Importance of Site
A site included in the Inventory is assessed for its condition and integrity and for its level of importance. The criteria used are set out in Annex 5 of the Scottish Historic Environment Policy (December 2011). The principles are represented by the following value-based criteria and we have assigned a value for each on a scale ranging from outstanding value to no value. Criteria not applicable to a particular site have been omitted. All sites included in the Inventory are considered to be of national importance.
Work of Art
Balmanno is an important example of Sir Robert Lorimer's work. The arrangement of the buildings and the gardens in series, and the layout of each individual garden, give Balmanno outstanding value as a Work of Art.
Balmanno is an important representative of an early 20th century garden which gives it high value in this category.
Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural
Balmanno has a little Horticultural interest.
The designed landscape of Balmanno has outstanding Architectural value as it provides the setting for category A listed buildings.
The garden of Balmanno is concealed from the surrounding landscape by the garden walls, but these and the Castle itself make an outstanding contribution to the scenery.
The pond on the western boundary and the 18th century trees provide a little Nature Conservation interest.
- Not Assessed
Location and Setting
Balmanno Castle is situated on the southern edge of the broad valley of the River Earn some 5 miles (8km) south of Perth and 2 miles (3km) south of the village of Bridge of Earn. The surrounding landscape of the river valley is fertile agricultural land although the foothills of the Ochil Hills rise to the south less than 1 mile away. Between these and the Castle runs the M90 motorway linking Perth with Edinburgh some 30 miles (50km) to the south.
The surrounding landscape was an important consideration in the design of the policies; the concept of Sir Robert Lorimer, their designer, that the parklands should sweep up to the house was carried out on the west side of the Castle. Views can be gained across the Earn Valley to Dundee on a clear day whilst, to the south, the motorway can be seen against the backdrop of Balmanno Hill and the Ochils beyond.
The Castle itself is highly significant in the landscape when seen from the motorway and surrounding minor roads by the sharp contrast which its tall white vertical form provides, projecting from the relatively horizontal plain of the valley.
The designed landscape of Balmanno extends over some 89 acres (36ha). Documentary evidence of the development of the designed landscape is provided by the 1st edition OS map of c.1850, the 2nd edition OS of c.1900, and the modern OS map of the 1960s, comparison of which indicates that the actual extent has not changed since the mid-19th century.
The earliest known owners were the family of Balmanno of that ilk who are known to have owned the estate in 1530. Some time afterwards, they sold the property to George Auchinleck, a cousin of the Regent Morton. He built the present Castle between 1570-80 was one of the earliest country houses in Scotland. The family remained at Balmanno until the end of the 17th century when it was sold by Archibald, the great-grandson of George Auchinleck to Anthony Murray, an Edinburgh Merchant, younger son of Sir Thomas Murray of Glendoick.
By 1752, the Castle had passed through the female line to the Belshes of Invermay. Reference to the 1st edition OS map indicates the form of the designed landscape in the mid-19th century. The remains of a moat formed the western boundary which was well stocked with trees. Some 20th century accounts suggest that the moat extended around the north of the Castle and that the site of the present kitchen garden had to be drained and filled in before construction began. Reference to the 1st edition OS map, however, appears to contradict this, suggesting the presence of an enclosed (perhaps walled) orchard on the site of the present garden.
By the late 19th century, the estate was owned by Lord Clinton, a descendant of the Belshes, again through the female line. He asked Sir Robert Lorimer to Balmanno but did not carry out his proposals. This was left to Mr William Miller who purchased the property in 1916. At that time, the Castle was a farmhouse, seen in photographs as a tall, grey gaunt building. Lorimer transformed it to its present form in what he considered to be his best piece of restoration work ever. The designed landscape also was transformed to his design, although there are no known design plans.
In 1950 the present owner, the Hon James Bruce, younger son of the 10th Earl of Elgin, purchased the property. He reclaimed part of the parkland on the west side of the house and has continued to maintain the Lorimer design in the gardens. Since 1982, the Castle and three acres of gardens have been let by Mr Bruce.
Balmanno Castle, listed category A, was built between 1570-80 for George Auchinleck. The original L-plan tower, 62' in height, was altered in c.1800. It was restored between 1916-21 by Sir Robert Lorimer with interior work in Scots 17th century style. Robert Hurd carried out some work in 1950 and a further small addition has been made since then, to the design of Ian Lindsay. Included in this listing are the rubble-built garden walls, ogive-roofed Garden House, and the Gatehouse in neo-17th century style. All were designed by Lorimer although some of the urns on the terrace walls were brought to Balmanno by Mr Bruce. The gatehouse was designed to provide a dark contrast to the Castle which would be seen for the first time framed through the arched entrance of the gatehouse. A tall obelisk sundial stands on the terrace to the south of the house.
The Castle Steading, listed category B, was built in the early 19th century. The architect is unknown. It is a large, mainly two-storey building with semi-elliptical arches and detached horsemill. The garage block was added between 1916-21 to the design of Sir Robert Lorimer. There are several ornaments in the gardens, including urns, wrought-iron gates, stone cherubs, and rooftop figurines.
Prior to 1916, there appears to have been no real designed parkland at Balmanno. The entrance drive sweeps up to the Castle from a minor road to the north through the surrounding fields. An avenue of beech trees was established along a bank on the west side of the drive by the time of the 1st edition OS survey. These trees remained, reinforced by some younger planting. In recent years, ornamental trees, hybrid Azaleas and Rhododendrons have been established as specimens on the close mown grass beneath the trees. In spring, the grass is carpeted with daffodils. A hawthorn hedge lines the east side of the drive.
In his landscape designs, Sir Robert Lorimer gave great importance to the idea of parkland sweeping up to the edge of the house in order that 'cows could be seen to graze beneath the windows'. In the course of the modelling of the landscape at Balmanno, Lorimer swept away the orchard and kitchen garden to the south of the house to accord with this idea. It is uncertain as to whether the 'parkland' created was grazed but the effect of sweeping lawns was, certainly, established.
The park to the south of the Castle, beyond the formal garden, is grazed by livestock. That to the west of the Castle has been developed since 1950, as an informal garden. Several large beech which could date from c.1750 stand on the lawn, as well as younger trees dating from c.1820 and recent plantings of ornamental shrubs and exotic conifers. Curving cypress hedges have been established on the north and south sides of the area. On the inner edge of the latter, a long border has been planted with shrubs and herbaceous species. The west boundary of this garden is formed by the 'Moat' indicated on the 19th century OS maps. The established woodland along its length has thinned considerably and now only a few sycamore and other deciduous species dating from c.1800 remain. A few young conifers and some beech have recently been replanted. A new pond has been created within the former moat and young ornamental trees have been planted around it.
The formal gardens at Balmanno are situated adjacent to the east and south sides of the Castle. Access to the Castle is gained via the gatehouse on the east side. Entering through the archway of the gatehouse, the drive emerges into a courtyard flanked by mown grass and high walls, clothed with climbers, which lead to the Castle. Vehicular access to the front door is prevented by an ivy-covered, stone balustraded wall which runs across the courtyard and which incorporates only a pedestrian gate.
A gate on the south wall of the courtyard leads to a small low-walled enclosure. An obelisk sundial forms the central feature, positioned in a stone trough which has been planted up with varieties of dwarf Rhododendron and juniper. Four symmetrical beds surround it which once were planted up as flower beds in the form of stars and circles but they have now been grassed over. Steps up from this former 'flower garden' lead to the drawing room of the Castle. Steps also lead from the east side of this garden to the rose garden, and on the west side onto the main lawn.
The rose garden has been laid out in a symmetrical form with a central path running west-east leading to a curvature in the east wall. A seat has been positioned here to look back across the rose garden to the 'flower garden' and the 'parkland' beyond. On either side of the path is a yew tree, now removed, each surrounded by four equal enclosed rose beds containing hybrid tea varieties.
The present walled garden was laid out between 1916-21. It stands on the site of a previous orchard and replaced an earlier walled garden indicated to the south-west of the house on the 19th century OS maps. The Lorimer Garden incorporated a garden house in the north-west corner which is similar to the one he designed at Rowallan in Ayrshire. A grass walk, centrally positioned on the west-east axis, was part of the original design. An arbour incorporated within the east wall faced down this walk to a pear tree at the west end. The grass was flanked on either side by paving and shrub borders backed by a trellis. The present owner has recently replanted espalier fruit trees, the original trellis work having collapsed.
A glasshouse stands on the north wall of the garden facing south over the area between it and the central path which, even today, is well stocked with vegetables. The area to the south of the main west/east axis is now largely lawn; Lorimer designed star and circle-shaped flower beds in this section of the garden.