Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Inverness And Bona
NH 65580 44185
265580, 844185

This major 19th and 20th century public cemetery adds significant landscape value to the city of Inverness. It consists of an extensive series of sculptured monuments and plantations, with views of Tomnahurich Hill.

Type of Site

19th century public cemetery.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Mid 19th-mid 20th century.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The cemetery design makes skilful use of topographic features and thereby gives Tomnahurich Cemetery high value as a Work of Art.


Level of interest

Tomnahurich has long been a focus in the social and cultural life of Inverness and the Highlands. Its conversion to cemetery use has highlighted its role and it incorporates monuments to many figures prominent in the 19th century.


Level of interest

The woodlands and the variety of specimen trees throughout Tomnahurich Cemetery give the site some Horticultural value.


Level of interest

Although currently not statutorily listed, the architectural features at Tomnahurich Cemetery are of some Architectural value.


Level of interest

Some archaeological finds have been made at Tomnahurich; it is likely to have potential for the discovery of earlier activity and, therefore can be considered to have some Archaeological value.


Level of interest

Tomnahurich's wooded hill is a prominent landmark which provides a significant contribution on a major approach to Inverness, thus it is of outstanding Scenic value.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The woodlands on Tomnahurich Cemetery provide a valuable wildlife habitat within the urban area. Together with the importance of Tomnahurich as part of the Torvean Landforms SSSI, the site has outstanding Nature Conservation value.

Location and Setting

Tomnahurich Cemetery is laid out along the summit and slopes of Tomnahurich Hill, 1.5km south-east of Inverness city centre. Its western boundary is formed by the Caledonian Canal and its eastern and southern boundaries by Glenurquhart Road (A82).

The series of striking landforms to be found in the south-west environs of Inverness are part of a recognised geomorphological complex, known as the Torvean landforms, which is an outstanding example of Quaternary geomorphology. The Torvean esker is one of the largest in Britain, and lies alongside flat topped kames and kame terraces. Tomnahurich Hill is part of this complex, rising up to 65m (223 feet) above the Inverness plain which is traversed from south-west to north-east by the River Ness. Thus Tomnahurich Hill is an important and prominent landmark in views from the city and one of the major, constant topographical landmarks to survive. Views out from its heights and slopes lie northwards over the city and southwards over the lower reaches of the Ness Valley. Together with the Bught Park, Canal Park, Whin Island and Torvean Golf Course it forms an important green, city approach.

Tomnahurich Cemetery originally occupied only the hill slopes and summit. It expanded progressively onto the surrounding flat ground and by the early twentieth century it occupied a wedge shaped site between the Caledonian Canal and the Glenurquhart Road (A82). As Inverness expanded, the cemetery's northern boundary became enclosed by housing, restricting any further expansion. The cemetery has consequently remained the same size since c 1950.

Site History

Tomnahurich, the 'Hill of the Yew Trees' was said by the Uist Bard MacCodrum to be the resting place of Thomas Rhymer (Henderson and Cowan, 2001). Prior to its use as a cemetery, Tomnahurich was described as a 'most remarkable hill… a beautiful, insulated mount, nearly resembling a ship, with her keel uppermost.' (Old Statistical Account, 1793). As a prominent landmark it had for centuries been a focus for social activity being the site of an annual horse race on the 24-25th May, which took place around the hill. In 1753 this poor-quality agricultural land, yielding only a 'short thin heath', was enclosed and planted mainly with Scots Pine. Thomas Pennant climbed to the top, pacing it out and appreciating its picturesque qualities.

'The Tomman' he wrote 'is of an oblong form… its sides and part of the neighbouring plains are planted, so that it is both an agreeable walk and a fine object. It is perfectly detached from any other hill; and if it was not for its great size might pass for a work of art. The view from it is such that no traveller will think his labour lost, after gaining the summit.' (Pennant, 1790).

The cemetery was developed as an extramural cemetery by the Inverness Cemetery Company, a joint stock company and opened in 1864. Charles Heath Wilson is associated with its design, although the work owes most to George Grant Mackay, engineer and land surveyor.

The land was feued from the landowner, Mr Baillie (see Dochfour), who later, in 1872, permitted improvements to the approach to the cemetery across his land. Initially the cemetery was on the hilltop. Access to the cemetery was by way of a lodge built at its northern point adjacent to the farmstead of Tomnahurich. There was also a gate at its southern point onto Glenurquhart Road near Tomnahurich Bridge (1868, OS 6"). The 'New' Cemetery adjacent to Glenurquhart Road was opened in 1898. A new gate and lodge house designed by Alexander Ross was built on Glenurquhart Road, opposite the junction with Ballifeary Road and some feet north-east of the southern gate. At the same time the North Lodge was converted into a mortuary chapel and the remainder of the field, north-east of the hill, was designated as Victoria Park, a public park for recreation with a bandstand. Its boundaries with Glenurquhart Road and Bruce Gardens were tree-lined.

Expansion of the Muirtown area of Inverness led to the development of Victoria Park for housing, while land within the park which lay directly to the east and north east of Tomnahurich was taken into the cemetery. Thus the cemetery expanded across all the valley floor up to the Caledonian Canal. In 1909 the Burgh took over the cemetery.

The majority of iron railings and chains from around the older graves were removed during the Second World War. Mid 20th century attempts to reduce maintenance costs resulted in the removal of many stone kerb surrounds. Recent vandalism and subsidence of sections of the hill slopes has caused damage to monuments and steps. Burials have continued on the valley floor so that the capacity of the cemetery has been reached. In the 1990s the North Lodge was sold as a private residence and its own garden defined within the cemetery.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Tomnahurich Cemetery contains no listed buildings, although many tombstones and structures are of architectural and historic interest. There is for instance a monument to Mary Anne Lyall, with a version of Thornwaldsen's Kneeling Angel font, of about 1870, signed by Andrew Davidson. On the south side of the hill, armed angel figures guard the door of the mausoleum of Henry Christie. On Glenurquhart Road and Bruce Gardens the perimeter walls, railings and gates make an important contribution to the townscape. The Entrance Lodge (Glenurquhart Road) was designed by Alexander Ross in 1877 and is a broad-eaved building.

Drives & Approaches

The main drive leads northwards off Glenurquhart Road, to turn to climb the west flank of the hill by a series of terraced ramps before curving around the south side of the hill. On the hill's plateau summit is a circular turning area cut into the hilltop. This drive was designed for access by horse-drawn carriages and is still used by vehicles. Pedestrian access to the hill is by a series of terraced gravel paths and steps. Expansion of the cemetery onto the surrounding flat plain saw the development of an extended road network around the base of the hill to service the burial plots. A comprehensive network of gravel paths was also developed, which adopts fan and grid patterns.

Paths & Walks

The Hilltop

The hilltop was modelled into a flat oval-shaped plateau, where a formal cemetery layout was established. The carriage drive enters a central, sunken turning circle reached by three flights of steps. The steps on the north and south sides lead up to a footpath which forms the central, north-south axis and is lined by regularly planted Irish yew. Central to the path is a war memorial (1914-18). The open plateau is enclosed by a perimeter belt which clothes the hill slopes. The planting of specimen conifers, particularly Lawson cypress cultivars and Douglas firs, give it a strong character. It was originally surrounded by four large Nootka cypress of which only one remains. An oval, circuit footpath which leads around the perimeter of the plateau gives access to many of the oldest and richest monuments and gravestones. They stand near to the edge of the plateau and some are subsiding.

The Hillside

On the west and south slopes of the hill are terraces laid out with burial plots. The terraces, lined by Irish yew and specimen broadleaf trees, are interconnected by flights of steps. Some of the shrub plantings along the terraces have become invasive, particularly Rhododendron. The hillside cemetery contains the most elaborate monuments, including the Henry Christie Mausoleum and the Mary Anne Lyall Monument.

Lower Cemetery

The flat ground around the base of the hill was laid out in phases as the cemetery expanded. It is characterised by a network of paths and lines of small headstones within mown grass. The oldest, south-eastern, section of this cemetery has numerous mature specimen trees. These are prominent from the A82 (Glenurquhart Road).


The mature Tomnahurich woodlands are a prominent landmark. They cover the hillsides, but are most dense on the steepest, east side which lacks burial terraces. The woodlands comprise oak, beech, sycamore and Scots pine, the latter being remnants of 18th century planting. In general, there are more beech trees on the east slopes and oak on the west. The understorey includes holly, Rhododendron, laurel, Symphoricarpos, gorse, broom and heathers.



Maps, Plans and Archives

1868 survey, 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6"), published 1874

1867 survey, 1st edition OS 1:2,500 (25"), published 1871

1902-3 survey, 2nd Edition OS 1:10560 (6"), published 1906

1903 survey, 2nd edition OS 1:12500 (25"), published 1904

Inverness Cemetery Company

The Highland Council Archive

Inverness Library


Printed Sources

Gifford, J. The Buildings of Scotland: Highlands and Islands (1992), p.192

Gordon, J.E. and Sutherland, D.G. 'Quaternary of Scotland', Geological Conservation Review, vol. 6 (1993)

Groome, F. Ordnance Gazetteer (1882), p.302

Henderson, L. and Cowan, E.J. Scottish Fairy Belief (2001)

New Statistical Account, Statistical Account of the Parish of Inverness, vol.14, (1835), pp.8, 13

Old Statistical Account, Statistical Account of the Parish of Inverness, vol.9, (1793), p.616

Pennant, T. A Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides 1772 (1790)

Scottish Natural Heritage, Inverness District, landscape character assessment (1999)

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Printed: 30/05/2024 04:07