Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Local Authority
Dumfries And Galloway
NX 99004 57779
299004, 557779

The woodland garden, trees and parkland provide a very attractive setting for a category A-listed house. With historical connections to John Paul Jones, founder of the US Navy, this mid 18th-century landscape incorporates earlier 16th-century features.

Type of Site

A designed landscape of parkland and woodland, near shores of the Solway Firth, with the later development of woodland and ornamental gardens.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Mid/late-18-century incorporating remnants from the 16th century, late 19th century improvements and post 1920s additions and improvements.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The woodland garden in its present form is of high value as a Work of Art.


Level of interest

The 18th century improvements by the Craik family and the associations with John Paul Jones give Arbigland high Historical value.


Level of interest

The plant collection established since the late 19th century is of high Horticultural value.


Level of interest

The designed landscape provides the setting for category A listed buildings and is of outstanding Architectural value.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The woodlands of Arbigland are of outstanding Scenic value by virtue of their contrast to their surroundings.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The established woodland, pond and sea-shore habitats are of high Nature Conservation value.

Location and Setting

Arbigland is situated on the western shore of the Nith Estuary, overlooking the Solway Firth. The village of Kirkbean lies approximately 1 mile (2km) to the north- west. The A710 passes through Kirkbean in a loop around the Solway coast and continues north to the town of Dumfries, some 12.5 miles (20km) away. The surrounding landscape of the flat coastal plain is agricultural. The nature of the landscape and the setting of the house, some 500 yards from the shore, provide extensive views across the Solway Firth to the Lake District. The woodlands of the designed landscape of Arbigland are highly significant in the local scenery.

Arbigland House stands within some 662 acres (268ha) of designed landscape which extends north to Tallowquhairn, south to Powillimount Cottages, east to the Solway coast and west to policy shelterbelts which line the minor road from Kirkbean to Southerness.

Documentary evidence of the development of the designed landscape is provided by General Roy's map of c.1750, the 1st edition OS of c.1860, the 2nd edition of c.1900 and the modern edition. Comparison of this evidence indicates that the extent of the policies has remained relatively unaltered since the mid-18th century. The designed landscape includes not only the main 'core' of the policies around the house but also extensive areas of farmland which were improved with consideration given to their design. The views to the sea have been a considerable influence in the landscape development.

Site History

The present designed landscape was laid out following the construction of the new house in 1755. It incorporated features of the earlier designed landscape associated with the 16th century Arbigland Hall.

The earliest known owners of Arbigland were the Murray family. The earliest house on the site was McCulloch's Castle which stands on the shore to the north-east of the present house. It has been proved, by excavation, to have been used between the period of the Iron Age and c.1500. The McCullochs, a strong Galloway family, may have owned Arbigland at some time but there is no real evidence to substantiate this.

From the Murrays, the estate passed to the Earls of Annandale and, subsequently, the Earl of Southesk. Another house, Arbigland Hall, was built, possibly c.1500, to the south of McCulloch's Castle, again on a defensive position near the shore; the Rose Garden is now sited in its remains. Arbigland Hall was lived in for a period by the Craik family who acquired Arbigland in 1679. Their influence on the landscape of the time was immediate: the stable-block which remains today was built in 1680 and a carriage drive, now known as 'Broad Walk', was established to link the stables with Arbigland Hall. In 1730 a Head Gardener known as John Paul was employed. He lived in the cottage on the estate to the south of the stables. His son grew up there but left in his youth to go to America where, as John Paul Jones, he became, as history relates, the founder of the United States Navy.

William Craik inherited the property in the 1730s. He became renowned as an agricultural improver; indeed the first Statistical Account describes the parish of Kirkbean as being the first in the south of Scotland to be improved. In the course of these improvements, the form of the present designed landscape was established. Craik commissioned the present house to be built in 1755 and Kirkbean Church in 1776.

William Craik was succeeded in 1798 by his cousin, Douglas Hamilton Craik. His son, John, sold the estate to General William Stewart Balfour in 1852. It is from him that the present owners are descended. Robert Balfour Stewart inherited Arbigland in 1869. On his death only three years later, his mother acquired the property but in the same year gifted it to her nephew, Colonel C.E. Blackett. He appears to have been responsible for some development in the gardens since remaining account books record garden expenditure from the 1890s onwards. Captain W.S.B. Blackett inherited from his uncle in 1904. He was killed in action in 1914 and thereafter his wife, the grandmother of the present occupier, settled permanently at Arbigland. She laid out the sunken rose garden on the site of the former Arbigland Hall, and the terraces overlooking the sea. She supervised the construction of her dower house, 'The House on the Shore' which was completed in 1936 and, on its completion, laid out the heath bank nearby. The present tenant took over Arbigland in 1970, four years before the death of his grandmother. He has continued to maintain and develop the policies established by his predecessors.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Arbigland House was built in 1755. It is a classical mansion thought to have been designed by the owner, William Craik, since Craik is known to have acted as an architect elsewhere. It is a two-storey house with raised basement and attic, flanked by twin wings; the porch on the south front was added c.1840. The former stable- block, listed B, dates from 1680; it is a rectangular enclosure which incorporates a doocot over the entrance archway. The gatepiers on the main drive entrance were built in 1805 by Allan Cunningham, a local stonemason. The kitchen garden walls are known to have been built prior to 1745. The house, stable-block, gatepiers and walled garden form an A category group. Individually, the house is listed category A and the other features category B.

The House on the Shore was built between 1934-36 as a dower house on the site of a former gardener's cottage; a Sundial stands on the lawn of the private garden associated with this house. Other garden ornamentation, sited in various locations in the garden, has been collected from various sources by the present owners. Paul Jones Cottage, listed category A, is an early/mid-18th century, single-storey T-shaped cottage situated to the south of the main drive entrance. A tall, gabled south wing was added in the 19th century.


The parkland extends north from the house to Borron Hill and, to a much less extent, south from the house between the woodlands. A ha-ha separates the north park from the garden around the house.

Reference to the 1st edition OS indicates that the north park extended only as far as Canabony. Of greater importance to the Craiks until then was a view of the agricultural improvements which had been made. The present extent is emphasised by woodland shelter strips added since the mid-19th century which extend from the house to Borron Hill. Several oak trees remain from the original mid-18th century parkland planting.


The main woodland areas are situated to the west and south of the house and gardens although there are other strips laid out for the purpose of shelter. The absence of large-scale woodland cover on Roy's map of c.1750 indicates that the woodlands post- date this time. They may have been established by William Craik in the course of his later 18th century improvements although few trees remain from this time to confirm this. The majority of trees date from c.1810 and include specimens of oak, beech, ash and lime. The woodland structure was established by the survey of the 1st edition OS in c.1860. Comparison of it with the 2nd edition of 1910 shows some additional planting was carried out in the latter years of the 19th century, for example in the area between the south park and Paul Jones Cottage. Since then, this particular area has been felled and the ground reclaimed for agriculture. In doing so, the view to the south has been restored but the shelter which the wood provided has been lost. Exposure to the south-west winds has been a great influence in the choice of species for new planting in the woods at Arbigland. Younger stock is generally mixed deciduous, oak, ash, sycamore or beech with a conifer nurse crop to ensure successful establishment.

Woodland Garden

The woodland garden is situated to the east of the house bounded on the south by mature woodland and the walled garden, and to the north by the park. It was created out of mature woodland, established since the 18th century. 'Broad Walk', formerly the carriage drive between the stables and the Old Hall, runs through the garden; it is now grassed down. A roundel of beech trees, now in decline, stands midway along the walk. Another feature of the garden is the pond created by William Craik in the course of extensive land drainage on the estate. An island was created in the centre of the pond some ten years ago. To the west of the pond is 'Japan', created, according to contemporary account books, in the late 19th/early 20th century. At this time, the stone bridges were constructed and much of the ornamental planting was established including fine Rhododendron specimens and those of Eucryphia and Cercidiphyllum, etc. The grandmother of the present owner was especially interested in plants and it was she who built up the collection over a period of fifty years after World War I. The plant collection is being expanded by the present owners and is now mapped and catalogued.

The Gardens

The ornamental gardens are situated at the south-east corner of the woodland garden. The sunken rose garden was laid out c.1920 on the site of the former Arbigland Hall. It is laid out in a regular formal pattern with triangular beds and borders filled with hybrid tea roses. Following the completion of the 'House on the Shore' in 1936, the terraces were laid out adjacent to it, filled with numerous ornamental shrubs. At that time too, the heath bank was established with heathers and dwarf rhododendrons and other associated plants.

Walled Gardens

The kitchen garden is situated to the south-east of the house and is known to have been constructed prior to 1745; its walls are listed category B. The enclosure created is of particular interest since it is an unusual octagon shape. Paths cross the interior of the garden to form four equal triangles. A pond once formed the central feature. The main entrance gate is at the north-west corner. The path down the north- west/south-east axis from this gate extends to twin circular apple houses which frame the view of the highest peak in the Lake District. The interior of the garden is now derelict. There are remains of the original glasshouses, and fruit trees still line the inner walls.




Printed Sources

J.B. Blacker, Guidebook, 1985

HHC & G, 1984

Old Statistical Account 1796



NMRS Photographs

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 14:45