Cardross is an important historic site, the name means the 'fort on the promontory'. There was a Roman castellum on the estate. The house is famous for its plaster ceiling of circa 1598, which according to Thomas Hunter in 'Woods, Forests and Estates of Perthshire', 1883, is said to represent a Dutch garden and was thought to have been executed by Italian craftsmen who had been working on Holyrood Palace.
The forests in and around the Lake of Menteith were reputed to be the favoured hunting grounds of the Scottish court when based at Stirling in the 15th century. Cardross was the residence of the Commendators of Inchmahome, and the last Commendator commissioned the plaster ceiling in the drawing room.
The park at Cardross was famed for being well wooded and it still gives this impression. The parkland trees are mainly oak, and it is possible that this was an area of natural oak woodland that was selectively felled to create the park.
A plan of 1761 shows the layout of the policies, with the present house in the centre surrounded by square parks, a vista to the north of the house which survives today, and a vista to the south (part of which survives today). This was drawn up when the estate belonged to John Erskine of Carnock. Thomas Hunter states in 1833, that 'The park was formed by the late Mr Erskine of Cardross towards the beginning of this century (19th century), the ground having been before that time subdivided in small enclosures by deep sunk fences and high hedges, which, when taken away, made the present park, and set off the place and fine trees to advantage.' There is some truth in this. The hedges and ditches were removed, opening up the park, and much of the planting dates from the 18th century.
A curious feature on the estate plan is a circular channel of water, with grass in the middle, to the north-east of the house, at the end of the sunk ditch along the drive, with grass in the middle. It seems unlikely to be a design feature but more probably a utilitarian feature, such as a type of fishpond.
The offices were to the south-east of the house but were replaced in the early 19th century by a range to the north-east, probably at the same time that the walled garden was built to the north of the stables. The garden was expanded around the walled garden at this time and the Meikle Burn enlarged in several places to make ponds. This part of the policies was called the Ass Park on the 1762 plan. An arboretum called the Glen, an extension of the area around the walled garden, was developed in the 19th century as an arboretum. This has been continually added to.
The present entrance drive from the west is the same as that on the 1761 plan and then extended in the 19th century to the east and north. A small walled garden to the south of the house was built in the late 18th, early 19th century.