Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Perth And Kinross
NT 08226 97881
308226, 697881

A 16th-century tower house and policies including 17th-century terraces, one of which is planted with an early yew avenue. There are some attractive features incorporated in the 19th- and 20th-century overlays.

Type of Site

A 16th-century tower house and policies including 17th-century terraces, one of which is planted with an early yew avenue.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

17th-century with 19th- and 20th-century overlays.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The designed landscape seen in relation to Cleish Castle has high value as a work of art.


Level of interest

The layout of the garden set against the known Colville family history give Cleish high historical value.


Level of interest

The estimated age and completeness of the yew avenue give this site high horticultural value.


Level of interest

The garden site combined with the architecture of the castle give this site outstanding architectural value.


Level of interest

The terracing combined with the potential of the rest of the site gives Cleish outstanding archaeological value.


Level of interest

The views out of the site to the Cleish Hills and the views into the site give it high scenic value.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The nature conservation value of this site is reduced by its coniferous plantations.

Location and Setting

Cleish Castle is situated 1.5 km west of Cleish village, and 6 km west of Loch Leven, on the Cleish/Powmill minor road off the B9097. The designed landscape is situated on the north face of the Cleish hills. There are views out to the south-west towards the summit of Dumglow and Dumglow hillfort, and out of the site to the Ochil Hills and open countryside to the north. Cleish is an important feature within the general plantation landscape of the area. There is a glimpsed view of the castle from the Cleish/Powmill minor road.

There are no known estate plans of Cleish. In the 16th and 17th centuries there may have been a deer park associated with the site which would have extended the boundaries considerably. However, this cannot be verified. General Roy's Military Survey, c.1750 indicates a square plantation to the north of the castle and an enclosure to the west of the garden. An avenue and enclosure are shown to the east but not the existing yew avenue to the south. Tree stumps from the 18th-century east avenue can still be seen along part of the present east drive. The early garden would probably have been restricted to the lawn area and terraces. The boundaries of the landscape were extended in the 19th century, making woodland walks to the south and west. The 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6”), 1856, indicates a Cleish Park to the south-west of the castle site. This may be part of an older deer park but it is more probably a 19th-century invention.

The boundary of the designed landscape at Cleish is defined to the north by the minor road. A dry-stone dyke marks the edge of the land between Cleish and the road.

Site History

In 1530 land at Cleish came into the possession of Sir James Colville of Ochiltree. He gave Cleish to his son Robert in 1537. It is thought that some of the castle may have been built by Robert although there was a castle on the site prior to his ownership. It is not clear whether the garden and terraces date from the 16th or 17th centuries. The yew avenue was planted c.1600-20, during the time of Robert Colville, son of the above mentioned Robert Colville. The latter was knighted by Charles I and subsequently raised to the peerage in 1651. These events may have provided markers for the creative development of the site.

It is known from McGibbon and Ross, Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, 1887, that a courtyard was situated on the south-west side of the castle which may have formed part of a series of courtyards. An entrance from the north was incorporated into 19th-century offices. There were also entrances from the west and the south-east, the latter where the courtyard wall joined the castle.

The garden was extended into the surrounding woodland in the 19th century, probably at the time that the castle was restored by the Young family. Work carried out by the Youngs included the building of a stone balustraded staircase and new front door on the first floor. A lodge and east and west drives were also added.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Cleish Castle is a 16th-century L-plan tower house, formerly with a courtyard between the tower and garden. Offices were added in the 19th century to the west wing of the castle. A Sundial dated 1711 is mounted on the west wall of the offices. A 19th-century, two-storey stone Lodge with a slate roof is situated on the east approach on the road to Cleish. A small 1970s Vinery is sited to the north of the castle and has been restored. A Dovecot also lies to the north of the castle, incorporated into the side of a barn. A small single-arch Stone Bridge crosses the burn about 100 m south-west of the castle. There are the remains of an old cottage in the woodland to the south of the castle near the site's southern boundary.

Drives & Approaches

The house can be approached from the north, east and west. Previously, the northern approach would have entered the courtyard via the now blocked-up archway on the north. A straight lime avenue runs from the house to the road along the line of the former drive. Today the drive goes north-east around the castle to its south side. A parapet wall borders the drive to the north-east of the castle.

The approach from the east climbs to the castle via a 19th-century lodge. The drive is lined with a beech avenue, c.1970. Nineteenth-century planting along the edge of the drive includes Portuguese laurel and cherry laurel.

The western approach now belongs to the house built on the site of the castle's walled garden and access to the castle is no longer available from this direction. The planting here includes mature beech and beech coppice, with a shrub layer of Rhododendrons and laurels. A small stone bridge across the burn forms part of an old walk to the walled garden. The banks of the burn are planted with yew.


The 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6”), 1856, marks Cleish Park as the land, now entirely surrounded by plantations, that lies to the south-west of the castle and includes the fields to the south of the by-road and to the east of the mill.

The remaining parkland which lies on higher ground is divided into paddocks. There are a few trees in the parkland including a horse chestnut and a Scots pine.


The main areas of woodland are to the south and west of the castle, and predominantly consist of mature beech and sycamore, with remnants of coniferous forestry plantations (larch and Sitka spruce). There are several yew trees in the woods rising up the hill to the south of the castle. Rhododendron ponticum was planted as a shrub understorey and is being managed in clumps. Ferns grow at ground level throughout. The woodland in both areas has been opened up by the present owners and many of the weak or sickly trees have been thinned and grass paths created to form picturesque woodland walks.

The Gardens

The garden, which lies to the south-east of the castle, consists of a raised lawn bounded to the south-east by two shallow earth terraces. The lower terrace is 160m long and planted with a yew avenue of c.1600-20 (assumed to be contemporary with the original house construction). A short flight of stone steps at the south-east end of the lawn leads to the yew avenue and terraces. On the south-west a set of shorter terraces lies at right angles. A revetted water channel runs along the top terrace on a north-south axis and continues up southwards through the woodland. A dry-stone dyke, which may mark the site of an earlier wall, bounds the garden to the north-west. A dry-stone retaining wall bounds the garden to the north-east, forming the boundary for a car parking area on part of the site of the castle forecourt. There is a specimen blue cedar tree in the southwest corner of the main terrace. There are also three sycamores and a copper beech in the vicinity of the terraces. Other species include Noble fir (Abies procera) and Monkey puzzle. All the trees with the exception of the sycamore were planted in the 19th century.

A box-edged parterre has been laid out in a small courtyard-style garden immediately to the west of the old tower. Silver and pink-variegated dwarf Hebes have been planted within the box to give year-round colour. The present owners have also planted a Millenium garden to the northwest of the house, below the main terraces. The square garden is surrounded by a 120cm beech hedge and is approximately 12 square metres in size. Within the beech hedging, the planting consists of box-edged rose beds, colour-themed in white, mauve and purple. The formal design is centred on a sundial. 90cm beech hedges separate the main terraces from the Millenium garden and lower lawn terrace.

A formal lawn containing a recently planted ornamental cherry avenue slopes down to the north of the castle. A beech hedge with central trimmed archway terminates the lawn and leads through to the lower paddock. Beech hedges also screen a vegetable garden to the east of the cherry avenue and a small orchard to the west. The vinery is located between the vegetable garden and the castle.

There are mixed borders along the base of the parapet wall to the east of the castle. Flowering currant (Ribes), mock orange (Philadelphus sp.) and Rosa glauca form the structural backbone of the borders, with lady's mantle, Crocosmia and Geranium providing the massed colour. East of the castle, a semi-woodland garden has also been created recently, consisting of a snaking mown grass path and shrub border following the sloping line of the old burn to the northeast. The planting here includes Mahonia, Cotoneaster, Forsythia and globe thistle. Beyond the shrub border, a beech hedge has been planted to screen this 'new' part of the garden from the drive. The coniferous plantations have been cleared and views of the countryside to the east of the site have been opened up. New tree plantings here include snakebark maple, rowan and horse chestnut.

A Victorian-style woodland garden has been created north of the terraces, with Rhododendrons and Azaleas massed in naturalistic clumps. Winding mown grass paths have also been laid out leading up the hill to the south and opening up the woodland in this area of the gardens. Near the southern boundary at the top of the hill, sycamore and birch predominate.

Walled Gardens

The remains of the walled garden lie to the south-west of the castle. Little remains of the walls and a house has been built on the site.



Maps, Plans and Archives

General Roy's Military Survey, c. 1750

1st edition OS 1:10560 (6”), 1856

1st edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1896


Printed Sources

Fife: 'Pictorial and Historical Kinross-shire' - Script of a talk on Cleish Castle given to the Kinross-shire Antiquarian Society on 25 November 1974 by David R Young, FSA Scot

Historic Scotland – Listed Buildings Survey

McGibbon, D and Ross, T – The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, 1887

RCAHMS – Perth & Kinross

RCAHMS - Photographs

The Tree Register of the British Isles - measured list of trees on site

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.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

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Printed: 30/05/2024 09:40