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 gardens at Ardchattan, laid out by the Campbell-Prestons, have high value as a Work of Art.
The monastic garden dating probably from the 13th century, the surviving trees from the 17th century, and the associations with the Priory give this site outstanding Historical value.
Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural
The range of plant material growing in the gardens gives Ardchattan high Horticultural value.
The designed landscape is the setting for the Priory and the house and has outstanding Architectural value.
The canopy of the woodland and the open parkland contribute to the variety in the surrounding upland scenery, giving this site high Scenic value.
The woodland flora and the older trees give Ardchattan some Nature Conservation value.
- Not Assessed
Based on a monastic garden, the designed landscape was improved in the 17th century and extended during the 19th century. The present gardens were created during the 20th century.
The Priory was founded in 1230 for an Order of Benedictine Monks. In 1602 Alexander Campbell received the charter for the land. Some very old trees date from this time and the age of some of the trees which had to be cut down recently was confirmed as over 400 years. In 1654, as a reprisal for the then Laird of Ardchattan supporting the Earl of Glencairn's rising against Cromwell, Cromwellian troops burnt down the church leaving the Abbott's lodgings.
During the turbulent 18th century the Campbells sided with the government against the Stuarts. Thomas Campbell, the last male descendant, died in 1846 leaving the estate to his niece who enlarged the house in 1852 in Victorian Gothic style. In 1878 the estate passed to her 12 year old cousin, Robert Clarke-Preston, a descendant of Sir Robert Preston of Valleyfield. During the latter part of the 19th century the estate was let to several tenants including Mrs Popham and Sir John Lawes, Bt., a distinguished agriculturalist who improved the policies. In 1904 Robert and his new wife took up residence at Ardchattan. Mrs Clarke-Campbell-Preston began gardening; she created formal flowerbeds to the south of the house, and laid out long herbaceous borders. In 1950 her son Colonel Robert Campbell-Preston married Angela Murray, widow of Lt Colonel Antony Murray, killed in action in Italy in April 1945, and daughter of 2nd Viscount Cowdray; together they formed a 'gardening' partnership, Colonel Campbell-Preston providing the plant knowledge and his wife the artistic skills to lay it out. It is mostly their garden which can be seen today. Mrs Campbell-Preston died in 1981 and the Colonel has continued to care for and improve the garden ever since.
Ardchattan House, listed category B, dates from before 1600 when it was first altered from the abbey buildings to form a house. A Victorian Wing was added in 1852 by the Glasgow architect Charles Wilson. Ardchattan Priory, listed B, is the ruined remains of the Priory founded in 1230 and sacked in 1654. It is an Ancient Monument and in the care of the Secretary of State for Scotland. Part of it contains the private burial 'aisle' for the Campbells of Ardchattan and Lochnell as well as the fine 'Lochnell' Celtic stone. Colin Campbell of Glenure, brother-in-law of Charles Campbell, Laird of Ardchattan, is buried in the Campbell of Barcaldine Burial section. The Dairy was built c.1850 in a rustic style and has recently been converted into a cottage.
The present policies were laid out in the mid-19th century. They consist of three large pastures divided by the Ardchattan Burn which runs down from the hill to the shore. Shelterbelts were planted around the outside of the policies and there are several remaining individual parkland trees, mostly beech dating from about 1830 and sycamore which are about 400 years old. Clumps were planted in the parks nearest the house. The driveway leads through the woodland garden to approach the house from the west.
The woodland plantations have been extended since the 1st edition OS map of c.1860. They mainly shelter the policies and consist of hardwoods including oak and sycamore planted in the mid-19th century, amongst some conifers including Scots pine, Douglas fir and larch. Today these small plantations are particularly fine.
The gardens lie to the south and west side of the house and are divided into two areas: the Woodland Garden which runs along the drive, and the Garden in front of the south side of the house. They have been described in greater detail by Sir Ilay Campbell.*
The Rose Garden lies just to the north of the yew hedge which divides it from the south garden. Here the Campbell-Prestons have grown a wide range of 'Old Fashioned' roses as well as some of the more special hybrid tea varieties. Rocks were positioned in the alpine or rock garden just to the west of the house to provide the right conditions to grow true alpines and these included small shrubs and low herbaceous plants.
Just to the south of the house lies the wide herbaceous border planted with many different perennials providing colour from mid-June to the end of November. The wide lawn runs down to the stone boundary wall on which grow several Clematis including a large Clematis montana. In front of the wall is the group of ancient sweet chestnuts thought to have been planted early in the 17th century. Adjoining the Priory wall on the east side of the house runs a long shrub border planted with many tender shrubs including a Drimys aromatica, the large-leaved Senecio rotundifolia, and an unnamed Hebe discovered by George Forrest.
* Scottish Field, May 11, 1985
The kitchen garden is clearly shown on the 1st edition OS plan just to the north of the house. Part of it is still used for growing produce and the remainder is used as a paddock. The burn runs to the west of the walled garden and a magnificent walnut overhangs the 'Monk's Pool'. There is a tennis court to the west of the walled garden.