MHG57467 - Leckmelm Gardens and Arboretum


The gardens and arboretum at Leckmelm.

Type and Period (3)

  • GARDEN (19th Century to 21st Century - 1870 AD? to 2100 AD)
  • WALLED GARDEN (19th Century to 21st Century - 1870 AD? to 2100 AD)
  • ARBORETUM (19th Century to 21st Century - 1870 AD? to 2100 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

The gardens and arboretum at Leckmelm.

A woodland garden with arboretum and shrubbery on the northwest Highland coast with an important specialist horticultural collection. Leckmelm was added to the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes on 31/03/2003.

The designation was re-assessed by Historic Environment Scotland in 2016-17. It was considered that the gardens still met the criteria for inclusion on the inventory. The inventory description was updated and amended but no changes were made to the designation boundary, as had initially been proposed. <1>

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. 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). <2>

Sources/Archives (2)



Grid reference Centred NH 1611 9118 (310m by 282m)
Map sheet NH19SE
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY
Civil Parish GAIRLOCH

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