Importance of Site
A site included in the Inventory is assessed for its condition and integrity and for its level of importance. The criteria used are set out in Annex 5 of the Scottish Historic Environment Policy (December 2011). The principles are represented by the following value-based criteria and we have assigned a value for each on a scale ranging from outstanding value to no value. Criteria not applicable to a particular site have been omitted. All sites included in the Inventory are considered to be of national importance.
Work of Art
The way the plants were grouped by Sir James Horlick gives Achamore House outstanding value as a Work of Art.
The garden has been developed largely since 1944 and has little Historical value.
Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural
The quality and variety of the collection amassed and developed by Sir James Horlick gives this site outstanding Horticultural value.
The site provides the setting for a B listed building.
The site contributes some Scenic value to the landscape, seen mainly from the sea to the east where the overall landscape is dominated by the Paps of Jura beyond the Island of Gigha.
The establishment of woodlands on the island has increased the variety of habitats and gives the site some value for Nature Conservation.
- Not Assessed
Location and Setting
Achamore House lies on the eastern side of the Island of Gigha, some 4 miles (6.5km) off the west coast of the Mull of Kintyre. Gigha itself is 6 miles (9.5km) long and, at its widest point, some 1.5 miles (2.5km) in breadth. A central core of hills runs down the island, its highest point rising to some 328' (100m) at Creag Bhan.
On approaching the island by sea from the east, the Paps of Jura form a dominating backdrop to the view of the island. The trees of Achamore House are significant from the sea crossing as they form virtually the only woodland area on the island. The setting of the site is very important, more for climatic rather than scenic reasons, and the impact of both has been tempered by the planting of trees for shelter. From within the garden, views can be gained only from the highest point of the site out to the surrounding islands and sounds of Gigha and Jura and to the Atlantic Ocean. The island has an average rainfall of c.45" per annum and the North Atlantic Drift moderates the temperature to provide a mean summer temperature of 56 (o) F with a minimum temperature of 10 (o) F frost in winter. Ph levels are low, at below 4.5 on average.
Achamore House lies on the south-east side of the island in the lee of Gigha's central hill-range. The designed landscape extends west of the island's road to the lower slopes of these hills. The northern boundary is marked by the woodland which extends east to the roadside. The southern boundary is also woodland, on either side of the south drive now only open between the South Lodge and the junction with the farm access road. The south drive was formerly the main access to the house from the south pier before the new east jetty was constructed. Within the garden, the south drive is now grass and access to the house is by the north drive, both laid out originally at the end of the 19th century. Reference to the 1st edition OS map of c.1860 shows only two drives from the east from the island's only access road. The approximate lines of these drives, now grass, remain within the garden as Green Drive and Green Walk. The designed landscape extends over some 65 acres (26.3ha) today.
The woodland structure of the designed landscape dates from the late 19th century, although the gardens themselves were developed by Sir James Horlick from 1944.
Historically, Gigha and its neighbouring island, Cara, belonged to the Clan Macdonald, even before David II formally granted the lands to them in 1344. For many centuries, a power struggle raged between them and the MacNeill Clan who finally became the undisputed lairds in 1590 but sold the lands at the end of the 18th century. William Scarlett, 3rd Lord Abinger, purchased the estate at the end of the 19th century and built the present house. He sold it to Lt Colonel Sir James Horlick, OBE MC VMH, in 1944. Sir James had developed skills as a plantsman at his previous home at Titness Park, Berkshire, and bought Gigha in order to extend the plant collection which he had begun to amass there. Not only did he develop the garden, but as laird of the island he introduced a series of improvements which earned him the respect and affection of the island's population. On his death, in the 1970s, the estate was sold to Mr D.W.N. Landale with the exception of the plant collection which was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland to be propagated for the future.
Achamore House, listed B, was built in the early 1880s to the designs of John Honeyman. It is a two-storey building which was remodelled in 1900 following a fire, and since 1944 has been subdivided into flats. The Gate Lodge, listed B, stands at the south entrance and is dated 1895. The architect again is thought to be Honeyman. The gateway on the East Drive, listed B, has four square ashlar gatepiers with moulded caps and bosses connected by curved walls and two other piers of the same form. The gates and railings are cast iron with arrow-heads. The farmhouse and steading, listed B, lie to the south-west of the garden.
The main woodland areas lie to the north and south of the house and were largely planted by Captain William Scarlett following the completion of the house, to provide shelter and cover for game. Species include a core of sycamore, beech, ash, horse chestnut, elm, alder and some ornamental conifers which have grown despite adverse weather conditions, in particular, south- westerly gales and salt spray. Some older trees remain in the area between the Green Walk and the North Drive. Reference to the 1st edition OS map confirms that this area was a woodland before 1860, as was the now coniferous strip on the roadside edge to the north of the site. Sir James extended the woodland largely with Sitka spruce and Pinus radiata to the west of the house up and over the brow of the hill. The woodlands were used by Sir James Horlick to shelter the collection and thinning was, and still is, a practice used to allow more light into the plant collection.
New woodland shelterbelts are being established on the site, comprising mainly mixed deciduous trees with some Sitka spruce. A coniferous shelterbelt to the north of the nursery garden is now mature.
The garden was built by the Scarlett family in a clearing in the woodland to the north- west of the house. The walled garden is divided into two areas. In the north walled garden, a collection of specimen conifers is grown in grass including Abies kakawamii and A. nordmanniana. The greenhouses stand in this area and house tender plants and fruit. The south walled garden is totally cultivated with vegetables and cut flowers. An excellent view of the garden is gained from above on the Spring Bank. Climbers were established on the third of a mile of plantable interior wall surface of the garden, among them jasmines, honeysuckles and climbing roses; the effect is stunning.