The designed landscape of Airthrey was laid out at the end of the 18th and early 19th centuries with further embellishments and planting in the latter half of the 19th century. The University campus has been developed since 1967.
Early references suggest that the lands of Airthrey belonged to the Monks of Cambus, Kenneth & Dunfermline in medieval times. It was the seat of the first Earl of Montrose in the early 16th century, whose sister married James Haldane of Gleneagles and whose descendants later acquired the estates from the Stirling family who held the Airthrey lands in the 17th century. Reference to General Roy's map of c.1750 shows little sign of a designed landscape on the site at this time.
Robert Haldane, recorded in the OS Gazetteer of 1885 as being 'the founder of Scottish Congregationalism', commissioned Robert Adam in 1791 to design his castle at Airthrey having been particularly impressed by his previous work at Seton, outside Edinburgh. Haldane however tried to skimp on the architect's fees and Adam retired from the commission before the Castle was actually constructed, leaving the surveying of the building work to the mason, Thomas Russell of Edinburgh.
In 1796, the estate was sold to Sir Robert Abercrombie who continued to lay out the designed landscape begun by Haldane. Thomas White Snr and Jnr are traditionally thought to have been responsible for the layout of the designed landscape but there are no known design plans which confirm this.
The Airthrey estate was purchased in 1889 by Donald Graham (1844-1901), who had been invested as a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (C.I.E.) in 1878. He was responsible for commissioning various additions and improvements in the 1890s including an extension to the castle itself (see under Architectural Features), and on the loch, a boat house, pier and a footbridge which crossed the centre of the loch from north to south. The present footbridge, erected 1970, is on the same site. Elsewhere, Graham added a well and stones at the foot of the Crag below the stables and offices to enhance a small waterfall (information courtesy of external correspondent 2016).
During Graham's ownership, work continued on planting. Conifers and rhododendrons were introduced west of the walled garden to form an arboretum, with some specimens provided by the well known plant hunter, George Forrest (1873-1932), (information courtesy of external correspondent 2016).
During the Second World War, the castle was used as a maternity hospital. Donald Graham sold the estate in 1946 and the property came into the care of the Secretary of State for Scotland. The estate was granted to the new University of Stirling in 1965 and construction work on the campus began. The castle continued as a maternity hospital until 1969 when it too was transferred to the University.
Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall & Partners were commissioned to develop the campus within the existing landscape structure with the aid of Mr A.N. Walker, MA FRICS (University Estates and Buildings Officer) and Mr H.H. Milne MA SDH FRHS (University Superintendent of Grounds), all of whom took into account the existing qualities of the estate and endeavoured to retain them in creating the landscape which remains today.