The Isles of Glencoe Hotel & Leisure Centre nestles on the shores of Loch Leven a short distance from Ballachulish and the village of Glencoe. The hotel offers some 59 rooms and has a leisure centre with a swimming pool on site. There are a number of walks nearby including the Brecklet Trail and The Glencoe Lochans. There are also a number of operators nearby offering boat trips on Loch Leven.
A lovely walk through the gardens of Làrach Mòr on the Arisaig Estate in the former kitchen gardens and nursery of Glen House. The gardens were developed as a woodland garden by John Augustus Holms in the 1920s to support an extensive collection of rhododendronspecies. The gardens contain some fine specimen broadleaf trees, as well as conifers. There is a particularly fine collection of Western hemlock fir (Tsuga heterophylla) acting as a shelter belt. There is a lovely section of semi native woodland at the southern end of the garden, with many of its old trees supporting lichen communities, including useion, graphidion and parmelion.
Interesting shrubs include the tubular red flowers of Desfontainia spinosa, the large deciduous shrub, Eucryphia glutinosa which is clocked in white flowers in Summer, the bell shaped flowers of Pieris floribunda (Mountain Andromeda) and Enkianthus campanulatus (Ericaea), the latter with brightly coloured foliage in autumn, and the stunning beautiful Chilean lantern tree (Crinodendron hookerianum), as well as sweet scented clambering roses. 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 also a fan palm, Trachycarpus fortunei (Windmill Palm) and a large Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana).
The native woodland ground flora is at its best in Spring, with bluebells, campions and enchanters nightshade to mention but a few. Damper areas of the woodland are carpeted with hard fern (Blechnum spicant), Hart's-tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) male and butler ferns (Dryopteris spp). The woodland garden is also filled with bird song in Spring and Summer; listen out for the sonorous calls of a variety of woodland birds. The soundscape can also be interrupted by the delightful huff and puff of the Harry Potter Express as it journeys between Mallaig and Fort William.
There is also the remains of an incomplete two-storey house on the site of an existing cottage, whose brickwork and masonry shell are now colonised by Asplenium trichomanes (maidenhair spleenwort) and ivy (Hedera helix), with its window ledges supporting Luzula sylvatica and communities of mosses, whilst its interior has been invaded by numerous woody species, including ash, beech, hazel and elm. In addition, there are some timber buildings including a bothy, the former home of one of the gardeners.
This a lovely gem of a garden providing a truly sensory experience both for the eyes, nose, ears and touch.
1. Park at the lay-by on the south side of A830 approximately 1km east of the village of Arisaig and just a few metres from the entrance to the gardens. Làrach Mòr Gardens are entered via a wooden gate, as signposted. The gravel path leads down into the garden through native woodland interspersed with numerous exotic trees and shrubs. The track transverses the watercourse and then crosses a bridge and continues on by a wooden gardeners hut.
2. The track eventually peters out into two paths which diverge to explore the southern end of the garden leading to a lovely wooded semi-natural section consisting of mainly mature beech, with some scattered oaks and conifers; the haunt of pixies and nymphs as evidenced by their circular meeting site. At this stage the path can become rather muddy.
3. Once at the edge of the wood, retrace your steps.
4. On returning to the gardeners hut, take the path on the right initially following the beech hedged watercourse, before veering right. Just before the wooden bothy, turn left, taking a small path through the woodland which skirts the watercourse once more. The path passes in front of the bothy before joining the main track to admire both the recent and original plantings.
5. Return by the track to the entrance of the garden.
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