Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Argyll And Bute
NR 92643 83182
192643, 683182

A mid 19th-century designed landscape with gardens laid out by Thomas Mawson in

1910. The parkland and woodland make an impressive contribution to the scenery

around Loch Fyne.

Type of Site

An early 19th century designed landscape of park and large clumps of closely spaced trees with, around the house, woodland gardens developed in the late 19th century hosting an extensive collection of contemporary plants and a large formal 'Italian' garden, laid out c.1901, designed by Thomas Mawson.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

c.1830 with gardens around the house laid out in c.1901.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The original designs of the parks and the Thomas Mawson gardens give Ballimore outstanding value as a Work of Art.


Level of interest

The good documentary evidence of Thomas Mawson's designs and the association with Major MacRae Gilstrap give Ballimore high Historical value.


Level of interest

Although there was a fine plant collection in the 1900s, much has been lost but the site still has some Horticultural value. Further exploration and identification of the remaining plants might increase this value.


Level of interest

The designed landscape provides the setting for the B listed house which, together with the terraced garden features, gives Ballimore high Architectural value.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The extensive designed landscape can be seen from the west shore of Loch Fyne and from the B8000, and the site is of outstanding Scenic value.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The undisturbed older woodland, lochshore and burnside habitats provide Ballimore with high Nature Conservation value.

Location and Setting

Ballimore is situated south of Otter Ferry on the east shore of Loch Fyne about 20 miles (32km) south of Strachur on the B8000, and about 30 miles (48km) west of Dunoon. The landform is undulating and the ground rises from the coastline towards Barr Ganuisg, 509' (155m), to the south and eventually up to Cruach nan Caorach, 1,503' (458m), to the east. The soil near the shore is a rich acid loam and, as the ground rises, rocky outcrops protrude in places. High annual rainfall and the mildness of the Gulf Stream provide good conditions for growing rhododendrons and other ericaceous plants. The landform and woodland also protect the site from the prevailing south-westerly winds.

From the house there are fine views westwards across Loch Fyne; there are also two views framed by woodland across Loch Fyne: one to the west towards Castleton Point and the other to the north towards Lochgair. There is another view south looking towards Barr Ganuisg. The designed landscape can be seen from the B8000 and from the A83(T) along the west shore of Loch Fyne.

The house is set in the middle of an extensive park. The designed landscape is bordered by the B8000 to the east and north, by the loch to the west and by a woodland shelterbelt to the south. Little is known at present about the earlier house but the existing designed landscape has changed little since the 1st edition OS map of c.1860. The designed landscape extends to about 645 acres (261ha) today.

Site History

The 1st & 2nd edition OS plans of c.1850 and 1910 show that the designed landscape was laid out at the same time as the house was designed by Hamilton in c.1830. The designer is unknown. The gardens around the house were laid out by Thomas Mawson in c.1901.

In the early 19th century, the property was owned by the Campbells of Otter and it was then called Otter House. However, they sold the estate and took its name with them to Achagoyle House near Kilfinan. It was then renamed Ballimore. Around 1832 Mungo Nutter Campbell commissioned David Hamilton to design a 'chaste and elegant mansion' for him. In 1885 it was the seat of Campbell Macpherson Campbell and the estate extended to 9,521 acres (3,856ha). In 1899, Ballimore was bought by Major MacRae Gilstrap who engaged William Leiper to enlarge the house in the Scottish Baronial style. A year later Thomas Mawson laid out the large formal 'Italian' garden and he noted that no gardens existed before then. The property has passed down through the family to Mrs van Lynden, the granddaughter of Major MacRae Gilstrap. After several years of neglect she and her family have begun the challenging task of renovating it. Much of the information has been gathered from discussion with Bill Mackenzie (past Curator at the Chelsea Physic Garden) whose father was head gardener at Ballimore and assisted in the making of the garden.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Ballimore is a two and three-storey Scottish style house built by David Hamilton in 1832 and added to and altered by William Leiper between 1899-1900; it is listed category B. The house had been empty and had lost many of its internal features before the van Lyndens took up residence.

The elaborate terrace walls incorporate a summerhouse to the south of the house and were designed by Mawson. There are two lodges along the minor road to the east of the policies. A large stable-block lies to the south-east of the house and there is a walled garden nearby. There are also the remains of a large motte or fort on the shore of Loch Fyne.


The house and garden lie in the middle of the park. The northern section is relatively flat and decorated by large clumps of closely spaced trees. These plantations consist of mainly broadleaved beech and sycamore and were planted in the early 19th century. The parks are grazed and this open pasture contrasts strongly with the surrounding upland moorland. The southern parkland rises towards Cruach nan Caorach and the undulating land was emphasised by a flagpole sited on one of the highest points. Clumps of trees and thin shelterbelts were planted to accentuate the round tops of the hillocks. A long drive curves through the park from Otter Ferry to the house while another follows the shore route up to the house. The drive from the South Lodge provides good views of the south parks. Several holiday chalets have been built along the shore drive to Otter Ferry.


In 1900 it was noted that the estate was splendidly wooded; almost every hill was planted. There are still broadleaved woodlands around the northern park which consist mainly of beech, sycamore and oak. Along the sea shore, above the retaining wall, a single line of trees, mainly sycamore and oak, was planted c.1820 and today they form an impressive entrance drive. In the last 20-30 years, much of the southern area of woodland has been replanted, mainly with conifers.

Woodland Garden

Mawson noted that several ornamental trees, including conifers of 50 or 60 years' growth, were dotted around the lawn, particularly to the east of the house. Alan Mitchell recorded several fine trees here in c.1969. When the new gardens were put in by Major MacRae Gilstrap, the collection of plants rivalled that of many a Botanic Garden and it was said that at least one of every available plant grew at Ballimore. Planting of the specimen trees and shrubs was continued east of the house to the shrubbery surrounding the walled garden which today contains some of the more special plants still to be found at Ballimore, including a fine.

Water Features

The water garden was planted along the stream which flows along the south side of the Terraces. Elegant waterfalls punctuate the stream which is crossed by a large arched bridge and numerous stepping stones. Early 20th century photographs show the range, scale and beauty of this garden. In the quiet pools there were plants of choice Nymphaeas and other aquatics; along the margin of the stream were Iris, Caltha, Spiraeas and other bog plants. Today it is overgrown and only one or two Japanese Maples, some unusual rhododendron species and one large Thujopsis dolobrata were seen.

The Gardens

The formal garden was designed by Thomas Mawson c.1900 in a series of bold terraces leading to the stream as described by him in 'The Art and Craft of Garden Making':-

'The scheme as a whole includes almost every type of garden planning from the formal terraces to the most naturalesque treatment of the stream. Perhaps the most noticeable features are the long straight lines of walk, especially the one leading to the summer house, and in the opposite direction, the one which is carried over the bridge and on to the opposite side of the valley. There are also the long lines of terrace walls, the intention being to lay out certain prominent lines which would grip the landscape and give a feeling of connection between the mansion, garden, and landscape, the summer house and small temple being arranged to mark the end of this formal treatment. This severe style, whilst adding to the effect of the mansion, in no way detracts from the purely natural treatment of the stream, each being helped by the sharp contrast. The terrace walls are solid i.e., no balustrade has been adopted, the walls are built of the local ragstone, the dressed work being confined to pillars, string, coping and finials, thus allowing of a large number of climbers, which always add so much to the charm of terrace walls.'

The pattern of the flower beds, intersecting walls, broad steps and balustrades in the 'Italian Terraces' are discernible under a tangle of undergrowth. The owners have begun to clear some of the colonising willows and sycamore. There was a parterre below the west front of the house, a broad walk along the south front of the house and a rose garden to the south of the stream. At the east end of the top terrace there is an enchanting summerhouse with a domed roof and beautiful detailing on the ceiling. Inside this summerhouse a large window opens out to a pond and bridge some distance below. The beds and borders on the terrace were planted with a choice collection of hardy perennials and roses, the walls clothed with honeysuckle, Clematis, roses, Wisterias, Magnolias and other hardy climbers. The terrace borders were planted entirely with hardy perennials and roses. Today little remains of the terrace gardens except the walls and the distinctive line of Irish yews.

Walled Gardens

The kitchen garden is surrounded by high brick walls on three sides. All the potting sheds, bothy and outhouses are disused and most of the greenhouses have been demolished. Part of the garden is used for growing vegetables and a few of the fruit trees still survive especially several espalier apple trees. To the west side of the garden there are several ornamental trees and shrubs growing within a hedged enclosure.




Printed Sources

M.C. Davis 1984. 'Lost Mansions of Argyll'

Thomas Mawson, The Art & Craft of Garden Making, 1907

A. Mitchell, Tree Survey

Groome's, 1885


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.

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Printed: 24/06/2024 02:36