Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
East Lothian
North Berwick
NT 56478 82189
356478, 682189

A good example of the picturesque style, the remains of an 18th century formal park layout incorporate 19th century picturesque lakes, cliff walks and the remains of a 19th century formal garden, with new garden incorporated.

Type of Site

Remnant of an 18th century formal park layout, incorporating 19th century picturesque lakes, cliff walks and remains of 19th century formal garden, with new garden incorporated.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

The designed landscape laid out in the early/mid 18th century was considerably extended in the mid 19th century.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

Contemporary comments praise the picturesque qualities of this site.


Level of interest

Considerable documentary evidence means it has high Historical value.


Level of interest

There is little Horticultural interest at Balgone Park.


Level of interest

The grounds provide the setting for a category B building and therefore have a high Architectural value.


Level of interest

The discovery of Bronze Age remains at the foot of Balgone Heugh indicates Archaeological potential and therefore gives this site little value in this category.


Level of interest

The wooded policies contribute to the surrounding countryside and have some Scenic value.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The colony of swans on the lakes gives Balgone high Nature Conservation value.

Location and Setting

Balgone estate lies on rising ground to the north of the A1 , 6km north-west of East Linton, and 4km south of North Berwick. The estate, situated in East Lothian's gently undulating, rich farmlands, is bordered on all sides by minor roads. The views from Balgone form an important part of the landscape setting. A view extends along a 19th century garden walk out to North Berwick Law. There are also views southwards to Traprain Law. A surprise view extends from a cliff edge over picturesque rugged rocks towards the adjoining Rockville estate.

The Balgone estate is shown on Johannes Blaeu's survey (1654) and John Adair's Map of East Lothian (1682).

The earliest known estate map is a 1739 survey by Andrew Mackay. This shows the house with formal gardens to the north, surrounded by regular plantations. An avenue extends from the south front of the house up to a formal plantation perched on a cliff edge. Further development took place in the 19th century when the lakes below the cliff to the north of the house were created. Other 19th century landscape additions included driveways to the north and south.

Although the layout of the 18th century designed landscape can still be discerned , 20th century changes in land management mean that many areas which were laid out as parkland are now arable. The western avenue does not survive, nor does the tree-lined vista which extended to the south.

Site History

Balgone is essentially a 17th century house, extended in 1739 by the Grant-Suttie family who have owned the estate since 1702.

Although no plan earlier than 1739 exists there may have been formal gardens around the 17th century, L-plan house. The tree-lined vista which extended from the south front of the house relates to the 1739 remodelling of the house which resulted in a symmetrical façade; subsequently, pavilions were added to the west and east, linked by lower wings. The 1739 plan also indicates that formal gardens were laid out to the east of the house.

The south vista as shown on Roy's Survey (1747-55) terminated in a semi-circular plantation of trees laid out on the cliff edge. Nothing of this seems to survive within the current mixed deciduous trees.

By 1788 (Crawford, 1798) the formal scheme of the gardens and avenues was starting to change and a major development was the building of a new drive. This led into the estate from the east and skirted the north side of the formal garden to join up with the carriage sweep on the west front of the house. Parts of this can be traced across the field behind the house, adjacent to the East Wood.

The mid-19th century developments carried out by the Grant-Suttie family were extensive and included additions in the baronial style to the house on the north-east and south-west fronts. In tandem with these developments, the cliff landscape to the north-west was exploited dramatically in 1868 by the creation of two lakes in the valley below. By 1854 walks or rides laid out along the valley appear to have been enlarged to accommodate new drives (1st edition OS 6", 1854). The east driveway was re-routed to the north of the lake, which it then crossed, approaching the house from the north and giving picturesque views of the cliff face. At this time the Balgone and Rockville estates were amalgamated and, as a result, the driveway divided – one branch leading south-west to Rockville. A tunnel was built under the public road to accommodate the carriage drive and another drive was constructed to the south-west.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Balgone House is an early 18th century E-plan house incorporating 16th and 17th century fabric. The mansion is three-storeyed and was extensively added to in the 19th century. Eighteenth century additions included a second stair to create a symmetrical front and Pavilions with quadrant links. In the 19th century a large baronial wing was added to the north-east, and a single storey link between the towers was formed. These 19th century additions were removed in 1992. The baronial North Lodge and entrance arch date from 1862. The Den Lodge and West Lodge are 19th century single-storey buildings.

Drives & Approaches

The main approach is from North Lodge which stills gives a picturesque approach to the house along the north side of the lake, then ascends through mixed deciduous woodland on Balgone Heughs. This drive was a major component of the mid-19th century landscaping scheme and involved cutting through the cliff to the north of the house. A second entrance led from the west through a grand baronial lodge by Brownrigg Farm. This is no longer part of the estate and the route of this drive can only be traced with difficulty.

Another 18th century drive entered the estate south of the West Lodge and from the same minor road. The South Lodge has been demolished but the line of the southern approach drive can be traced through a shelter belt up to Sheriff Hall farmhouse. From this point the route becomes a farm track to the farm buildings, but it may originally have continued directly to join the main south approach, with which it is aligned.

Paths & Walks

There is still a circuit of walks and rides around the lakes, though some parts are now overgrown.


The parkland to the south-west of Balgone House has altered considerably as farming practices have changed. In Belverdere Park views from the belverdere still exist towards craggy outcrops of rock. This area was laid out as ornamental adjunct to the house, and the surrounding parks are still based on the existing enclosure boundaries. No tree planting survives, except three ash (Fraxinus excelsior) on the north side of the vista.


Balgone Heughs, the cliff to the north of the house, is a natural rocky outcrop which was not exploited for its picturesque qualities until the 19th century. D. Croal comments: 'As a piece of landscape gardening, we know and could conceive of nothing finer than the way in which advantage has been taken of the natural formation of the ground to open up vistas of park scenery that in their grandeur of character, and extent of range, can hardly be paralleled in the county.'

Balgone Heughs is covered by mostly mixed deciduous woodland and includes oak (Quercus robur), sycamore, (Acer pseudoplatanus), horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), common beech (Fagus sylvatica), hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), silver birch (Betula pendula), yew (Taxus baccata), and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). The north side of the lake is marked on the older plans as 'Pasture of the Parks' or 'Pasture of the Avenue' which was planted in an avenue-like fashion as far back as 1798, before the lake was made. The existing Sitka spruce (Picea sitchenensis) was planted recently.

The Gardens

The gardens to the north of the house survive from the mid-19th century improvements described by D. Croal (Sketches of East Lothian, 1885):

'The antique flower garden to the north of the house has been swept away, with its old and formal walks, and its place taken by an open flower border, through the centre of which a broad avenue gives a fine view of the dark cone of North Berwick Law, and leads to the edge of the wooded precipice, from which, far in the hollow beneath, can be described the placid waters of the loch.'

These gardens have now been cleared and the area is being redesigned with grass walks between beech hedges.

A walled garden existed to the north side of the north pavilion and coach house. This was dismantled in the 19th century when a new walled garden was created on land near Rockville. This area has now been enclosed once more by rebuilding a low wall with railings and gates. The original south and west walls survive.

In the north-west corner of the garden is an unidentified feature enclosed by a square planting of yew trees. An occasional Irish yew (Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata') remains from the 19th century layout. To the south of the house a small walled potager has been created.

Walled Gardens

A walled garden existed to the north side of the north pavilion and coach house. This was dismantled in the 19th century when a new walled garden was created on land near Rockville. This area has now been enclosed once more by rebuilding a low wall with railings and gates. The original south and west walls survive.



Maps, Plans and Archives

1654 Johannes Blaeu, Atlas Novus. Lothian and Linlitquo, Amsterdam, 1654

1682 John Adair, East Lothian

1739 A. Mackay, 'A Scheme for Sir George Suttie's Farms and Inclosures at Balgone Showing Boundaries': SRO RHP 49279

1798 William Crawford, Estate Survey, 1798: SRO RHP 10009

C19 Plan of Balgone Parks, mid 19th century: SRO RHP 49282

1868 Plan showing proposed lakes in meadow: SRO RHP 41336

1853 survey, 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6"), published 1853

1893 survey, 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25"), published 1894

1946 Duff & Geddes (Engineers). Plan and section of lake outfall at Balgone Estate: SRO RHP 49301


Printed Sources

Groome, F. Ordnance Gazetteer (1882)

Croal, D. Sketches of East Lothian, 3rd edition (1885)

McWilliam, C. Buildings of Scotland: Lothian (1978)

Renville, A. Balgone House, Notes on Estate Development Based on Evidence from Historical Maps (unpublished typescript 1990)

Historic Scotland on Behalf of Scottish Ministers, The List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest

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: 25/07/2024 11:55