A 28 acre woodland garden on the Arisaig Estate planted by John Augustus Holms to display a fine collection of rhododendrons, as well as exotic trees and shrubs. The gardens are dissected by two small watercourses of Allt na Làrach Mòr that drain into Loch nan Eala. The garden has a track and two paths running through it and was originally divided into four compartments contained within shelter belts and bamboo and hornbeam hedges. Each compartment was originally designed to optimise the requirements of selected species of rhododendron and other exotics, taking full account of the local topography and microclimate of the gardens. There are many fine specimen trees within the garden, including some fine examples of Abies alba (silver fir). There is also lovely mature wooded section supporting oak and beech at the southern end of the garden, many of the trees clad with lichens, mosses and epiphytic ferns.
The gardens were originally the kitchen gardens and nursery of Glen House in the Arisaig Estate. However, within a few years of its lease from the estate by John Holms (in 1927), the garden supported over 200 different species of rhododendron, as well as species of Embothrium, Gevuina and Lomatia of the Proteaceae, Weinmannia (Cunoniaceae) and Magnolia (Magnoliaceae). The large and diverse rhododendron collection reflected the passion of an avid collector, a passion which led to the setting up of the Rhododendron Society. Holm’s contribution to the genus was later commemorated by naming of the award winning Rhododendron arboretum cultivar 'John Holms' in his honour.
Interesting shrubs include the tubular red flowers of Desfontainia spinosa, a native of Chile, named after the French Botanist René Louiche Desfontaines. The abundant white flowers of the large deciduous shrub, Eucryphia glutinosa , are stunning in summer. Other shrubs include Pieris floribunda (Mountain Andromeda), Enkianthus campanulatus (Ericaea) and the stunning beautiful Chilean lantern tree (Crinodendron hookerianum), an evergreen endemic to Chile, with its red bell shaped corolla, named in honour of the botanist William Jackson Hooker. There is a particularly stunning specimen of New Zealand endemic Hoheria glabrata (Malveae) (mountain ribbonwood) with its abundant 5 petalled white flowers in summer, which cover the tree and carpet the ground.
There is a fine example of the fan palm, Trachycarpus fortunei (Windmill Palm), a native of China, as well as a fine specimen Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) a native of central and southern Chile and western Argentina.
Following the death of John Holms in 1938 many of the rhododendron species were dispatched to other gardens through the UK. However, some survived in situ and now form the focus of a restoration programme. The Arisaig Estate is currently restoring the gardens by the management of existing collections as well as new plantings.
The importance of Làrach Mòr gardens has been recognised by Historic Scotland on account of its skilful design, its historical significance, its outstanding plant collections and high scenic value, as well as the high conservation value of the mature woodland. It also recognised for its architectural and archaeological importance.
The gardens are a celebration of shapes, textures and scents, and are a real treat for the botanist, gardener and artist alike.