Location and Setting
Blairhoyle is situated on the north side of the broad valley of the River Forth approximately 3 miles (5km) west of the village of Thornhill and 5 miles (8km) east of the village of Aberfoyle. The A873 forms the northern boundary of the site. The Rednock estate lies to the west and, beyond it, the Lake of Menteith. The Menteith Hills lie to the north. Flanders Moss, the subject of Lord Kames' 18th century improvements lies to the south, beyond which views are gained to the Fintry and Gargunnock Hills and the Campsie Fells. The site lies on a south-facing slope. This aspect has been used to advantage in the positioning of the house and the adjacent terrace, and the garden beneath it, although the low-lying area around the pond is a frost pocket. Soil conditions within the garden are good loam whilst the arboretum area is located on peaty soils overlying clay and gravel. The woodland, lodges and north boundary wall are of some significance from the A873.
The house at Blairhoyle stands on a terrace in the north-east of the policies overlooking the parkland and the woodland garden around the pond. Documentary evidence of the historical extent of the designed landscape is provided by the 1st edition OS map of 1860, the 2nd edition OS map of c.1900, and the modern edition OS map surveyed in the 1950s. Comparison of these maps indicates that the policies were extended in the latter half of the 19th century. On the northern boundary, the former West Lodge became Middle Lodge, the West Drive was extended and new lodges were built at the east and west entrances off the A873. The sale of the estate in the early 1960s resulted in the policies associated with the house being reduced to an extent similar to that of the mid-19th century.
The present designed landscape includes some 35 acres (14ha).
The designed landscape was established at Blairhoyle by the mid-19th century, was improved in the late 19th century and early 20th century by George Crabbie, and has been subject to continual development since 1968.
The estate, previously called Leitchtown but originally Blairquhoille, was granted by James V in 1517 to one of the Leitch family. Through marriage, it later passed to the Grahams, who built a house in the mid-19th century and laid out the designed landscape indicated on the 1st edition OS map. In the 1860s it was acquired by A.H. Lee who changed the name back to Blairhoyle. Mr George Crabbie acquired the estate in the 1890s. He planted extensively in the grounds and established the arboretum. Advice on his improvements was given by the Royal Botanic Garden. An article of 1914 describes the house as being set 'among finely developed trees'.
The estate was split up in the early 1960s. The Victorian house was demolished in 1961 and in the following year the present house was built. In 1968 the house and part of the policies were purchased by Colonel & Mrs J.D. Pattullo, by which time the condition of the gardens and walled garden had deteriorated considerably to an almost semi-derelict state. The Pattullos had acquired Blairhoyle to breed dogs but they commenced a series of improvements to the grounds which would have proved a daunting task to anyone. Initially, they had the help of the daughter of a former head gardener but, since her retiral, they have continued to develop and maintain the gardens themselves.
Colonel Pattullo's engineering skills have been employed in improving the pond and removing the many large tree stumps in the grounds. Mrs Pattullo developed the heather garden and propagated the material on a commercial basis. The plants were sold, along with other produce from the kitchen garden from a stall on the A873. In recent years, this venture has been continued from the eastern half of the walled garden which has been sold to a new proprietor.
Blairhoyle House was built in 1962 to replace the earlier Victorian building. West Lodge, Middle Lodge and East Lodge all stand on the entrances from the A873. The stone terrace balustrade around the terrace on the south side of the house is thought to have been constructed in the late 19th century. The Doocot, listed category C(S), is thought to date from the 18th century; it has been converted for use as a toilet block. The Badminton Hall, dated 1893, was built for the use of the staff and is now used as a workshop. A wrought-iron bridge spans the burn to the west of the walled garden near the Ice House.
The parkland lies to the south of the house. Comparison of the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps shows that it was extended to the west in the course of the late 19th century improvements; the oak trees which once stood on the western boundary are still discernible within the park. In the break-up of the estate in 1961, the park was divided down the centre and only the eastern area was retained with the house. Some oak and sycamore parkland trees remain.
The woodland garden and arboretum was established by George Crabbie and a detailed description of his planting was provided in the 'Scottish Gardener & Northern Forester' of 1914. It described the plantings of conifers between the lodge and the house which included various varieties of cypress. This area, which lines the northern boundary of the site is still well stocked with timber today although many of the trees are now mature.
George Crabbie planted the Lime Avenue on the north/south axis to the south of the walled garden. The burn was canalised to flow down the west side of it. To the west of the Avenue, many exotic conifers were established, and particular emphasis was placed on the coloured effects of foliage. Specimens of particular note in 1914 were Abies douglasii, A. lasiocarpa, A. nobilis, Picea alcockiana, Pinus cembra, P. strobes and P. excelsa. In addition, scarlet and evergreen oaks, Silver firs, beeches and other hardwoods were present 'in abundance'. Ornamental deciduous trees include Acer palmatum laciniatum and Pterocarya causasica.
The garden extended around the pond which had been established before Crabbie's time, probably as part of the original designed layout; it certainly appears in the 1st edition OS of 1860. The article of 1914 described the luxuriant growth around the pond of Azaleas, Rhododendrons etc. A specimen umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) was noted. Many of the exotic trees have gone and hybrid rhododendrons are well established around the edge. A number of willow and alder species have recently been added in the damp areas. A circular grass walk leads through the avenue and around the pond and back up to the house through the arboretum.
Since 1968, Colonel & Mrs Pattullo have actively developed the existing arboretum and expanded it into the south-facing slope beyond the terrace around the house. This area was dominated by birch seedlings when they acquired the property and most have been cleared. Other young trees have been established, including Liquidambar styraciflua, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, and mixed rowan species including S. cashmiriana and S. vilmorinii. Most of the trees are labelled.
The terrace wall on the south side of the house retains a flat area which is maintained as a close mown lawn. Clipped yew hedges enclose the terrace at the east and west ends where steps descend down to the rock gardens and arboretum.
The flower garden described in the 1914 account as being of a geometric layout, situated on the 'west side of the house with beds running close up to the windows', was lost at the time the original house was demolished.
There are two areas of rock garden at Blairhoyle; the largest is situated on the west side of the walled garden on either side of the burn. The 1914 account of the garden describes the area as 'a rocky defile which could easily be converted into a great natural rock garden'. This was, in fact, exactly what Mrs Pattullo did. Retaining an old yew which overhangs the ice house, she established numerous heathers and dwarf conifers which provide a magnificent display in flower. Like George Crabbie, she has used the colour associations of the plants to great effect and with great skill. The scene is completed with the wrought-iron bridge which spans the burn on the north side.
An additional area of rock garden has been established by Mrs Pattullo in a shaded spot to the south-west of the house which includes, as well as heathers, many dwarf Azaleas and Rhododendrons.
The walled garden is indicated on the 1st edition OS map with a geometric layout and was probably used for the traditional purpose of growing fruit and vegetables for the house. Comparison of the 1st and 2nd edition OS maps shows that an additional walled enclosure along the southern edge of the garden was added in the late 19th century, probably by George Crabbie. The account of 1914 describes the main garden as being 'in two divisions, with the usual walks and borders on either side and vegetable quarters behind'. In the upper section, espalier apple trees were prominent, screening the brakes of vegetables. In the conservatory and greenhouse were Browallia spp, Gloxinia spp., Hydrangea spp., Kochia tricophylla, grapes, peaches, figs and cucumbers. In the lower section (the additional area on the south side of the main rectangular enclosure), 'arches abound with rambler roses, clematis, honeysuckle, penzance briers and old garden roses and ivies all growing in profusion'.
After 1968 the garden was run commercially as a heather nursery and, in recent years, the main rectangular area has been divided into two: the eastern half has been sold and the commercial nursery continues to be run from here whilst Colonel & Mrs Pattullo have retained the western half and the lower area to the south. In this lower area, a terrace walk has been made running west/east along the southern boundary. The path is flanked by a particularly interesting range of dwarf conifers, established by Mrs Pattullo.
To the south-east of this area is the vegetable garden for the house and to the south- west a fine lawn. These latter areas are separated by an arch clothed with honeysuckle. Along the southern boundary, is a dense ivy-clothed arch which is thought to have been established by George Crabbie in the late 19th century.