The Roman Camp is a good example of Arts and Crafts style gardens created on a riverside site at the turn of the 20th century, with open and wooded walks, a very attractive walled garden, and a small area of parkland.
Type of Site
Arts and Crafts style gardens created on a riverside site, with open and wooded walks and a small area of parkland.
Location and Setting
The Roman Camp Hotel is situated just off the eastern end of the Main Street at Callendar. There are views up and down the River Teith from the riverside walk and views across the river, otherwise the garden is largely inward looking.
Little is known of the earlier garden although there must have been one attached to the early house. The landscape boundary will always have been determined by the river to the south.
Roman Camp Hotel is a harled house of various dates. The main block is two storey and was remodelled c.1840. There is a single-storey bow-ended west wing c.1765. The circular towers with conical roofs were probably added c.1840. The walled garden consists of a rubble built north-wall which is 19th century or earlier. In the centre of the walled garden is an Italian marble well-head bought to the garden by Viscount Esher. A pillar sundial with ball finials is situated to the north in the formal garden, probably made up. Various staddle-stones around the drive sweep. An ornamental pillar with columns, much eroded, forms focal point in quartered rhododendron garden. There are stone crocodile finials bearing armorial panel on entrance gate-piers and various other statues. Small lean-to glasshouse formerly a summerhouse with frieze decorated with grapes and an inscription from Horace, Ille Terrarum mihi praeter omnes Angulus ridet. (To me the bonniest square miles in all the world, a coast of smiles.). A ha-ha with stone faced ditch separates the garden from the field to the south-east.
Drives and Approaches
The drive to Roman Camp is a sharp turn of the main street between houses into a straight drive with garden walls of the main street houses on either side, and through a curved stone archway, with the name of the hotel on a curved board attached to the arch. There is a mixed avenue of trees including horse chestnuts, lime, beech and sycamore.
Either side of the drive is a large paddock with copper beech and lime and a good mature spreading oak. The walled gardens of the Main Street run down to the paddock on the west side of the drive. Along the garden boundary wall, and in the paddock there is a mixed planting of lime, oak, birch and beech.
A second drive was added, either by the Eshers around the turn of the century, or when the Wilsons made it into a hotel in the late 1930s, for an in and out system. This is planted with Rhododendrons, copper beech and a hawthorn hedge.
A large esker runs south-eastwards from behind the walled garden along which there is a walk. The esker which forms a large bank is largely planted with mature oak.
The 1st Edition DO'S. 25in map indicates deciduous planting in the immediate vicinity of the house, with a path around the Roman Camp with pathways. By the 2nd Ed O.S. some of the woodland had been cleared to make a lawn near the house. The documentation for the layout of the formal garden is scant, although it would seem likely that it was laid out by the Eshers. The parterre had to be altered to accommodate the extension to the hotel, and the box hedging was replanted in the 1960s.
Apparently some of the advice for the garden was given by a friend called Charles Williamson who had an estate at Tomperran, Comrie. The Scottish Country Life, March 1914 notes that:
'The formal garden is Lady Esher's special care. It is composed of two long narrow triangles with their bases together, between which stands the pilaster sundial in a square of low yews. The scheme of planting is one which makes for effect all summer through. Purple, white and red phloxes mingle with the orange tints of Montbretia, and against the walls giant hollyhocks add colour to the shady corners.'
Running east west is a corridor of castellated yew which forms the boundary to the parterre garden. Running parallel with this is a stone path, with a narrow border and fence which looks out to one of the paddocks behind the main street houses. The path is overhung by a line of ornamental cherries. These pathways lead to a series of sinuous, and now partly overgrown pathways which lead to a riverside path, which turns around the Roman Camp. There are still surviving hollies, laurel, solomon's seal and Persicaria, indicating the wilder, informal ornamental planting style of these light woodland walks. The Roman Camp once had a summerhouse at its summit, but only the foundations survive. The Roman Camp itself and the walk around it is mostly planted with beech, Rhododendron ponticum, and including alder, ash and some oak. Next to the main formal garden is another smaller formal garden which centres on a pillar dial, which is surrounded with grass and a gravel path, with quartered beds in each corner. The plants here include Hostas and Euphorbia griffithianum.
There is a formal rose bed in the grass near the hotel front. Trees in this area include a mature larch and an old sweet chestnut. The sweet chestnut is said to have come from the island of Inchmahome on the Lake of Menteith. The sweet chestnuts at Inchmahome are reputed to have been bought as seeds from Rome by the monks of the 13th century priory (Inchmahome Priory, q.v.), although they are more likely to be 16th or 17th century. The larch and sweet chestnut are between the walled kitchen garden and the hotel. Beside a sitting area by the river, there are a few remnant waterside flowers, including Crocosmia, Persicaria and day lily (Hemerocallis), suggesting that this area was more heavily planted in the past.
The part walled kitchen garden lies to the south-east of the house. It is laid out in a traditional Scottish manner with mixed vegetables and flowers. The north and only wall, which is curved, shelters a broad mixed border. The area is divided up by axial paths which focus on an Italian marble wellhead. The paths are lined with conifers and fruit trees. At the ends of paths there are statues as focal points. This garden leads to the quartered Rhododendron garden described above. There is a small walled area attached to the kitchen garden which was apparently made as Viscount Esher's burial ground, but he died in London so was buried there. The area, which is used for growing herbs and a few vegetables, is surrounded with a stone wall, with a clair voyee which looks out to the large field beyond. Plants in the walled garden are well labelled for guests of the hotel, and much of the produce is used in the hotel kitchens. There are cold frames and a potting shed in the south-west corner.
- 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
A good example of Arts and Crafts style gardens created on a riverside site at the turn of the 20th century, with open and wooded walks, a very attractive walled garden, and a small area of parkland.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Turn of the 20th century.
The house at Roman Camp was formerly a hunting lodge of the Drummond family, and bears the motto 'Gang warily'. The tourelles were added in 1909 by the then owner Reginald Balliol Brett, the 2nd Viscount Esher, having bought the property in 1896 from the Earl of Ancaste. He employed the architect Gerald Dunnage, and used old materials from southern properties for the work.
Viscount Esher was a collector of antiques and an incurable romantic. He was very taken up with his connections with the Forbes clan, adopting their tartan. In a letter to one of his children he wrote 'All the Scottish lore, which generations past and to come breathe in with their childhood, seems to gather round and have its origins in the hills and lochs and burns of the home which is ours.'
Lady Esher was equally romantic and was inspired to write poetry about Roman Camp including the garden. The Eshers were responsible for the formal 'old fashioned'
garden to the north of the house, known as the 'Monk's Garden' and the large squares of rhododendrons to the south-east of the house alongside the river.
The house and garden were bought by Sir James and Lady Wilson of Airdrie in 1938. They developed the gardens and turned the house into a hotel. Previously the Wilsons had owned Invertrossachs House which overlooks Loch Vennacher.
Early 20th Century (1901-1932)
- Features & Designations
Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
Arts And Crafts
- Country House (featured building)
- Description: Roman Camp Hotel is a harled house of various dates. The main block is two storey and was remodelled c.1840. There is a single-storey bow-ended west wing c.1765. The circular towers with conical roofs were probably added c.1840.
- Key Information
Early 20th Century (1901-1932)