Balmacara Estate 265

Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland

Brief Description

The designed landscape of Balmacara House lies on an unspoilt coastal site. The woodland garden associated with Lochalsh House contains a collection of rhododendrons and acid-loving shrubs under a canopy of largely deciduous trees. The estate is run as a highland crofting estate.

History

The site was laid out in the first half of the 19th century and incorporates the late-19th-century Lochalsh House. The woodland garden associated with Lochalsh House was started by the plantsman, E H M Cox, in 1954.

Visitor Facilities

The estate is open daily all year. The woodland walks are open daily from 9am until dusk.

Detailed Description

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:

http://portal.historic-scotland.gov.uk/hes/web/f?p=PORTAL:DESIGNATIONS:0

Type of Site

A woodland garden developed since 1954 hosting a fine collection of Rhododendrons and woodland species.

Location and Setting

Balmacara Estate is situated on the western side of the peninsula between Loch Alsh and Loch Carron. The Lochalsh Woodland Garden lies on its southern shores overlooking Loch Alsh some 2 miles (3km) east of the village of Kyle of Lochalsh. The A87(T) forms the northern boundary of the site beyond which Auchertyre Hill rises to a height of 1,483' (452m). The underlying rocks are mainly Torridonian sandstone and the coastline is rocky. The soil is mainly shallow peat with poor grassland and rocky outcrops although conditions do improve on low ground near the coast. The area has a high rainfall of some 80" per annum and there is little frost. Balmacara is largely a crofting estate. The National Trust for Scotland has established forestry around Auchertyre and Ard Hill 279' (85m) south of the A87 which is prominent in the view east from the Lochalsh Woodland Garden. The area of forestry has been extended since 1970. Good views south to Skye are gained from the garden and a viewing area is provided. From the higher paths within the garden, fine views can be gained to Ben Attow. The garden itself is of little scenic significance from the A87 as it is concealed by the roadside shelter planting. Murchison's monument can be seen from the A87.

Lochalsh House stands within 19 acres (7.7ha) of policies on the southern edge of the Balmacara Estate west of the village of Glaick. The Estate totals some 8,000 acres (3,240ha), 79% of which is feued, mainly to the Forestry Commission. Balmacara House lies to the east of Glaick, due south of the NTS car park. Documentary map evidence is confined to General Roy's map of c.1750, the 1st edition OS map of c.1850, and the 2nd edition OS of c.1910. The majority of the designed landscape of Balmacara House has been lost in the recent forestry development. Reference to the 1st edition OS map indicates the location of the kitchen garden and woodland walks in the area north of the present A87 between the house and Balmacara Square. The designed landscape today is largely that associated with Lochalsh House and includes 67 acres (27ha). A rock garden on the shore, developed after 1887, has since gone.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Balmacara House is a late 18th or early 19th century house with Venetian windows, subsequently much enlarged in early Victorian times into a rambling asymmetrical pile. Lochalsh House is a plain two-storey crow-stepped house built in 1887. The architect is thought to be Alexander Ross, factor for Sir Alexander Matheson, although this cannot be confirmed. It is presently the residence of the National Trust Representative for Balmacara Estate.

David Murchison's Monument stands on the shore to the south of the Lochalsh Woodland Garden. The Coach-house lies to the south-west of Lochalsh House and houses a display for visitors.

Parkland

The park of Balmacara lies to the east of the house on the flats between the east drive and Balmacara Bay. It provided an important setting for the views south from this approach to the house. The Balmacara Burn bisects the area, flowing into the Bay from its source on Auchtertyre Hill. The parks are enclosed by sycamore, beech, elm and lime trees, planted in the early 19th century. They are used today by the Army as camping grounds. A new cemetery is sited to the east of the Balmacara Burn.

Woodland

The majority of the woodlands of the Estate are managed by the Forestry Commission. Much of the planting was carried out in the 1950s although subsequent replanting was necessary due to fire damage. The woodland between the A87 and the Glaick coast road was a dedicated woodland consisting of conifer nurse species and broadleaves; the former have now been thinned out. A walk though this woodland links the car park with the woodland garden.

Woodland Garden

The woodland garden dates from 1954, although some rhododendrons were established there c.1900 following the planting of the trees which form the woodland canopy today. These trees include sycamore, beech, elm and lime. Oak has regenerated in areas and there are a number of conifers, particularly Scots pine, larch and Douglas Fir. At the west end of the garden, Sitka spruce has been planted for future shelter among the existing Scots pine, some of which date from c.1830. The streams which run down the hillside maintain damp ground conditions. The late Mr E.H.M. Cox planted specimens of Rhododendron giganteum and maddenii on an experimental basis in the 1950s, and these have since become well-established in the garden. The garden has evolved since clearance of the banks of Rhododendron ponticum, in 1979 and is based on the rhododendrons planted by Mr Cox and more recent additions of bamboo spp., hardy ferns and hydrangeas. On the bank behind Lochalsh House, groups of maddenii and Eucryphia spp. form a fine display. Rhododendron augustinii has been planted in clearings of Scots pine on the higher slopes of the Garden. Variety in planting is gained by species such as Fothergilla monticola.

Walled Garden

To the south of the coach-house, lies the nursery garden, the former kitchen garden of Lochalsh House. It is used as a holding nursery for plants due to be transplanted into the garden and for growing herbs. It is anticipated that it will be used in the future as a vegetable garden for Lochalsh House.

Features

Plant Environment

  • Coastal Garden
  • Environment
  • House (featured building)
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Walk
  • Description: Woodland walks.
  • Planting
  • Description: Woodland garden.
  • Earliest Date:
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The estate is open daily all year. The woodland walks are open daily from 9am until dusk.

Directions

Citylink buses run from Inverness, Glasgow and Skye.
History

Detailed History

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:

http://portal.historic-scotland.gov.uk/hes/web/f?p=PORTAL:DESIGNATIONS:0

Reason for Inclusion

The Lochalsh Woodland Garden was started by the famous plantsman E.H.M. Cox and contains a valuable collection of rhododendrons and other ericaceous shrubs. The designed landscape is also a valuable wildlife habitat and is important in the local coastal scenery.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

The policies date from the first half of the 19th century and the woodland garden from 1954.

Site History

The designed landscape of Balmacara House was laid out in the first half of the 19th century. Lochalsh House was built within the policies in 1887 although the woodland garden now associated with it dates from 1954.

Prior to the 19th century, the Mackenzies of Seaforth owned the Estate of Balmacara. In 1807, it was purchased by Sir Hugh Innes who built Balmacara House and carried out many improvements to the Estate which can be seen by comparison of General Roy's map of c.1750 and the 1st edition OS map of c.1850. In 1853, Sir Alexander Matheson of Ardross, MP, founder of the trading firm Jardine-Matheson, acquired the property. Miss Katherine Lillingston, niece of Sir Hugh Innes, feued some 13 acres of ground from the family in 1887 and built Lochalsh House. Tree planting was carried out around the house but it is thought that this was more for the purpose of shelter to the house than for ornamentation. The rock garden which she established on the shore has since been lost. In 1918, financial difficulties forced Sir Kenneth Matheson to sell Balmacara to Sir Daniel Mackinnon Hamilton, who resided there until his death in 1930. On the death of his widow, Lady Hamilton, in 1946, the Estate was bequeathed to the nation with the exception of the Plock of Kyle which was left to the local residents. Sir Daniel & Lady Hamilton wished that Balmacara House be used for educational purposes, and for some years in the 1960-70s, an agricultural college was housed within it. After Regionalisation in 1972, the Royal Navy acquired a 20-year lease for the house from Highland Regional Council. It is presently used by them for summer camps. The Navy has aided the Trust in work on the Estate; they have recently demolished a gun emplacement in the hills as an exercise.

In 1953, Lochalsh House and policies were acquired by the National Trust for Scotland in lieu of death duties on the Estate of the late Commander H.W. Innes Lillingston. Their acquisition was on condition that public access to the site would be unrestricted. The woodland garden was begun by the late Mr E.H.M. Cox who established species Rhododendrons on an experimental basis. Since then, the garden has continued to be developed by the Trust.

Associated People
Contact

Telephone

0844 493 2100

Official Website

Other websites

Owners

  • The National Trust for Scotland

    Hermiston Quay, 5 Cultins Road, Edinburgh, EH11 4DF
References

References