Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
NH 11239 85845
211239, 885845

A valuable designed landscape representing a rare example of a complete laird's house in the Western Highlands. Some remnants of the mid 18th century layout remain, but since 1956, a garden of national renown has been created with a bonsai collection, a laburnum tunnel, herb garden, exotic shrubs, a bamboo collection and some ancient specimen trees.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The garden at Dundonnell is of outstanding value as a Work of Art in its present form.


Level of interest

Dundonnell has some Historical value in its associations with the Mackenzie family for c.300 years.


Level of interest

The garden at Dundonnell has outstanding Horticultural value, the Bonsai Collection being of particular interest.


Level of interest

The designed landscape has outstanding Architectural value as it provides the setting for an A listed group of buildings.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The surrounding natural landscape is scenically very impressive and is managed under a conservation agreement with the National Trust for Scotland. The garden itself is, however, secluded and provides a little scenic contribution.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The habitat associated with the Dundonnell River within the designed landscape provides some Nature Conservation value. A nearby stretch of the Dundonnell River has been designated as an SSSI.

Location and Setting

Dundonnell House stands at the head of Strath Beag approximately 2 miles (3km) south-east of the village of Dundonnell at the head of Little Loch Broom. The town of Ullapool lies some 4.5 miles (7km) to the north across the peninsula between the sea lochs of Loch Broom and Little Loch Broom although it is a distance of some 24 miles (38.5km) by road. The valley of the River Dundonnell, which once formed the south-western boundary of the site, broadens to the north-west towards Little Loch Broom. To the south, the mountain peaks of An Teallach rise to a height of 3,484' (1,062m). Dundonnell has a wet climate with a rainfall of between 50-80" per annum, and temperatures as low as 23 degrees of frost are reached in winter. The soil is alluvial, sandy loam and fertile and the flat valley plain is largely grazed. Fine 18th century stone dykes enclose the pastureland to the east of the house. The steep sides of the valley have been clothed by forestry although parts have been left as rough grazing. Views to the surrounding hills and mountain peaks are gained from within the garden which itself is relatively secluded by the coniferous woodland which separates it from the A832 to the south.

The house is situated on the east bank of the River Dundonnell. The designed landscape was extended in recent years across the river to the A832. To the east, a stone dyke and the access road beyond form the physical boundary and, to the north, the site is enclosed by the walls of the garden. Documentary evidence of the landscape is provided in General Roy's map of c.1750, and the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps of c.1860 & c.1910. Further evidence is provided by an engraving by Pennant of 1776 which shows the presence of a walled enclosure adjacent to the house. The designed landscape today includes 25 acres (10ha).

Site History

There was a walled enclosure at Dundonnell in the mid-18th century and the walls were heightened in the early 19th century; the garden was laid out in accordance with the style of the period. Some remnants of this previous layout remain but the majority of the garden has been created since 1956.

The estate originally belonged to the McDonnells of Glengarry but by 1740 it was owned by the Mackenzie family who built the original house. Kenneth Mackenzie inherited the property in 1816. He carried out many improvements to the house and built a considerable length of stone dykes. He is said to have built the present walled garden although reference to General Roy's map of c.1750 does indicate the presence of a similar walled enclosure to the north of the house at this time and the Pennant engraving of 1776 confirms this. The Mackenzies sold the estate around 1830.

In 1929 the then owner sold part of the estate to Mrs Maitland, the proprietor of the neighbouring estate of Eilean Darach. Sir Michael Peto subsequently bought it during World War II. Messrs Alan, Neil and Alastair Roger purchased the property from him in 1956 and have since created the garden of renowned interest.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Dundonnell House is listed category B. It is a simple vernacular, symmetrical fronted house dated 1769, raised with pedimented dormer heads in 1816, at which date the interior was remodelled. The rear wing was altered in 1960 being raised to the same height as the front. Included in the listing is the Garden Cottage, a mid-19th century single-storey building incorporated within the garden walls, and the Ballroom built by the Rogers in the late 1950s to the south of the house. The Walled Garden is early 19th century and is listed B. The wrought-iron decorative gates were added by the present owners. Within the garden walls are several fine pieces of modern sculpture and garden ornamentation, acquired and brought to the garden since 1956. The buildings of Dundonnell are listed A as a group because they present an unusually complete example of a laird's house in the west of the Highlands.

The Gardens

The lawn provides a formal approach to the house. It is almost triangular in shape, tapering to a point at the south-easterly corner. At this point, a driveway indicated on the 1st edition OS map once existed; its former line is marked by the mature beech trees which remain near the lawns. Daffodils have naturalised across the lawn. A clump of mixed trees planted on the drive post-1945 have since been removed although the cedars have been retained. The house is now approached through a gate in the stone dyke north of the house.

Walled Gardens

The walled garden is situated on a flat site to the north of the house. The garden is indicated on the 1st edition OS map of c.1860 with a grid pattern of paths, most of which have been maintained although others have been added. The basic 19th century structure of the garden as one unit has been maintained but it has been divided into separate compartments by Alan Roger since 1955.

Entry to the garden is through a gate in the south-east wall adjacent to the house. The gate opens onto a gravel area where there are Yuccas and a Laburnum tree on which a Jacobite Rose (Rosa alba 'Maxima') has been trained. Opposite the gate, beyond the gravel, is the lawn, divided into two compartments by a double yew hedge and overshadowed by the central feature of the garden, a large mature yew, said to be the second oldest in Scotland. On the south-west lawn are unusual specimen trees including Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa', Larix lyalli and the particularly unusual Quercus pontica. The south-east lawn is more open, dominated by specimen bamboos. A good collection of bamboo varieties is grown throughout the garden.

A path leads from the gravel area around the outer edge of the garden, separated from the walls by borders which are contained by the original box hedging. The walls are lined with fruit trees and flowering shrubs including climbing roses and Buddleia. Beneath them grow a wealth of species of great botanical interest. The wall facing south-west is of particular interest all year round. Its border is 14m (40 yards) long and 3m (9 ft) deep. Flowering commences in May/June with pink and white colour provided by Kolkwitzia amabilis and Olearia macrodonta. Cytisus battandieri 'Pink Grootendorst' and Gladiolus byzantinus provide variation in the colour theme. As the season progresses, the colour and texture combinations change with the introduction of the flowers of Carpenteria californica and Calycanthus fertilis, culminating in the autumn season when late flowering Clematis line the walls with ground level interest maintained by Fuchsia sp.

At the junction of this border with the north-west wall are the greenhouses, one of which is an old Victorian cast-iron structure. All have been restored since 1955 and one is now partially heated. Inside, they are divided into three areas. Most of the plants grow directly into the ground; they include Iris wattii, Lapageria rosea, Berberidopsis corallina and Fuchsia arborescens as well as many ferns, Begonias and Pelargoniums.

Within the perimeter path are the smaller character gardens. The Bonsai Garden is the feature for which Dundonnell is perhaps most famous. The bonsai trees are arranged on shelves on a slatted wood enclosure which displays them to their best advantage. Beneath the shelves is a pebble garden where ferns and mosses are grown. The pond garden was established by Mr Roger on the site of a former rockery but many of the older shrubs were retained. New additions include Acer palmatum 'Senkaki' and three species of Stewartia. The Laburnum Tunnel is another fine feature of the garden. Vegetables and fruit are grown for the house, protected by netting from the peacocks. Some exotic birds are still kept in the aviaries which are situated in the western corner of the garden but the majority of what was an extensive collection of birds has now been given to Edinburgh Zoo. The Herb Garden, defined by vertical bamboo canes, was established on the area of the former drying green. Plants such as bay, woodruff, applemint and rue form the structure within which other plants have been established. The more unusual ones include Prunus mume, Elaeagnus commutata, Helichrysum splendidum, Rosa setipoda and Decaisnea fargesii.


The arboretum was established by Alan Roger on the west bank of the Dundonnell River within clearings in the existing woodland canopy. It includes a good range of ornamental trees and shrubs, including species .




Printed Sources

Dundonnell, a Garden in the north-west Highlands, Christopher Lloyd, JRHS, 1971,vol. 96,pp.290-302

Old Statistical Account

New Statistical Account


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Printed: 01/06/2023 17:36