Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Logie (Stirling)
NS 80973 96564
280973, 696564

A significant 18th and 19th-century designed landscape notable for the beauty of the parkland and lake. A modern university campus has been created and integrated into the historic parkland.

Type of Site

A country estate of parkland and lake, woodland walks and pleasure grounds, modified in the second half of the 20th century to create a University campus.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Late 18th century to early 19th century with improvements second half 19th century and changes since 1967.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The grounds of Airthrey Castle were regarded as being of particular beauty in the 19th century and contemporary opinions of the University campus development consider the policies still to be of outstanding value as a work of art.


Level of interest

Airthrey has some historical value in its 16th century associations with the Earls of Montrose but there is little documentary evidence of the development of the designed landscape.


Level of interest

There is high horticultural value in the present range of plant material at Airthrey.


Level of interest

The policies provide the setting for a number of listed buildings and further interest is provided by the modern campus buildings which have received various architectural awards giving Airthrey Castle high architectural value.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The policies of Airthrey have high scenic value from the vantage point of the Wallace Monument although from the ground they have only some value.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The relatively undisturbed Hermitage Wood and the loch provide high nature conservation value.

Location and Setting

Airthrey Castle is situated in Bridge of Allan, some 2 miles (3km) north of the town of Stirling. To the north lies the Ochil Fault, a steeply sloping fracture on the southern edge of the Ochil Hills. To the south, lies Abbey Craig, a volcanic remnant on which stands the Wallace Monument, one of Stirling's most famous landmarks. The River Forth lies between Abbey Craig and the town of Stirling. The A9(T) road and the B998 form the western and southern boundaries of the site which is the setting of the campus of the University of Stirling. The geology of the area is a mix of Quaternary deposits of boulder clay and raised beach deposits from which the heavy soils of the policies are derived.

Between Stirling and Bridge of Allan, the landscape has evolved with residential and industrial developments associated with the town. Elsewhere along the broad valley of the River Forth, the landscape is predominantly agricultural. Views out from the policies of Airthrey are dominated by the Wallace Monument and Abbey Craig to the south, and the Ochil Hills to the north which are important features of the setting. Views into the site from the surrounding roads are limited by the boundary wall and surrounding woodlands. Views down into the site are gained from the walks in Hermitage Wood which clothes the lower slopes of the Ochil Hills, to the north, and from the Wallace Monument whose heights are scaled by many thousands of visitors annually.

Airthrey Castle is situated within some 390 acres (158ha) of policies which extend north to Hermitage Wood, south to the B998, west to the A9(T) and east to a minor road linking the B998 with Logie Church. Documentary evidence of the designed landscape is confined to General Roy's map of c.1750, the 1st edition OS map of c.1870 and the 2nd edition OS of c.1900. Comparison of these maps shows that the extent of the designed landscape was established by 1870 and probably was established by the early 19th century.

The majority of the policies, some 300 acres (122ha), were enclosed by a boundary wall in the course of the original layout. A further 63 acres (25ha) of Hermitage Wood lies to the north of this area. A key feature of the landscape is the 23 acre loch which was part of the original design and has provided a central feature around which the modern landscape has developed.

Site History

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.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Airthrey Castle was designed in 1791 by Robert Adam although it is believed that his original design may have been altered in the course of the work which was supervised by Thomas Russell of Edinburgh. A large addition was designed by David Thomson for Donald Graham in 1891. The building is used by the University for conferences and tuition. The East Lodge was built in 1809 by William Stirling. Screen walls cross the east entrance drive, linking four ashlar pillars and gates. The West Lodge has been demolished. The stables and gardener's cottage were demolished in the course of the development of the University campus.

The Hermitage in Hermitage Wood is roofless although the walls remain. An ice house remains in the wood to the north of the Castle. During Graham's ownership, a well was built into the rockface below the building which once was the Home Farm. Standing stones in the park to the east of the Castle are reputed to commemorate the defeat of the Picts by the Scots in AD 839.

Of the buildings associated with the University, the Pathfoot Building to the north of the west drive was the first to be built. The main academic, administration and social buildings are situated on the south bank of the loch whilst the student residential accommodation is sited in blocks on the north side of the former west drive to the Castle overlooking the loch. The Principal's residence is sited to the north of the castle next to the former walled garden.


The Gardeners' Magazine of 1842 describes Airthrey as having a 'beautiful varied park with a large artificial lake' and the OS Gazetteer of 1883 confirms this stating the park to be of 'remarkable beauty, commanding superb views of the Ochils and the plain beneath them'.

The original design of the park incorporated drives from the west and east, both of which approach the Castle on the north side allowing uninterrupted views across the loch and park. As part of the University, the west drive was diverted along the west side of the loch to the Queen's Court, between the Cottrell Building and the MacRobert Arts Centre, leaving the line of the west drive beyond this point to be incorporated in the pedestrian circulatory system. Since 1973, it has been developed as the George Forrest Walk. The east drive has been closed to vehicular traffic beyond the walled garden. The Avenue trees on the drive date mainly from the Victorian period and include sycamore, beech and lime, some of which have been cut down.

The parkland has, inevitably, been reduced in size since the original layout as a result of the University development. The layout of the buildings however, did incorporate some of the existing parkland trees and some remaining oak, beech and lime, dating from c.1860-70, provide a valuable mature canopy to the areas around the student residential blocks. Other ornamental species have been added for colour. To the south of the west drive, an extensive range of playing pitches has been laid out. To the south of the Cottrell building is the site of the 'Innovation Park', to the east of which lies a development of high technology industry. A 9-hole pitch and putt course, laid out on the south side of Airthrey Castle, was completed in 1980. Various ornamental conifers and deciduous species have been planted within the parkland structure.

The small area of parkland immediately to the south of the walled garden has been laid out as a Memorial Garden to Gardeners under a trust set up by Lord Cochrane of Cults; beyond it was the site of the Archery range. The only areas remaining of conventional grazed parkland lie in the south-west corner of the policies and to the south of the pitch & putt course, providing a 'buffer zone' of privacy to the industrial and educational developments.


The largest area of policy woodland is Hermitage Wood, whilst smaller areas remain within the site, namely Spittal Wood to the southwest of the Cottrell Building, and the woods at East Lodge. Hermitage Wood is largely mixed deciduous with some Scots pine. The other woods are of a similar nature, with some coniferous pockets planted since 1967.

Reference to the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map indicates extensive footpaths through Hermitage Wood where features such as the Hermitage and the Summerhouse were incorporated. Footpaths laid out through the woods by East Lodge linked with a path through the parkland which returned along the south side of the loch to the west drive. The areas of industrial development in the park have resulted in the closure of this circular walk.

The Gardens

The 1st edition Ordnance Survey map of c.1870 indicates that the pleasure grounds lay to the north of the castle. A bowling green is marked directly to the west of the walled garden and what appears to be a formal garden layout within the walled garden next to the kennels. Both these features have gone.

To the south of the kennels, a small burn falls over the cliff forming an attractive waterfall. This together with a well built into the rock face was developed during Donald Graham's ownership of Airthrey from the late 19th century to earlier 20th century. Below, there is a path laid with stone flags. The slopes to the east of the waterfall have been laid out as a rock garden. Around the castle itself and above the golf course is a shrub rose garden.

In the late 19th century, a conifer walk was laid out between the Castle and the walled garden which includes sequoias, monkey puzzle and other interesting species. In the 1980s, a magnolia walk was developed in this area.

The George Forrest Walk was established in 1973 along the line of the former west drive on the north side of the loch to commemorate the centenary of the plant collector's birth. Initially, it was planted with Rhododendron ponticum to provide shelter but more tender species were established in bays once wind protection was assured. Plants used were derived mainly from species which George Forrest had introduced to this country and were initially donated by the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. They include a number of rhododendrons, including R. fulvum, as well as Hypericum forrestii, Rosa forrestiana and Gentiana sino-ornata.

A new bridge was built across the loch as part of the University development linking the residential and social centres of the campus. This bridge spans the loch at the point where a former, late 19th century footbridge existed.

Map evidence indicates that the island on the loch was extended from its original size to its present form in the late 19th century. Through all the later 20th century developments, the form of the loch has remained consistent except where a necessary service access to the MacRobert Arts Centre was made across the pond, resulting in the creation of the MacRobert Pond.

Walled Gardens

The walled garden is situated in the northeast corner of the policies. It is walled on the west and north sides and enclosed on the south and east sides by low iron railings. The Gardeners' Magazine of 1842 describes it as 'perfect as regards culture and neatness and the abundance and fine quality of fruit' and reference to the 1st edition OS map of 1860 indicates the layout of an orchard in the garden.

The original glasshouses have gone, replaced by 20th century ranges of glass and some polythene tunnels used by students of Biology. The garden itself is mainly used for cut flowers, vegetables and lining out of plants for the gardens.




Printed Sources

Innovation Park, Promotion Booklet, Scottish Development Agency, Central Regional Council

Guidebook for SGS Open Day, 1979

Education & Research Benefits from University Landscaping,Paper IV, Stirling Uni. Campus

Scottish Field, Oct 1967

Country Life, May 30th 1968

Gardeners' Magazine, 1842



NMRS, Photographs

Ordnance Survey maps, 1st edition, 2nd edition

Further information courtesy of external correspondent, 2016

About the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

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Printed: 21/05/2024 14:07