The long history of development within the designed landscape at Callendar Park begins with the building of the Antonine Wall in 142 AD. Thereafter, the site of the original 12th/13th century Thanes Hall is believed to have stood in Palace Park Hill to the south-east of the walled garden and possibly marks the beginning of policy enclosure.
In 1345, the estate was given by David II to William de Livingstone, who married Christian, daughter of Patrick Callendar. In the 15th century, Sir Alexander Livingstone was 'Keeper of the King's Person' for nine-year-old James II and, during the 1440s, was regarded as the most powerful man in Scotland. The Livingstone family was to have a 200-year association with the Royal family. Mary Queen of Scots is known to have visited Callendar House, then a moated tower house, on several occasions. The present, dried-up canal may be part of the moat system. James Livingstone (d. 1674) was created 1st Earl of Callendar in 1641 and was a general in the Scots army. In 1682, his successor, Michael Livingstone, wrote the poem 'Patronus Redux'. This refers to the garden with 'flowerie walks and laughing meads' and 'fruit trees', suggesting recent improvements to the landscape including the breaching of the Roman wall to create a vista to the north.
James Livingstone, 4th Earl of Callendar, was forced to forfeit the estate following the 1715 uprising and fled to Italy. The property and land were sold to the York Building Co. in 1720, then leased in 1724 by the 4th Earl's heiress, Lady Anne Callendar, who married the Earl of Kilmarnock. The landscape illustrated on General Roy's Military Survey, 1747–55, may date to Lady Anne's period or to late 17th-century improvements. Roy's Survey shows the north– south axial vista through the estate. In later years, the southern vista was to be closed by a woodland block.
Following the folding of the York Building Company, the estate was auctioned in 1783 and bought by William Forbes, a London merchant related to the Aberdeenshire Forbes family. There was great activity in garden and park at this time. One hundred workmen were employed to work on the grounds under the directions of the London-based William and Samuel Driver, nurserymen, Kent Road, Southwark. Records show large orders placed with the Coades Manufactory (artificial stone) for items such as pineapples, vases and seats. A new walled garden, indicated on a plan of c.1790 and possibly by Drivers Brothers, was built to the north-east of the house. This is now the site of the Callendar Business Park and superseded an earlier walled garden, no longer extant, to the north-west beside the stables. The 1790 plan also indicates that the moat or canal to the south of the house was extended to the east, terminating in a new lake or 'a piece of water'. The parkland was laid out in the 'natural' style of the period and other improvements were undertaken, including a network of drives and the formation of a cascade and bridge over the canal.
The Old Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791, records: 'numerous fine trees in Callendar Park, together with the wood belonging to the same place, add much to the pleasantness of the town of Falkirk.' It also notes agricultural improvements carried out by William Forbes.
In 1822, the Union Canal was built just to the south of the designed landscape, beyond the park wall. This was a change to a proposed deviation by the canal company which would have cut through the south policy woodland. The potential damage caused thereby is illustrated in a contemporary drawing by the artist Alexander Nasmyth. By the time of the 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6in), 1862, the Stirlingshire Midland Junction Railway had cut across the eastern side of the park, stranding the old East Lodge outside the policies. A new north-east link drive was then added, leading from Callendar Road on the east side of the walled garden. With the development of the railway, greater emphasis was laid on the west and north-west approach and as a result the canal was extended and broadened into a pool beyond Cascade Bridge and the bridge replaced. William Forbes died in 1815 and his mausoleum between the east and south drive was completed in 1816. He was succeeded by his eldest son, William, who married Lady Louisa Wemyss.
The New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, describes Callendar Park as comprising '250 acres of coppice-wood, mostly oak, upon ground rising gently to the south … the lawn is ornamented with trees of great size, and supposed to have been planted by the Earl of Callendar on his return from exile ... hedges of oak, elm, beech trees have been planted by Mr Forbes'.
William died in 1855 and was succeeded by his son, also William, who began 15 years of improvements to the house and grounds. This work included the creation of new gardens south of the house, beyond the 'canal', as shown on the 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6in), 1862, and an axial walk re-opening the south vista indicated on General Roy's Survey, 1747–55.
By the time of the 2nd edition OS 1:10560 (6in), 1899, the pace of landscape change had slowed down and the town of Falkirk was expanding with development onto the parks to the north-west, beyond the park wall. This century, significant changes have taken place to the designed landscape within the north-west section of the park. Woodland has been lost and the area has been built upon. The high rise blocks to the north-west of Callendar House have had greatest impact upon the approach from the north-west and on the general setting of the park.