Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Argyll And Bute
Kilbrandon And Kilchattan
NM 74771 17393
174771, 717393

A very attractive garden on the island of Seil, created in the 1930s and incorporating a wide variety of interesting plants.

Type of Site

A plantsman's and seaside garden incorporating formal gardens, woodland garden and walks and woodland shelterbelt.

Main Phases of Landscape Development


Artistic Interest

Level of interest

An Cala has outstanding value as a Work of Art on account of the layout and planting designs within the terraces and other areas.


Level of interest

An Cala has been recently created, between 1930-40; there is little Historical significance, but the accurate photographic and planting records give it a little value in this category.


Level of interest

The garden contains a wide and interesting plant collection and has high Horticultural value.


Level of interest

There are no listed buildings at An Cala.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The garden is hidden from view from the surrounding area.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

A butterfly garden has been created and is kept free from disturbance. This and the woodland flora give An Cala a little Nature Conservation value.

Location and Setting

An Cala lies on the B844 at the east end of Easdale Village on the Island of Seil about 16 miles (25.5km) south-west of Oban. The gardens nestle into the base of the rocky outcrop of An Crianan which forms the back bone of Seil Island. The shallow soils overlying the granite rock have been augmented by quantities of topsoil (over 2,800 tons) and many years of mulching, especially with seaweed. Although the site is warmed by the Gulf Stream, the strong Atlantic winds batter it, particularly from the north-west and south-west. From the upper part of the garden, there are extensive views across the Firth of Lorne to the Islands of Islay, Jura, Scarba, and the Garvellachs known as 'the Isles of the Sea'. It is one of the most beautiful seascapes in Scotland. The conifers planted along the escarpment for shelter are some of the few trees along the coastline of the island and, as such, do have considerable visual effect but the remainder of the garden is well protected and hidden from the outside.

The gardens are approximately 5 acres (2ha) in size and are surrounded by either hedges, walls or woodland. The extensive views across the water to the south and west provide a beautiful setting for the designed landscape.

Site History

An Cala was created by the Hon Lt Colonel Arthur Murray, later Lord Elibank, and his wife Faith Celli, the actress. They inherited from an aunt, Mrs Murray, one of a row of three cottages in 1930 when there was nothing on the site except six sycamores and one willow. During the following ten years, the remaining two cottages were purchased and converted into the present house. Mrs Murray died in 1942 and Colonel Murray, concerned about the future survival of the garden, sold it in 1950 to his great friends, Captain and Mrs H.E.H. Blakeney. Mrs Blakeney has recently died and her family are now looking after An Cala.

An Cala is a small 'plantsman's garden' created in the 1930s. It has been continuously gardened by the two owners and their families and most of the plants and colour schemes were designed by Mrs Murray. The steeply rising ground was cleverly used to create a series of terraces at different levels. In 1943 Lt Colonel Murray drew up three plans of the garden recording the layout and planting positions of the main areas. One of these is now kept in the Gardener's potting shed. The gardens can be divided into three components: formal gardens around the house, woodland garden along the base of the escarpment, and the woodland shelterbelt running along the northern boundary, but as all the components blend together in such a small area, they have been described as one.

Landscape Components

The Gardens

The woodland shelter-belt is made up of mixed conifers underplanted with holly and Escallonia macrantha planted c.1930. They have been gradually thinned and recently viewpoints have been cut through the undergrowth along the woodland walk to allow views across the sea. Just below the woodland, the small burn cascades down a wide rockface to the gardens some seven metres below. Most of the burn is culverted underground to the shore while a smaller stream is diverted to meander over rocky falls, into ponds and under bridges through the garden. Primulas, iris and other waterside flowers decorate the banks of the channels. Shrubberies of rhododendrons, both species and cultivar, azaleas and other exotic species run along the escarpment east from the waterfall. Below is the rose garden of three terraces surrounded by hedges and planted with hybrid tea and floribundas. On the right of the driveway, the lawn stretches up to the stone wall; during the early summer, it is full of late spring bulbs etc. such as Camasia, and varieties of orchids. Here a variety of cherries are planted to commemorate the succession of George VI in 1937. Below the house are two more terraces, the low walls are planted with mixed herbaceous, alpines and sub- shrubs. The steps lead down to an extensive rockery near the pool. Sheltered by the 15' high grey wall built in 1934 and covered with Russian vine and Clematis montana rubens. The wall provides shelter for several tender exotics such as Magnolia grandiflora, Crinodendron hookerianum and Drimys winteri. The west gate bears the Murray's initials of P and F. A summerhouse is situated in the rose garden and a small statue is placed by the lower pool. A small area has been set aside as a butterfly garden.

Throughout the garden, many interesting and unusual plants were carefully placed to create an artistic effect. A good description of the garden and its plants was published in the Gardeners' Chronicle 1963, September 7th, pp 172- 176.




Printed Sources

SM 1977 p.124

GC 1963 154

Great Gardens of Argyll Brochure

G.A. Little, 1981


About the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

The inventory is a list of Scotland's most important gardens and designed landscapes. We maintain the inventory under the terms of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

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Printed: 08/08/2022 04:28