Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
NH 16126 91184
216126, 891184

Leckmelm is an Edwardian west coast garden with an outstanding horticultural collection including a number of champion trees. The labelled plant collection is in good condition and is being renewed. The involvement of horticulturalists such as Archie Gibson and Tony Schilling is also of interest in understanding the garden as an evolving work of art in its own right.

Type of Site

A woodland garden with arboretum and shrubbery.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Circa 1874-1920; 1984-present

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The structure of the garden evident on the 1902 Ordnance Survey map, including the walled garden area and pathways, survives largely unaltered in the present landscape.


The involvement of experienced gardeners, horticulturalists and plant collectors after 1985, such as Tony Schilling and Archie Gibson, is of interest in this category. Christopher Lloyd refers to the 'great sensitivity' with which the gardens have been restored (Lloyd 1991). Although some specimens mentioned by Lloyd are no longer present, the essence of this 'undoubtedly happy garden' (Lloyd 1991) remains intact.


Level of interest

The west coast of Scotland was recognised in the mid-19th century as a place where tender specimen trees and shrubs could thrive, due to the high rainfall and the warm temperate climate provided by the Gulf Stream. Leckmelm is an authentic example of a large 'west coast' woodland garden in Scotland. The creation of Osgood McKenzie's west coast garden at Inverewe (GDL00226) near Poolewe, 25 km southwest of Leckmelm, during the 1860s may have provided inspiration.


Level of interest

Leckmelm is home to an outstanding collection of trees, shrubs and other plants in terms of scale, mixed age and diversity, including many rare and tender specimens. The plants typify those suited to west coast of Scotland conditions in terms of climate, maritime influence including the Gulf Stream, geology and soils. Wild origin plants are also present in the garden. Sensitive plant introductions, relocations of existing plants and sources for renewal are all ongoing (2017).


Leckmelm has 18 champion trees recorded on the database of the Tree Register of the British Isles including three Britain and Ireland champions: Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (Lawson Cypress - Westermannii), Escallonia rubra and Olearia macrodonta, and three Scottish champions: Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (Lawson Cypress - Wisselli), Kalopanax septemiobus (prickly castor oil tree) and a multi-trunked Thujopsis dolobrata (


Level of interest

The walled garden at Leckmelm is a substantial structure with surviving details including large arch openings, chimney stacks, a cast-iron trellis fence, coping stones and curved sections at the outer ends.


Level of interest

There are no scheduled monuments or recorded archaeological sites within the designation boundary.

Leckmelm is traditionally the site of a battle in 1585 between the Gunns and the MacKays which is said to account for the burial ground at Leckmelm Farm, 450 metres to the south.

As with all designed landscapes, there is the potential for future survey or investigation to reveal further data on the landscape through time.


Level of interest

The mixed treeline, with spiky protrusion of the taller fir and cypress, is visible when approaching the gardens from both the north and the south along the A835 trunk road. The woodland garden is also clearly visible from Beinn Eilideach to the northeast and from the opposite banks of Loch Broom to the southwest. The trees at Leckmelm provide a distinctive contrast with the surrounding areas of open heather moorland and loch-side farms and settlements.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

Although there are no national natural heritage designations, the woodland flora and fauna provide some nature conservation value. The garden is managed in a way to encourage birds and other wildlife and the garden supports red squirrels.


There is some collaboration with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Leckmelm is a potential future partner in the International Conifer Conservation Programme (2017).

Location and Setting

The Leckmelm gardens are located on the lower southwest-facing slopes of Beinn Eilideach beside Loch Broom on the west Highland coast of Scotland. The coastal village of Ullapool is 5 km to the northwest. The roughly rectangular site has a large walled garden, arboretum and shrubbery. To the southeast is the private garden of Little Leckmelm House, which does not form part of the designated area. The A835 trunk road from Inverness skirts the northeast boundary of the site. The Allt na Buaile Glaise (burn of the grey/clay field), which flows into Loch Broom forms the southeast boundary. The wider landscape of this area is one of upland ridges, long ribbon lochs, open heather moorland and commercial forestry plantation.

Site History

During the 1830s, the Leckmelm estate included three small townships in the possession of Colonel Davidson of Tulloch. The 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map, surveyed 1875, shows the site of Leckmelm as two undeveloped clearings to the south of Leckmelm Wood. The estate was sold to Aberdeen paper merchant Alexander Pirie in the 1870s. Pirie evicted the tenant crofters and created a large home farm complex with estate cottages at Leckmelm. He also began planting an arboretum in the northernmost of the two clearings but does not appear to have begun work on a large house for himself at the site.

The 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (revised 1902) shows much of the structure of the garden in place at Leckmelm including the walled garden, pathways and clearings. In 1906, the gardens were acquired by a Mrs Fraser who planted further rhododendrons, azaleas and ornamental shrubs. By 1910 the garden was flourishing with a staff of 12 gardeners (Lloyd 1991) who presumably occupied the 'Tigh na Coille' cottages within the estate workers grounds to the east (now a private garden). The gardens changed ownership again around 1940 and active management of the gardens ceased for more than four decades.

The 'Tigh na Coille' cottages were purchased in the 1970s by the current owners of Leckmelm. In 1985 they also came into the ownership of the woodland garden and began a programme of replanting and restoring, finding that much of the woodland garden remained intact. They were assisted initially by Archie Gibson, owner and restorer of the woodland garden at Glenarn (GDL00193) near Rhu. The August 1991 edition of Country Life features an article by the renowned gardener and writer Christopher Lloyd, which provides a valuable insight into Leckmelm gardens at that time.

Severe rainfall in 2014 caused scree on the steep slopes to the northeast to flow down into the garden and cause damage. The garden was also affected by Atlantic storms in January 2015 with the loss of three cedars, a Nootka cypress and a Spanish fir. An acre of overgrown rhododendron ponticum and azaleas, and some of the glades in the garden, were cleared of invasive species during the same year.

The renowned horticulturist and author Tony Schilling is an occasional advisor and plant supplier to the garden. He was in charge of Wakehurst Gardens in Sussex from 1967 to 1991 and is known for his exploration and collection of rare plants growing in high-altitude habitats in Asia and the Himalayas. He currently advises on plant choice and sources for the renewal of the collection. Ongoing collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh is also of benefit to the gardens, and at the time of writing, there are future plans to take part in the International Conifer Conservation Programme (2017).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The Leckmelm Walled Garden, constructed after 1875, has a high north wall with a glasshouse range to the front and potting sheds and boiler house to the rear. Now, only the north wall survives intact, the derelict ranges were removed c 1970. The south wall has an unusual sinuous alignment and is topped by an iron trellis fence which allows views into and out of the garden. A Conservatory, central on the south wall, doubled as an entrance to the Walled Garden. Only the foundation walls and floor now survive.

Drives & Approaches

Access to the arboretum and shrubbery garden from the A835 is through a pair of large segmental archways in the north garden wall. There is a small, gravel car park to the north of the walled garden area.

Paths & Walks

A network of informal, serpentine paths provide the basis for walking trails around Leckmelm woodland garden, giving the garden a feeling of much greater extent than in reality, inviting exploration and providing the element of surprise at each turn on account of the diversity of species.


Following the northwest edge of the former walled garden, the path leads to a doorway in the wall giving access to the woodland garden arboretum. Rhododendron hybrids, irises and candelabra primulas line the pathway, all growing within a staggered avenue of mature Irish yews. As the path progresses to the south, there are views to the distant summit of Carnan Ban on the other side of Loch Broom. Beyond this, serpentine paths lead southwest through a series of glades within the arboretum. An enclosed path leads through a winding tunnel shaped by dense tangles of mature rhododendrons to the open prospect of the shoreline of Loch Broom and the hills beyond.

Walled Gardens

The walled garden is shown on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (revised 1902). The greenhouses and utility buildings shown at this date against the north wall have been removed. The garden walls are of stone on three sides, while the southern aspect, facing the loch, is open with an iron trellis fence and box hedge, which allows views in and out of the woodland garden. A range of species grow against the high northeast wall with clear plant labelling. There is a doorway in the northwest wall leading to the arboretum. The stone walls curve down in height at both ends in the direction of the loch. A small car park has been created near the northeast wall. Much of the walled garden area is currently laid to grass (2017). The steps and foundations of a former conservatory remain in place near the centre of the southwest boundary of the walled garden area.



A wide variety of evergreen and deciduous tree species provide a surrounding mixed age stand of trees. The collection includes mainly woodland and woodland edge species including large numbers of specimen conifers, deciduous trees, shrubs, ferns, bamboos, perennials and climbing plants with specimen rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and camellias. Diverse mature deciduous trees form a higher background layered canopy. They provide a defence against the prevailing southwest winds on the sea loch side of the garden for the more ornamental plantings. The larger trees also frame occasional small glades, home to shade-tolerant species.


Among the many notable specimens are red oak, Cornelian cherry, Atlantic cedar, Chilean beech, Scottish elm, Lawson cypress, eucalyptus, Persian ironwood, a Davidia involucrata (also known as the 'handkerchief tree' for its large white drooping flowers) and maples such as Acer palmatum atropurpureum (bloodgood), Acer rufinerve (snake bark) and Acer griseum (with its distinctive peeling bark).


Some areas of planting relate to specific parts of the world including the Himalayas, China, Japan and the Americas. Varied foliage, form, texture and colour provide seasonal interest.




Maps, Plans and Archives

Ordnance Survey (surveyed, 1875; published 1881) Ross-shire & Cromartyshire (Mainland), Sheet XXII (includes: Lochbroom). 1st edition, 6 inches to 1 mile. Ordnance Survey: Southampton.

Ordnance Survey (surveyed, 1902; published 1906) Ross and Cromarty Sheet XXII (includes: Lochbroom) 2nd edition, 6 inches to 1 mile. Ordnance Survey: Southampton.

Printed Sources

Groome, Francis H. (1882) Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland Vol. IV, p.479

Leckmelm Gardens by Ullapool, Guide Leaflet

Lloyd, C. (1991), 'Fragile Inheritance', Country Life, Vol. 185, no. 33, pp.60-62

MacDonald D., Polson, J., and Brown, A. (1931) The Book of Ross, Sutherland and Caithness, Orkney and Shetland, p.75

Sunday Times, Scotland (4 June 1989)

Online Sources

The Tree Register – Champion Tree Database, [accessed 12/01/2017].

Watching Brief, Leckmelm Farm, Loch Broom, Wester Ross (2007). Highland Council, Historical Environment Record -'EHG4072' [accessed 12/01/2017].

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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Leckmelm Gardens, looking south from walled garden area on partly cloudy day with blue sky.
Leckmelm Gardens, woodland garden to northwest of walled garden on partly cloudy day with blue sky.
Leckmelm Gardens, arboretum garden to west of walled garden
Leckmelm Garden arboretum from site of conservatory looking southwest on partially cloudy day with blue sky.

Printed: 19/08/2022 14:43