Torosay Castle (also known as Duart House)3278

Craignure, Scotland

Brief Description

This is a very attractive designed landscape rich in history, architecture, gardens and plants, scenic and nature conservation qualities. The gardens have been built up over years on top of a beach on the east coast of the Isle of Mull. They comprise three terraces and a statue walk. There are also informal woodland and water gardens.

History

The designed landscape of Torosay dates largely from the mid-19th century when the present house was built. The farm square, slipway and boatman's cottage and some remaining trees date from the previous century. The formal gardens date from 1897 to 1906 and have been further developed since the mid-20th century.

Visitor Facilities

The gardens are open daily between April and October.

Detailed Description

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:

http://portal.historic-scotland.gov.uk/designations

Location and Setting

Torosay Castle is situated near the most eastern point of the island of Mull and is separated from the mainland by the Firth of Lorne. The village of Craignure lies approximately 2km to the north-west. The A849 which links the villages of Mull now forms the western boundary of the site. The eastern boundary is marked by the shoreline of Duart Bay. At the low water mark, the inner shores of the Bay are transformed into extensive areas of mud flats. Inland, the island rises along a chain of mountain peaks, the highest being Ben More which rises to 3,171' (967m).

Magnificent views are gained across Duart Bay to Duart Castle and beyond across the Firth of Lorne to Ben Cruachan and Ben Nevis some 36 miles away on the mainland. The southern and eastern shores of Duart Bay are significant from the garden. The setting is vital to the designed landscape. The ferry from Oban sails near this north eastern coastline and views of the estate are dominated by the woodlands, which are now largely coniferous, and Duart Castle in the foreground.

Torosay Castle stands on the western shores of Duart Bay, an inlet of the Firth of Lorne. The designed landscape extends south to the Eas Mor Burn and north to the lodge on the A849. West of this road lie extensive areas of woodland which were part of the estate before their sale in the early part of this century to the Forestry Commission. North of the policies, lies the Glebe, an area which was Church Land and is now a camp-site. The extension of a new drive from Torosay to Craignure pier through these lands was blocked in the 1870s and through access was only gained in 1982 when the miniature railway was laid along the line of the former drive. Reference to the 1st edition OS map of c.1875, a plan of the policies of 1897, and the 2nd edition OS of c.1910 shows that the extent of the designed landscape has not changed to any great effect although the woodland strips on either side of the north drive have been extended. Views to Duart Castle and across the Firth to the mainland mountains, in particular Ben Cruachan and Ben Nevis, have influenced the designed landscape which includes some 279 acres (113ha) today.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Torosay Castle, a Scots Baronial style mansion, listed category A, was built between 1856-58 to the designs of David Bryce. The Terraced Gardens and their ornamental revetments, pavilions and statuary are attributed to Robert Lorimer in c.1900. One of the pavilions is now used to house an exhibition on the geology of Mull.

The walled garden dates from the 18th century. The Statue Walk, listed A, is composed of 19 statues in the style of the Italian sculptor Antonio Bonazza (1698- 1765). They were acquired by Walter Murray Guthrie from a derelict garden near Milan. The collection is said to be the finest example of 18th century statuary outside Italy. Various other pieces of ornamentation, including stone lions and many urns, are sited throughout the garden. The laundry lies to the south-east of the Castle. The Farm Square with square, Italianate tower, lies to the north-west of the Castle.

Parkland

The parkland lies to the north of the Castle where it is enclosed by woodland, to the shores of Duart Bay in the east, and between the Gardens and the B849 in the west. Access to the Castle is by the west drive along the edge of the west park. A drive extending between the north park and the farm square through the woodland to the B849 is now overgrown. A modern cottage has been built at the southern end of the drive where it meets the west drive. The north drive, now a grass path, ran through the park to the woodlands east of Druim Mor. Reference to available maps indicates few trees in the park except some oak, probably planted c.1900. An older group of trees stands east of the Castle, at the edge of the former North Drive. It includes some beech, planted in the mid-18th century, some ash, copper beech and horse chestnut planted c.1820 and some sycamore, planted c.1900. The parks are grazed.

Woodland

The policy woodlands extend to the north of the Castle, on either side of what was the North Drive and east flanking the route to the pier. Comparison of the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps shows that the north woods expanded in the late 19th century and incorporated clumps of trees in Druim Mor. The miniature railway runs to Craignure Pier along the line of the drive begun by Colonel Campbell during his residency. The woodland here is composed of sycamore of c.100 years old, and ash of c.50 years old, and some conifer plantations. It has been allowed to naturally regenerate with alder and rhododendron. The wood to the east is of similar composition. There is a forest walk to Craignure on the line of the old north drive. Since 1911, the woodlands have been neglected and a management policy is to be adopted by the owners.

Woodland Garden

The woodland garden lies to the west and south of the walled garden. To the west, the mill-lade was dammed to form a pond by Walter Murray Guthrie. The banks which surround it were planted with Rhododendrons and Azaleas which provide a fine display of colour in season, under a canopy of specimen trees. The mill-lade flows into the Easmore Burn and along its southern bank, a Eucalyptus Walk has recently been established by Lt Colonel Miller. It includes several hardy and some tender Eucalyptus species, all of which are labelled.

The Gardens

The formal gardens provide a link between the Castle and the walled garden. They were designed by Robert Lorimer for Walter Murray Guthrie between 1897 and 1906. A description of the gardens and walled garden, which was the kitchen garden prior to the re-design, is provided in the sales catalogue of 1897. A semi-circular lawn now lies on the west side of the Castle, its central feature being a white marble statue brought by Walter Murray Guthrie from his house in London. Steps lead down from this lawn to the Statue Walk which extends from the central axis of the walled garden. The north wall of the garden collapsed in the early 1950s but was restored by Lt Colonel Miller over the following 20 years. The present colonnade was built from marble pillars purchased by Walter Murray Guthrie. It stands on the site of the former glasshouses. The gargoyles in the wall came from Arundel. The interior of the walled garden is now grass with yew hedging along the central axis and specimen miniature conifers on either side. The yew hedges were cut back in 1976 and subsequently suffered in later dry summers. Until recently, herbaceous borders lined the interior of this yew walk.

Between the walled garden and the Castle are three terraces. The lowest, the Lion Terrace, is so-called because of the marble lions which overlook it. The rockery lies on the north-west corner of the Lion Terrace and was the only part of the garden which was maintained during the War by Olive Guthrie until her death in 1945. It has been restored since 1979 by the Hon Mrs Jaquetta James. It is separated from the Fountain Terrace by a retaining wall with flanking summerhouses reminiscent of those designed by Rowand Anderson at Pollok, Glasgow, some years previously. Mimosa, jasmine and other climbing shrubs line the wall. Steps beside the summerhouses lead to the Fountain Terrace, so called due to its central feature, and to the terrace level with the south-east entrance to the Castle.

The Japanese Garden was laid out in the early 1980s by Lt Colonel Miller. It lies east of the gardener's cottage and the Rock Garden. A view from the garden has been opened to Loch Linnhe and Ben Nevis beyond.

Features
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: Three terraces with buttresses and balustrades between the house and the walled garden.
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  • Walk
  • Description: A statue walk with 19 statues in the style of Antonio Bonazza (1698-1765).
  • Pavilion
  • Description: Two pavilions or summerhouses at either end of one of the terraces.
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  • House (featured building)
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Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The gardens are open daily between April and October.

Directions

Torosay can be reached by public transport and also on foot (a one mile forest walk) from Craignure.
History

Detailed History

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:

http://portal.historic-scotland.gov.uk/designations

Reason for Inclusion

A very attractive designed landscape rich in history, architecture, gardens and plants, scenic and nature conservation qualities. The gardens have been built up over years on top of a beach on the east coast of the Isle of Mull.

Site History

The designed landscape of Torosay dates largely from the period between 1830-65 when the present Castle was built. The farm square, slipway and boatman's cottage and some remaining trees date from the previous century. The gardens date from 1897-1906 and have been further developed since c.1950. Documentary evidence is provided by an estate map of 1829, the 1st edition OS map of c.1875, a plan of the policies for the sale catalogue of 1897, and the 2nd edition OS of c.1910.

The earliest records of the estate indicate that the parish of Torosay was part of the livelihood of the Abbots of Iona. Torosay, or 'Torr rasach', means 'Hill covered in shrubs'. It became the territory of the Macleans of Duart but the lands were forfeited to the Dukes of Argyll in 1688 and Duart Castle followed during the '45. A house, kitchen garden and farm square were built on the present site in the latter years of the 18th century before being sold c.1820 to the Macquaries of Ulva who sold in 1822 to Colonel Campbell of Possil, Glasgow.

In the mid-19th century the Georgian House was demolished and a new Castle in the Scots Baronial style was built. The estate then called Achnacroish was purchased in 1865 by Arbuthnot Charles Guthrie, younger son of David Charles Guthrie of Craigie and co-founder of Chalmers Guthrie, the London Merchant Bank. He and his wife, Anne, spent some months here every year for the next 32 years and, during that time, changed the name to Duart House. On the death of her husband in 1897, Anne moved to London, taking the furniture and contents of the Castle interior with her. Thus, Walter Murray Guthrie, her nephew and partner of Chalmers Guthrie, inherited an empty Castle. He immediately put it up for sale but withdrew it after a visit to the island with his wife, Olive. They realised the potential of the site and commissioned Robert Lorimer to lay out the gardens to form a link between the Victorian Castle and the Georgian walled garden. Over the next ten years, there were many important visitors to the Castle including Sir Winston Churchill, who stayed here often and indeed shot his first stag on the estate.

In 1906, the health and business interests of Walter Murray Guthrie began to falter. In 1911 he sold the ruins of Duart Castle and the Point to Sir Fitzroy Maclean, 10th Baronet, who began its restoration. One week after the sale, he died. Olive Guthrie then changed the name of the Castle back to Torosay and fought to keep up the estate but limited financial resources and the onset of two World Wars took their toll. Some 8,000 acres of land were sold to the Forestry Commission and the gardens became run down. Before World War II, she transferred the estate to her daughter, Bridget, and, on her death in 1945, left the Castle and eleven acres of gardens to her grandson, David Guthrie James, the son of Bridget by her first marriage to Sir Archibald James, KBE MC MP.

After World War II the Castle was run as a hotel for two years before David Guthrie James and his wife, the Hon Jaquetta James, daughter of the 10th Baron Digby, DSO MC, assumed residency of the Castle during breaks from his political career in London. Meanwhile Mr Guthrie-James' mother and his stepfather, Lt Colonel A.G. Miller DSO, converted the kitchen wing of the Castle for their use and assumed full- time residency enabling them to restore the gardens which had, by then, been neglected for some 35 years. The estate was transferred to a Trust for the four sons of Mr David Guthrie-James in 1964. Mr David Guthrie- James and his wife assumed permanent residency at Torosay in 1983 and devoted themselves to the development of the Castle and gardens. Torosay is said to be the only castle in the West of Scotland maintained as a private residence but open daily to the public (May- October).

Period

  • Victorian (1837-1901)
Associated People
Contact
References

References

Contributors

  • Historic Scotland