen and understorey shrub plantings of rhododendron and azalea, and a specimen Embothrium coccineum planted to commemorate the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977. There are woodland walks running roughly parallel to the drive, with bluebells massed under the trees. These walks are currently somewhat overgrown.
To the southeast there is a ha-ha, of rubble wall construction which is now in a state of disrepair. This would have been intended to define the lawn and give panoramic views over Lochindaal Bay to Bowmore, but today the woodland growth obscures the sides of this view and Rhododendron ponticum has overgrown the area at the end of the lawn.
The 5-acre Walled Garden is cut into sloping ground and terraced with glasshouses and potting sheds on one level, and the kitchen gardens, including orchard and ornamental areas, extending below. The garden was originally approached from the upper slopes. The glasshouses are now abandoned and in a derelict state but license has been given by the current owner to Islay Healthy Living (a consortium part funded by the NHS) and they are being brought back into production again. There is a specimen Cordyline australis near the west side of the glasshouses, and old overgrown box hedging plants in front of the glasshouses. There are a few remnants of ornamental shrubs such as fuchsia on the upper terrace but these are in a poor state. The old orchard fruit trees to the southeast side of the Walled Garden are in an overgrown state but could easily be brought back into production.
South of the kitchen garden is the graveyard, also overgrown. On the western perimeter of the kitchen garden is a small fenced enclosure with collection of Japanese and Chinese trees and shrubs including Acer japonicum, Hydrangea villosa, Aralias, Japanese maples, a large-leaved birch and a Eucryphia. There is also a very rare tree which has been given UK champion status, a Hardy Rubber Tree (Eucommia ulmoides).
- Country House (featured building)
- Description: The core of Islay House dates from c1677, with a gable fronted wing and two polygonal stair towers which were added c1760.
- Earliest Date:
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
A late 18th century picturesque landscape extended and elaborated in the 19th century, which lay at the centre of major agricultural and landscape development on Islay. In any context this is a large and ambitious eighteenth and nineteenth century landscape with many elements of great interest, however on Islay it is of outstanding importance.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Late 17th/ early 18th century and mid 19th century.
Islay had long been an economic, political and fiscal centre for the Hebridean islands, and until the 15th century was the centre of the Macdonalds, Lords of the Isles. A charter of 1615 gave the Campbells of Cawdor possession of Islay, including a free burgh of Barony. In 1677 Sir Hugh Campbell built a tower house, Kilarrow House, at Lag Buidhe a 'beautiful stretch of velvety sward at the head of Lochindaal'. This tower house, built of local materials but with imported skilled labour, became the core of the current Islay House. The village of Kilarrow, situated on low lying ground to the south-east of the house, became the administrative and commercial centre of Islay. In 1693 Parliament granted the right to hold two free fairs at Kilarrow, of two days each annually and a general weekly market every Thursday.
The Campbells, along with many other 17th century Scottish landowners, found themselves over-burdened financially with expenses like Civil War campaigns, Crown and feu duties, and administrative and living costs for multiple residences. In 1726, the Campbells of Cawdor sold most of Islay and Jura to Daniel Campbell, the second son of Walter Campbell of the Skipness Campbells, who bought Islay with the compensation that he received after the destruction of his Shawfield estate in Glasgow during the malt tax riots. In 1737 he extended Kilarrow House, principally to house his extended family. Interested in the economic development of the island and realising the need to diversify its economic base, he encouraged the growth of the flax industry, investing considerable sums in its promotion, and attempted to diversify land management practice by offering tenants longer leases.
The origins of the ornamental designed landscape appear to date from the activities of his two grandsons. As all of Campbell's three sons predeceased him, his grandson Daniel Campbell inherited the estates in 1753 at the age of sixteen. Before taking possession of his estates in 1758, Daniel Campbell the Younger undertook the 'Grand Tour', travelling for some five years. In 1760, influenced by contemporary architectural fashion, he added the two opposite stair towers lit by Palladian 3-light windows to his house, which by then was known as Islay House. Following his grandfather's interests in diversifying the island's economy he stimulated the agricultural and fishing industries.
In 1768, during the period of Scottish renaissance and enlightenment, he removed Kilarrow village from the immediate vicinity of Islay House and rebuilt it to found the new model village of Bowmore, which was axially focused on a circular church. This enable him to continue expanding the policy planting, as well as opening up a new vista across the edge of the bay to Bowmore. He may be responsible for the construction of the East Tower, the Gothic folly picturesquely situated on Cnoc na Croiche, a grassy platform near East Lodge that served as an artillery battery during the Napoleonic Wars. It has a carved lintel with the monogram D C (Daniel Campbell) and G R (Georgius Rex). This may be a reused stone from Islay House where the main entrance was removed from the stair towers to make a new main entrance in the early 19th century. Otherwise, if original to the Tower it would date it to the 1770s.
Unlike several other highland estates, where clearances of local populations were being carried out in the name of agricultural improvement, Daniel Campbell seemed to be equally concerned with the social and agricultural improvement of the island and by 1793 Bowmore had 110 new houses. Daniel's legacy of improvement was inherited by his brother Walter Campbell along with his debts of £90 000. Having a total of 13 children from his two marriages, money was an urgent necessity and was raised through the sale of the Shawfield and Jura estates. Walter made no additions to Islay House but developed Home Farm, also known as 'Islay House Square', a range of quarters 100 metres east of the main house, to house servants and workshops, both necessary to service Islay House and manage the estate. The last houses in Kilarrow were pulled down before the end of the century and a menagerie, possibly to amuse the children, was built within some of the ruins. Traces of two of the circular cages can still be seen left of the track leading to Kilarrow cemetery.
Walter Frederick Campbell succeeded to the lairdship from his grandfather Walter Campbell in 1816 and, continuing the long family tradition of agricultural improvements on the island, undertook a major reorganisation of the farms. New villages were founded to house some of the displaced population and regular allotments laid out to support displaced tenants and house plots in the new villages.
Estate plans of 1825 show that the present day structure of the landscape was well-established by the 1820s. Woodlands had been planted: The West Tower Plantation, apart from its westernmost compartments; Rookery Plantation; West Eallabus Wood; the Islay House policies; the Claggan Strip; Gortanaloist Plantation; the Towmore Plantation and parts of Strath Plantation. The Kitchen Garden lay to either side of the main drive to Islay House from Bridgend, with an orchard where the present walled garden stands. To the southeast of the Home Farm was an extensive Flower Garden. A series of sketches by Heath, c1830 in a 'large volume of romanticised views' give the impression of the well-wooded landscape.
In the 1840s William Playfair was commissioned to re-design and extend Home Farm offices, estate lodges and cottages in a Baronial style. His work also included ornamental gate-ways and a dry-bridge over the public road. He may have advised on the laying out of the extension to the East Drive which was punctuated by a series of incidents, woodlands, open spaces, river crossings, two bridges and views of buildings and cascades. By 1850 the landscape was described as:
'Islay House or, as it is called by the natives, the White House. This mansion is surrounded, especially in front, by a very extensive and level lawn, with the ground gently rising, and well-wooded behind. The house is on a large and princely scale, the pleasure grounds and gardens extensive and embellished.' (Anderson, 1850).
In the 1840s a crisis resulting from the general agricultural depression and potato blight, led to a call for Government intervention to aid the islanders. Walter Frederick was declared bankrupt in 1847, the island was seized and his affairs were handed over to an Edinburgh-based trust. The sales particulars of the Barony of Islay in 1852 described the mansion house and designed landscape as being:
'In the best style of architecture and finishing ...surrounded with far spreading plantations; and the gardens, pleasure grounds, private drives and walks around all connected with it, are very extensive and varied, and laid out with great taste and judgement for convenience and recreation. Considerable streams, uniting in the grounds in their course to the sea, add much to their ornament and beauty'.
In 1853 the island was sold to James Morrison of Basildon Park, Berkshire, MP of Inverness (1840-7) for nearly half a million pounds. He subsequently sold the southern portions of the estate and, in failing health, handed over the running of the Islay estate to his son Charles. The Morrisons seemed to have little intention of living on Islay, but nevertheless further plantations, Victorian farmbuildings, cottages and lodges were built. The next generation of Morrisons visited the island more frequently. On Charles Morrison's death in 1909, the island passed to Hugh Morrison, his nephew. He added a two storey mock Georgian wing, designed by Detmar Blow, set back from the main front of Islay House in 1910. In 1921 some parts of the estate were sold and Islay House itself was sold in 1985.
The house and its immediate policies (the core of the designed landscape) remain in separate ownership from the remainder of the Islay estate policies.
- 18th Century
- Late 18th Century
- Associated People