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Our History

 

The beginnings of Loch Melfort Hotel as Arduaine Estate

The history of the Hotel is intertwined with the National Trust for Scotland Arduaine Garden next door. Arduaine House was built in the late 19th Century and first became a hotel in 1967 when the Campbell family sold the house and grounds to Colin and Jane Tindal.

Arduaine House becomes Loch Melfort Hotel

Following the major renovation and conversion of the old estate house (alongside a newly built wing), new owners Colin and Jane Tindal officially re-opened Arduaine House as Loch Melfort Hotel in 1967. At the time, it was described as Loch Melfort Motor Inn; motor inns were a fashionable American-style concept, and every room in the new 20-room Cedar Wing (now our Sea-View Lodges) offered ensuite facilities – a feature quite ahead of its time. While we have moved on significantly from this original 70’s set-up, Loch Melfort Hotel is still a regular overnight stop for many classic car clubs.

By 1976, the Tindal’s had added The Chart Room (today’s Shuna Room) to accommodate new visitors – the cres of the many yachts that began to frequent the hotel’s moorings. Further developments were made in 1984, with an extension to the hotel restaurant to increase capacity as its popularity grew. The couple owned Loch Melfort Hotel for 25 years, followed by a further two private owners between 1992 and 2008.

2008 – Who owns Loch Melfort Hotel today?

In September 2008, today’s owners, Calum and Rachel Ross, purchased Loch Melfort Hotel. With 18-month-old baby Hugh and no on-site accommodation, the family set about converting the abandoned offices & storerooms in the west wing of the main house into an apartment. This is where they lived for 8 years as they built Loch Melfort Hotel into what we know today. As they worked to turn the building into a home-away-from-home for guests, the hotel became populated with personal pieces from their own story: furniture from their time in Brazil and from their Milngavie home, and many other items that told tales of their life journey towards Loch Melfort.

March 2009 marked the date for the Ross’s grand re-opening of Loch Melfort Hotel. They welcomed guests to a fully refurbished main house, complete with 25 bedrooms and a home-led theme complimented by wonderful patterns and fabrics sourced by Rachel. 2009 was also the year the hotel welcomed 2 very important new arrivals – Campbell and McDonald, 2 of the 3 Highland cows that Loch Melfort has become so very well-known for. Learn more about our full animal family.

Dougal at Loch Melfort

With the aesthetics falling into place, in 2010 Calum and Rachel turned their sights to their next big task: the hotel’s water source. The current system had been in place from the time the original house had first been built and they set to work upgrading all the waterworks from the hill: new tanks, a new dam, and a new filtering and UV system. The hotel now proudly sources all its water from a local spring in the hills above the hotel to provide fresh spring water direct to each room. Learn more about Loch Melfort hotel’s environmental changes.

November 2011 marked another very special year for the Ross family; youngest son Alex was born in Oban and became the newest member of the Loch Melfort Hotel team.

2016 and onwards …
The Ross’s started building their new family home on the grounds of the hotel, which they moved into at the beginning of the following year. This allowed them to add 5 more bedrooms to the main house in the space that they had vacated.

2017 was a special year for Loch Melfort Hotel After years of labour and love, the addition of the extra rooms and the re-cladding of the accommodation wing, it was awarded a 4-Star rating by Visit Scotland, highlighting “Excellent service” and an attentive, more personalised guest experience. This was delivered by a team that had developed away from short-term seasonal workers, growing to accommodate more local, long-term talent (you’ll even find baby Hugh, now a lot older, working in the Restaurant sometimes!).
Calum and Rachel also began working with the ScotGrad Scheme (a graduate support programme run in collaboration with Highlands & Islands Enterprise to provide invaluable work experience). They work every day with the hotel’s management to make sure the whole team are at the forefront of everything the hotel delivers.

Since the new star rating, there have been many new awards and additions, including significant changes across the covid period. Take a look at the newest improvements made to the hotel across 2021 in our blog ‘What’s new at Loch Melfort Hotel.’

 

Want to know more? Go back to the beginning with J Arthur Campbell

J Arthur Campbell

“In May 1897, I purchased the three farms, Asknish, Kilbride and Barnlannich, from Colonel McIver Campbell Lochgair. A part of the bargain was that I was not to call myself Campbell of Asknish, I called the Estate “Arduaine”, i.e. the “Green Point”, from the greenness [sic] of the point on “Asknish Farm” on which Arduaine House is built.”

So wrote James Arthur Campbell in 1903, in the opening paragraph of the book in which he recorded the planting operations on the Arduaine Estate. The lands of Asknish had been in the hands of the Mclver Campbell’s since the sixteenth century, if not earlier.

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J Arthur Campbell, who was born in 1850 and brought up in Lochgilphead, was a descendant of the Campbell’s of Inverawe. While a student at Cambridge he spent some time as a diamond prospector in South Africa. Later he owned tea estates in Ceylon, before returning to Scotland in the mid-1880s, staying in Ardrishaig. Family tradition says that he sailed the west coast with his wife Ethyl, looking for the right location to build a house. Another story states that while shooting on the island of Jura he was attracted to the green point of Asknish shining in the sun over on the mainland. As a result of either or both events, Arthur Campbell and his wife decided to purchase the Argyllshire promontory, which was later to be called Arduaine.

“I wished to commence operations for laying out a Garden & building in the summer of 1897,’ he continued, ‘but the farm Tennant [sic] Mr MacKechnie would not allow me to do anything till his lease was up on the 28th May 1898. In the summer of 1898 Mrs. Campbell and I came here in our yacht Calisaya and lay in Asknish Bay for some days – we then fixed definitely the sites for the House, Stables & Garden … I then moved up from Kilbride a two roomed wooden building which I had erected there the previous year for a Keeper & put this up in one comer of the Garden as a tool shed and put a stove in it and used one room as a “bothy” for a man to live in” Simpson (his gardener at Ardrishaig) and the man then fenced in the ground laid off for the garden with a wire fence and rabbit netting and then commenced to lay off this Garden.’

A note in the margin records: ‘1st sod of the Garden was turned in August 1898’. In an early count of trees on the estate he records a total of 92, most of which were concentrated on the inland side of the promontory, towards the main road. At that time the ‘green point’ itself was almost bare of trees, apart from ‘7 Ash trees at back of Garden’ and ‘about a dozen stunted oaks on the hills near the garden’.

In September 1898 Campbell began work on the building of ‘Arduaine Mansion House’, but owing to dubious practice on the part of the contractor, the partly completed building had to be demolished and rebuilt.

First to be laid out was the Inside garden, a vegetable and flower garden, which was enclosed in 1902 by a stout wooden fence. At some later stage instructions on the setting out of the paths and beds in the lower part of the garden were apparently issued by Mrs. Campbell from the top of the knoll outside the garden gate!

Shelter planting for the woodland garden was begun in the autumn of 1898, when the Glen was fenced and planted with Douglas firs, which were quickly destroyed by rabbits! The first bamboos were planted in 1903; tree planting continued at least up to 1907 and the word ‘rhododendron’ is first mentioned in 1908, when some cricket-bat willows were planted ‘among rhododendrons in a small clearing’ at the top of the Glen. Apart from the mention of ‘… the importing of Himalayan rhododendrons in tea crates’, and ‘ … some trees were brought from California after a winter visit to Carmel-Monterey’, the main records remaining of Campbell’s ornamental plantings detail his rhododendron collection in the late 1920s, showing some 220 kinds growing at Arduaine at that time, mostly species.

Brigadier Sir Bruce Campbell

Before his death in 1929, J Arthur Campbell would have seen his garden beginning to take shape, but it was left to his son Bruce, who took up residence at Arduaine after the death of his mother in 1936, to safeguard the garden’s future.

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They had dedicated voluntary help with the heavier work from Mr. Watt, Sir Bruce’s chauffeur, and Mr. Bates, Major Iain’s houseman.

As time went by the advancing age of these hard-working volunteers made it necessary to reconsider the future of both the garden and the house, and the decision was made to find an interested buyer who would be able to keep the garden going as a separate concern from the house itself.

The house was sold to Colin and Jane Tindal who set about turning it into the Loch Melfort Motor Inn, firstly with the addition of the Cedar Wing extension and then the Chartroom Bar.

Major Iain Campbell

Brigadier Sir Bruce Campbell died shortly after his wife in 1954, and was succeeded by his son Iain, who with his wife Colena took up the challenge of the ever-maturing garden. Though both took a great pride in it, Major Iain was heavily involved with the affairs of Scottish agriculture, and it was Colena, along with Jean and Miss Yule, who persevered with the running of the garden.

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They had dedicated voluntary help with the heavier work from Mr. Watt, Sir Bruce’s chauffeur, and Mr. Bates, Major Iain’s houseman.

As time went by the advancing age of these hard-working volunteers made it necessary to reconsider the future of both the garden and the house, and the decision was made to find an interested buyer who would be able to keep the garden going as a separate concern from the house itself.

The house was sold to Colin and Jane Tindal who set about turning it into the Loch Melfort Motor Inn, firstly with the addition of the Cedar Wing extension and then the Chartroom Bar.

The continuing story of Arduaine Gardens

In 1971 the garden passed into the hands of Edmund and Harry Wright, former nurserymen from Cranham in Essex, who were engaged in the creation of a garden at Duror, in Appin, about 40 miles to the north of Arduaine.

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As a result of storm damage over a number of years, much clearance work was necessary before the Wrights could forge ahead with the development of the garden. They dug new ponds, replanted and expanded beds and greatly increased the already considerable rhododendron collection with both species and hybrids. It is entirely due to their persistence and hard work that the garden has continued to be a Mecca for rhododendron enthusiasts and garden lovers alike. However, by the time the Wright brothers were in their 70s, they decided that they could no longer cope with the work alone, and so the garden was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1992.

The National Trust for Scotland

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) accepted the garden, in view of the national importance of its plant collection and design, and the threat to its future, as a gift without endowment. An immediate appeal was launched to assist with the creation of an endowment fund to cover the costs of managing the garden into the future. However, with rising costs and lowering investment returns, in March 2009 the National Trust announced the potential closure of Arduaine Garden.

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Calum Ross, who had by then purchased Loch Melfort Hotel, and a few other local supporters of the garden, joined forces to create the Arduaine Garden Action Group (AGAG).

Their primary objective was to secure a reprieve from the closure proposal for the garden. They organised a very successful, speedy campaign of letters/emails/press coverage and a 4000 strong petition. The NTS agreed to meet with the group in early April and in May a reprieve was announced. Throughout the summer months the group met with the NTS regularly and in September agreed a new three-pronged strategy to try to save the garden for future generations. The AGAG organised a public meeting and became the Arduaine Garden Support Group appealing for all interested parties to join the AGSG for a small annual membership fee and/or donate their time or skills.

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Arduaine Gardens in Argyll

“Beautiful hotel, stunning location, friendly and helpful staff. A great place for a staycation​”.

Hotel Guest, October 2020.