The Baillie family was granted the Dochfour estate in the mid 15th century following their service in the Battle of Brechin, 1452.
In 1745, as a result of the Baillie's support of the Jacobite cause, Dochfour House was burnt and the estate forfeited. Lord President Forbes later returned it to the Baillies. On regaining the estate, Alexander Baillie began a scheme of redevelopment, continued by his successor Evan Baillie (1740-1835). A new house was built c 1780 and land to its south-east, between it and Loch Ness, was laid out as parkland. The lochside road and causeway were constructed as part of the Caledonian Canal scheme in c 1803.
A major phase of development took place during 1839-40 when Evan Baillie (1798-1883) commissioned the architect William Robertson (c 1786-1841) to remodel the house to form a grand Italianate villa. This was complemented, on its south-east side, by a series of formal terraced gardens cut into the steeply sloping site. This presented a striking contrast with the broad sweep of informal open parkland to the north-east.
This Italianate scheme was established by the time of Prince Albert's visit in 1847. He arrived by boat from Loch Dochfour and entered the grounds by an elaborate pedestrian gate, thereafter known as the 'Princes Gate'. Visiting at a time when he was deeply involved in the construction of Osborne House as a country retreat in the Italianate style (1845-51), he commented to Queen Victoria that he found Dochfour 'beautiful, the house elegant, with a fine garden.'
At the end of the 19th century, further changes had a dramatic landscape effect when the house was extended by Matthews & Lawrie (1871); the stableblock was built (Matthews & Lawrie 1872); and the Gardener's Cottage and a dairy in the form of a cottage ornée were built (c 1875).
In the 19th century there were 17 gardeners who tended the well-stocked gardens. In 1881, R. Black prepared options for a railway route through Dochfour Estate, including a detailed survey and proposals plan. The plan included proposals for a walled garden, which was implemented, and for extending the formal gardens south-westwards. The walled gardens and glasshouses were productive with a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, including bananas in a Banana House (since demolished). The formal gardens were set out with a series of four parallel Long Walks, areas of shrubbery and specimen trees (1870-1, OS 6").
Significant 20th century changes to the gardens started with the planting of extensive yew hedges to enclose a series of formal, Edwardian gardens within the Long Walks. These remain a distinctive feature and are decorated with topiary, which has varied in form throughout the 20th century. In the 1930s, these gardens were remodelled, and the original pattern of paths and parterre beds removed. An informal water garden was laid out to the south. Further changes were made c 1950 when tennis courts were constructed on the terrace and flights of embankment steps removed.
During the latter part of the 20th century, Lord and Lady Burton undertook various garden works. The Fountain Terrace in the formal terrace gardens was remodelled and the fountain restored; a rose garden was developed within one of the formal compartments; a new herbaceous border established; and an Azalea bank was laid out below a new orchard. The formal gardens were opened to the public in the mid 1980s.
Dochfour House incorporates the two-storey, symmetrical, five-bay harled house rebuilt for Alexander Baillie in 1770. This now forms the south-east front, with Robertson's 1839 alterations forming the rear. Robertson recast the south-east garden front in an Italianate style, and added a square Italianate tower with porte-cochere to the north east. In 1871, Matthews & Lawrie added to the north-west in a similar style.
The South Lodge Drive Entrance has ball-finialed Gate Piers and wrought iron carriage Gates built into the Policy Walls along the A82. The Gate Lodge is a mid 19th century, simple, single-storey, three-bay cottage; it is harled with painted ashlar margins. The Prince's Gate, a masonry arched pedestrian gate leads through the policy walls, south east of the house, to Loch Dochfour.
Dochfour Farm Steading, north of the house, is Italianate in style. Designed by Matthews & Lawrie, it comprises a single-storey and gabled attic range, enclosing a square courtyard. A round headed arch supporting a three-storey tower above forms the entrance to the inner court. To either side of the entrance are bays containing round-headed key stone arches in the centre and outer bays.
A low coped, ashlar wall encloses a Private Burial Ground, north-east of Dochfour House. Within it is an early 19th century Obelisk built of grey granite. It rises from a square plinth on a stepped base and commemorates Evan Baillie (d.1835) and Evan Baillie (d.1883).
The Dairy is a late 19th century cottage-ornée. Hexagonal in form, it is single-storey, with a single bay extending to the east and is surrounded by a veranda supported on rustic, cast iron columns.
The Gardener's Cottage, built c 1840, and attached to the exterior of the Walled Garden was extended. A garden cottage, potting sheds and glasshouses stand within the walled garden.
Church Cottage, also c 1840, is a single-storey, four-bay north-facing cottage with additions and alterations. The door has a pedimented portico supported by painted timber piers.
Bona Free Church, positioned on the site of an earlier church, is a plain rectangular and harled building of 1846, altered in the late 19th century. The burial ground is enclosed by a low coped wall with spearhead railings and entered by a pair of spearheaded carriage gates flanked by square ashlar gate piers with inscriptions and pedimented gate caps. These were gifted to the church by Evan Baillie (1865). The burial ground, containing 18th and 19th century tombstones, is earlier than the existing church.
Drives & Approaches
A number of old pony paths, long since overgrown with birch lead along the hillside at different levels.
The main approach is from the north-east, along the Inverness road. It is marked by the East Lodge, 1.5km from Dochfour House, and west of the A82. This drive leads through parkland, before crossing the Dochfour Burn, along the lochside, to then turn northwards uphill to the forecourt at Dochfour House. The drive, originally tree-lined (1870-1, OS 6"), retains trees along the section leading up to Dochfour House.
A secondary entrance, about 400m north-east of Dochfour House, lies directly on the A82 at the point where the Dochfour Burn issues into Loch Dochfour. Here, the drive leads alongside the burn before crossing the main drive. It then leads steeply uphill along the wooded hillside to Dochfour Farm Steading [which has recently been restored and converted as business units]. This route runs parallel in part to the main drive. Several drives and tracks meet at Dochfour Farm. One leads on to the mansion; another runs north to Dochnalurig cottages and beyond. The lodge nearest the house which is 200m to its north-east, lies on the opposite side of the A82 from a pier on Loch Dochfour.
The Kirkton Gate, on the south boundary, now forms the public entrance to the formal gardens. It leads along the steep slopes of Lochend Burn before turning north-eastwards to approach the gardens along the main design axis.
The parkland extends from the lochside up onto south-east facing alluvial terraces at the foot of Dochfour Hill. The woodlands on the higher, slopes enclose and shelter the parkland which is subdivided by tree belts, planted on dry stone embankments, which cut across the parkland from the valley floor to the hillside. Most areas are in agricultural use, either as permanent pasture or cultivated grassland, but areas of unimproved grassland, which are notable for their natural flora, exist beneath groups of trees. Some of the parkland has extensive areas of naturalised daffodils.
North-east of the house, on the wooded drive, lies the Obelisk, from where there are panoramic views over Loch Dochfour and down to Dochfour House.
Woodland covers the lower slopes of Dochfour Hill and the steepest slopes of the lower valley. They comprise mixed stands of broadleaves and conifers, some of which have been recently restocked.
The wooded backdrop to Dochfour House is important to the landscape composition. It comprises Scots pine, beech and oak with larch and birch on the middle slopes, grading to thinner birch dominated woodland at higher levels
Significant specimen trees grow on the grass banks and enclose the lawns, to the north and south of the house. They include several fine cedars (Cedrus deodara and Cedrus libani), hemlock, copper beech, beech, Nootka cypress, lime and oak. Major specimens, including a number of Wellingtonias, also line the shore of Loch Dochfour, adjacent to the drive. The southern policies have a distinctive character due to the concentration of mature conifers, including specimens of hemlock, Douglas fir, silver fir, spruce and Thuja.
The lawns extend south and east of the house. The South Lawn is level and framed by groups of specimen trees including cedars, hemlocks and copper beech. The East Lawn slopes steeply down to the lochside and is enclosed, north and south, by hedges.
The South Lawn leads to a series of formal gardens, which extend across the south policies almost to the Kirkton Gate.
The Terraced Garden, comprising a series of large rectangular terraces cut into the hillside, lies south-west of the South Lawn. A central fountain is surrounded by a circular pattern of beds (remodelled late 20th century). On the north-west side, the upper terrace is laid out with a path, sheltered on its west side by a bank of Rhododendron, which gives views out over the garden. Originally, the garden was laid out with an extensive bedding scheme, crossed by narrow paths. Flights of steps led down from the upper terrace but these were removed (mid 20th century). A tennis court occupies the northern end of the terraced garden.
The Water Garden, formed in the 1930s, lies south-west of the Terraced Garden, and comprises a series of pools linked by rivulets. The pools are framed with shrub and herbaceous beds, containing oriental-style planting. Of particular note are the groups of Japanese maple, Azalea, Parrotia, Euphorbia and Bamboo.
The Edwardian Garden lies south of the Water Garden. Here, a series of rectangular garden 'rooms', enclosed by clipped yew hedges surmounted by topiary, include a rose garden, orchard and soft fruit garden. One encloses the Gardener's Cottage and several glasshouses. The gardens are arranged to either side of a Long Walk, aligned on Dochfour House. This forms the central, design axis of the gardens and is flanked by yew hedges arranged with niches, and decorated with monumental stone urns, originally from Ragmore Hall, Staffordshire. At the south end of the Long Walk, a gate leads out between a series of tall conifers, thereby extending this central design axis southwards into the arboretum. At the southern end of the Long Walk is a crosswalk originally lined by herbaceous borders.
The walled Kitchen Garden is situated on the steeply sloping hillside above the Formal Gardens. The internal walls are unusual in that they are angled to maximise the potential heated-surface for fruit growing. Symmetrical in plan, a central footpath lined by lupin beds divides the garden. Ranges of glasshouses, potting sheds, offices and a cottage are located along the south-east, lower-lying section of the garden which is accessed directly from the Long Walk. The garden remains in use, primarily producing soft fruits which are sold to visitors.
Maps, Plans and Archives
1747-55 General Roy's Military Survey, 1747-1755
1839 Plan of Dochfour, 1839
1870-1 survey, 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6"), published 1875
1902-3 survey, 2nd edition OS 1:10560 (6"), published 1905
1881 R. Black, Plan of Dochfour Gardens, 1881 (Private collection)
Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, National Monuments Record of Scotland: Photographic collection
Beaton, E. William Robertson Architect in Elgin 1786-1841(1984)
Colvin, H. A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840 (1978)
Gifford, J. The Buildings of Scotland: Highlands and Islands (1992), p.163
Groome, F. Ordnance Gazetteer (1882), p.358
Historic Scotland on Behalf of the Scottish Ministers, The List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
New Statistical Account, Statistical Account of the Parish of Inverness, vol.14, (1845), p.16
Scottish Natural Heritage, Inverness District, landscape character assessment (1999)
About the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes
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Printed: 27/11/2022 03:09