Join

Crarae has an incredibly rich history. Over the last 50 years, Trust archaeologists have uncovered and radiocarbon-dated the earliest evidence of humans at Crarae: a 6,000-year-old midden (rubbish pit) that was full of shells, including cockles, oysters and periwinkles. It lay beneath the forecourt of the Neolithic chambered burial cairn that you can see in the lower garden today.

The cairn was built by early farmers to house the skeletons of their ancestors. The remains of three people, two of whom had been cremated, as well as fragments of pottery and a flint arrowhead, were found in the chamber. Nearby there is a Bronze Age round cairn, which is likely to have been the resting place of an important individual.

After the Neolithic period, nothing is known of the people living here until around AD 750 when early Christians, it is thought, built a chapel and carved a stone cross, which is still preserved in nearby Cumlodden church. Recent archaeological evidence suggests a thriving medieval farming and trading community around Killevin parish church. According to tradition, the church here was dismantled and transferred stone by stone to the side of Loch Awe, where the new church for the parish was built. People continued to be buried in Killevin graveyard, just over the wall of the lower garden, which contains the mausoleum of the Campbells of Lochbuie, built in 1707.

Trust archaeologists have created SketchFab 3D digital models of the Crarae chambered cairn and the Killevin cross.

View the digital models

The name Crarae was first recorded in 1410, when the Scrymgeour family owned the land. The name may come from the Gaelic carr eighe (rocky gorge) or crà reidh (level, enclosed land). Even in the late 19th century, two-thirds of local people still spoke Gaelic.

After several changes of ownership, the land was purchased in 1825 by Archibald Campbell, 2nd Baronet of Succoth. At this time, there was an inn, a mill and a scattering of houses and crofts. The land had been adjusted for farming, with fields for crops, sheep and cattle divided by drystone or turf walls.

The land was used by the Campbells as a sporting estate, and they built the large house (which they still own) in 1899. Archibald Campbell, 5th Baronet, inherited the estate in 1904 and his wife, Lady Grace, began to transform the garden a few years later.

In 1926, the land was made over to their son, Captain George Campbell, 6th Baronet. He established a vegetable garden and nursery close to the house and extended the garden up the gorge of the Crarae Burn. A decade after Captain George’s death, his son Sir Ilay Campbell transferred most of the garden to the Crarae Garden Charitable Trust, who opened the garden to the public.

By 2001, funds were running low and the garden faced closure. After a successful fundraising campaign, the National Trust for Scotland took on the care of the garden in 2002, committing to protect and share its landscape heritage for future generations.