Garden History

Ardkinglas Woodland Garden History

The earliest references to horticulture at Ardkinglas date back to the 14th. century when an orchard and culinary garden were in operation close to the Ardkinglas House of the time. Woodland Management was first referred to towards the end of the 18th century. At this time the timber plantations included Larch, Beech, Elm, Lime and Silver Fir.

Access to the Highlands improved in the 19th century bringing with it the first signs of tourism. The most famous visitor to Ardkinglas in these times being Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1855) who apparently could be found wandering through the estate and admiring the woods at Ardkinglas.

In Victorian times the Woodland Garden, like many other gardens in Britain, was the site of the introduction of many new coniferous species which had arrived on our shores courtesy of the famous plant-hunters of the day. At this time the Laird of Ardkinglas was James Henry Callander, a descendent of the Campbells of Ardkinglas. It is assumed that the Callander family were responsible for the establishment of the Ardkinglas pinetum which today, in maturity, supports many of the gardens' Champion Trees.

In 1905, Sir Andrew Noble acquired the Estate. Records show that many plants were purchased by the estate in the 1920’s and this resulted in the establishment of a collection of Rhododendrons in the Woodland Garden. The range of available plant species continued to increase as a result of the activities of the next generation of plant-hunters. The shade and shelter at Ardkinglas provided ideal conditions for the culture of many of these.

Michael Noble, grandson of Sir Andrew Noble, became a great Rhododendron enthusiast and the diversity of the collection of this genus increased at Ardkinglas as a result of Michael’s friendships within the horticulture industry and his hybridisation skills. Most notably, a collection of hybrid Rhododendrons arrived by train at the local station from Bodnant Garden, North Wales as a result of Michael’s friendship with the son of Lord Aberconway.

Michael and his elder brother John S B Noble accepted responsibility for Ardkinglas following the death of Sir John Noble in 1938. Michael married the future Lady Glenkinglas, herself a keen plantsperson, and the gardens continued to develop. Lady Glenkinglas, whilst being fond of the Rhododendron collection, was instrumental in broadening the range of plants represented at Ardkinglas.

In 1966 the Estate underwent a division which resulted in the Ardkinglas Woodland Garden being temporarily renamed Strone Woodland Garden. The spectacular growth of a number of the conifers established by the Callander family created much interest in the 1960’s and 1970’s and Lady Glenkinglas used this to raise the profile of the garden.

During the 1980's there was restricted maintenance done on the garden and in 1993 Strone Estate was sold in a number of lots and SJ Noble, who had inherited Ardkinglas, succeeded in buying the Woodland Garden and bringing it back within Ardkinglas Estate. The introduction of a management strategy and employment of an enthusiastic and extremely capable full time gardener resulted in the arrest of the deterioration within the garden and many new plantings.

The death of SJ Noble transferred the ownership of the garden once again but the process of the garden's conservation and development continues.